Two days ago I bought a book of poetry from a small upstairs bookshop nestled in the outskirts of Lisbon. Translating it, I thought, would be a great literary ambition, so I bought it. My deadline came far sooner than I had planned, but nonetheless I’m proud to present my abridged and condensed translations of Maria Andresen de Sousa’s brilliant book Lugares. De Sousa’s original is as soaring as it is wistfully playful, and her talented eye finds lyrical inspiration even when other poets would be mired in the mundane. I have succeeded, I think, in capturing the essence of her work even with my forced brevity. Her work is divided into three sections, each with a heading, which I have translated and included. From there, I have picked two poems from each that truly embody the character of her work. I have placed the original poems beside my translations so that you, my reader, may have some more context to appreciate both the mastery of the original and (if I may say so) the brilliance of translation. Some of her work already has an English title; these titles I have taken the liberty of not translating, trusting you to fill in the gaps.
My one regret is that I didn’t have the time to learn Portuguese. I dedicate this great work to my dear, sweet Maria, whom I have never met and wholeheartedly hope not to meet, especially if she reads what follows.
Ela tem o corpo levemente inclinado
Her corpse levitates, when inclined
Assim me foi dado dar um rosto
e voz ao poder que me cerrava
que de si, dele
mi dizia onde
se gera no coração um pacto
com o avesso, a prosecrição porque
É arredada e muda esta nossa natureza
comum só ap portento dos cães
também estátuas do meu sonho
ao lado d’Eles correm
Assist your dad with the roast
Your voice inspires him to create
Everyday, you sing
Every day, he cooks
If you sing with no heart, a pact
We will prosecute you to the full legal extent.
The lawyers called. They said we can’t
Naturally, to consume your portion twice would be but a fallacy
we have to free you from the jail.
What a shame.
Let’s tambourine the menu onward
with the lads down the road.
Ele gritou de modo a que as palavras
desertas se perdessem e regressassem
por fin destertadas de si mesmas
Como se a voz pudesse desperdir o mundo,
dos nomes, o tão escasso e seu extenso imfudamento
The grit of your mouth is like a palace
Of deserts and desserts, if you’d permit me to regress
For those desserts mesmerize me
With your voice, I despair much for the world
With your name, I tan excessively under the incandescent sun of your smile
Quando Isabel Archer atravessou o Atlântico
When Isabel the archer assassinated the Atlantic Ocean
Uma fé de medusa cega que nela se aninhou como
castigo descido sobre quem de tãomais longe
que a antiga mudez se levantou. E era
de longo ódioo poder que consigo
crescia pela casa
Medusa could never annihilate your cows
Castrate your tomatoes, lounge in your maize.
She is more ancient than your arrival. And too long odious to to try your excellent queso
with her house of living hair.
The Red Thin Line
Anterior a toda a fome há esta fome: fome de lama
e du um metal que se fez mato
no entrançado trilho das raízes
acançaries até à àgua azul da enseada
onde os corpos sonhem regrassar, e assim os tome
o transe de lama a sua face medusina
quando na aurora dos dedos róseos
soar de Érobo, o escuro
pesado o metal de coração
tal vez que ele
levante a mão e a descole da sorte:
á morte destinada
The Thin Red Line
After today foams the greater foam, the foam of a llama
with a metallic fez, and an urge to mate
do not enter the the trillium of razors.
Here it departs from lamas and goes in the actual red line mentioned in the title, so I’ll just summarize:
What you’ll really want here is just to picture an image of a thin red jumprope being plied by two foaming lamas and you get the gist of this poem.
I just saved you from a lot of reading.
Crescue a casa aqui neste lugar
Even croissants deserve a home, you know?
O teu nome um apelo da carne
uma sua evidência: mas
ao arrepio das coisas
ela governa os sues olvidos
Your name appeals, my crane
The evidence: more so
Arrived through counting
The government is oblivious
Eis que de novo se move
o pensamento da casa
A que vem quem não morasse
nos seus nomes?
senão a uma ressurreiçado da hora
que um bater de portas
M&Ms in November
It is new to move,
To think of the house
To no longer lick molasses
Who would know?
I resurrect the hours of senses.
We with the battered ponchos
(de Sousa doesn’t truly conclude the book this way, but I added it for some gravitas.)
Matt Medendorp (’14) graduated with a writing degree held together by duct tape and a few trips abroad. Currently he lives in Grand Rapids, works for Chaco, and claims to be producing a book of writing and photography from his time in Alaska.