Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Poem by the Dutch writer
Menno Wigman

Room 421

My mother’s near kaput. She’s got a hutch,
not quite a box, and sits the same day out
each day on her much pissed-on chair. Can stare
at trees outside, and in those trees are birds
that know not who has once begotten them.
I’ve been her son now over forty years
and pay her calls and don’t know who I greet.
She’s read to me aloud, and tucked me up.
She falters, stalls, gets stuck. She’s near kaput.
No beast thinks of its mother, so they say.
With trembling hand I spoon food in her mouth
am almost certain she still knows my face.
It must be blackbirds. On and on they churn.
The earth cries out. And curse on curse is heard.


Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog. You have an excellent taste in selecting poems, and the translations of the Dutch poems are really very good (I'm a native Dutch speaker; I cannot judge the translations from the other languages). Thank you for making this all available - it's a real treasure trove.

John Irons said...

thank you for your kind words. if there are particular dutch poems you would like to see in an english translation, just let me know and i'll see what i can do. i can't promise, though, some poems and poets i am unable to translate.

Willemien said...

Thank you for your response. One poem I have tried to translate myself is the poem "Merel" by Achterberg (please see below). For me, trying to translate a poem helps me understand the structure of the poem better. Of course, I don't expect you to try your hand at a translation, but I thought you might like it.

(Gerrit Achterberg)

De morgenmerel gorgelt
bekers bittere wijn:
droom die tot pijn verkorrelt
in vogelkeelen,
omdat het dag moet zijn;
omdat het groote heele
donker niet langer dicht kan zijn.

John Irons said...

it's a powerful poem. the rhyme scheme and vowel/word repetitions i can't manage, but can try and suggest via other means to a certain extent. here's first draft:


The morning blackbird gargles
the cup’s bitter wine:
dreaming that curdles
to pain in birds’ throats,
because there must be dawning;
because the vast whole of the
dark can no longer remain shut.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for trying, and my sincere apologies for the delay in responding, work has been hectic. I like your translation; you are absolutely right that certain things are just impossible to replicate in another language. I need to look at the poem and your draft more carefully to be able to say anything substantive. More soon!