A blizzard, a smartphone, and a hotel window.

To view additional photos with comments, visit my Flickr set.
Click to view additional photos with comments in my Flickr set.
Advertisements

Why I Translate: the Gift of Givre

My practice of translating poetry is more than just a decoding of what someone wrote in a tongue not my own. It’s the unlocking of thoughts, the unveiling of sights, and the unmuting of sounds that I would otherwise never imagine. These discoveries facilitate word-play and poetic insight as I interact with my Anglophone world.

givre as it ungives at sunrise
givre as it ungives at sunrise

This week yielded a classic example. We took my daughter north for spring break to Québec QC so we could revisit it without the crush of summer crowds. While there, I read Robert Macfarlane’s essay at The Guardian about his book LANDMARKS. Of all the words he highlighted in his essay, the one that stuck with me was ungive from Northamptonshire /East Anglia and its peculiar definition “to thaw.”

On the same trip, I began researching Québécois snow-poems to translate. One of the books I picked up was Claude Beausoleil’s MÉMOIRE DE NEIGE. As everyone else slept-in after our long drive home, I started reading the book’s first poem “Tempête.” And there it was on the second page: l’effet de givre submergé. I’d never seen the word givre before. Wary from past experience with false cognates, I did a quick search in my French dictionary app. Et voilà: frost — the effect of flooded frost.

Frost/givre. Ungive/thaw. Robert Macfarlane’s thoughts on the derivation of ungive for thaw are poetic, but I wonder if the Norman conquest and its effects on the English language also play a part.

I don’t really want a definitive answer because the fun is in wondering; I only have this kind of fun because I translate. And now, because of translation, I’ll wonder all the more every time the givre on my window ungives at sunrise.

Alliterative Mock-Quiche

a mini version made in a springform pan
a mini version made in a springform pan

Add barley flakes to boiling broth and cover.
Simmer — standing by to stir — for a quarter-hour.
Prepare a pie plate with some oil
then flatten the flakes to form a crust.
Add cod and kale (cooked ahead)
then whisk ricotta, water, and eggs.
Season with salt and a smidge of pepper.
Pour this potion atop the crust
so it fills all fissures ‘mongst flake and leaf.
Place the pie in a pre-heated oven:
four-twenty-five for fifteen minutes
three-fifty for a further hour.
Let it alone to lose some heat
then slide slices off spatula with a knife
(’twill keep the cod from coming off the grain).
Nutritious? Yes. Tasty? No.
Truthfully told, it’s bland.
But fair fare will suffice for now —
with a chaser of chocolate cookie.

Review: Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I mostly enjoyed this biography of the medieval Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, which is interwoven with an introduction to the Norse mythology that Snorri helped preserve. It is engagingly written and its non-linear structure allowed Ms. Brown to pull in modern texts (such as Tolkien and Lewis) inspired by Snorri’s work. However I was a bit frustrated with the loose (and sometimes missing) citations of quotes throughout the book, as well as the author’s repeated referencing of “one translator” or “a modern translator” without giving the translators’ names. I bought this book as a launching point for further study of Icelandic mythology, but many of the items I now want to explore (especially quotes that I would love to record and repeat) were not cited nor did they contain enough key words for me to look up the source texts on my own. I would have rated this book 5-stars if the chapter-by-chapter notes section had been more complete.

View all my reviews

BATTLE [BARDAGI]

Just when I thought my current round of tremors was on the wane, this:

image

Anyone who works daily at not letting chronic illness rule their lives knows the bittersweet that is the loss of a teapot. Or a lunchdate. Or a [name of unexpected sacrifice here].

RIP Brown Betty.  The pot I brew in may be different, but the ritual you taught me will never change.

Review: The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology

The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology
The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology by Robert Bringhurst
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book written by a thinker about thinkers for thinkers. I could read this collection of Bringhurst’s essays seven times in a row and still not absorb everything in it. His gentle challenges to change my perspectives on language, culture, and the natural world were simultaneously maddening and thrilling. But even with only a surface understanding of the philosophy presented in this book, my view of the living dictionary that is my back meadow has changed forever.

View all my reviews

BLUE [BLÁR]

after repeatedly listening to Njörður P. Njarðvík’s baksneidd-braghendas in Icelandic for 90 minutes

Canada’s smoke
has curled around
the Cape and shifted

out to sea—
my spirit lifted

with each breath
the sky has gifted.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click to zoom in on Flickr
click to zoom in on Flickr

FINALLY [AÐ LOKUM]

on the work-for-hire publication of HOW TO WRITE AN EXCEPTIONAL THESIS OR DISSERTATION for Atlantic Publishing

My tome began three months before
the World Cup 2010.
I had twelve weeks to take their notes
and send a book back in.

Through migraines, travels, and lost sleep
these 67,000 words
turned into cash which I then used
as my earned payment towards

a laptop for The Fold. I thought,
With all Atlantic’s rush
my book should come right out this spring.

(This thought now makes me blush.)

Another World Cup came and went.
I moved cross-country too.
I gave up hope of holding it;
what else was I to do?

But yesterday, the red mail van
arrived with box first sent
to California, then sent here—
its corners awfully bent.

Yet safe and crisp inside the box:
six copies of my tome.
Four years, one month, eleven days…
My book is in my home!

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click for more info at Google Books