Why I Translate: the Gift of Givre

14 March 2015 § 2 Comments

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.

FINALLY [AÐ LOKUM]

12 August 2014 § 2 Comments

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

NEBISKAT [DÖGG]

7 August 2014 § Leave a comment

small water maker

not possessive
not personified

a being that is
a being that does

unseen
unknown

whose handiwork
appears at dawn

recognized
by the Abenaki

We just call it dew.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click to see full size on Flickr

click to see full size on Flickr

RAIN [REGN]

2 August 2014 § 4 Comments

The sky turned black and we were stuck behind
a three-mile line of cars. I’d tried to find
a back way home from Megan’s Boston doc
but didn’t figure in the five o’clock
non-weekender just wanting to get home
to Essex County, Mass (I’d hoped to roam
its Whittier spaces). Rain began to pelt
the car as Haverhill came in view. We felt
quite nervous when we couldn’t see if there
were two or four lanes ‘cross the bridge over
the Merrimack. Our wipers set on max
could not keep up. We followed tracks
of a one-ton truck until it led us through
a flooded patch of Main Street. Thus we knew
we had to park and let the deluge pass.
We turned uphill and looked for treeless grass
to park beside. Rain-Bound. No debate:
John Greenleaf Whittier’s farm would have to wait.

©2014 JS Graustein
Haverhill, Massachusetts USA

Click to read SNOW-BOUND at Google Books.

Click to read SNOW-BOUND at Google Books.

SMOKE [REYKUR]

26 July 2014 § 4 Comments

California light
in New England—
Canadian forests burn

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

hoping the jet stream shifts soon

hoping the jet stream shifts soon

DISSONANCE [MIS-HLJÓMUR]

29 May 2014 § Leave a comment

Today

on Lake Winnepesauke

in Gold Country

local children play

my daughter plays

a band concert

on the MS Mount Washington—

in the high school theatre—

their introductory performance;

her farewell performance;

I am [not] there.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

Recorders, played with gusto.

Recorders, played with gusto.

SUNSET [SÓLSETUR]

24 May 2014 § 2 Comments

After Michigan’s miles       marked with graves
and Ohio’s highways       hindered by cones,
I landed some lodging       in a lakeside town.
I planned to unpack       and plop on the bed.
But I went to the window       to watch the traffic
and noticed — through noise       and nuisant wires —
sweet-light from the sun      setting over the lake.
Driven, I dashed       down to the lobby
where a man marked       a map to the beach
on Presque Isle (the piece       of peace where my son
waded and watched       the waves last year).
I revved along roads,     racing the sun.
I lost. But the last       liquid red
shone on the shingle.     The shore glowed.
The wave-rhythm washed       away the roar
of a day spent driving       and dodging pot-holes.
The sand massaged       the soles of my feet.
I paced. I took pictures.       My pulse    slowed.
No matter that I missed       the moment of setting.
The fade was fantastic:       a finish worth
extending my trek.     Two days to go —
impossible made possible       by peaceful Lake Erie.

©2014 JS Graustein
Erie, Pennsylvania USA

an oceanesque sunset on Lake Erie

an oceanesque sunset on Lake Erie

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