I look at my own naked body
made up of back-borne years
that I count inexactly with scars.
They are like clouds
or the froth of a coffee, looking like things,
some change depending on the day.
They are what clothes my nakedness, they share out like
sisters the weight of days.
This way, each one carries a concrete form and date.
Some look like letters
that come together as names forgotten by chance
or names I don’t know and that tell me nothing.
Pairs of names and dates I read over naked,
no longer afraid to see how they grow.
Now I never feel naked.
I am a white page
reserved for the death notices.
This poem comes from a collection, Asturcones, Treinta y Un Poetas de Asturias (Canalla, 2012). The poet is Rubén D’Areñes (Siero, 1983). I am going to spend some time with this book this week to see what I can squeeze out of these poets.
I was attracted to D’Areñes because he writes in Asturianu. I was surprised by how few of the poets represented here write in Asturianu , but all of the four poems by D’Areñes in this collection are in Asturianu with a translation into Castellano. The contemporary status of the language is an issue that I will be looking at over the next couple of weeks when I turn to Poesía en Movimientu: 30 años de poesía asturiana (Oviedo: Trabe, 2005). If you are interested in that discussion check back.
In this particular poem I have enjoyed looking backwards and forwards from the Castellano to the Asturiano to see what differences it makes in the poetic expression. It can seem easy enough to translate a poem that is not governed by conventional metrics: you just plop down the words as they appear, don’t you? Not quite.
Look at these lines:
fechu d’años arrecostinaos
hecho de años que cargo
made up of back-borne years
Arrecostinar is an interesting word that means “to carry something on your back”, “cargar a cuestas”. This means that there is the hint of a double meaning in the Asturianu: años arrecostinaos; daños arrecostinaos. Daños can mean hurts. This is a part of the meaning of the poem. It is like the speaker has been whipped. Clearly when translating the poem into Castellano the poet made an active choice to turn “arrecostinaos”, an adjective, into “cargo” which is a verb.
There is a different rhythm in the Asturianu. The poet has a taste for alliteration and assonance. Look at this line:
Asina cada una carga una forma y una fecha concretes.
All those “A”s together create a strong rhythm against which the following lines play off:
o nomes que nun conozo y nun me dicen nada.
Here it is the “N”s that give the predominant rhythm. If you think about the emotional effect of As and Ns against the meaning of the words- “a concrete form and date” in the first, “names I don’t know” in the second- I think you will agree there is a link of sound and sense.
This is the basic problem of translation. You can translate the apparent sense of the words and still leave behind a significant part of the poem. In any case, Ruben D’Areñes was a good discovery in this volume and I shall look out for more of his work.
Here is a list if you are interested in following up:
Los Veinticinco Pasos (Universos, )
Les páxines blanques (Trabe, 2008)
Pequeñu álbum de familia (Bubok, 2010: free download)
La solombra del flacu (Hesperya, 2012: e-book)
Appears in Leyendas Urbanas (Laria, 2012)