Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Poetry Month -- The Penultimate Post

National Poetry Month kicked my butt. It can be hard to write a blog post every day, let alone a blog post a day about poetry, but I tried. Maybe if NaPoMo didn't coincide with National LA Times Festival of Books month, I would've done better. But that's just an excuse, and excuses are for losers. So here is a poem. This poem is translated. I believe it's the first translated poem I've posted. I don't read a lot of translated poetry (not that I read a lot of poetry to begin with). Translated poetry seems crazy to me, as poems are so precise. To move them from one language to another must be tricky work indeed.

But last night at the Keith Gessen reading (which was excellent, of course), someone asked him to recite a Russian poem off the top of his head which he obligingly did. And it got me in the mood for some poetry from that part of the world. Initially, I looked for a good Mayakovsky poem to post, but then I thought, "Enough dead men. Let's post something from a living, breathing women." So here it is:


i'm
as thin
as your
eyelashes

--Valzhyna Mort (Translated by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)

This poem is from Mort's collection Factory of Tears. She writes in Belarusian, "working explicitly to reestablish the traditional language of her homeland." I like this poem, but I wonder whether the "I" in "I'm" is also left lower-case in the original language. I can't tell, because Belarusian uses a different alphabet than English. Maybe someone with some experience in Slavic languages could take a look at the book and let me know.

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