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Poetry Translations

This month we have three Russian poems by Tamara Kvitko translated into English by Ann A. Philips,

five Chinese poems from the Tang and Song Dynasties in China translated into English by Gary Young and Yanwen Xu, and three poems by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Claude Neuman.

I hope you enjoy them. - Vera Ignatowitsch

Помни Нашу Любовь

Ты знаешь дни?

Лучистость света тех дней зовет

И ждет ответа,

И в прошлое уводит нить

Твоих задумчивых мечтаний,

В которых не было деяний.

О, не свершилось . . . 

А могло.

В том есть ли радость, торжество,

Иль мелкой муки сожаленье,

Иль всё, что было сновиденье;

Не воскресенье, не рожденье,

А вне иное бытие,

Чей отблеск светится в тебе?


Пальмы стоят одиноко —

Голы их, крепки стволы,

Об океане глубоком,

Видно, их дивные сны.

Память у них золотая —

Видится прожитость дней,

Веером листьев качая,

Помнят соленость морей.

Душно, и томно, и знойно.

Рядом — загадочность мест:

Тот знаменитый Бермудский

Где-то поблизости здесь.

Лижут песок мерно волны.

Чайки, простор, пеликаны . . .

Солнце палит выше нормы.

Мы — без вина с тобой пьяны



О этот город дивных снов,

Воспетый не одним поэтом!

Ты тяжко дремлешь средь веков,

Но помнишь всё при этом.

Ты — как Природа, третий Рим,

Красуясь в колоннаде,

Меняешь маски, словно мим,

Гордясь своей громадой . . .

В молочно-бурых берегах —

Картографа работы —

Очерчен — схимник иль монах,

Вымаливающий что-то.

A Distance of Love-Years

Do you have such days? A capacious

light plays over you to demand

you follow its lambent

path to a time when no act took place.

No, nothing happened —

but something could have been.

Therein lies the exultation,

the brush of desolation.

No one was born or resurrected;

In these memories no one died.

But in their shimmer you find

that something coalesced —

beyond that other life.

Another truth —  caught light.

The Palm


Standing alone

bare and steadfast

her trunk holds

long dreams

of the deep —

of the motile light,

days lived

in salty solitude,

leaves thrashed by wind

or walled and bound

by stifling air.

Who can explain

the pull of the tide

from that Triangle off Bermuda,

just out there —

Yet today is alive

with pelicans and gulls;

waves lick the sand smooth.

The heat soars —

he and I are drunk

without wine.

Saint Petersburg


Oh, city of marvelous dreams

Sung by so many poets,

Drowsing the weighty centuries

Forgetting nothing — stoic.

You are Nature, the third Rome,

Flaunting your bulk, your finery

In the shadowy colonnade;

Switching a sequence of masks, a mime.

And in your milky-brown coastline

Cartographers found outlined —

A monk in robes

Praying for something.

Born in Kamchatka, poet, playwright and science fiction writer Tamara Kvitko graduated from St. Petersburg University (Russia). Her poetry appears in Filling the Void: Russian Poetry in New England.

Translator Ann A. Philips’ 2017 poetry collection,

A Language the Land is Inventing, was honored by Beltway Poetry Quarterly as one of the year's ten best poetry collections from the Mid-Atlantic.




































A River in Spring for Hui Chong


Peach trees bloom beside a stand of bamboo.

Ducks are the first to know when the river warms.

Tender shoots of reeds and mugwort line the bank.

Now is the time to hunt river dolphin.


Su Shi (Song Dynasty)

Crossing the Border


A bright moon shines on the border that never changes.

The soldiers sent on foreign campaigns have yet to return.

If only we still had General Li, or General Wei,

These barbarians would never get past the Yin Mountains!


Wang Changling (Tang Dynasty)


Bidding Farewell to Jian Xin Beside the Hibiscus Tower


Last night we floated downriver in a cold rain.

In the morning, when my friend leaves, I’ll be left alone with the mountains.

If anyone asks how I’m doing,

Tell them my heart is like clear ice in a bowl of pure jade.

Wang Changling (Tang Dynasty)

Qingming Festival

It always seems to rain during the Qingming Festival,

When people walk as if their souls had wandered away.

Do you know where I can get a drink?

A shepherd boy points to Apricot Blossom Village, far in the distance.


Du Mu (Tang Dynasty)


Docked by Maple Bridge at Night


Crows cry out as the moon sinks through frosty air.

Light from a fishing boat shines on Maple Bridge, and sleep will not come.

Outside Gusu City, the midnight bells ringing in Hanshan Temple

Can be heard from the passing boats.


Zhang Ji (Tang Dynasty)

Gary Young teaches creative writing and directs the Cowell Press at UC Santa Cruz. He has received many awards, including fellowships from NEA and NEH, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the William Carlos Williams Award. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, anthologies, and textbooks, including Even So: New and Selected Poems, which was published by White Pine Press. White Pine will release Precious Mirror, a book of his translations from the Japanese next month.


His co-translator on these Chinese poems, Yanwen Xu, was born in Xuzhou, China, but he now studies and writes at UC Santa Cruz.

Die armen Worte

Die armen Worte, die im Alltag darben,
die unscheinbaren Worte, lieb ich so.
Aus meinen Festen schenk ich ihnen Farben,
da lächeln sie und werden langsam froh.
Ihr Wesen, das sie bang in sich bezwangen,
erneut sich deutlich, dass es jeder sieht;
sie sind noch niemals im Gesang gegangen
und schauernd schreiten sie in meinem Lied.



Der Abend wechselt langsam die Gewänder,
die ihm ein Rand von alten Bäumen hält;
du schaust: und von dir scheiden sich die Länder,
ein himmelfahrendes und eins, das fällt;
und lassen dich, zu keinem ganz gehörend,
nicht ganz so dunkel wie das Haus, das schweigt,
nicht ganz so sicher Ewiges beschwörend
wie das, was Stern wird jede Nacht und steigt—
und lassen dir (unsäglich zu entwirrn)
dein Leben bang und riesenhaft und reifend,
so dass es, bald begrenzt und bald begreifend,
abwechselnd Stein in dir wird und Gestirn. 



Wie hab ich das gefühlt was Abschied heißt.
Wie weiß ichs noch: ein dunkles unverwundnes
grausames Etwas, das ein Schönverbundnes
noch einmal zeigt und hinhält und zerreißt.
Wie war ich ohne Wehr, dem zuzuschauen,
das, da es mich, mich rufend, gehen ließ,
zurückblieb, so als wärens alle Frauen
und dennoch klein und weiß und nichts als dies:
Ein Winken, schon nicht mehr auf mich bezogen,
ein leise Weiterwinkendes — schon kaum
erklärbar mehr: vielleicht ein Pflaumenbaum,
von dem ein Kuckuck hastig abgeflogen.

Bohemian-Austrian poet Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language and contributed greatly to French poetry as well. His best known works are Duino Elegies, Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, his only novel. Rilke wrote in both verse and lyrical prose. He died of leukemia in 1926 at age 51.

The humble words

(early poem, 1897)


The humble words that starve through bland hours,
the unpretentious words, I love them so.
With my revels I offer them colours,
and there they smile, and slowly gay they grow.
Their nature, that they tamed within in fear,
renews itself, so clear that all see it;
they never yet have gone singing, and here
they now proceed, trembling, out of my lied.


(from The Book of Images, 1898-1901)


The evening slowly changes its array
that's held for it by rows of ancient trees;
you watch: and lands from you then break away,
one heaven-bound and one that falls and flees;
and they leave you, to neither quite belonging,
not quite so somber as the house tongue-tied,
not quite so sure eternity to sing
as that which becomes star and soars each night—
and they leave you (untold, too mixed by far)
your life, afraid and huge and ripe in age,
so that it may, now fettered and now sage,
become in you, by turns, both stone and star.


(from New poems I, 1907)

How I have felt what it does mean to part!
How I well know it still: a cruel thing,
unwounded, dark, that still a fair bonding
once more holds out and shows and tears apart!
How I was defenseless, watching the one
who, while calling to me, would let me go,
staying behind, one and every woman,
and small and white, and yet naught but this though:
a sign, already no more meant for me,
a sweet repeated sign, already seen
nearly no more: p’rhaps a plum tree wherein
lived a cuckoo that flew out hastily.

Claude Neuman has translated from English into French Shakespeare’s Sonnets and a selection of Robert Frost’s poems, and from German into both French and English Hölderlin’s late contemplative poems, Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, and a selection of fifty other Rilke poems. His translations have been published in France in bilingual or trilingual editions by Ressouvenances. His French translations of Robert Frost’s poems will be published this autumn.

Archive of Translations

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