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Translating JPF Goodman!

August 31, 2012

“Intrigued by Cioran’s success (and Beckett’s) following writing in French, and want to emulate it! Will get poems translated and made into prints!”

In the correspondence with Michael J. McNeal shared on this blog a couple of weeks ago, I expressed this hope, for, as is traditional, 3 reasons:

1.         To communicate as widely as possible.

2.         In the hope that poetry and especially love poetry may find some common ground across all languages and cultures.

3.         Let’s be honest, sheer vanity, which convinces me that much of my poetry is clear  and expressive enough to make translating it a relatively simple matter!

So, here is the first French translation of one of the poems featured in “Online Busking”:

Le visage de la lune

Ce soir j’ai vu ton visage sur le visage de la lune

Tout semble aussi joli que toi à présent

Même la lune qui tantôt  si froidement me raillait

Même la lune qui semblait si impossible à rallier

Oui l’astre blême parait si proche à présent

Que l’on pourrait s’échanger des clins d’œil,

Un sourire, la pluie et le beau temps,

Puis c’est le calme qui suit notre intime connexion

Quand nos orbites coïncident, tissant notre relation

Et nos impétueuses manières, mêlées d’accords béats et de petits riens.

Translation by Frederick Vincent

I can’t give an authoritative opinion on Fred’s Translation, as my knowledge of French barely goes past a fail at ‘O’ Level, though a soupçon of that beautiful language has seeped in over the years. It sounds lovely to me, but what do you, especially those readers more linguistically gifted than myself, think?

In English, my work sounds right, at least to myself, though it can be rather irregular in places:

I saw your face on the face of tonight’s moon

Everything looks as beautiful as you now

Even the moon, that used to mock me so coldly,

Even the moon, that seemed so loftily out of reach

Now seems to be in my neighbourhood

Close enough to exchange a wink

A smile, a moment sharing the weather

Then the calmness that follows our connecting together

Our orbits coinciding, the usual pleasant exchange

Prior to proceeding on our stately ways, bestowing beatitudes to all within range.

In fact spell-check is going crazy even as I paste my piece in for this post, but what does Microsoft know?

So that’s the idea, and I would like to invite readers to hunt around this site, have a go at translating one of the poems spread around it into any language they choose, and pop it into the comments below or pass it along to me by the email address in the about section. All languages are welcome but it might take a while to vet them.


Be kind and not too mischievous – we want to improve international relations here!

Forgive any difficulties getting through the Comments system; think of it as another stimulating challenge! Or send it to me via Jpf Goodman on Facebook.

Bear in mind that Virgin doesn’t like me any more and will close down my current email address within four weeks. I’ll let you know as soon as that happens and display a new one by all means at my disposal.

Keep your efforts to yourself if you prefer (your comment on any attempts are as welcome as finished pieces) but bear in mind that my agents are everywhere, speak all languages and, if the original poet is not properly acknowledged, will prosecute you with the full weight of all applicable laws; in a loving way, of course! Payments for translation rights are not compulsory but will be gratefully received via my PayPal account.

Phew! Writing this suggests that translating poetry may not be such a simple matter as I’d hoped. We’d better talk about making prints out of them another time.


From → Poet

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