Skip to content

Index: Poetry and prose in translation


Yves Bonnefoy: And always to quays at night, to bars, to a voice saying I am the lamp, I am the oil.

Three poems from Together Still.

Yves Bonnefoy: Yes, but look: the grass is crushed, where an animal has slept.
Its hideaway is like a sign. The sign is more
Than what was lost, than life going by—
Than the song on the road, late at night.

How should we translate ‘A scrap of paper’?

For a Scrap of Paper By PAUL HYACINTHE LOYSON. Translated by J. G. Frazer. WHY BURSTS THE CLOUD in thunder, and to devastate the world The levin bolt of battle from heaven, or hell, is hurled? Why march embattled millions, to death or victory sworn? Why gape yon lanes of carnage by red artillery torn? […]

The Lay of Love and Death of Christoph Cornet Rilke von Langenau.

Rilke: ‘Outside, a storm is racing across the sky, breaking the night into pieces, white pieces, black ones. The moonlight goes past like a drawn-out lightning flash and the flag which doesn’t move has restless shadows. It is dreaming.’

Five poems.

Gëzim Hajdari: ‘The stones along the road are silent,
the bitter grass in the field trembles.
Under a sky always dark
naked, orphan trees.’

Lorenzo Calogero and other poets in translation.

Peter Riley: ‘By 1945 Calogero had got himself into a fairly dreadful state of hopelessness and was comforted only by his distance from the demands and rewards of urban centrality, in a pastoral location which to him was more real than the university or the state.’

The Olympic Games.

G.S. Robertson: ‘Athens, all hail! Hail, O rejoicing throng!
And from our lips receive the tributary song.’

Ilhan Berk.

Peter Riley: ‘It seems that in his later years Berk cultivated an extreme version of what some poets would call “risk-taking” which mainly casts the task of cohering back on the reader. I like to think of this name (of a loved person) somehow represented as one leaf’s contribution to the large symphonic rustling of a tree, and this person having been singled out of a whole population to receive special regard. I feel that it is I who have done this rather than Berk.’

Winétt de Rokha: Three poems.

Winétt de Rokha: ‘The word becomes a butterfly of the night,
bats its wings, stops, opens itself to unforeseen pearls —
catches at an echo that rolls slowly
away, dividing and dividing again, and chases after its own flight
like the mane of a comet as it dissolves.’


Pierre Voélin: ‘in the distance the processions move on

and he who is listening
behind the wall of foliage
remembers the promises of your name’

Writing to Shakespeare.

Bonnefoy: ‘…you’re standing in a corner of the theatre. It’s cold, and a wind seems to be blowing. You’re talking to several men, young and old. One of them will be Hamlet; another, Ophelia. Do you have an idea to explain to them? No. Hamlet is being written here, at this very moment, in the sentences that come to you, that take you by surprise. It’s virtually an improvisation, over several days divided between your table—I don’t know where—and the stage: a text, certainly, but one you cross out off-the-cuff, as when you understand—for example, at this very instant—that your future Hamlet doesn’t grasp all that well what you’re trying to tell him.’

Three poems by Anne Mounic.

Anne Mounic: ‘Plenitude, integrity, some inner stirring –
the soul, once one gives in to self from self,
achieves its own new music, depicting
slow flow of river between fields and woods
about to flourish green once more.’

The preface to ‘Émaux et camées’.

Gautier: ‘I wrote, although the hurricane
lashed windows which I always close,
Enamels first, then Cameos.’

Five poems by Jules Supervielle.

Jules Supervielle: ‘If you touch his hand, it’s without knowing.
You remember him, but under another name.
In the middle of the night, in your deepest sleep
you say his real name and invite him to stay.’
Translation by Ian Seed.

from ‘Blind Distance’.

From the editorial note: Pierre Chappuis is an essential French-language poet in a generation that includes Philippe Jaccottet, Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Jacques Dupin, and Jacques Réda. His many published works include collections of critical essays, poetic prose, and poetry. Among his most recent books, all published by the Éditions José Corti, are Dans la foulée (2007), Comme un léger sommeil (2009), and Muettes emergences (2011). Distance aveugle (2000) and À la portée de la voix (2002), also brought out by Corti, are collections of short poetic prose. For his writing, he has won the two most prestigious Swiss literary prizes: the Schiller Prize in 1997 and the Grand Prix C.F. Ramuz in 2005.