Wednesday, October 01, 2014


You've seen this bird before; he's eating suet. But the photo has been altered using one of those iPhone apps. One sees different things about a black and white photo, and its color source. I think the expression of the woodpecker shows better in this one. 

I am reading today a book of translations of the poems of Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) The translations were done by a translator whose work I much admire, for the haiku and other Japanese classics that Hiroaki Sato has brought to us in English versions. Most of the translations in the books are his, but he has also included some translations by others. Here are two translations of what I think is the same poem in Japanese.


Beyond the pampas-grass flowers
     and the dark grove
a new sort of wind is blowing
---through dazzling wrinkly cloud fretwork
                     and spring sun
with a shiver of strange odors.

And from the hill behind the empty creek
and the barely rising black smoke
of the tile works
a big cheerful racket.
---listening in the farmers fields
it seems pleasant enough work all right
But every night Chuchi
comes home from there exhausted
                             and bad-tempered.
(translated by Gary Snyder)


Beyond the miscanthus flowers and the dark woods
some different specimen of wind is ringing.
In the lattice of glistering kinky clouds and blue light
the wind, with a mysterious fragrance, is trembling.
Reflecting the sky the river's empty
and a brick factory raises a bit of smoke.
From the table behind it
the echo comes clear, again.
Listening to it here, in the vegetable patch,
it sounds like a pleasant, bright sort of work.
But at night Chuichi returns from there,
tired, furious.

From Spring and Asura by Miyazawa Kenji
in Miyazawa Kenji: Selections
edited and with an introduction by Hiroaki Sato, Univ. of California Press, 2007. Pages 155-156.

One thing I can take from this, particularly for my own work, is that a radical reworking of a poem I am writing is certainly possible without damaging the spirit of the poem. Think about translating some thing you are working on using different plants, colors, weather or diction. Steal a word or two from John Clare maybe; not too many!

I hope to blog more about Miyazawa, (Wikipedia: Buddhist, vegetarian and social activist) after I finish reading the 60 pages of introduction. But I am interested already because of the Pre-World War II time frame in Japanese literature.

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