There you were, grandma, sitting on the sill outside your house, open to the vast, starry night, to the sky of which you knew nothing and through which you would never travel, to the silence of the fields and the shadowy trees, and you said, with all the serenity of your ninety years and the fire of an adolescence never lost: “The world is so beautiful, it makes me sad to think I have to die.” In those exact words. I was there.
This star, see,
she comes up and leaves
a track in the sea.
Whatcha gonna do, swim
down that track or
drown in the sea?
My heart is 3 .7 . 9
build these 3. 7. 9. down into me
and dance and swell in my mind
and dance and swell. . . .
I am an unquiet bird
My head falls forward with fatigue at evening
several successes several failures, yes
it’s been a long loveless day
If I’d hunted the stones to the south
. .(the stone outside us is beauty
I might have done better
no matter, tomorrow. . .
. .(and the stone within us is love
. . . .both
stone will bust the beak
or break the foot or the wing
there is no other way to live
I suppose we are all Orpheus if we would
. .No, I’m not
dozing or dreaming of home
. .I am home.
A stream of pure water can soothe a poet’s soul
it alone knows how warm or cold the years have been
flowing into West Lake it carries entertainers
looking back it’s changed since the mountains
translated by Red Pine
I’m a native Southern, but as a writer I think background matters most in how well it teaches you to look around and see clearly what’s there and in how deeply it nourishes your imagination.
The North Wind blows white clouds
a thousand miles and across the Fen
the hopes of my heart shudder and fall
the sounds of autumn are hard to bear
translated by Red Pine
But as far as translation is concerned, naturally every writer loses in translation, particularly poets and humorists. Also writers whose writing is tightly connected to folklore are heavy losers. In my own case, I think I am a heavy loser. But then lately I have assisted in the translating of my works, and knowing the problem,I take care that I don’t lose too much. The problem is that it’s very hard to find a perfect equivalent for an idiom in another language. But then it’s also a fact that we all learned our literature through translation. Most people have studied the Bible only in translation, have read Homer in translation, and all the classics. Translation, although it does do damage to an author, it cannot kill him; if he’s really good, he will come out even in translation. And I have seen it in my own case. Also, translation helps me in a way. Because I go through my writings again and again while I edit the translation and work with the translator, and while I am doing this I see all the defects of my writing. Translation has helped me avoid pitfalls that I might not have avoided if I had written the work in Yiddish and published it and not been forced because of the translation to read it again.