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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Noche oscura (version III)

The Dark Night of the Soul


He who muffles the night under the turned-down sheet once again denies me entry to his quotidian love

and the word--a faint whisper of breath signifying almost nothing--at the first lark

weaves the fragile web of despair: he who debates himself becomes his own enemy.

The most difficult lover, whom I chase until dawn: in your void my poem finds its handiwork.

C+

I think I've gotten to a C+ version here. It remains pretty literal. I decided to go with a long-lined format, and to use the cognate quotidian. I decided to make explicit the reference of the title (Saint John of the Cross.) A translation might never get any better than a C. That doesn't mean that its worthless, just that it is not at a higher level than that yet. I found a translation of "embozar" as muffle. This verb does not occur in the poem, but the noun "embozo" does. Apiñar means stuff or cram. "He who cram night under the turn-down of the sheets."

I can't get anything out of "Amante el más difícil..."



***

I was reading the introduction of a volume by an eminent translator of T'ang dynasty poetry today. He states that he only wants to translate the "content" of the poetry,not any of that linguistic or formal stuff. He says that he aims to come up with versions of what famous Chinese poet would have written if he were a contemporary American poet. This cliché saddens my heart. What would Mozart do if he were a bebop drummer circa 1947? Probably he would not be much like Mozart. We can debate whether he would be more like Kenny Clarke or Max Roach, I guess.

***

March will be the all-time most popular month for this blog. I've already beaten the previous number of hits and it is only the 25th. It is probably nothing more than the fact the I have been sharing individual posts on twitter, google, and Facebook.





4 comments:

el curioso impertinente said...

He who hoards the night under the covers, again
rebuffs me as guest of his day-to-day love,
and the word—the tenuous murmur of breath,
that barely registers—with the first lark
weaves the fragile thread of despair:
the solitary combatant debates against themselves.
Oh most difficult of lovers, whom I pursue until dawn:
in your null my poem finds its making.

Jonathan said...

NIce. I like 'rebuffs" and 'barely registers." I'm not crazy about the singular "themselves" and "null' as a noun, or the comma after "covers." "Oh most difficult of lovers" is very good.

el curioso impertinente said...

The problem is, the solitary combatant could be female, so I was trying to avoid "himself".

I see you liked "hoards" too.

Jonathan said...

"el que combate a solas" is masculine, no? Subject positions are fluid here, and the only gender markers in the poem are these two masculine ones: "amante el más difícil..." and 'el que combate a solas." It could be the "masculine universal," but it is a use of the masculine universal by the poet herself. This is part of the distancing effect. "Quien apiña la noche..." that's how a lot of proverbs start: it is meant to express a generalized situation, but the speaker is using it to talk about a very specific person.