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Poetry Translations

with Vera Ignatowitsch

The Black Heralds


There are blows in life so strong . . . I don’t know!

Blows like the hatred of God; as if before them

the undertow of all past suffering

formed pools in the soul . . . I don’t know!


Not many, but they exist . . . They carve furrows

in the fiercest face and across the sturdiest back.

Perhaps they are the steeds of barbarous Attilas

or a summons to death by heralds in black.


Or maybe the plummeting Christs of the soul

of some worshipped creed blasphemed by fate.

Those blood-soaked blows are the crackling sounds

of bread in the oven that burns as we wait.


And man . . . poor man! He turns to look,

as if summoned by a shoulder tap. Then a tilt

of his crazy eyes. And all that has been lived

pools up in his gaze like a puddle of guilt.


There are blows in life so strong . . . I don’t know!


Robert Schechter’s poems for children have appeared in Highlights, Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, The Caterpillar, and various anthologies. His translations have appeared in The Raintown Review, The Evansville Review, The Alabama Literary Review, Redactions, and String Poets. His website is

Los Heraldos Negros


Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes . . . ¡Yo no sé!

Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos,

la resaca de todo lo sufrido

se empozara en el alma . . . ¡Yo no sé!


Son pocos; pero son . . . Abren zanjas oscuras

en el rostro más fiero y en el lomo más fuerte.

Serán tal vez los potros de bárbaros Atilas;

o los heraldos negros que nos manda la Muerte.


Son las caídas hondas de los Cristos del alma

de alguna fe adorable que el Destino blasfema.

Esos golpes sangrientos son las crepitaciones

de algún pan que en la puerta del horno se nos quema.


Y el hombre . . . Pobre . . . ¡pobre! Vuelve los ojos, como

cuando por sobre el hombro nos llama una palmada;

vuelve los ojos locos, y todo lo vivido

se empoza, como charco de culpa, en la mirada.


Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes . . . ¡Yo no sé!



César Vallejo (1892-1938) was a Peruvian poet, playwright and journalist. Thomas Merton called him “the greatest universal poet since Dante,” although Vallejo wrote just three books of poetry. The first, Los Heraldos Negros, was published in 1919.

Ono no Komachi: Modern English Translations

by Michael R. Burch


Ono no Komachi wrote tanka (also known as waka), the most traditional form of Japanese lyric poetry. She is an excellent representative of the Classical, or Heian, period (circa 794-1185 AD) of Japanese literature, and she is one of the best-known poets of the Kokinshu (circa 905), the first in a series of anthologies of Japanese poetry compiled by imperial order. She is one of the Rokkasen — the six best waka poets of the early Heian period. She was renowned for her unusual beauty, and Komachi has become a synonym for feminine beauty in Japan. She is also included among the thirty-six Poetry Immortals. It is believed that she was born sometime between 820-830 and that she wrote most of her poems around the middle of the ninth century. She is best known today for her pensive, melancholic and erotic poems.


“The passionate accents of the waka of Komachi and Narihira would never be surpassed, and the poetry as a whole is of such charm as to make the appearance of the Kokinshu seem less a brilliant dawn after a dark night than the culmination of a steady enhancement of the expressive powers of the most typical Japanese poetic art.”—Donald Keene, translator, critic, and literary historian.

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.

The following six poems by Ono no Komachi are loosely translated by Michael R. Burch.



Submit to you —

is that what you advise?

The way the ripples do

whenever ill winds arise?


Wretched water-weed that I am,

severed from all roots:

if rapids should entice me to annihilation,

why not welcome their lethal shoots?


That which men call “love” —

is it not merely the chain

preventing our escape

from this world of pain?


What do I know of villages

where fisherfolk dwell?

Why do you keep demanding

that I show you the seashore,

lead you to some pearly shell?



the end that awaits me —

to think that before autumn yields

I’ll be a pale mist

shrouding these rice fields.


In this dismal world

the living decrease

as the dead increase . . .

oh, how much longer

must I bear this body of grief?

To an absence


If severed from my body is sweet life

yielding its sway to harsh, unyielding death,

how comes it that I wait so long for death,

absented from the soul that gives me life?


Without Sylvano I no more wish for life,

since all without Sylvano’s living death;

now that Sylvano’s gone, come to me, death,

and by Sylvano perished be my life.


Ah you, sighed for and absent, if this death

forces not your consent to give me life,

can I not receive it from the hands of death?


But if the soul’s the true substance of life,

well do I know, waiting for tardy death,

pain slows death’s steps at death of such a life.


Published in Poetry Salzburg Review and By Me, Through Me.


To Doctor Duarte Madeira Arraéz*


O you, who constantly confront harsh fate,

In your own being preserve humanity,

And, Aesculapius in sovereignty,

Make death, in your respect, more moderate.


Rightly named Arraéz, it’s you we celebrate,

Captaining life’s ship on the foul tyrant’s sea,

Portugal’s Galen, Apollo in apogee,

Physician to the monarch of our state.


Though tyrant death slaughters without remorse,

You have achieved by your great skill such worth

That for the most learned you’re immortal north.


Your victory, then, is won with great desert,

Since who knows to confront death's dreadful force

Will give his name immortal life on earth.


* Derived from an Arabic word, meaning ship’s captain.

Ranald Barnicot’s work has been published in journals and also in two books: A Greek Verse for Ophelia, and other poems by Giovanni Quessep (Out-spoken Press), co-translated from Spanish with Felipe Botero Quintana; and By Me, Through Me (Alba Publications), original poems and translations.

A uma ausencia


Se apartada do corpo a doce vida

domina in seu lugar a dura morte,

de que nasce tardar-me tanto a morte

se ausente da alma estou, que me dá vida?


Não quero sem Sylvano já ter vida,

pois tudo sem Sylvano é viva morte;

já que se foi Sylvano, venha a morte,

perca-se por Sylvano a minha vida.


Ah, suspirado ausente, se esta morte

não te obriga querer a dar-me vida,

como não vem dar-me a mesma morte?


Mas se na alma consiste a própria vida,

bem sei que se me tarda tanto a morte,

que é porque sinta a morte de tal vida.




Ao Doutor Duarte Madeira Arraéz


O tu, que oposto sempre á dura Parca,

Conservas em teu ser o ser humano,

Pois por ser Esculapio soberano,

Menos por seu respeito a morte abarca.


Tu, que Arraéz deves ser, da vital barca,

Que navega no mar do mal tirano,

Novo Galeno, Apolo lusitano,

Medico, emfim, do português monarca,


Logra de singular a feliz sorte,

Tanto apezar da intrepida homicida,

Que sejas do mais douto immortal norte.


Pois victoria será bem mericida,

Que quem opor se sabe á mesma morte,

Saiba dar  a seu nome immortal vida.

Soror Violante do Céu Montesinos (1607–1693) was a Portuguese Dominican nun, renowned in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse” but now fallen into comparative obscurity, who wrote secular and religious poems in both Spanish and Portuguese.

water and tree scape

Archive of Translations

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