norbert blei | basho’s road

28 05 2008

Thanks to so many of you for all the positive comments regarding the introduction to the new site, /Basho’s Road/. The initial essay (“Basho’s Road, Part I” ) has now been archived by Monsieur K. (Click to the link at the bottom of the page “*ABOUT BASHO’S ROAD*” for those who missed it or may want to pass it on) or just here…

Speaking of Monsieur K, he deserves accolades galore in supporting the launching of this new site, not to mention his acumen in design and layout. We both worked hard to find the right graphics. And, as usual, he saw what I saw. /Merci, Monsieur K, from me and many others./

The first poem on this site belongs to Basho, deservedly so, since he is the inspiration for all I hope to present here. Since I mentioned the ‘problem’ of translations in Part I of the introductory essay (Parts II and III, in progress). I thought we might take a look at two translations of the same poem–a poem appropriate enough for this time of year as I see it, looking out at my own woods in May, considering the ‘many variations on the theme of green.’ Norbert Blei

RESPONSE/BASHO’S ROAD

Norb,
Thanks for these. There is so much here. Among my Basho favorites:

A fishy smell–
perch guts
in the water weeds.

and

Don’t imitate me;
it’s as boring
as the two halves of a melon.

and from Issa

Climb Mount Fuji,
O snail,
but slowly, slowly.

Thanks again, Norb. Gar

oku-no-hosomichi — very cool….the journey begins…

norb, this is absolutely exquisite… ronald

Sometimes it feels too painful to live in this world. So I have been having a very very sad day. And then I just got this message. It has helped me to try to think beyond my sadness and beyond the meaning of anything. Once again, thank you Norb. m

THANKS FOR THIS, NORB. THE ART WORK ALONE IS BREATH-TAKING….

….this one is a real sparkler and a terrific piece of craftwork…Zeeee

Norbert,

I will get this link up for you in my site. Had a chance to catch any of the shows yet? Best, Jane

Gorgeous site–I will make it one of my regular stops. J

The graphics are so perfect and beautiful for the content. How do you find time to do all this? Everything about it is exquisite. The background color, the white and red of the words, the stretch and pull haiku’s demand, The you entwined with the ancient mysteries and disclosures of zen. The way all of it is there in stillness. Creating stillness on a page. No explanation of how such a thing can ever be done, and yet, somehow done. I’m quite amazed with this. –b

That’s a stunner! Even the paintings make me want to write. I’m linking from SUFFOLK PUNCH. -BH

Norb
I am impressed. MB

Norb,

A great start to an intriguing journey…I look forward to going along for the ride. –BILL

Beautiful. Wondered what you were doing with all your spare time. (HA !) I’ve already made a link from http://caparem.blogspot.com Keep the short stuff coming. - R.

Oh I love it, read it sometime around two in the morning, have to go back and look but I especially liked the essay…..e.

norb,
your first installment on haiku & the short poem is splendid. e.m.

On my way out of town for a few days, so just giving it a glance. I’m loving that you’re doing this. lv,s

This is soooooo beautiful, Norb. Thank you. A. E.

Norb, Excellent! I too am a fan of Basho. I have a translation of his “Narrow Road to the Interior” which is quite small (about 4.5 x 5). His interweaving of the journal with haiku seems so – fitting. One which I enjoy (all are enjoyable) is:

Speechless before
these budding green spring leaves
in blazing sunlight

Yes! Bill

-wow… i was just at the library the other day and got ‘rustic roads’ cause i see you have an essay in it…then i get this note from you about this neat new project…on a related note, inspired by our mutual buddy, jeff winke, i’ve been going through my road notes puling out incidents that I can use as the basis for haibun… charlie

nb
thanks for this –here is what it prompted from today’s garden. rvf


Swallow in garden
injured and waiting for dusk
it’s mate swoops farewell

Dear Norbert,

Your new website is such a thing of beauty, I’m stunned and have nothing but ohs and ahs in reply.

It’s interesting that haiku lends itself so nicely to translation. It has to be the briefness of the poem, so that once all the parts are there (water, frog, sound) the translator doesn’t have a lot of margin for error, as it were, in terms of excess language, boneheaded interpretation, missed point. Clint studied and wrote about and translated the poetry of a couple of Bengali poets, both of which were leading lights in their respective areas (lyric and epic). The one extolled Bengal in poems absolutely revered by Bengalis and, as far as I can tell, almost impossible to translate into an English that touches us even marginally. Clint is good at what he does, and comparisons of his efforts with those by Bengalis and Bengali-wallahs prove the case that you have to be the equivalent of a native speaker in both languages in order successfully to cross the divide, which he does in several poems.

There’s an excellent memoir on translation by Gregory Rabassa (“If This Be Treason”) who is the premier translator of Latin American prose, specifically that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who called him “the best Latin American writer in the English language.” Had I known the dangers and pitfalls of translation, I’m not so sure I would have tackled my dissertation topic’s text, a killer of a 7th-century Sanskrit narrative. Even so, I got something out there that no one else would have attempted (you have to love such a work to allow yourself to become immersed in it and in the labor of showing it off to your fellow English speakers). It’s whatchma call a “contribution.”

As is all that you do, Norb. Your contributions to journalism and literature and to the promotion and support of other writers and poems are immense. As are your efforts to make our little corner of paradise, as many see it, a better place. Keep truckin’. Love, Gwen

When I went to Japan to visit my brother 3 years ago, Barbara Larsen gave me Basho’s book of travels. Mark took me part of the way where Basho walked, so we read his writing, and haiku’s. I also enjoyed Knappen’s review of your new issue of Meditations, I guess I must send for that one, too. g

Norb
Don’t know if I responded to this. This is great. Michael

Love the paintings / especially the one on the first “Basho” site ~~ the house / village in the mountains, as well as the Ticht Naht Hahn comments: observing a tangerine. This is like getting “University of the Air” on Haiku / via email. Many strange and wonderful things float up from out that woods out there … the one about 200 feet from where I sit … thank you. xojg

You cannot imagine how poignant I find either version! I fear I’m looking out at a half-dead orchard of some 500 Montmorencys which will produce no measurable fruit and precious few leaves…the drought of 2007. Since we hand planted and pruned them all, it’ll be like a death in the family. Jean the druid

thanks for doing this work. you’ve forced me back to my Basho. Al DeGenova

Thanks Norb. I much prefer the first translation. The translator’s art is crucial to the success of literature in another tongue. It must be especially difficult in poetry to capture the poet’s thought and feeling, to make the work evoke what the poet intended, and to make it scan satisfyingly in another language.

In many of the big opera houses today, there are translated “supertitles” projected above the proscenium. Several years ago at a performance of “Tosca” at Lyric Opera the audience roared at a translator’s gaffe. Tosca is in the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle watching her lover, the artist Cavaradossi painting an image of the Madonna. Tosca, a raven-haired singer with dark eyes, is angered that the model he used had blue eyes, and she adjures him to darken the orbs of the lady in the painting. What cracked the audience up was the translated line, “Give her black eyes.” Marty

Lovely format! I assume you saw the National Geographic Magazine article about Basho this spring. It is nice, too. Thank you for choosing that lovely haiku for the first poem. g

You do
good work
Basho/Blei/Re
sharp as a small
paring knife

S.

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