Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Weekend Read: a homophonic translation

Ordsins List (Hrynhenda)

Our sins lust far beyond Glowthra
(brought first, huge dreams, vistas).
Sina, mindful of badly needed funds,
We ran from the slithering titan and
Huge swords halved Shill,
Half-eyed speaker of Semen-Talkers
Meaning a fluidity in our systems,
Malleable and, in love with itself.

Herrann, her red hems of doubt
Huge with organs, priorities
Mild with hoar hound
Many-hugging arms, tempting.
An uncle killed his cow,
Herrans (many of them parking).
A man eats Pecking Maltahs stinking
With Drottins—a potent gin.

Had we enough to eat, with
Or without our foreskin hats?
Tradition came on a boat
Walked, our feet frozen as sky,
Altogether for tiny herring lined
Lifts with oil enough,
Uplifting you, true to your skin.

I know little of my grandmother's cousin Larus Salomonsson other than he gave my grandmother, whose name I carry, a collection of his poems on her last visit to Reyjavik. The poems I seem to recall mention of, and the book, probably one of the few, if only she owned. But I can't say she ever read them aloud, or entertained any ideas of poetry, though my mother, her daughter certainly did. Perhaps my grandmother had a fraught relationship to the arts? Her father apparently left the farm near Lundar one day, late in life, to go to the city and live an artistic life. He had written poetry all of his life--those long, Manitoba winter nights on the farm--all the while burning for a life in the arts. I am not sure how much community he had on the farm, nor in fact how many years he spent there after arriving from Iceland and before leaving his wife for the artistic life. He apparently found a good one: had a girlfriend, went to the theatre, lived in an apartment in downtown Winnipeg, and wrote poetry. There was folders and folders of the stuff--but it was all lost in a fire when an aunt's apartment in Vancouver burned down in the 70s.

I haven’t had any luck tracing the career of Larus Salomonsson, nor have I found any other information regarding his relationship with my grandmother, if there was one beyond pleasantries. Perhaps he simply met her on one of her trips home to Iceland over the years and offered her his book.

Because I neither speak, nor read Icelandic, the prospect of translating a poem is a dubious undertaking from the outset. I won't bother with my literal attempts as there is little to be gleaned from them...nor is this poem anything but an exercise. I offer it up as one of the failed poems. No one talks about these, but we have them, all of us, piling up in file folders and if we're smart, reminding us that to move forward we best keep on our toes and realize not every tactic fits in our tool belt. Translation, sadly, isn't my game.

-Sina Queyras, Montreal

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