“Passion” napowrimo day #9 Translation for Poets and Writers

The passion, the navigation, the between
transforms light,
light isn’t washed in beige.
For here’s the touch,
the passion advances;
it comes with doubt’s dark giant.
The navigation is dense and slow;
it’s a spiraling breath.
My light washes beige,
for here’s the touch
for the passion, for the navigation, for the between.
Here we depart,
it’s here we receive.

Process notes:
This poem was written for Poets and Writers prompt of April 8th.
“Translate” a poem into English from a language with which you have limited familiarity. Be attentive to the texture of the language and allow your immediate impulses about what the words mean inform your interpretation. Be sure not to look at an English translation until you have finished writing your imagined translation.

That being said, I now see no future for me in French to English translations. Following is Paul Eluard’s poem in French and in English.

Les poissons, les nageurs, les bateaux
Transforment l’eau.
L’eau est douce et ne bouge
Que pour ce qui la touche.
Le poisson avance
Comme un doigt dans un gant,
Le nageur danse lentement
Et la voile respire.
Mais l’eau douce bouge
Pour ce qui la touche,
Pour le poisson, pour le nageur, pour le bateau
Qu’elle porte
Et qu’elle emporte.

Paul Eluard

The fish, the swimmers, the boats
Transform the water.
The water is still and does not move
Except for those who touch it.
The fish moves
like a finger in a glove,
the swimmer dances slowly
and the veil breathes.
But the still water moves
for those who touch it,
For the fish, for the swimmer, for the boat
that she carries
And takes.


41 responses to ““Passion” napowrimo day #9 Translation for Poets and Writers

  1. I don’t know, Pamela. It might not be what he wrote, but I like your translation. It works.

    • Margo, I nearly fell off my chair with laughter. I thought I would be somewhat closer, but was I wrong. You know Spanish and French being Latin-based languages and all that. Thanks. I sure hope Viv doesn’t read this 😉

  2. how interesting…i really like the idea..was cool to read the original as well and interesting to see in which direction it took you

  3. Translating a poem in a language you have limited knowledge of would be nearly impossible I would have thought… but you seem to have a least found movement, leaving and moving on…so although very different there are some similarities.

  4. oh my…wow what an exercise eh? i like the repetition in it…and its intriguing to let the feel of words you are unfamiliar with guide you in writing the translation…intriguing pamela…

  5. Fascinating.
    Found this very difficile.
    You did well to turn it into a poem as well as atranslation.

  6. “For here’s the touch,
    the passion advances;
    it comes with doubt’s dark giant.”

    that’s money in any language

  7. Impressive response to the prompt, Pamela. This is way over my head!

  8. Here we depart, it’s here we receive… I LOVE that line!

  9. Interesting and cool, Pamela. 🙂

  10. Pamela, I laughed when you said you saw no future in French to English translations. Well, you did a lot better than I would have. LOL. I commend you for effort; and you did manage to come up with a fine poem!

  11. I love your interpretation, the passion, the navigation, the between, the receiving ~ The process notes are interesting,including the original poem ~

  12. The prompt is intriguing, but it would take me a month of Sundays to do what you did, and probably would be coherent. I don’t care about what it originally said, but I love what you got from feel, sound, and sense of those unknown words. Beautiful Pamela,


  13. Elizabeth, this was fun to write and even funnier when I read the translation, lol. I am happy with the result, and it took no time to write. In fact it is the quickest write so far for napo. Go figure. Thanks.

  14. Doubt’s dark giant says way more than I want it to. You hit a universal with me, for sure with that phrase, Pamela. I get it to the core. This is beautiful. What a cool exercise!

    • Brenda, that actually is my favourite part of the piece. That is what my brain saw when writing it. Weird, huh? You should try the exercise and see what you get from it. Thanks.

  15. translation has always fascinated me, how hard it must be to make sure the right meaning gets through. I love what you did.

    • Kelly, like I said in my process notes, they won’t be knocking my doors down for French to English translations, lol. I had fun and I think that is all that matters (especially this month) Thanks.

  16. Pamelita, I love your introductory reference to John Sayles’ great movie… “Passion Fish.” Oh, the irony!!

    I applaud your attempt to translate. I don’t think I have the brain cells, considering how badly I scramble Neruda in Spanish before reading those translations…! Good for you, this was fun! Amy

    • Amy, I haven’t seen that movie. You say it is great, I will have to see if I can find it, I am always up for a good movie. If, this had been Spanish I would have somewhat better off, but I wanted to set myself a challenge. Thanks for reading and commenting Amelita.

  17. Hi Pamela 🙂

    I like working on translations V.much but it’s a strange business but I really enjoy the nuance a variation of texture that can happen as it develops . . .

    you always manage to surprise me with a line that really catches my eye but in a careful way: light isn’t washed in beige . . . the subtleness in the silent shapes it paints are delicious to my mind-buds . . .

    and the Eluard is one of my favourites.

    all the best 🙂

  18. nuance AND variation 😀

    • Thanks so much, Aaron. I like Eluard and his down to earth writing. I wasn’t familiar with this particular poem and I can only read his work in English anyhow. I was looking for something short to do this prompt with. All the best to you as well.

  19. What talent – I couldn’t translate a hiccup in another language, let alone a poem!

  20. I think it stands on its own, forgetting about the translation.

  21. I like doing this sometimes as well …there are so many ways to say things and you did it beautifully 😉

  22. I think you did a fine job. It’s a fun and challenging prompt. I forgot about P&W’s prompts–have to check them out. I need a kick in the behind to get jump-started today.

  23. Victoria, they offer up some good ideas, and some are completely over my head, lol. I am using prompts mainly from Barb Young’s site this time round.

I appreciate all comments.

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