Friday, April 08, 2005

FRANCISCO SANTOS: FIESTA


FIESTA

El vaso fuera de la fiesta
los libros en el oído
lo cotidiano en la sangre
El loco con el puño sucio
sale de la mina mostrando
la flor.



FIESTA

The glass beyond the fiesta
the books within the eardrum
the quotidian in the blood --
and the madman with his dirty fist
comes out of the mineshaft
waving a flower



This one is from Francisco's book Viendo y volviendo, and will be included in the upcoming Undressing the Night bilingual edition. The poem was easy to translate, due to the striking juxtapostions and a certain parallel musicality in English.

Flor has so many implications in Spanish: it can mean praise, as in decir (echar) flores a una "saying/pouring out flowers at one" is to pay pretty compliments to a girl, flirt; there is an expression de flor "of flower"(common in Cuba, Peru, Venezuela) that means "very good, splendid", and then hijos como una flor "children like a flower" -- lovely children. Then there's en la flor de la edad -- in the flower of one's life -- and en la flor de la vida, in the prime of one's life. You get the idea. Hence FS can get away with the generality "sale de la mina mostrando la flor" -- literally "comes out of the mine showing the flower" -- because flor is so rich in connotations in his language. I made the madman wave the flower, making up for the comparitive paucity of connotation in English with a more vivid image (perhaps -- yeah, I think so). Seemed a good idea. (Actually the choice was quite instinctive. And frankly, I didn't know how rich flor was in Spanish until after doing the translation. But I stick by it, after a careful examination of the dictionary.)

Vaso by the way can be translated variously as glass, tumbler, vessel, container, vase, urn, glassful, blood vessel, even ship (unlikely, yes, but...) So much choice -- and in Spanish, all these meanings are possible. I chose glass I suppose mainly because soundwise it plays off fiesta, and then, it just seems more vivid and party-like than vessel. Also, blood is used in the next line, so that puts blood vessel out -- but who would want blood vessel there? An interesting suggestion or two -- but yuck.

I won't go into reasons why I feel this is a marvellous little construction of ultra-rapid associations. Literary analysis -- the whole effort of translating the experience of poetry into plodding (or even dashing) prose -- is not really my thing. But over the next while I'll be posting some of these translations and talking about the translation choices. To me that's fascinating.

Other news: I just got three poems accepted by Prairie Fire. Yahoo!

7 comments:

didi said...

Brian,

When I read these poems in spanish and then in english, I wonder what I have been speaking for 40 years. They don't make any sense to me.

Not sure what to say further.

Didi

Brian Campbell said...

That's an interesting reaction, Didi. Thanks for the honesty.

For me this is an "abstract expressionist" piece, but not without a highly suggestive gestalt. A subjective correlative, if you will.

For me this poem is an evocation of artistic inspiration (or "mad vision"), and how it draws on the dross (the festive dross, if you like) of experience. The madman in the poem is the artist, the flower his inspired expression. (Or it could be simply a madman and the flower, his vision...) He is coming out of the dirty mineshaft of experience -- the quotidian absorbed in the blood (into self, being), the ear conditioned by literary tradition (books), and the solitary, singular drink (introspection? drunken inspiration?) while the party of life is going on all around.

To me this gestalt was so compelling it zapped me between the eyes -- I did not have to intellectually "figure it out" -- and its obvious to Francisco that I "got it". Two is a crowd in poetry -- but I showed it to my partner without explaining -- just with "what do you think of this?" -- and, yep, she enjoyed it & "got" it too! Horray for me! And Francisco! Now three -- in poetry, that's a cheering, foot-stamping rock concert stadium crowd!

Nevertheless, as I said in an earlier post, any poet worth his or her salt -- a poet who takes risks -- will write the odd "schizophrenic" poem, a poem where the references and associations are so idiocyncratic only he or she can understand it. Maybe we're the only three who will ever "get" it. For you -- and the rest of the world -- this may be a terminally "schizophrenic" poem. Too bad.

But stay tuned... I'm sure more poems will be posted here that are more straightforward, and probably more to your liking.

didi said...

Brian,

What I am trying to say is that you did not translate the spanish correctly.

Didi

Brian Campbell said...

Didi,

This is a change from "the poems not making any sense". Care to elaborate? For translation-wise, everything checks out here. Two discrepancies I didn't talk about above: eardrum would translate back to timpano, but it's not a far stretch from oido -- hearing, ear. That was as much as anything for sound, playing off the percussive "books" (as "oido" does in its own way off "libros"). There is that fateful liberty -- a dash followed by "And", reinforcing my interpretation of this poem, but also capturing some of the rhythmic qualities in the original (i.e. that extra syllable in "sangre" compared to "blood"). But... incorrect? Again, care to elaborate?

Brian

didi said...

There are many ways of translating this piece but the way you have it does not favor the english version. Here is a suggestion that may sound better to the spanish speaker. Spanish is not an easy language to translate when it comes down to poetry. It is difficult to maintain an interanl rhythem as intended in the original english version.

The glass beyond the fiesta
the books within the eardrum
the quotidian in the blood --
and the madman with his dirty fist
comes out of the mineshaft
waving a flower

Fuera de la fiesta esta el vaso.
Los libros los tengo al dentro del timpano.
El la sangre tengo el cotiano.
El loco tiene su puno sucio
y sale de la mina saludando una flor.

Brian Campbell said...

Very instructive. But the original was in Spanish. It's author is Francisco Santos. The translation (or transversion, if you like) is the English one. It's by me. (I don't doubt, though, that your Spanish is far better than mine. I couldn't do such a good job translating such a difficult English poem into Spanish if my grandmother's life depended on it.)

Cheers & saludos.

Brian

didi said...

Well silly me then, you did a good job. I thought it was the other way around.