Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Today I'm in a window mood...'

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Today I'm in a window mood
where living seems only to look,
and every taste surprises me
as filling and as knowing as a book.


( Rilke, The Windows XII, my translation/version from the French, as I can't quite get on with Poulin's and there don't seem to be many others.  I've got a bloody nerve.  RMR wrote some 400 poems in French near the end of his life, after the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus.)

- Photos - Saffron Walden and Cambridge.

12 comments:

marja-leena said...

I am loving your photos here and the previous post - such interesting places you get to, with interesting names too. Love the Rilke.

the polish chick said...

that fourth photo could almost make a believer out of me. it is gorgeous, lucy, simply gorgeous!

Barrett Bonden said...

In translated poetry (though not in this case) should there be as much info about the translator as the poet? Theoretically this shouldn't be necessary; one may take the translations as they come. But surely it should be even Stephen if there is a CV of the poet. In translation there surely is nothing more "unnatural" than dealing with a poem. In fact, is "translation" still a satisfactory description of what happens?

I can put this question since I myself am almost an empty slate when it comes to poetry. The complete poems of Emily Dickinson came for a song (Hey, given the context a cliché that still has a little life in it) for my Kindle and I've been sidling my way through - everything completely new to me and so they could just as easily be translations. Some appear to be terrible. How can I, a poetry novice, tell? By comparing
them with the few that are good.

In journalism we used to spend ages "getting the intro right". It seems to me that once you'd established "window mood" you had the reader by the... er, lapels, and there was then a predisposition towards the following three lines. Question: if a guest gets to his feet and starts reading the titles of the books on the host's shelves, it's supposed to be bad form. How about peering through a neighbour's windows? Chez Bonden we're particularly vulnerable and I stare back at the starers, sometimes staring them down. I want them to be "knowing" about me. By the way, nerve is an essential quality for all translators. And Poulin's name was surely always against him.

Lucy said...

Thanks people, glad you liked the pictures.

BB - I find I've got quite a bit to say about this, I'm not really too happy with the Rilke but it's an interesting topic; something over at Setu's blog (Gwech ha gwech all) got me thinking more about it. So I may try to break with habit and write a bit more of a post on the subject.

I am a shameless enjoyer of looking through other people's windows, though only in passing, I don't actually loiter, and deplore the French shutter habit which prevents my doing so, though of recent years double-glazing and a general slight opening up of outlook has meant more opportunities to glimpse. I'm never sure about perusing others' bookshelves. Again, I tend to do it, but notice that others seem to show a marked lack of curiosity which may be some kind of good manners thing of which I am ignorant.

Plutarch said...

I share your fascination with windows and their contents and their mystery. I don't know the Rilke poem. But it doesn't matter. I like what I read. I don't think that poems can be translated. The language (the rhythm and the sound of words) and the sense are too closely linked. What can be done and you have done is write a new poem based on the original. It seems beautifully apt in the context of your photographs.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Love the inner church shot. It can be really tricky to capture the atmosphere and you have nailed it in that one.

HKatz said...

I love the different moods you capture with these photos and their windows. Haunting or grand or homey and whimsical...

herhimnbryn said...

I wonder what the waving arm was declaiming?

Anil P said...

And what wonderful windows indeed.

It's as if the windows are less about letting people look about and more about framing the light, embellishing it so we see light differently.

Isabelle said...

Lovely - but how do you get away with taking photos of people's houses?! Do you wait till they go out?

marly youmans said...

I just finished a review of a big collection from a Chinese poet. I felt that I could understand absolutely nothing about his music--and of course he was said to be strongly musical. No transliteration, no recordings. So much is so hard to tell in translation.

I do love Rilke. Best to read a lot of different translations, I find, or else suddenly you realize that your Rilke sounds strangely like Poulin or like Stephen Mitchell, etc. For a while it seemed that all South American poetry sounded just like Robert Bly...

Do hope your friend Barrett keeps a list of what he thinks is good in Dickinson without peeking to see what academics and critics say is good. I think that would make a very interesting little essay--a bright person who doesn't normally read poetry taking an unprejudiced and fresh look at her.

Lucy said...

Thanks people.

HHB - I wondered that too, they were sitting at a table, I think.

Isabelle - I have a good zoom, they don't know anything about it!

Marly - I think perhaps Rilke's French poems are a bit of a mixed bag, to say the least, but one of the things I like about them is that I can read them in the original, though having parallel English (even Poulin's!) is helpful, as much as anything to differ from. It means I read them more carefully. And because they're less well known and not quite such hallowed ground I feel I can mess around and try to translate them without seeming quite so importunate!

I do like to have the German for the German ones too, but that's really more like deciphering a puzzle, without much sense of the nuances. I like Snow's translation best so far - though not from a wide range, just Leishman and Spender and Poulin really, but I didn't really start making any headway until I found Snow. That was Dave Bonta's recommendation.

I will try to make a few observations on the experience of reading and translating these sometime.