Translation: Five Poems by Thiago Ponce de Moraes

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Thiago Ponce de Moraes. Photo: Filippo Ronca

Thiago Ponce de Moraes is a Brazilian poet and translator. He has published the poetry collections Imp. (Caetés, 2006) and De gestos lassos ou nenhuns (Lumme Editor, 2010). He is currently finishing his PhD thesis on Paul Celan’s poetry and teaches the Federal Institute of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ). Ponce has participated in several national and international festivals, including the Festival International de la Poésie de Trois-Rivières in 2015 and the Struga Poetry Evenings in 2016. As a translator, he made Portuguese versions of poets as Basil Bunting, Emily Dickinson, Antonio Gamoneda, J.H. Prynne, Robert Creeley, Robert Lax, William Blake, Yannis Ritsos and several contemporary poets from Latin America and Europe. He is also releasing his third poetry collection, Dobres sobre a luz (Lumme Editor) and a bilingual pamphlet, glory box (Carnaval Press), which includes my own translations of poems from all of three of his collections.

Thiago and I will both be reading at the launch of Dobres sobre a luz and glory box, this Saturday night in São Paulo in Estúdio Lâmina at São João 108.

These translations are all taken from glory box. Read more of this post

Translation: Five Poems by Laura Liuzzi

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Laura Liuzzi

Laura Liuzzi was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1985. Her first book of poetry, Calcanhar (Heel, 7Letras), was published in 2010. In 2014 she published Desalinho (Disalignment) with Cosac Naify. In June of this year, she released the pamphlet Coisas (Things) with the publisher 7Letras at FLIP, Brazil’s most prestigious literary festival in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro state.

The poems I have translated here are from her two most recent books, except for “lessons”, which, given how contemporary it is, is uncollected.

lessons

it won’t scare us if there’s nothing
left over, on our tables, of
our hairlines, of our certainties.

weeks have gone by now in panic
of going back to what was one day
of going back to what might be one day.

we will die together but we have
the strange capacity to survive
and on we go, worse or better.
death is slow, collective and absurd.

a bus goes by with no known destination
obedient to the yellow stripe on the asphalt.
automatic heads, hands and legs
inside the bus that know, despite of

and perhaps out of stubbornness, how to walk.
we walk over uncertainty’s cold
hard ground. some of us even whistle.

another bus goes by and doesn’t stop
– transport is blind and has no
heart.

two bodies can never touch. between them
there will always be a vacuum – the only lesson
learnt sleeping through chemistry classes.

then a touch, an embrace, a kiss, a scratch?

I grab you, embrace you, kiss you, scratch you.
I run you down with my forwardness.
it’s death, but this about how to survive
and surviving.

(Uncollected)

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Translation: Versions of Guilherme Gontijo Flores’s Troiades

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Tombs of Palmyra, Syria, 1935 by Pierre Antoine Berrurier (Source: Wikicommons)

Guilherme Gontijo Flores is a Brazilian poet, translator and editor, born in Brasília in 1984. He has published brasa enganosa (false blaze, 2013) and translated, among others, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and Roman poet Sextus Propertius. Guilherme Gontijo Flores lives in the outskirts of Curitiba with his wife and two children, in a farmhouse that he himself designed.

His Troiades project (2014) is “a collage between voices of the defeated” that cuts, freely translates, reworks and rearranges texts from three ancient tragedies: Euripides’ Hecuba [referenced as H below] and Trojan Women [T] and Seneca’s Trojan Women [S]. The texts are then juxtaposed with public domain photos and—in the online version—music. The full project is available in Portuguese and, now, English version online at www.troiades.com.br and a selection on the Berlin-based Cabaret Wittgenstein.

The versions here are alternatives—remixes of remixes to accompany the director’s cut, as it were—that I’ve been working with Guilherme on over the past few months.

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Translation: Three Poems by Heyk Pimenta

Heyk Pimenta. Photo: Marianna Teixeira

Heyk Pimenta. Photo: Marianna Teixeira

Heyk Pimenta is 29 years old today, 31 January. He’s a mineiro from Manhuaçu (Minas Gerais) and lives in Rio de Janeiro with Marianna and their son Zoé. He’s taken part in the exhibitions S.O.S. Poesia at the MAR–Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro and Poesia Agora (Poetry Now) at the Museum of the Portuguese Language, São Paulo. He’s published three books: Sopro sopro (Breath Breath, 2010, Edições Maloqueiristas), Poemas (Poems, 2014, Cozinha Experimental) and A serpentina nunca se desenrola até o fim (The Streamer Never Unwinds All the Way, 2015, 7Letras), where these poems are from. He and an all-star team run the Experimental Poetry Workshop (Oficina Experimental de Poesia) that takes place in Méier, bairro of the north zone of Rio. The poem “density 45” also from his most recent book was translated by Wagner Miranda and you can read it here: https://brincandodedeus.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/44-density-45-by-heyk-pimenta/. The Portuguese originals of these poems are at the bottom of the page and to read more of Heyk in Portuguese, check out his blog: http://heykpimenta.blogspot.com/.

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Translation: “Quiet” by Thiago Camelo

Over 2016 and beyond, I’ll be slightly changing the dynamic of the blog, alternating reviews with translations (the photos that I used to post here are now on my Instagram feed). I’ll start with the poetry of a few young contemporary Brazilian poets, that I’ve been working with over the past couple of months. The first is “Quiet” a pamphlet-length poem by Thiago Camelo, which will be launched later this week on 14 January at Hospedaria Rio in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro (more details here).

 

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Thiago Camelo in Rio de Janeiro.


Thiago Camelo was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1983. He studied Journalism and Cinema at the PUC-Rio and has published two books of poetry: Verão em Botafogo (2010, 7Letras, Rio de Janeiro) and A ilha é ela mesma (2015, Moça Editora, Curitiba). In addition, he has published the short story A carne, as coisas in the Megamini imprint of 7Letras (2015). A ilha é ela mesma was supported by the Bolsa Criar Lusofonia grant, awarded by the Centro Nacional de Cultura (Lisbon, Portugal).
The poem “Silêncio” will be published in 2016 as a pamphlet by Pipoca Press in the collection Puxad_nho.

As well as being a poet, Thiago Camelo is also a lyricist; in 2015, ‘Espelho d’água’ written in partnership with his brother Marcelo Camelo, was recorded by acclaimed Brazilian singer Gal Costa on her album Estratosférica.

You can find out more about Thiago Camelo on his blog ruadasgaveas.tumblr.com and can contact him at tdscamelo@gmail.com

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Non-Place and Place: “Remnants of Another Age” by Nikola Madzirov

Nikola Madzirov was born in Strumica in south-eastern Macedonia in 1973 and over the past few years has come to be recognized as “one of the most powerful voices in contemporary European poetry”, according to the blurb of Bloodaxe’s collection of his work, Remnants of Another Age. That might sound bombastic, but they may be right.

The book, which comes as a bilingual Macedonian-English edition (more on this later), has some breathtaking lines, like these in “Everything Is a Caress”:

The snow was folding its wings
over the hills, I was laying my palms
over your body like a tape measure
which unfolds only along the length
of other things.

The repetition of “folding” links the simile of the tape measure, which fulfils its purpose as it unfolds, not just to the speaker’s hands, but also to the snow, which too is nothing, until it falls on other things. Read more of this post

Simon Armitage’s The Death of King Arthur

By Rob Packer

The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage

The legend of King Arthur needs no introduction: the ‘Matter of Britain’ has echoed through European literary history for over a millennium and The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage is just the most recent addition to this vast corpus. The poem is a translation of the Alliterative Morte Arthure, an anonymous 4000-line Middle English poem written around 1400—and not to be confused with Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.

As the title suggests, the poem is written in alliterative verse and Armitage has preserved the poetic form in Modern English. This is important and is the heart and soul of the poem: loosely every line has four stressed syllables*, generally three of these alliterate and there is no rhyme. Unlike Armitage’s 2007 poetic translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, however, the results are mixed and work best when unobtrusive:

The forest flourished in the flush of many flowers,
with falcons and pheasants and their colours and fantails
and the flash of all fowls that fly on the wing,
and the cuckoo sang clearly from the copses and groves…

Unfortunately there are plenty of bad ones—I tried a few out on a family member and was given a grimace and told to stop:

Denmark he suppressed through the power of his person,
and from Sluys to Sweden with a swish of his sword.

Or the overload of V’s here:

So I shall swear an oath to our Saviour in heaven
and devoutly make a vow to the vernicle of the virtuous,
that vengeance shall visit this great villainy
when valiant knights vie with venomous men.

Unlike Armitage’s Sir Gawain, the alliteration here is wearing and makes for a difficult read, as I felt it jumped across registers and time in search of alliteration. At times there were Tolkien-like archaisms, such as “vaunted” or “newly dubbed knights”; at others it seemed more Mills and Boon with Mordred “the devious double-crosser” or Sir Idrus’ “lusty lashes” (in the sense of whip). The most jarring, though, was the oft-repeated “right royal” which, despite its use in Shakespeare, brings to mind tabloid headlines or pantomime.

The plot, meanwhile, is one of the lesser known Arthurian legends: Arthur receives an emissary demanding tribute to Lucius King of Rome, he is incensed and goes to war, campaigning through Lorraine, Lombardy and Tuscany before he returns from Rome to Britain to deal with that “devious double-crosser”. Deliberately or not, it is hard not to see this through a contemporary prism of Britain’s relationship with Europe**. Unluckily for me, my mind recast Arthur as a bizarre composite of David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher, riding off to Europe with a rowdy rabble of backbenchers, to handbag some European “tyrants” and commissioners with a cry of “I want my money back!”

The Death of King Arthur stands at odds with Armitage’s earlier Sir Gawain translation, which I thought very readable. This poem, on the other hand, is much more variable and really has to be taken line-by-line: it’s best during Arthur’s dreams and his return to Britain but feels frightfully forced in the fight sequences with lots of conveniently alliterative personal and place names. This creates an obvious puzzle: why is one good and the other rather mediocre? I myself started to wonder—unfairly, as I haven’t read the originals—if the Gawain poet was perhaps just a more accomplished poet, or maybe I just don’t like alliterative verse?

Simon Armitage, The Death of King Arthur, Faber & Faber 2012


* Strictly speaking, lines in Old English verse are made up of two half-lines (a hemistich) with two stresses each.

** There might also be an interesting context to the original’s composition around 1400 around the time of the Peasants’ Revolt and Hundred Years’ War—a mention of English archers conjures up images of Agincourt—but this is just my speculation with an anonymous author from the East Midlands (the only surviving manuscript is in Lincoln Cathedral library, see my previous post).

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