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Poetry

translation

By Maja Haderlap
Translated from German by Tess Lewis
Austrian writer Maja Haderlap meditates on the transformation of language in the process of translation.

is there a zone of darkness between all languages,
a black river, that swallows words
and stories and transforms them?
here sentences must disrobe,
begin to roam, learn to swim,
not lose the memory that nests in
their bodies, a secret nucleus.
will the columbine’s blue be a shade of violet
when it reaches the other side,
and the red bee balm become a pear, cinnamon-
sweet? will my tench be missing a fin
in the light of the new language? will it have to learn
to crawl or to walk upright?
does language know how to draw another language towards it
or only how to turn the other language away? can each word,
then, risk the transit, believe itself
invulnerable, dipped in pitch and hard as steel? 

 

From langer transit © Maja Haderlap 2015. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2016  by Tess Lewis. All rights reserved. 

English

is there a zone of darkness between all languages,
a black river, that swallows words
and stories and transforms them?
here sentences must disrobe,
begin to roam, learn to swim,
not lose the memory that nests in
their bodies, a secret nucleus.
will the columbine’s blue be a shade of violet
when it reaches the other side,
and the red bee balm become a pear, cinnamon-
sweet? will my tench be missing a fin
in the light of the new language? will it have to learn
to crawl or to walk upright?
does language know how to draw another language towards it
or only how to turn the other language away? can each word,
then, risk the transit, believe itself
invulnerable, dipped in pitch and hard as steel? 

 

From langer transit © Maja Haderlap 2015. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2016  by Tess Lewis. All rights reserved. 

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