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Poetry Translations

Better Than Starbucks is delighted to announce publication of an epic Russian poem,

MTSYRI by Mikhail Lermontov, translated into English by Don Mager.

See below for more information.

My Fantastic Pen


I prefer writing with a used pen found in the street

or with a promotional pen, like one from the electricians,

the gas station or the bank.

Not just because they are cheap (free),

but I imagine that such an implement

will fuse my writing with industry

the sweat of skilled labourers, administrative offices

and the mystery of all existence.


Once I wrote meticulous poems with a fountain pen

— pure poetry about purely nothing

but now I like shit on my paper, tears and snot.


Poetry is not for wimps!

A poem must be just as honest as the Dow Jones index

— a mixture of reality and sheer bluff.

What has one grown too sensitive for? Not much.


That’s why I keep my eye on the bond market

and serious pieces of paper.  The stock exchange

belongs to reality — just like poetry.

And that’s why I’m so happy about this ball point pen

from the bank, which I found one dark night

in front of a closed convenience store.  It smells

faintly of dog piss, and it writes fantastically.


Translated by P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen

© Niels Hav

Per Brask is a retired professor living in Winnipeg. He has published poetry, stories, drama, translations, interviews, and essays in a wide variety of journals and books.


Patrick Friesen is a Canadian poet, essayist, playwright, and translator living in Victoria, B.C. His most recent publication is A short history of crazy bone.

           Min fantastiske pen


Jeg skriver helst

med en brugt kuglepen fundet på gaden,

eller en reklamepen, gerne fra el-installatøren,

tankstationen eller banken.

Ikke kun fordi de er billige,

men jeg forestiller mig at sådan noget skrivegrej

vil fusionere min skrift med industrien,

specialarbejdernes sved, direktionskontorerne

og hele tilværelsens mystik.


Engang skrev jeg sirlige digte med fyldepen

— ren lyrik om det rene ingenting —

men i dag vil jeg godt have lort på papiret,

gråd og snot.


Poesi er ikke for tøsedrenge!

Et digt må være lige så ærligt som aktieindekset

— en blanding af realiteter og regulært bluff.

Hvad er man efterhånden for fin til?

Ikke ret meget.


Derfor holder jeg øje med obligationsrenten

og de seriøse papirer. Fondsbørsen

hører med til virkeligheden - ligesom digte gør.

Og derfor er jeg så glad for den her kuglepen

fra banken, som jeg fandt en blæksort nat

foran en lukket kiosk. Den lugter

svagt af hundepis og skriver fantastisk.


© Niels Hav

Niels Hav is the author of six collections of poetry and three volumes of short fiction. His work has been translated into English, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, Dutch, and Farsi. In English he has We Are Here (Book Thug,) and poetry in numerous magazines.


(A fragment attributed to Sappho)


The depth of night, the moon

and Pleiades gone down:

my time is passing on

and I lie here alone.


—Translated by Brooke Clark


Brooke Clark is the founder and editor of the epigrams website, The Asses of Parnassus. Find him on Twitter: @thatbrookeclark

Cherokee Travelers’ Blessing I

translation by Michael R. Burch


I will extract the thorns from your feet.

For yet a little while, we will walk life’s sunlit paths together.

I will love you like my own brother, my own blood.

When you are disconsolate, I will wipe the tears from your eyes.

And when you are too sad to live, I will put your aching heart to rest.



Cherokee Travelers’ Blessing II

translation by Michael R. Burch


Happily may you walk

in the paths of the Rainbow.


and may it always be beautiful before you,

beautiful behind you,

beautiful below you,

beautiful above you,

and beautiful all around you

where in Perfection beauty is finished.


Cherokee Travelers’ Blessing III

translation by Michael R. Burch


May Heaven’s warming winds blow gently there,

where you reside,

and may the Great Spirit bless all those you care for,

this side of the farther tide.

And when you go,

whether the journey is fast or slow,

may your moccasins leave many cunning footprints in the snow.

And when you look over your shoulder, may you always find the Rainbow.



Michael R. Burch’s poems and translations have appeared in hundreds of literary journals. He also edits and has served as guest editor of international poetry and translations for Better Than Starbucks.



Outpouring from earth’s kernel, there

never was any by-product.

Rupture of the deep, uphowling

substance, awaits definition.


It is not a rock but glass; inside

elemental heat and radiance

resisting abruptly cooling atmospheres.

Its unhinged core remained,

pleading naturally the likeness

to mankind's emotion and vanity.


How snow white congealed in its black

hardness, turning a bit grayish.

It came from a landscape full of igneous rocks;

it can’t be a lonely thing.


Yes, it has low viscosity; thus it seems

weak and immune to crystallization.

Yet water prevented its molecules from breaking down;

as if Apache women's teardrops,

sipping into the earth,

brought forth new seasons.


Their color changes with the night breeze,

differing with the to and fro of the ambient wind.

They resonate with the air; nameless,

their cry was heard by wolves.


Now it lies on the ground

and might as well make love to the wind.

It also takes the likeness of lizards,

agape at the Moon and Stars.



Belief soaked with Southern provincial smoky rain


What is presumed comes first then what is known; no doubt

facts were derived, possibly by appreciative views

from one perspective.


Since all we know can’t be promised, thus I devote the self

to the southern provinces;

Let its misty waterfalls enliven inside,

against everything outwardly,

as they rise and fall, elusive but surely

to become part of the other whole;

Mountains opened up by slow flowing of waters, suddenly let go

of nostalgia, yet they all endure

what must be carried on — the springing green;

There, what is hidden isn’t the habits of its inhabitants

but the necessary pathways.

黑曜石 Obsidian
































Translator S. Ye Laird is a native of Shanghai, PRC. Her research interests include Machine learning and comparative readings on religious and legal studies, with emphasis on cross-cultural conflicts. She blogs at

Poet 范静哗 Jinghua Fan is a native of Jiangsu province, PRC. His research interests include Modern and Contemporary Poetry in Chinese, Translation Theory, Practice, and Teaching, and Modern Chinese and English Literature and Literary Theory. He blogs at

Better Than Starbucks is delighted to announce publication of an epic Russian poem,

MTSYRI by Mikhail Lermontov

translated into English by Don Mager.

Early publication discount of 40% on purchases from Lulu. Click on the cover image to order your copy.


Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (1814-1841) died in a senseless duel at age 27. Unique to 19th century Russian writers he produced seminal masterpieces in all three major genres: prose fiction, A Hero of Our Time, drama Masquerade, and poetry (narratives and short lyrics). With the death of Pushkin, in 1837, at age 23, Lermontov assumed the role of successor, with his widely disseminated, although unpublished, eulogy “Death of a Poet,” and quickly was acclaimed the second greatest Russian poet. Besides the short lyrics, Lermontov excelled in poemy—the Russian name for long narrative or reflective poems, first developed fully by Pushkin. Two of these are judged landmark masterpieces: Mtsyri (Мцыри), and The Demon (Демон). Except for The Demon, much of his poetry is not well known to English readers.

Mtsyri is one of Lermontov’s many works set in Georgia. It is celebrated for its eloquent depiction of the Caucasus Mountains and Georgian landscape. Mtsyri’s battle with the leopard is similar to a popular Georgian folk legend and there are at least fourteen versions of the folksong “Young Man and a Tiger.”

 — Don Mager

water and tree scape

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