Sunday, January 13, 2008

Translation of Poetry (and More): Cipher Journal

Lucas Klein, editor of the online literary "zine" CipherJournal (founded in 2003), weaves between English and Mandarin. Other authors in CipherJournal work from Japanese, Vietnamese, and European languages; from past to present; from far to near and back again. I especially enjoyed the journal's addition of some "blind translations" -- those delicious tongue-in-cheek creations done without actual knowledge of the other language.

The journal doesn't separate its material by date, but continues to swell as a single blossoming issue. Go to the Contents page and browse. What you perceive as "new since the last time" may in fact be a recent addition, or it may be something you've just developed eyes and ears to notice (which is what happens to me).

Here's a gem I recently savored from CipherJournal, although it looks even better on Klein's page than it does here:

ABC of Translating Poetry

by Willis Barnstone

It’s my delight to recite
my poems in the arms of

an intelligent girl and
to please her sweet ear

with what I have written.

Me iuvet in gremio doctae legisse puellae
auribus et puris scripta probasse mea.
Propertius II, xiii

And Goethe boasts that he
tapped out his hexameters

on the back of his Roman
girlfriend while she slept.

Und des Hexameters Mass leise mit fingern der Hand
Ihr auf den Rücken gezält. Sie atmet in lieblichem Schlummer.
Und es durchglühet ihr Hauch mir bis ins Tiefste die Brust.
Goethe, Römische Elegien V

James Laughlin, “The Happy Poets”

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