Translation, they say, is a good way to improve one’s language skills. Translating poetry, specifically, forces the writer to focus on the words — on diction, essentially — because all other elements like poetic structure and literary content are already taken care of.
For this exercise I chose three poems by three different writers. I picked a César Vallejo poem because I initially wanted to see if I could translate directly from Spanish to Filipino (I couldn’t). I was also curious about how nuances get lost in multi-level translations (i.e. Spanish to English to Filipino), but obviously I would never find an answer.
Next I went with Charles Bukowski, an author known for his polarizing stream-of-consciousness verses. I have read criticisms against his prosaic style — the same disapproving remark flung against so-called Instagram poets — so I wanted to explore how I could render this cadence in Filipino. Lastly I went with Lang Leav, partly for the same reason, but mostly because I wanted to know if her poems, which I admittedly do not enjoy, would look better (or worse) in another language.
I am of course aware that none of these poems could feed the hungry and stop despotic leaders from killing the poor. Doing this exercise was a spur-of-the-moment decision motivated by a sudden slap of guilt upon realizing that I haven’t written anything “creative” in a long time. For actual poetry that bites, I suggest you listen to the KOLATERAL album.
Black Stone on Top of a White Stone
by César Vallejo (translated from Spanish by Thomas Merton)
I shall die in Paris, in a rainstorm,
On a day I already remember.
I shall die in Paris– it does not bother me–
Doubtless on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.
It shall be a Thursday, because today, Thursday
As I put down these lines, I have set my shoulders
To the evil. Never like today have I turned,
And headed my whole journey to the ways where I am alone.
César Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads…
Itim na Bato sa Ibabaw ng Puting Bato
Mamamatay ako sa Paris, sa gitna ng bagyo,
Sa araw na ngayon pa lamang ay naalala ko.
Mamamatay ako sa Paris— hindi ako nababahala—
Walang pangamba sa araw ng Huwebes, tulad ngayon, sa taglagas.
Marapat akong mamatay sa araw ng Huwebes, ‘pagkat ngayon, Huwebes
Habang isinusulat ko ang mga berso, isinisabalikat ko
Ang salâ. Kailanman hindi pa ako lumiko
At naglakbay padako sa landas na ako ay mag-isa.
Patay na si César Vallejo. Hinampas siya nila,
Ng lahat sila, maski wala naman siyang ginagawa sa kanila,
Hinampas siya ng patpat at singlakas
Na hinagupit ng dulo ng lubid. Saksi: ang mga Huwebes,
Ang mga buto ng balikat, ang pangungulila, ang ulan, at ang mga lansangan…
I Met A Genius
by Charles Bukowski
I met a genius on the train
about 6 years old,
he sat beside me
and as the train
ran down along the coast
we came to the ocean
and then he looked at me
it’s not pretty.
it was the first time I’d
May Nakilala Akong Henyo
May nakilala akong henyo sa tren
mga anim kataon,
umupo siya sa tabi ko
at habang ang tren
ay bumibiyahe sa gilid ng dalampasigan
dumulo kami sa dagat
at lumingon siya sa akin
hindi ito maganda
sa unang pagkakataon napagtanto kong
by Lang Leav
I always thought the words, and then, were a prelude
To something wonderful. Like seeing a ship come in
Or finding a note in your letterbox, when you weren’t
Expecting one. That swift, surprising transition from
Nothing to everything.
Two little words that hold a world of promise.
And then, the light pierced through the dark,
Forbidding sky, and the rain stopped falling.
And then I met you.
Matagal na akong naniniwala na ang mga salitang, at pagkatapos, ay simula
Ng hiwaga. Gaya ng pagtanaw sa barkong pumapalaot
O ng pagtuklas sa isang liham, sa araw na hindi ito
Inaasahan. Iyong paspas at nakagugulat na pagtalon
mula sa walâ patungo sa lahat.
Mga munting salitang bitbit ang uniberso ng bukas.
At pagkatapos, may tumarak na liwanag sa kulimlim,
Nagbabadyang langit, at tumigil ang ulan sa pagtangis.
At pagkatapos nakilala kita.
I sketched the featured image (patterned after a drawing I found on Google) and I realized that my hair had now grown to a pesky length. I need to either a) cut it short, or b) buy a hairbrush. I am too lazy to do one or the other. Hrmm.
Hair complaints aside, I will be tagging other kids here on WordPress whom I know have written and posted their own poems before:
I don’t want to pressure anybody though so ‘wag po kayong masindak. 😅 And if I didn’t tag you but you feel like giving this exercise a try, please feel free to do so! Go lang nang go! If you prefer to write in English and are looking for poetry in Filipino (or Tagalog) to translate, hit me up for suggestions. 😀
Anyway, all of that aside: have a happy Monday, everyone! 🙂