Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Sunflowers" – "Tournesols"

Something a little different this time, folks. Here's a poem from my last collection, The True Blue of Islands (Sandberry Press, 2005 – available from amazon.com). I've tried to translate it into French; I knew some French once, but I've forgotten much of what I knew. I'm putting both the poem and the translation up, in the hope that someone whose French and kwéyol is better than mine will make a comment. I'm especially interested in whether there's a way to 'translate' the pun (English "guest" and creole "guess") in the last word. All comments welcome


Vincent Van Gogh the sunflower man
cut off his ear when Paul Gauguin
wouldn’t stay to paint with him
in southern France.

I burnt my veil and wedding dress
scarred both my cheeks
tattooed rosettes
along my arms with cigarettes.

We both needed a man to stay.

You think that it was
loneliness? I don’t
think so. Madness
has always been my guess.

© Pamela Mordecai 2005


Vincent Van Gogh, l’homme des tournesols
s’est coupé l’oreille quand Paul Gauguin
ne voulut rester avec lui pour peindre
au sud de la France.

J’ai brulé ma voile et ma robe de mariée
je m’ai marqué des cicatrices les joues
j’ai tatué rosettes
au long de mes bras avec des cigarettes.

Nous deux avions besoin qu’un homme restât.

Tu crois que c’était
la solitude? Je ne
le crois pas. Toujours
j’avais pensé qu’il doit être la folie.


Rethabile said...

Les Tournesols

Vincent Van Gogh, l’homme aux tournesols,
s’est coupé l’oreille quand Paul Gauguin
ne voulait pas rester peindre avec lui
au sud de la France.

J’ai brûlé ma voile, ma robe de mariée,
j’ai marqué mes joues à la lame
et tatoué des rosettes le long de mes bras
avec des cigarettes.

Il fallait faire rester un homme.

Vous croyez que c’était
de la solitude? Je ne crois pas.
Ça a toujours était
de la folie chez moi.

One of my favourite poems. I don't speak Créole, even if people who do (Guadeloupéens et Martiniquais) always seem to think I do.

As a result, I had no idea the poem ended on that surprising note, though I'd always failed to convince myself that that last stanza deserved to exist for rhyme alone.

"Chez moi" means both "at my place," and "according to me," so for the most part it plays into the "guess" / "guest" pun I've just discovered was there.

I worked on your own translation without trying to remain extremely faithful to the original English version.

I've had your poem up on my blog for long. I apologise for that.

Rethabile said...

Not: "j’ai marqué mes joues à la lame"

But: "je me suis marqué les joues à la lame"

clarabella said...

Hi rethabile:

I'm glad you like "Sunflowers". Thank you very much also for the translation. I deeply appreciate it – especially the 'chez moi' pun... Funny that it sometimes works out that you CAN move the sense of a pun from one language into another. Do you do translations often? BTW, "My Father's Killers" is a truly fine poem, utterly terrifying as much by reason of the perspective as by reason of the story. Having had a brother murdered, I fervently hope the tale that it tells is imaginary. Please visit again soon. P&L

Rethabile said...

Hi again,
No, I don't ever do translations. This is about the second poem I translate. I'm glad you liked the translation.

Thank you also for "My Father's Killers," which is unhappily true, though they didn't get him that night.

It'll be a pleasure to revisit. Thanks to Geoffrey for teaching me about all the poets from the islands (including hisself).

FSJL said...

I asked a friend who does translate French to look in, so she may have something to say (I hope).