Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kenneth Rexroth's translations

I've been perusing through various volumes of Kenneth Rexroth's translations from the Chinese and the Japanese; I have six volumes of these mostly brief love poems that capture so quickly the essence of longing or the erotic. More than the romantic ones, I love the ones where the writing is so sharp that it's as though the moment has coalesced in a few brief lines.

I wish I were close
To you as the wet skirt of
A salt girl to her body.
I think of you always.

The Japanese transliteration:
Suma no ama no
Shio yaki ginu no
Narenaba ka
Hito hi mo kimi wo
Wasurete omowamu

You say, "I will come."
And you do not come.
Now you say, "I will not come."
So I shall expect you.
Have I learned to understand you?

Japanese transliteration:
Komu to yu mo
Konu toki aru wo
Koji to yu wo
Komu to wa mataji
Koji to yu mono wo
(Lady Otomo No Sakanoe)

Even though I don't know Japanese, in looking at the transliteration, I assume that the word play in the poem by Lady Otomo No Sakanoe must be quite something. As it is, I will have to merely enjoy the way the sounds bounce off each other in that brief bit of a poem. What a sharp lady she must have been!

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