Note on the Translation

By Michael Shally-Jensen

We have sought here to wrestle with the polished burl bowl of the author’s mind — its baroque excesses, its stark and stained language — as if taking on Grendel in the dark woods of indeterminacy. Translation is never a simple pact between the naked and the dead, the sound and the fury. It is, rather, a most dear act, one that itself merits translation. We have, dear reader, gladly succumbed to the better spasms of our judgment by becoming pulque-filled vessels on your behalf, producing trance-like renderings of the poems included herein. We have dipped deeply into the fermented bananas of the author’s soul to retrieve the steeped liquor of mental detritus found therein. For us, this work has been to risk annihilation by taking a suicide leap from the dull edge of the familiar to the lively whirl of the unknown.

Yet our principal aim has been to be as literal as possible. Wordplay, paradoxes, idiomatic expressions, slang, and so forth, all of which our dead author uses extensively, have been shorn of their hieroglyphics and given free reign to set up new plausibilities in the host language. By such mythologies does the process become entertaining, boisterous, even enviable. Every poem here is a blistering approximation to an orphic song issuing forever from the gullet of the expired author.

It is virtually exceptional to translate a writer so virile and yet so subtle, whose every word has (or had) meaning. We have tried only to give a pale sense of his grandiose vision and style — which, to characterize it, has the urgency of a hostile indigene group bent on mounting a border raid, cautiously yet anxiously, with occasional flashes of shallowness and pedantry. Beyond that one enters the realm of the twisted, the snaggled place in flowers where darkness rests.

When we first started this project we preferred mid-mornings, suburban cafés, and a pleasant emotional color. Now that we’ve completed it we’re drawn to late afternoons, crowded diners, and a general malaise. Thus has this work translated us to ourselves. We hope, dear reader, it will work much the same spell on you.

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About Michael Shally-Jensen

Michael Shally-Jensen trained in cultural anthropology before entering the book publishing trade, where he has long worked as an editor and manager. He lives in western Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in the Aurorean and Smartish Pace (prize finalist) and are forthcoming elsewhere.

One Comment

  1. Amalia Gladhart
    Posted March 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    A wonderful poem–“virtually exceptional.” Thank you.

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