A Robin / To Robin: by Tom McClellan

The written version of this poem has disappeared. If you’re wondering why, click HERE.

To listen to or the podcast, click on the player below


To read more work by Tom, click check out DOT TOM CAFE.

Tom’s  novel REFLECTIONS FROM MIRROR CITY can be found by clicking HERE.

To read Tom’s blog which he shares with his English students, click HERE.

International Poetry Month: Submit to the Word!

Starting on February 1st and ending on February 28th…a month long flash poetry event. One poem a day for 28 days and then they dissappear, maybe forever…

“I wonder if Dante would smile to know that,

reading his words aloud

(as they used to long ago),

a future poetess would blush to feel

the smooth white marble of his tercets

trace their dust across the center of her tongue?”

How ironic (or bizarre) would Dante or Sappho find it to think of a 21st century reader/writer, reading, parsing, and borrowing from his or her work; women in pants, men in pants!…all speaking a strange, barbaric language and with access to technology that makes words instantly available to millions.

I am both a passionate reader and a passionate writer.  I believe that writing serves two excellent functions: it works as a tool to help both the reader and the writer digest, formulate, and reconsider ideas; and, it works as a creative discipline that binds the ephemeral nature of experience to the architecture of words. What we are writing now is a bridge. Who knows how long it will last or who will cross it? Let’s find out.

The time has come to ask for submissions for International Poetry Month! I will post ten of my poems which are the nucleus of a new book that I’m working on with poems inspired by music, cadences, and stories that have been used as vessels for conveying both cultural information and emotive content. For this year’s celebration of poetry I am looking for work that is inspired by the work of others (using borrowed materials for a new construction) or where the form/structure is related to the content (or both)…interpretation of these guidelines will be liberal.

So…lets build something. In addition to my 10 poems  I will post a selection of original poetry submitted to me between Jan. 22nd and February 10th of 2010. Please submit your poetic brick (or stone or mortar or slender flash of lath sustaining a fluttering bit of rice paper) to:

bmcclellan.lapoeta@gmail.com

Happy reading and hope that you enjoy International Poetry Month! Submissions in any language will be considered. Needless to say, all rights to works published for International Poetry Month will remain with the author.

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New Translation: Eugenio Montale’s “Corno Inglese”

Eugenio Montale

English Horn

The wind this evening attentively plays
-bringing to mind the ringing metallic
slip of a blade-
the instrument of thick trees and open
copper horizon
where the lath of light yanks itself straight
like kites to the sky rebounding

(Traveling clouds, pale realms
of above! Of the high Eldoradeans
ill-closed door!)

and the sea that flake by flake
of mute, livid colours
thrusts at the ground a blast
of twisted foam;
the wind that births and dies
within the slowly darkening hour
may also be singing to you this evening,
disused instrument,
heart.

Corno Inglese

Il vento che stasera suona attento
-ricorda un forte scuotere di lame-
gli strumenti di fitti alberi e spazza
l’orizzonte di rame
dove strisce di luce si protendono
come aquiloni al cielo che rimbomba

(Nuovole in viaggio, chiari
reami di lassu! D’alti Eldoradi
malchiuse porte!)

e il mare che scaglia a scaglia
livido, muta colore
lancia a terra una tromba
di schiume intorte;
il vento che nasce e muore
nell’ora che lenta s’annera
suonasse te pure stasera
scordato strumento,
cuore.

Google Translator vs. The poet.

Obviously translating into one’s mother tongue is easier (and hopefully more accurate) than translating into a language that you’ve studied in adulthood. My daughter will be truly bi-lingual, growing up with the two languages simultaneously. I will never be, even learning Italian from the ground up with the aid of her children’s books. But I have to ask, what’s a ‘serious’ translation? Signs, labels, menus, operating instructions for military equipment, legal documents? One you’re getting paid for?

Poetry is pretty serious business language wise; a distillation of the heart of a language that stretches sense and usage to its limits, layers multiple meanings, half-meanings, wry jokes, and rhythms into the briefest possible space sometimes into a single word. For this reason poetry is almost untranslatable; a poetic translation of the work is often a re-composing in a different language that strives to maintain the tone of the original, a literal translation can easily miss the nuances of individual words (see Robert Pinsky’s translation of ‘The Divine Comedy’ vs. the classic scholastic text of Mandlebaum). Translating instructions, menus, and traffic signs is comparatively straightforward (it is perhaps because of this that overconfidence or laziness causes so many charming and laughable errors).

The wonderful thing about translating is that it opens a door between two cultures. Grazie to all those who studied Russian so that I could read “The Idiot”  and “Crime and Punishment”. Despite the challenges, as a poet and a translator I take the work seriously and have had wonderful moments when my American friends read (and are interested in and excited by) the work of an Italian (or French) poet they might never have  otherwise encountered and when my Italian friends start asking me who William Carlos Williams is.

I do have to extend my sympathy to Google Translate, at least they offer (along with the unintended comedy) the option of suggesting a better translation.
My desktop widget translator is worse. If I translate from English to Italian “I’m a big fan of Mike!” (even with the proper name capitalized) it becomes: “Sono un ventilatore grande del microfono!” I have now become a large exhaust fan for a microphone…pazienza

Translations

Eugenio Montale

“Siria”

“Dicevano gli antichi che la poesia / è scala a Dio. Forse non è così /se mi leggi. Ma il giorno io lo seppi /che ritrovai per te la voce, sciolto / in un gregge di nuvoli e di capre / dirompenti da un greppe a brucar bave / di pruno e di falasco, e i volti scarni / della luna e del sole si fondevano, / il motore era guasto ed una freccia / di sangue su un macigno segnalava / la via di Aleppo. “

“Syria”

“The ancients always said that poetry / is a stairway to God. Perhaps this is not so / if you read mine. But the day I knew it / was the day I found my voice again for you, let loose / in a flock of clouds and goats / broken free from their corral to nibble at the foam / of blackthorn and marshgrass, the lean faces / of the moon and sun confounded, / the car broke down and an arrow / of blood on sandstone indicated / the road to Aleppo.

William Carlos Williams

“This Is Just To Say”

“I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox / and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast / Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold

“Questo È Solo Per Dire”

“Ho mangiato / le prugne / che c’erano / nel frigo / e che immagino / stessi tenèndo da parte / per colazione / Mi perdoni / erano delizosi / così dolce / e così fresche”

Living in Italy as a full-time mother after a lifetime in Dallas, Texas as a professional textile designer is an exercise in learning to be flexible. One of my biggest challenges is maintaining my English vocabulary while trying to discover the nuances of my new language. One of the most enjoyable ways I’ve found is to work at translating poems from their original English or Italian into the reciprocal language. It teaches me new things about both English and Italian. Here are some of the most recent pieces I’ve been working on, I hope that you enjoy them.

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