Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three Plus Four Divided by Seven

     A good friend, Doru Radu -- with whom I have partnered to translate some Romanian poetry into English -- shares with me a love for the work of Polish poet and 1996 Nobelist, Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012).  Doru lives in Poland now and had a chance to meet Szymborska, to hear her read, and to translate some of her work into his native Romanian. And last summer, when he traveled to New York, he brought to me a copy of the posthumously published collection, Enough (Wydawnictwo a5).  Here are a couple of mathy stanzas from one of its poems, "Confessions of a Reading Machine."

Confessions of a Reading Machine     by Wisława Szymborska 
 translated by Clare Cavanagh

I, Number Three Plus Four Divided by Seven,
am renowned for my vast linguistic knowledge.
I now recognize thousands of languages
employed by extinct people
in their histories.  

Everything that they recorded with their signs,
even when crushed under layers of disasters,
I extract, reconstruct
in its original form.

and now, skipping seven very fine stanzas (BUY THE BOOK!) to the final one, we have

Perhaps my pal Two Fifths of Zero Fractured by Half
will provide brotherly assistance.
True, he's a known lunatic,
but he's got ideas.

The poems of Enough now are available in the US in this Syzmborska collection:   Map:  Collected and Last Poems (Mariner Books, 2016).   
One of the translation projects on which I worked with Doru Radu is work by Romanian philosopher and poet Ileana Mălăncioiu -- in particular My Sister Beyond, a collection written in response to the illness and death of her sister.

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