Three Poems

Adrienne Ho & Mani Rao: On translating into Latin

The poet:

In their quest for the divine, via concepts based on vedanta, etc. some of my poems' themes seem to belong an earlier era, if in today's clothes. In that sense there was a symmetry between them and the renewal of the classical poetry Adrienne's translation work strives for. And Latin's formality and stiffness matched well with the ritual quality the dense sound of my poems means to evoke.

”Chorus” directly addresses the divine; “Ebri” is about mediation. Choosing these fitted well with the conceit that Latin was once the language of mediation - uttered by priests and heard by gods. I thought the poems could only be closer to their truth in Latin.

— MR

The translator:

David Damrosch notes that Goethe “actually prefers a Latin translation of one of his own works to the original: 'there it seems to me nobler, and as if it had returned to its original form!'” (What is World Literature).

Meanwhile, in his Translation and Translations J.P. Postgate, an avid Latinist of the early 20th c., characterizes Latin-English translations as “retrospective” and English-Latin as “prospective.” When translating English to Latin, he writes, the translator should “put safety first and to aim not at the nearest idiomatic translation but at the most idiomatic that he can find. For his object is to write in Latin, not to render English, and to him the borderland of doubt and possible error is much larger in the use of Latin than in that of English expression.” This outlines a quite distinct trajectory for the translation out of one's native language into a so-call extinguished one.

On a more personal note: my translations ofthe late Roman poet Sulpicia into contemporary English poetry, and the translation I have done of Mani into Latin complement one another in an almost symbiotic way across time and languages.

— AH

Chorus Chorus

You are the spheres

We know the nip
Your sniffer dogs

You have us hemmed in breath stitch

sphaeras es

morsum noscemus
canes tui venantes

tenes nos sutos aura

Ebri Ebri

Up on the water, lake of oil –
Up on the lake, waiting painting –
A canvas lowered from the sky
To take it away in mortal colors
To air in the celestial pictures
Between eyebrows

super undam, lacus olei –
in lacu, exspectans pictura –
velum demissum de caelo
ut id adimeret mortalibus coloribus
siccaret caelestibus picturis
inter supercilium

Catching Up Adsequens

The orphan and the alien met. One adopted the other.
How did they meet?
Oh! In exaggerated stories always ending with a rescue and two foundlings.
Did you tell them they would have to forsake to save each other?

Orbusque alienigena obveniunt. Altera adoptavit altera.
Quomodo obvenerint?
Heu! Fabulis exaggeris semper desiniens cum recuperatione et duobis expositiciis.
Dixistine eos deserendos esse ut servarent uterosque?

Adrienne Ho is an MFA candidate in literary translation at the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in Canada and the US, and is forthcoming in Burnside Review, Circumference, Denver Quarterly, and Ninth Letter.

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After Katrina

4.2 Winter 2006

  1. Editorial

  2. Paul Merchant translates

  3. Adrienne Ho translates

  4. Prose Poetry by Mani Rao

  5. Nathalie Stephens

    • Poems
      Introduced by Cole Swensen
  6. Suzana Abspoel Djodjo

    • From Snajper
      Translated from the Croatian by Tomislav Kuzmanovic
  7. On Institutions of Creative Writing

  8. Postcard From New Orleans