Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poetry, Translated

Poetry Wednesday

Translating poetry is difficult, isn't it. And while many things, universally speaking, have been translated, this is not necessarily true for Bulgarian authors. And if something has been translated at all, then even less by a native speaker. Which English-speaker would know Bulgarian so well as to translate poetry? Or, how many Bulgarians who know well English are also interested in translating poetry? If you only think that Bulgaria has approximately a 7 million population, and that only some tiny percentage knows English, and even tinier are professional translators, then what is the statistical chance for me to find a favourite poem in translation?!

Georgi Gospodinov is one of my favorite authors. He is a young man, and very popular, and as every popular person there's a controversy around him, debating on if he's that good at all. What I like about him is that he tells sad and true stories in a funny and light way. Which has the effect of being sarcastic. Old, beautiful, sad world. Old, repeating stories. What can we do against our destiny? We can laugh at it and sing a ballad. A laughter that is sad, a sadness that is bright. Can we do something? We surely do, but we never know what.

by Georgi Gospodinov

She closes the paper and says:
have you read, a hailstorm in Iowa
pieces were as big as golfballs
Well, he says, it is because
they play too much golf overthere
and they had lost too many balls
now all of them are coming back
He sends them back all their balls
do you follow, He, the Joker
But she doesn’t lough at all
she turns away and says in terror:

He never misses.

translated by Biliana Kourtasheva

History Where You Least Expect It,
or, WC Near the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, 2011

Niagara Falls,
January 2012

1 comment:

  1. This poem fits perfectly with what is on my mind after reading Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel Flight Behavior, which is presents the prospect that we are entering a future of terrifying weather thanks to climate change. And it also asks the question: how do we hold onto all of our best and most ordinary human traits, like a sense of humor and the love of beauty, in the face of the apocalyptic. So imagining the couple sitting there navigating this news is just perfect in light of what's on my mind.

    I love the point about Bulgarian poetry being locked away from the world, and it would be strange to be in that position-- of loving an art or a literature that is difficult to share with so many others in the world. It is so tempting (probably mostly for Americans) to think that we live in such a globalized world that everything is somehow accessible. Clearly, that's not the case, and honestly I am glad about that. The world still has plenty of mystery and things to discover. Thanks for sharing this poem.