Saturday, June 23, 2012


My Eureka moment occurred more than once as I was translating Brazilian Portuguese poetry into English. It was the moment when I found the exact word in English that could still fit into the rhyme, rhythm and meaning form of the original. My only published book of translations (published by the department of Portuguese Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara, was “As Evidencias” by Jorge de Sena.  It was a coherent though sometimes mysterious book of twenty-one sonnets, all inter-related .  Here is an example:
       Seacoast anchors the dawn-illumined mist,
       and in its heart the ltttle birds that trill
       are crackle of the waves, docile and still
       at water's edge, not seen and only guessed.

       Green in the distance on the gilded slope
       the hills, sliding through hours of night and day,
       hover suspended in the freshness they
       knew when from shadow they took solid shape.

       Beside me now you breathe. Upon your breast
       as, in deep dark dens, the animals lay
       themselves to sleep (as shown on pictured pages)
       dries, serene, an amorous vein at rest.
       One after other must be dried each day
       in the fragile web of which they weave the ages.


oldegg said...

I can only imagine how difficult this was to translate and to retain the poet's true meaning. I am sure your readers will be intrigued as I am by the third stanza of the sonnet as the poem directs you to look on pictured pages!

gsb said...

understanding language in the tongue it was written in is difficult enough but trying to get the "True" meaning in translation has to be a labor of love. I admire you and I admired your husband.

Josie Two Shoes said...

To translate not just words, but feeling and form, is an amazing feat and you have done it so well! I can imagine the delight of finding just the right word for the verse. I never cease to be amazed at all the things your life has encompassed, rich in experience indeed!

Nara Malone said...

I would think it would be near impossible to translate poetry, still retaining the cadence and meaning. I'm amazed by this lovely example.

Belva Rae Staples said...

Incredibly lovely!

Archna Sharma said...

I'm in awe of your talent. How poetry is able to translate, I assume, weighs heavily on the translator. Your words are as beautiful as the heart of the mist.

Brian Miller said...

that was surely a challenge...your translation is very nice and very poetic...some poems def dont end up as lyrical once translated...

Cathy said...

It feels great to find that perfect word! Truly if you think about it, the translator is just as important as the author.

totomai said...

i bet after getting that word, everything went on smoothly. translating poems but being faithful to its meanings is not an easy task. and you did great. thanks for sharing

Kay said...

Finding the right word is the eureka moment; very nice poem.

Mad Kane said...

How lovely! I can only imagine how difficult that must be!

Are you familiar with the Brazilian writer Cezar Obeid?. He has written quite a few children's poetry books in his native Portuguese. And they haven't been translated into English. :)

He contacted me recently to video- interview me as part of his project to introduce Brazilians to limericks. What a lovely, charming fellow! (We did the interview during his recent visit to NYC)

If you'd like me to put you two in contact, please let me know.

Madeleine Begun Kane