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Rise up with me American beloved - The Ex-Communicator

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September 14th, 2010

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11:30 am - Rise up with me American beloved
I was just talking at work about how poetry affects me. I often don't understand it at all, but I get a physical sensation, not even a very pleasant one necessarily. I think my subconscious understands it, but to my conscious mind it's just a sequence of unintelligible words. I remember picking up a copy of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda, as a teenager at a party. I was really drunk but I just couldn't believe it, and I still can't. I remember the person with me laughing because I was saying 'How long has this existed? How can this be so good?' But I didn't have a clue what it meant, and I still don't.

Here is my translation of the first part of Chapter 8

Rise up with me, American beloved
Oh, kiss with me these undiscovered rocks.
The silver torrent of the Urubamba
Drives out the pollen from its golden cup.
Everything is flying: the emptiness within the vines
The solid ground, the stony garlanding,
Above the silent canyon through the peaks.
Come, little one, between these wings
Emerging from the ground - crystal and freezing air -
Beating back, fighting the emeralds,
The savage waters at the base of snow.

Love me, love me, until the night forces
Sound from the Andean flint
Until the rosy knees of dawn
Part to reveal the blind son of the snow.

Oh Wilkamayu, oh you loom of sound
When you break your perfect line
In white spume, like a wound in snow
When your plunging tempest sings
Punishing heaven, calling the sky to wake,
What language, wrenched from the Andean foam,
Gushes into my open ears?

And here is a proper English translation of the same words, by Nathan Tarn

Come up with me, American love.
Kiss these secret stones with me.
The torrential silver of the Urubamba
makes the pollen fly to its golden cup.
The hollow of the bindweed's maze,
the petrified plant, the inflexible garland,
soar above the silence of these mountain coffers.
Come, diminutive life, between the wings
of the earth, while you, cold, crystal in the hammered air,
thrusting embattled emeralds apart,
O savage waters, fall from the hems of snow.

Love, love until the night collapses
from the singing Andes flint
down to the dawn's red knees,
come out and contemplate the snow's blind son.

O Wilkamayu of the sounding looms
when you rend your skeins of thunder
in white foam clouds of wounded snow
when your south wind falls like an avalanche
roaring and belting to arouse the sky
what language do you wake in an ear
freed but a moment from your Andean spume?

I stole 'loom of sound' because I think it's so good. What the original Spanish says is 'Oh Wilkamayu, de sonoros hilos' (of a sounding thread)

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
That's glorious! How had I not come across that before now? The combination of weaving and river/waterfall imagery could not be more Andean.

Even though I had nominally grown up with poetry - the normal high-school gamut of Ted Hughes and Liz Lochhead - I remember feeling the same rush of exquisite rush of pleasure and surprise when a lover read me Octavio Paz poems at university.
[User Picture]
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
I think it's worth getting hold of. I don't read Spanish, but the sound of the words is marvellous, with the English translation so I have some idea of what it's about.
[User Picture]
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed your translation, particularly the lines from 'Come, little one' to 'son of the snow'.

Sometimes I think that the delight in reading poetry is the act of recognition, often inexplicable, taking place in a rush of sounds and sense.
[User Picture]
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks kat. I feel that translating makes explicit the way we participate in making sense of the poem, or in my case kind of failing to make sense but enjoying the trip anyway
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)
Spectacular poetry! I was unfamiliar with it till this moment. For what it's worth, I don't think anyone should end a translation of such glory with the word "spume," and I like your translation better.

I was glad to read your description of how poetry affects you, because it affects me that way, and I rarely ever get beyond that feeling, particularly with my favorite poems, and I've felt rather stupid being unable to go farther.
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
Thanks emerald. I am not sure whether 'ears' is better than 'spume' :-)

AE Housman said he could tell whether something was good poetry by thinking through the words as he shaved, and the hairs would all stand on end. I do not have a big hairy face, I hasten to say, but I get similar physical things, which I can observe: hairs on my forearms for example, or a lurch in my tummy. So something inside me is hearing the words, reacting, and my puny conscious mind is running along behind, trying to keep up.

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