Showing posts with label Bora Mici. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bora Mici. Show all posts

22 July 2024

Translation: Art by Théophile Gautier

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem L'art by the 19th century French poet Théophile Gautier, known for having pronounced that art is created for its own sake, or "L'art pour l'art." This poem is taken from the collection Emaux et Camées, or Enamels and Cameos, in which the poet likens the creative process of a visual artist to that of a poet. Unlike the Romantic poets of his period, Gautier wrote in a much more simplistic, almost naive, manner and relished the sensual nature of words and what they represented. He tried to fashion what he wrote about as if he were applying color and texture to it, like a visual artist. In its original version, this particular poem, which I have translated a bit loosely in certain places, while still trying to retain its rhyme scheme and structure, is more conceptual and abstract than Gautier's other poems and is written in extremely simple verse. French being a language that is more prone to rhyming than English, I had to make a few concessions in my version. 

Art by Théophile Gautier

Yes, prettier is art that comes from
A shape worked with terse
Marble, onyx, enamel, verse.

No feigned constraints upon!
But in order to walk upright
You don,
Oh Muse, a buskin slender and tight.

Away with rhythm and suit
Like a shoe that none fits,
Every foot
tries it on for fashion’s sake and quits!

Sculptor, push and plumb
The clay that molds
Your thumb,
When the mind wanderingly unfolds;

Wrestle with the Carrara stone,
With the Parian marble demure
Rarest alone
Guardians of the pure contour;

Borrow from Syracuse
Its bronze where firmly
The Muse
strikes a bold line charmingly;

With a delicate touch
Seek in the agate you file
Not trying much
Apollo’s profile.

Painter, avoid water based hues,
And fix the color tones
Delicate blues
In the enameler’s oven stones.

Make the blue mermaids,
Which twist their tails
In myriad braids
Into heraldic whales.

In her cloud-like trilobe
The Virgin and Child,
The globe
Let the Cross above it beguile.

Everything fades. — Only art robust
Possesses eternity.
The bust
Survives urbanity.

And the austere medallion
That the farmer unearths
With his scallion
Reveals royal births.

The gods themselves expire,
But the sovereign songs
Forever inspire
Like metals they are strong.

File, chisel, sculpt;
May your wandering dream
Find hold
In the block that redeems!

22 June 2024

Translation: The Canary Prince as told by Italo Calvino, Part 1

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1872

This is Bora Mici's original translation from Italian into English of the fairytale The Canary Prince, Il Principe canarino, as told by Italo Calvino. It tells a story of treachery, love, bravery and ingenuity that integrates many traditional fairytales, including Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and lesser known ones.

The Canary Prince by Italo Calvino, Part 1

There was a King who had a daughter. Her mother had died and her stepmother was jealous of her and always badmouthed her to the King. The girl desperately tried to clear her name; but the stepmother was always a step ahead and the King, even though he loved his daughter, ended up believing the stepmother: and he told her she was allowed to send her away. However, she had to put her in a comfortable place because he would have never allowed her to be mistreated. “As for that,” said the stepmother, “don’t worry, don’t even think about it,” and she locked up the girl in a castle in the middle of the woods. She gathered a group of Court maidens and locked them up with her to keep her company with the instructions that they ought to neither let her go out nor sit by the window. Of course, she paid them from the coffers of the Royal House. The girl was given a comfortable room and all that she wanted to eat and drink: she just could not go out. The maidens, on the other hand, who were very well paid and had a lot of free time, kept to themselves and did not pay attention to her.

Now and then, the King asked his wife, “And how is our daughter? Is she doing anything interesting?” In order to make it seem like she was involved in her affairs, the Queen went to visit her. At the castle, as soon as she got out of her carriage, the maidens all ran to greet her and to tell her to not worry. The girl was doing very well and was very happy. The Queen climbed up to her room for a few minutes. “So, you are doing well, yes? You have everything you need, yes? I can see from your complexion that you are healthy. The air is good. So keep smiling! Good-bye!” And she left. She told the King that she had never seen his daughter so happy.

However, the Princess who was always alone in that room, with her escort who did not even look at her, spent her days sadly looking out of the window. She sat there with her elbows on the windowsill, and she would have gotten calluses on them if she had not thought to put a pillow underneath. The window looked upon the forest and all day long, the Princess saw nothing but the tops of the trees, the clouds and beneath, the hunters’ path. One day, the son of a King happened upon this path. He was following a wild boar and passing by the castle, which he thought was abandoned many years ago, he was surprised to notice signs of life: clothes drying between the balustrades, smoke in the chimneys, open windows. He was looking up at all this when he saw a beautiful girl sitting by a window and smiled at her. The girl also saw the Prince dressed in yellow hunting pants and carrying a musket, and she also smiled at him. They spent an hour looking and smiling at one another and also curtseying and bowing because the distance that separated them did not allow for other forms of communication.

The next day, the Prince dressed in yellow, showed up again with the excuse that he was going hunting, and they spent two hours looking at each other; and this time, other than exchanging smiles, curtseys and bows, they also put one hand on their hearts and shook their handkerchiefs for a long time. The third day, the Prince stayed for three hours, and they also blew each other a kiss with their fingertips. On the fourth day, he was there as always, when an Old Hag tumbled out from behind a tree and began to snigger: “Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“Who are you? What’s there to laugh about?” said the prince in a lively voice.

“It’s just that I have never seen two lovers who are so stupid as to stand so far away from one another!”

“If only I knew how to reach her Grandma!” said the Prince.

21 June 2024

Reductio Ad Absurdum: Reading Freud on the Subway

The Subway by George Tooker, 1950

This is a little story, or at least the beginning of it, that I wrote for a local writer's competition. It did not get selected so I am publishing it here because I think it makes points worth considering.

Reading Freud on the Subway

In “Civilization and Its Discontents,” Freud writes that he finds no error in the Communist economic plan, but surmises that it would not resolve one fundamental problem: the need to express aggression and direct it inward or outward. An economic system that prioritizes the equal distribution of resources might work, but human nature would still creep in and create inequities elsewhere.

Imagine a subway car with a limited number of car seats. If everything is planned accordingly, there are only as many customers as there are empty seats available at any given time. The flow of passengers into the car is subject to careful monitoring and regulation and unfolds without a hitch; there is no competition in sight because the frequency of the trains adapts to the fluctuating demand. But the train ride is long, longer for some than for others. How will they occupy themselves? Sound planning might alleviate one set of spatial constraints, but the laws of physics dictate that a train travels at an average speed over a given distance, and for lack of inventions to come, the present imposes itself in all its less than predictable vicissitudes.  

There’s a zealous knitter next to an avid reader. Although he tries his best to minimize the elbow room required to stitch his rows, sometimes the end of his thick wooden needle brushes against the flashy neon green and pink book cover on the edge of his peripheral vision. The reader, who is wearing headphones to drown out the chatter of two gregarious friends across the aisle, remains unperturbed. She shifts in her seat, crosses one leg over the other, but does not make a move. The story is engrossing after all, and a slight nudge from the left is a small price to pay for the pleasure of a subway car that is not cramped. The train pulls into a station. The demure couple sitting to her right gets off. Taking its place, in saunters an eccentric pair bundled up against the cold in what seems to be glossy astronaut suits, carrying bunches of flowers with flanking gigantic palm leaves.

Now our reader feels squished. What’s more, the flowers are casting an obstructive shadow over the pages of her book. Where should she turn? Should she reprimand the knitter for occasionally jolting her book or ask the bulky new arrivals to kindly put down their flowers into the aisle? She considers turning to the flower people. As she is about to make her move and takes off her headphones, one of them, the one immediately to her right, makes eye contact, then glances at his bouquet and shakes his head as if saying, “Not going to happen, sister. The flowers are staying put. Otherwise, they’ll roll up and down the aisle as the subway screeches to a stop and starts up again.” She reconsiders and turns to the left.

At this point, the conversation between the gregarious friends is really grating on her. She grabs the end of the needle. Its jaunty movement abruptly comes to a stop. She looks the knitter in the eye as if saying enough is enough — both say they’re sorry.

How can we explain this reaction? Aggression is how the superego, our social monitoring mechanism, copes with a recalcitrant, desirous ego, which in turn negotiates with our basest instincts to present a unified and socially acceptable image to our most immediate interlocutors. Gestures, thoughts, simple eye contact become aggressive acts that lead to painful remorse in conscientious individuals. But what happens between our reader and our knitter? Do they compromise and turn their backs to each other so as to no longer venture into each other's embattled airspace, so to speak, and thus expose themselves to new vagaries of idiosyncratic train behaviors? Do they cease and desist?

Or does one emerge victorious through subtle guilt-tripping or by occupying the moral high ground? Or does it depend on what book the reader is reading and the lessons it can impart in the serendipitous event that she reflect upon them, and perhaps shares them with her nimble fingered neighbor, who in turn offers to knit her a pair of gloves to keep her hands warm while she is reading other works of literature that provide insight into human nature and encourage conversations, thus defusing stressful factors and creating bonds? 

31 May 2024

Translation: George Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 5

Jules Dupré, Fontainebleau Oaks, 1840

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of a letter the French 19th century writer George Sand wrote in defense of the Fontainebleau Forest on the outskirts of Paris in order to preserve it from urban and rural development. Sand writes of how important it is as a place for artists, poets, naturalists and all classes of society, where beauty and meaning, as embodied in the natural environment, can provide both a respite from the bustle of urban life, from rectilinear productive agricultural plots and where people of all ages, especially older and younger children, can venture in order to learn about the mystery of life as nature reveals it. 

Letter in support of the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by George Sand and Barbizon School Artists, Part 5

There’s more. An exclusively artistic education is not an infallible means of developing the sentiment of the beautiful and the truthful in man. It entails too much discussion, too many conventions, too much professional skill; by learning how one should see and how one should express things, it is quite possible that the disciple of so many masters could often lose the gift of seeing through his own eyes and of producing according to a meaning that is his own. Nature does not buckle this way to the professor’s orders; essentially mysterious, she has her own revelation for each individual and possesses him through a process that she does not repeat for someone else. You must see her for yourself and question her with your own tentacles. She is eloquent for everyone, but never fully translatable, because she possesses all the languages, and beneath the profusion of her different expressions, she keeps a last hidden word for herself and which, thank God, man will seek eternally. No painter, no poet, no musician, no naturalist will ever finish this goblet of beauty that always overflows after he has drunk from it at length. After the most splendid drinkers, the smallest little birds will always be able to quench their thirst, and when you will have learned about all of the artists, all of the poets, all of the naturalists, you will still have everything to learn if you have not seen nature in her own home, if you have not personally quizzed the sphinx.

What a conquest to be undertaken by man, and I mean for every man currently alive or to be born! To go into nature, to search for the oracle of the sacred forest and bring back her word, even if just one word that will imbue all of your life with the profound charm of possessing her being! This is well worth conserving the temples from where this benevolent divinity has not been hunted!

Because it’s time to think about it. Nature is disappearing. The great plants are disappearing at the hand of the farmworker, the moors are losing their scents, and you have to go quite far from the city to find silence, to breathe in the odors of the the free-growing plant or to find out the secret of the stream that chatters and flows as it wants. Everything is cut down, razed to the ground, improved, penned in, aligned or made into an obstacle: if in these cultivated rectilinear plots that we pretend to call the countryside, from time to time you see a group of beautiful trees, you can be certain that it will be surrounded by walls and that you are in front of a private property where you don’t have the right to let your child enter so that he can find out what a linden or oak tree is like. Only the wealthy have the right to keep a little corner of nature for their personal enjoyment. On the day that an agricultural law is decreed, not even a tree would be left in France. In Berry, in the winter, they mutilate the elm tree in order to feed the sheep with its leaves and heat the oven with its branches. There are only stumps left, monsters.

Everyone knows the story of the white willow in France; it’s our most beautiful tree, the one that reaches the most imposing stature. There are maybe three left; but certain regions are covered by little bundles of whitish leaves that are supported by a large, shapeless, entirely cracked log. There you have the white willow, the giant of our climate.

14 May 2024

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 3

This is Bora Mici's original translation from Italian into English of the short story Il marziano innamorato or The Martian in Love, in English, by the contemporary Italian author Stefano Benni. The story tells of an unlikely encounter between the Martian and the author and is told from the quirky point of view of the Martian. It includes delightful plays on words, descriptions of a desolate planet of origin and its contrast with all of the unusual colorful and variegated good stuff that can be had on Earth, and many comical situations arising from a miscomprehension of what is valuable to humans and what is not. Kraputnyk Armadillynk is on a quest to make his beloved girlfriend Lukzettina stop crying -- otherwise she will rust -- and find her an original gift that cannot be had on Becoda. 

The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 3

If that wasn’t gibolain, I don’t know what would be! Suddenly, however, the woman’s lights turned off and the man kicked her and started swearing. They are so violent after having gibolainated! The man passed in front of me and I heard him say:

— This pinball machine is a piece of crap, you can never win. And what’s this, a new vending machine? — And he touched my nose (which is not the nose).

—Don’t know—said the man who was handling the coffee machine—how should I know, the boss must have put it there. Hey, check out that chick that’s passing by!—

—Finally! I looked in the direction the two men were looking. Two things were going by: one was a yellow thing with the writing Taxi on it. The other one was a man with more trond in the front, pretty colored strands on the head and more lively eyes. I started following her discreetly until she met up with someone similar to herself. She said to her:

— Do you see that thing behind us? By now everyone thinks it’s something for advertising washing machines— Was I the thing?

—Then the first woman stops and exclaims:

—What a nice car! What wouldn’t I give to have one like it!—

What she is referring to as a car is a smokier and noisier quazzmobile. A little cumbersome to give as a gift but if it’s so liked…The cars were all lined up on the street standing still. Inside men and women sounded notes by hitting a button at the center of a trond. They sounded the note for hours and hours even though they seemed super tired. I understood: the car is a musical instrument!

—In a short while, the woman arrived to a place that said “parking” and found a yellow note on her car window. It must be the music sheet, I thought. Instead, the woman got angry, tore the piece of paper and started screaming:

—Traffic jams, traffic and now a fine! Rather than continue driving, she threw it in a ditch! We should burn all cars!” And she was off without even sounding a note.

—Alas, alas, it’s not such a great gift after all.


—I started following another woman and I saw her meet up with a man. They entered into a quazz eatery. I made my way in too: I have learned that if I stand still no one says anything, and what’s more, they try to feed me coins. I pricked up my ears and heard the woman saying:

—Oh dear, this is the best gift you could have given me … it’s wonderful, I am speechless — and she kissed him.

—Gradually I made my way under their table. I looked, and guess what the woman has in her hands? A black case with a quazz necklace inside, those transparent pebbles that on Becoda can be found by the thousands in the ash. A real nice gift!

—Disappointed, I decided to draw inspiration from the television because here, just like on Becoda, it must tell almost all of the truth. I analyzed three hours of Earth news shows with my analogical-galactic computer, and the result was that the gift everyone wants, that everyone talks about and that everyone holds to be indispensable and desirable, is “facts”.

So I went into a small shop with the writing “We have everything” on it and without hesitating, I said:

—Please give me two facts right away, one for me and one for my fiancée. And I mean facts, not words—

The man looked at me askance and said:

—Look, I don’t know if you are a robot or a dwarf payed by some political party, but I’ll let you know that I’ve had it up to here with electoral campaign propaganda—

—Just a moment, please repeat—I tried to say, but other humans entered into the discussion raising their voices, and soon after started arguing and throwing quazz at each other’s heads. Having had enough, I left. I walked and walked, and exited the city arriving to this area.

—I thought about loading one of those gray rugs you call streets onto my astromobile. But it’s too heavy to roll up. Or I could have taken a slice of green fur. But I had not understood anything about Earth, and I would risk bringing not such a great gift with me. Everyone would laugh at me and at my Lukz. How discouraging! In that moment I heard some young humans speaking among themselves:

—So thirsty—says one of them.

—What wouldn’t I give for a chinotto—says another.

—Imagine—says the third one—what a gift it would be if someone were to bring us some here…—

—This time I turned on the rapid travel turbo-propeller and flew to the nearest store. I was ready to use the photon cannon too. At the counter there was a slight woman with two glass quazz in front of the eyes.

—Woman—I said—please give me all the chinottos you have—.

—You’re strange, child—She said, and she too touched my nose (which is not the nose). —I have four left, is that enough?

—Szyp—I said.

—That will be a dollar fifty—

Alas, I had not thought about this! But I had an idea: I put in her hand two or three of those shiny quazz that the other woman had liked so much. I saw her go pale and become speechless. Done! I flew back and landed in front of the three young humans.

—Hey so funny—they said—what are you?—

—I am the robot from the win-the-chinotto competition—I said—and you have won three, one for each—

—Wow!—screamed the first one.

—Great!—howled the second one.

—I’m so happy—said the third, and right away they start breaking them open so that the oil comes out and they drink it. All the children did the same.

—So, all in all—I asked—it’s a nice gift, isn’t it?


—It’s the nicest gift I could have expected today—said the first one.

—It’s a wonderful gift—confirmed the second one.

—Now I feel good—said the third.

—This time I’ve done it. We said goodbye: they waved their hands, and I waved my nose, the real one, which is located on my lower right side. I returned to my quazzmobile in order to admire the chinotto that I had put away for Lukz. How beautiful, what transparency, with the dark oil that moves inside, and what a great smell. On the top there’s also a trondy crenelated piece of jewelry with the writing “Chinotto” on it in fire-red letters. What a gift for wearing on one’s neck or on one’s head, or in the ears, what a gift for my love!

—Damn! I was in such a hurry to return home that I flooded the engine, and the quazzmobile stopped running. Now you have found me, sir, and I know very well what you want: you want my precious chinotto. But I beg you, take anything else, all of my brilliant quazz, my cranial skull cap, the piece of my quazzmobile that you like the most, the trondlike steering wheel or the astrodog that nods, I’ll give you all of it, but please leave me the chinotto! Lukzenerper is waiting for me.

—Mr. Kraputnyk—I respond—not only do I not want to take the chinotto, but in the name of the Earth’s people, I moreover hand over to you a personal gift: it’s a chinotto accessory. If one day you want your friends to be able to smell the chinotto, use this and the container will open…

—Pretty object. And what’s it called?

—A bottle opener.

—Bottall-opaner—repeated after me the moved Becodinian.

—Thanks, it’s too much for me. Who knows how much it costs!

—There there—I said—don’t think much of it and go home. They’re waiting for you.—With my 500 I gave him a nice push. The quazzmobile vibrated a little and then engaged the engine, and wow, what an engine! In ten seconds it had disappeared into the clouds.

I went back to fishing and caught three 11 pound pikes.

Read Part 1.

Read Part 2. 

23 March 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 3

Sonia Delaunay, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 3

The worries
Forget the worries
All the squiggly train stations oblique as we scurry
The telegraphic lines on which they are suspended
The sneering poles gesticulate and strangle them distended
The world is stretched gets longer and retracts like an accordion
that a sadistic hand torments
In the tears in the sky, the locomotives in a fury
And in the holes unsealed,
The vertiginous wheels the mouths the voices
And the dogs of misery that bark at our heels
The demons are unleashed
Everything is a false accord
The rumbling of the wheels
We are a like a storm under the skull of a bumbling deaf person …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Well yes, you are annoying me, you know very well, we are quite far
The overheated madness moos in the locomotive
The plague cholera rise like ardent flames on our path
We disappear in the war in the heart of a tunnel
The hunger asoar, the whore, hangs onto the clouds disbanded
And the defecation of the battles in reeking piles of the dead
Do as she does, do your job …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Yes we are, we are
All the scapegoats have met their end in this desert
Listen to the ringing of this scabious herd
Tomsk Chelyabinsk Kansk Ob’ Taishet Verkhne Udinsk Kurgan
Samara Penza-Tulun
Death in Manchuria
And our landing is our last refuge standing
This trip is terrible
Yesterday morn’
Ivan Ilyich had white billows like a storm
And Kolia Nikolai Ivanovich has been biting his nails for fifteen days …
Do as they do Death Famine do your job
It costs a hundred coins, on the Trans-Siberian, it costs a hundred rubles
Stir up the feverish seats and the red glow under the table
The devil is at the piano
His gnarly fingers excite all the women
Do your job
Until Harbin …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

No but … give me some peace … leave me alone
You have angular hips
Your stomach is bitter and you have the clap
That’s all that Paris put in your womb
There’s also a bit of soul … because you are sad
I feel pity I feel pity come to me lie on my heart

The wheels are the windmills of the Land of Plenty
And the mills in the winds are the crutches that a beggar spins
We are the cripples of space
We roll on our four wounds
They have clipped our wings
The wings of our seven sins
And all the trains are the devil’s ball game
The chicken and rabbits
The modern world
In it speed cannot but
The modern world
Those that are far away are too far away
And at the end of the journey it’s terrible to be a man and a woman …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

I feel pity I feel pity come to me I will tell you a story
Come in my bed
Lie on my heart
I will tell you a story
Oh come! come!

Eternal spring reigns in Fiji
Love make couples swoon in the high hot grasses
syphilis roams under the banana trees
Come to the lost isles of the Pacific!
They carry the names of the Phenix, the Marquises
Borneo and Java
and Clebes is shaped like a cat.

We cannot go to Japan
Come to Mexico!
On the high plains the tulips bloom
The tentacular vines are the sun’s flowing hair
It resembles the palette and the brushes of a painter
Stunning colors like gongs,
Rousseau has been there
There he made his life shine
It’s the shrine of birds
The fine bird of paradise, the lyre bird
the toucan, the mocking bird
and the hummingbird nests thine in the middle of black lilies atwine.
We will love one another in the majestic ruins of an Aztec temple
You will be my idol
A childish colorful idol a little ugly and bizarrely strange
Oh come!

If you want we will go by plane and will fly to and fro over the country of a thousand lakes,
There the nights are disproportionately long
The prehistoric ancestor will be afraid of my engine
I will land
And I will build a hangar for my plane with fossilized mammoth bones
The primitive fire will warm up our poor love
And we will love each other quite like the bourgeois near the pole
Oh come!

Jeanne Jeanie Ninny nini nifty nipple
Mimi my love my pretty my Peru
Beddy-bye booboo
Carrot my parrot
Little doll my sweet
Dearie little goat
My cute little sin
She’s asleep.

Read Part 1.

15 March 2024

Translation: Guido Gozzano Grandmother Hope's Friend, Part 1

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'amica di Nonna Speranza or Grandmother Hope's Friend by the Italian poet Guido Gozzano. This is Part 1. Part 2 will be posted soon as this is a poem of moderate length. The poem describes the homecoming from school of the poet's grandmother Speranza (Hope) and her best friend Carlotta, the romantic center of the young Gozzano's eclectic but familiar home life of mismatched objects and savory characters just before Italy's unification. 

Grandmother Hope’s Friend by Guido Gozzano

“ … to her Hope
her Carlotta…
June 28, 1850”.

Stuffed is Loreto and Alfieri’s bust, Napoleon’s
flowers in a frame, (good old things in terrible taste are a must!)

the chimney is a bit glum, the boxes without confetti,
the marble fruits steady, protected by glass bells that stay mum,

some rare toys in ruts, the half-shell chests in tow
the objects with the warning hello, I remember the coconuts,

Venice depicted in mosaic, the watercolors slightly faded,
the prints, the chests, the painted white of anemones archaic,

the canvases of Massimo d’Azeglio, the miniatures,
the daguerrotypes: creatures that dream perplexedly,

the large outdated chandelier, which hangs in the living room’s middle,
that multiplies the good old diddle on the quartz’s splendid veneer,

the cuckoo that sings the hours all nifty, the chairs adorned
in crimson damask … I am reborn, I am reborn in eighteen hundred fifty.

the little brothers, the room, on this day, cannot enter but cautiously
(they have removed all of the furniture’s upholstery: it is a day to swoon).

But they charge in a swarm. Look! their older sister Hope
and her friend with whom I want to elope, on vacation have come home!

My grandmother is seventeen years old; Carlotta has about the same style:
it’s been just a little while since they they were allowed to hoop their folds.

the very vast hoop crinkles the skirt with turquoise roses:
more elegant than their poses emerges a slender waist that wriggles.

Both have a shawl with oranges ablaze, flowers, birds and garland bands:
their hair parted in two strands falling down halfway to the cheeks aflame .

From Mantua they’ve arrived full of courage to Lago Maggiore unseen
even if they’ve travelled fourteen hours in a horse-drawn carriage.

Of all the class their exam got the most distinguished marks. How worked up
they were about the terrible past! They’ve left school for starts.

Oh Belgirate serene! The room looks over the garden at daybreak:
among the straight trunks gleam the mirrors of the turquoise lake.

Be quiet children! The friends — children try and quietly move about! —
the friends on the piano are trying out a scroll of notes that centuries transcends:

Slightly artificial motifs they’re arty the fronds of the settecento
by Arcanegelo de Leuto and Alessandro Scarlatti;

Innamorati lost lovers, lamenting “il core” and “l’augello”,
languors of Giordanello in sweet terrible verse:

“my dear you’re missed
believe me at least,
without you,
languishes my heart!
yours truly
sighs at the start
of every hour
stop your cruelty!

Carlotta sings, Hope plays. Sweet and in flowery bloom
life burgeons in the brief relays of a romance made of a thousand promises too soon.

Oh music, lighthearted whisper! In the soul it’s already hidden
To each smiles the groom that’s bidden: Prince Charming is the mister,

the husband of many dreams dreamed… Oh daisies just back from school
to find the the magic spool leaf through the tender verse of Prati redeemed!

Uncle arrives, a virtuous gentleman of much esteem,
faithful to the Past and to the cream of Lombardy-Venice and the Emperor’s acumen.

Auntie arrives, a consort very deign, very proper and decent,
faithful to the Past even if she has a penchant for the King of Sardinia’s reign.

“Kiss your Aunt and Uncle’s hand!” would say Mom and Dad:
and they would raise the fiery chins a tad of the restless little ones in a band.

“And this is the friend on vacation: mademoiselle Carlotta Capenna:
the most gifted student in the arena, Hope’s dearest friend in the nation.”

“Well what do you know…what do you know…”—would say the esteemed Uncle
and piously the words he would bungle—“Well what do you know…what do you know…

Capenna? I knew an Arthur Capenna…Capenna…Capenna…
Sure! In the court of Vienna! Sure…sure…sure…”

“Would you like a bit of marsala?” “Dear lady my sister: we wish.”
And on the armchairs reserved for the gala they were sitting like pretty conversationalists.

“…but Brambilla did not know…— She’s already too fat for Hernani;
the Scala has no more soprani… — That Giuseppe Verdi should show!…

“…in March we’ll have some work dear niece— at the Fenice they’ve told me—
the Rigoletto I can’t wait to see; they’re talking about a masterpiece.—

“…do they wear blues or grays? — And these earrings! They dazzle!
The rubies appearing! And these cameos? They frazzle…—The latest in Paris these days…

27 January 2024

Translation: Giacomo Leopardi Infinity

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea Fog, 1818

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'Infinito or Infinity by the Romantic Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. The poem expresses the poet's solitude and his desire to merge with the landscape and transcend the present moment, while paradoxically absorbing himself in it.

Infinity by Giacomo Leopardi 

Always dear to me has been this lonely hill, 
And this hedge that prevents the eyes 
From looking at so much of the farthest horizon. 
But sitting and gazing at endless 
Spaces beyond it, I conjure in my 
Thoughts superhuman silences 
And the deepest calm; wherein my heart 
Almost fearfully trembles. And like the wind 
I hear rustling through these plants, I 
Start comparing that infinite silence 
With this voice: and I remember eternity, 
And seasons passed, and the present 
Is alive, and her sound. And so amidst this 
Expansiveness my thoughts drown: 
And shipwreck is sweet to me in this sea.

10 January 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 2

Sonia Delaunay, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 2

I am laying flat in a plaid
Colorfully clad
Like my life
And my life does not keep me any warmer than this Scottish burlap
And all of Europe seen from the wind breaker of an express at full steam
Is not any richer than my life
My poor life
This tartan
Threadbare on chests filled with gold
Alongside which I roll
That I dream
That I smoke
And the only flame of the universe
Is a poor thought …

Tears well up from the bottom of my heart
If I think, Love, of my mistress;
She is but a child, that I found like this
Pale, immaculate, at the back of a brothel.

She is but a child, blond, laughing sadly,
She does not smile and never cries;
But at the bottom of her eyes, when she lets you drink from them,
Trembles a sweet silver lily, the poet’s flower.

She is sweet and quiet, makes no reproach,
With a long shiver at your approach;
But when I come to her, from here, from there, from a feast,
She takes a step, then closes her eyes — and takes a step.
Because she is my love, and the other women
Just have golden dresses on tall bodies of ribbon,
My poor friend is so alone,
She is completely naked, has no body — she is too poor.

She is just a candid flute, a filigrane tower
The poet’s flower, a poor silver lily,
All cold, all alone, and already so wilted
That I get teary eyed if I think of her soul.

And this night is like a hundred thousand others when a train dashes in the night
— The comets fall —
And man and woman, even young ones, delight in making love.

The sky is like the torn tent of a poor circus in a small fishing village
In Flanders
The sun is a steamy lantern
And all the way at the top of a trapeze a woman arches her body into a crescent.
The clarinet the piston a bitter flute and a bad drum
And here is my cradle
My cradle
It was always near the piano when my mother like Madame Bovary played the sonata’s of Beethoven
I spent my childhood in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
And I skipped school, in the train stations in front of the trains departing
Now, I have made all the trains run behind me
I have also played in the races in Auteuil and Longchamp
Paris-New York
Now, I have made all the trains run through all my life
And I have lost all of my bets
There’s only Patagonia left, Patagonia, which suits my great sadness, Patagonia, and a trip to the Southern seas

I am on the road
I have always been on the road
I am on the road with the little Jehanne of France.

The train jumps perilously and falls back on all its wheels
The train falls back on its wheels
The train always falls back on all its wheels.

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

We are far, Jane, you have been traveling for seven days
You are far away from Montmartre, from the Hill that fed you, from the Sacré-Coeur whose shelter you cherished
Paris has vanished and its enormous blaze
All we have tarried are the ashes unburied
The rain that pounds
The peat that swells
Siberia that pivots
The heavy heaps of snow that rise up
And the bell of madness which trembles like a last wish in the blue sky’s deepness
The train quivers at the heart of leaden horizons
And your sorrow sniggers …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Read Part 1.

02 January 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 1

Cover by Sonia Delaunay, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 1.

Dedicated to musicians

At that time I was an adolescent
I was barely sixteen and could not remember my childhood evanescent
I was 16,000 leagues away from my birthplace reminiscent
I was in Moscow, the city of three-thousand church bells and seven train stations
And I could not get enough of the seven train stations and the three-thousand towers
Because my adolescence was so passionate and so wild
That my heart, now and then, burned like the temple
of Ephesos or like Moscow’s Red Square
When the sun sets.
And my eyes lit up ancient roads.
And I was already such a bad poet
That I did not know how to go all the way to the end.

The Kremlin was like a giant Tartar cake
Crunchy in gold,
With the big all white cathedral mandorlas
And the honeyed gold of the church bells …

An old monk was reading the legend of Novgorod to me
I was thirsty
And I was deciphering the cuneiform script
Then, all of a sudden, the pigeons of the Holy Spirit started flying in the square
And my hands started flying too, with the fluttering of an albatros
And these, these were the last reminiscences of the last day
Of the very last trip
And of the sea.

However, I was a very bad poet.
I did not know how to go all the way to the end.
I was hungry
And all the days and all the women in the coffeeshops and all the glasses
I would have liked to drink them and break them
And all the shop windows and all the streets
And all the houses and all the lives
And all the wheels of the carriages spinning like whirlwinds on badly paved roads
I would have liked to plunge them into an inferno of swords
And I would have liked to grind all the bones
And pull out all the tongues
And liquefy all these strange large naked bodies under the clothes that overwhelm me …
I could sense the arrival of the large red Christ of the Russian Revolution …
And the sun was a bad wound
That was open like a blaze.

At that time I was an adolescent
I was barely sixteen and could not remember my birth evanescent
I was in Moscow, where I wanted to feed on flames
And there were not enough towers and train stations for my eyes to constellate

In Siberia cannons thundered, it was wartime
Hunger the cold the plague cholera
And the murky waters of Love carried millions of carcasses.
In all the train stations I could see all the last trains departing
No one could leave anymore because no more tickets were give out
And the soldiers leaving would have liked to stay …
An old monk would sing me the legend of Novgorod.

I, the bad poet who wanted to go nowhere, I could go everywhere
And the merchants also still had enough money
To try their luck.
Their train left every Friday morning.
We heard that there were many dead.
One of them would bring a hundred cases of alarm clocks and cuckoos from the Black Forest
Another, boxes of hats, cylinders and a selection of bottle openers from Sheffield
Another, Malmo coffins filled with tin-can preserves and sardines in oil
Then there were many women
Women, groins for rent who could also double
As coffins
They were all authorized
We heard that there were many dead over there
They traveled at a reduced fare
And all had checking accounts in the bank.

Yet, one Friday morning, it was finally my turn
It was December
And I also left to accompany the travelling jeweler who was going to Harbin
We had two compartments in the express and 34 chests of Pforzheim jewelry
German bling “Made in Germany”
He had dressed me in new clothes, and while getting on the train I had lost a button
- I remember, I remember, I have thought about it often since
I would sleep on top of the chests and I was so happy to be able to play with the nickeled browning he had also given me

I was very happy carefree
I thought I was playing at highway robbery
We had stolen Golconda’s gold
And, thanks to the Trans-Siberian, we were going to hide it on the other side of the world
I had to protect it against the thieves of the Urals who had attacked the acrobats of Jules Verne
Against the Tungusics, the China boxers
And the little rabid Mongols of the Great Lama
Ali Baba and the forty thieves
And especially, against the most modern
The hotel crooks
And the experts of the international expresses.

Yet still, yet still
I looked like a child sad on the sill
The train’s rhythmic kinks
The “railway syndrome” of the American shrinks
The sound of the doors voices axletrees shrieking on the frozen rails
The golden sestertius of my future
My browning the piano, in the next-door compartment, the cursing of the card players
Jane’s stunning presence
The man in the blue eyeglasses who nervously paced the aisle and looked at me in passing
The crinkling of women
And the steam’s whistle
And the eternal noise of the mad wheels in the furrows of the sky
The windows have frosted scales
No nature!
And behind the Siberian plains, the low sky and the great shadows of the quiet ones that climb and descend.

Read Part 2.

Read Part 3. 

26 September 2023

Translation: Charles Aznavour La Bohème

After Ingres and Rafael, Bora Mici, 2017

This is Bora Mici's original translation of the French song La Bohème written and performed by Charles Aznavour in the 1960s. Aznavour sings of a time gone by when the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre was an artist's paradise and when it was possible to scrape by a living as an artist who was not necessarily an enfant terrible of the art market, and still savor the glory of a bohemian lifestyle.  

La bohème by Charles Aznavour

An epoch will be sung, that the very young
Cannot really know
Montmartre through the cracks, hung its lilacs
Down to our window
And while the attic that was to be our romantic
nest, wasn’t more than a shed
It’s there where we’d collude, I was unfed
And you posed nude.

The bohemian, the bohemian
That meant that we were gay
The bohemian, the bohemian
We ate only every other day.

In the neighboring bars, some of us were the stars
Waiting to gleam
Even though we were twenty, and our stomachs were empty
We’d always dream
And when we got a warm quiche in exchange for a pastiche
From a bistrot hire
Poems together we would tell, gathered ‘round the fire
To forget winter’s spell.

The bohemian, the bohemian
You were pretty like Venus
The bohemian, the bohemian
We all had a spark of genius.

Often in front of my easel, as the rain would drizzle
Being awake all night was bracing
Touching up the line of a supine
breast, a curved hip tracing
And it wasn’t until morn’, when we would sit still and worn
To our coffee steaming
Exhausted, in sheer delight, in love, we were convening
Couldn’t help but love life.

The bohemian, the bohemian
That meant we were twenty years old
The bohemian, the bohemian
We were living on nothing at all.

When as the days go by, my old haunts I spy
I don’t lie, it’s the truth
I don’t recognize the walls nor the skies
That adorned my youth
At the top of some stair, I look for the atelier
Of which there’s nothing left
In its new scenery, Montmartre seems bereft
And the lilacs are history.

The bohemian, the bohemian
We were young, we were wild
The bohemian, the bohemian
It’s meant nothing at all for a while.

02 August 2023

Translation: Pomme My Love Is a City

A peu près album cover, photograph by Marta Bevacqua and artwork by Frank Loriou

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of a creative song, Ce garçon est une ville or My love is a city, by the French singer-songwriter Pomme, which first came out in 2017. It compares the person she loves to a city. You can hear it here

My love is a city by Pomme

My love is a city I like to visit with my fingers
My love, a city I criss-cross, where my mind lingers
A model citadel, a model citadel
My love is a city where I like to let my eyes dwell
My love, a city, the tranquil capital my lips bespell
A model citadel, a model citadel.

No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other place than this love
No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other than this love that I know.

I grew tired of new cities where I would just pass through
But this mysterious one I love
It’s the love I dream of anew
An ancient beauty to construe, an ancient beauty to construe
I rush until I hear her voice cry out
I run until my eyes hurt, my ears shout
I rush until I hear her voice, I run
Time is still out, in this town I am about, in this town I am about

No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other place than this love
No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other than this love I know.

At her fountains I drink, I drink
I drink so much I am intoxicated
At her water features I drink, I drink
More and more so that I am inebriated
And I feel myself reanimated, and I feel myself resuscitated
My love is a city I love
I love

24 July 2023

Translation: Emile Zola Au Bonheur des Dames

Félix Vallotton, Le Bon Marché, 1898

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of an extract from Emile Zola's 1883 novel Au bonheur des dames, which tells the story of modernity in the city of Paris through the lens of the great department stores that opened toward the end of the 19th century and the working class men and women who were employed there. This particular extract is especially relevant because it describes the very contemporary practice of advertising and the idea of establishing a devouring spacious presence on the cityscape as well as in the minds of consumers through modern forms and amenities in order to better draw them in and keep them hooked to the wheels of the fast turnout machinery that would become the fashion industry. 

Au Bonheur des dames, extract, by Emile Zola

On Monday, March 14, the Bonheur des Dames inaugurated its renovated store with the exhibition of its new summer stock, which was supposed to last three days. Outside blew a bitter wind, and those passing by, surprised by this return of winter, walked quickly, buttoning their coats. Nevertheless, the neighboring boutiques were simmering with emotion; and you could see the pale faces of the small-shop owners against the windows, busy counting the first cars that stopped in front of the main entrance on Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin. Tall and deep like a church portico, decorated with a motif of sculptures representing Industry and Commerce shaking hands in a labyrinth of symbols, this entrance was shielded by a glass awning whose freshly-painted gilded ornaments cast light on the sidewalks like the sun’s rays. The facades, still raw and white, extended to the right and left, turned on Rue Monsigny and Rue de la Michodière, and occupied the whole block except for the side on Rue du Dix-Décembre, where the Crédit Immobilier was going to build. All across the length of this development, which recalled the military barracks, when the small-shop owners raised their heads, they could see the piles of merchandise through the one-way mirrors, which from the ground floor to the second floor let ample light into the store. And this enormous cube, this colossal marketplace, which prevented them from seeing the sky, seemed to be the cause of the cold which made them shiver behind their frozen counters.

Still, Mouret was there, giving his orders starting at 10 am. In the middle, along the axis formed by the main entrance, a wide gallery went from one end to the other, flanked by two narrower galleries to the left and to the right, the Monsigny gallery and the Michodière gallery. The hallways had been glazed and transformed into exhibit spaces; iron stairways arose from the ground floor, iron bridges shot from one end to the other, on both floors. The architect who happened to be intelligent, a young man who loved the modern times, had only used stone in the basement and for the corner pillars, and had built the whole skeleton out of iron, the columns supporting the joist and beam structure. The arches supporting the floors and the dividing walls of the interior distribution rooms were made of brick. Everywhere space had been made, the outside air and light could enter freely, the public could circulate with ease, under the bold extension of the long-range trusses. It was the cathedral of modern commerce, solid and light, made for a people of female clients. Below, in the central gallery, after the items on sale at the entrance, came the ties, gloves and silks; the whites and the rouennerie occupied the Monsigny gallery, the notions, hosiery, draperies and woolens the Michodière gallery. Then, on the first floor, were the tailoring department, lingerie, shawls, lace and other new aisles, and relegated to the second floor were the bedding, rugs and upholstery, basically all the items that took up a lot of space and were difficult to handle. Currently, there were thirty-nine aisles, 1,800 employees, among which 200 were women. The sonorous life of the tall metallic nave was humming with a whole world of people.

Mouret’s only passion was to win over the woman. He wanted her to be the queen of his store, he had built this temple in her honor, in order to better have her at his mercy. His strategy consisted in exciting her by bestowing gallant attentions on her, tampering with her desires, and exploiting her feverishness. So, night and day, he racked his brain to try to come up with new ideas. Already, wanting to avoid that the delicate ladies overexerted themselves, he had built two elevators upholstered with velvet. In addition, he had just opened a buffet, where cookies and cordials were served freely, as well as a reading room, a monumental gallery, decorated very luxuriously, where he even had gone as far as to put up paintings on view. However, his deepest idea, when it came to the woman who lacked vanity, had been to conquer her through her child; he did not miss any opportunity, he speculated about all sentiments, created aisles for little boys and girls, stopped the mothers in their tracks as they were passing by and offered pretty pictures and balloons to their babies. This gift of balloons was a stroke of genius. They were distributed to every buyer, red balloons made of fine plastic, with the name of the store written on them in large letters, and which, held by a thread, hanging in the air above, were a living walking advertisement on the streets.

The greatest power was above all in advertising. Mouret went as far as to spend 300,000 francs each year in catalogues, announcements and posters. For his launch of the new summer stock, he had distributed 200,000 catalogues, 50,000 of which had gone abroad and had been translated in all languages. Now, he had them illustrated with etchings, he even accompanied them with samples, attached to the paper. An overflow of shelves, the Bonheur des Dames cried out to everyone, invaded the walls, newspapers, even the curtains at the theatre. He professed that the woman is defenseless against the advertisement, that she fatally ends up giving in. Moreover, he tried to trap her in more learned ways; he analyzed her as if he were a great moralist. And so, he had discovered that she could not resist cheap merchandise, that she bought things she did not need when she thought she had concluded a deal that was to her advantage; and based on this observation, he calculated his system for lowering prices, he progressively lowered the price of the items that remained unsold, preferring to sell at a loss, always faithful to the principle of the fast turnover of merchandise. What’s more, he had further penetrated into the heart of the woman, having just come up with “returns”, a masterpiece of jesuitic seduction. “Please always take it, madame: you can always return it if you no longer like it”. And the woman who resisted found a last excuse, the possibility to rectify her madness; she bought the item, and her conscience was clear. Now, returns and low prices were part of the classical mechanism of the new commerce.

05 May 2023

Translation: Pomme Witches

Album cover by Ambivalently Yours

This is an original French to English translation of the beautiful song, titled Sorcières or Witches in English, by the French singer-songwriter Pomme, which first appeared in 2020. The song describes what it's like to be an independent-minded woman who is likened to a witch. It acts as a reappropriation of an image laden with multiple connotations in the collective imaginary. In this song Pomme adds her personal tones to this maligned magical being that is also an enchanting relatable woman. You can hear it here:

Witches by Pomme

If you wear dark clothes in sight,
If you wander like a lark in the night,
If you drink hot water with scattered dried flowers,
If you think beyond people’s jaded ego towers,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

If you like cats standing on your head,
If you cry out in the hollow of your bed,
If you do not like being told to smile,
If you find the moon beautiful when it beguiles,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch.
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

If you know how to be alone in your plight,
If you follow your instinct in the night,
If you need no one to come save you,
If you think nothing replaces freedom too,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch.
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

24 March 2023

Translation: Charles Baudelaire Communications

Gustav Klimt, Fir Forest 1, 1901

This is Bora Mici's original translation of the 1857 poem Correspondances or Communications in English by the French 19th century poet Charles Baudelaire. The poem expresses a synesthetic Symbolist vision of the connection between the poet and nature, and nature's ability to communicate with the poet and transport him to a realm where his senses are awakened and begin to dialogue with and become immersed in a natural forest of symbols, which seems familiar but has things to reveal. This poem places the emphasis on connections between the senses and the intellect and that's why I have chosen to translate it as Communications, rather than keeping the original concept of Correspondances, which seems to leave room for the incomplete or unachieved transmission of a coded missive, a parallelism that persists and that constitutes the metaphysics of our experience. It is perhaps to evoke a more contemporary reading of this timeless poem. 

Communications by Charles Baudelaire

Nature is a temple where many a living column
Sometimes muffled words whistles;
Man enters there through forests of symbols
That look upon him familiarly solemn.

Like long echoes that overlap far away
In a homogenous, deep darkness,
Expansive like the night and the brightness,
Aromas, colors, sounds dialogue in the leigh.

The perfumes smell fresh like children’s flesh,
Sweet like oboes, green like meadows,
— Yet others triumphant, rich, enmeshed

Expansive like infinite shadows,
Like amber, resin, incense and musk,
Singing the transports of mind and the senses at dusk.

10 March 2023

Translation: Charles Baudelaire's The Flowing Hair

Odalisque, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1870

This is Bora Mici's original translation of La chevelure or the Flowing Hair in English by the French 19th century poet Charles Baudelaire. Similar to the poem Correspondances or Communications as I have rendered it, this poem describes a synesthetic journey through the poet's many exotic past destinations and his immersion in a head of flowing hair that revives the sensations and imagery he once experienced. The flowing hair is described as an ocean and the poem seems to blend a more Romantic aesthetic of infinity with a more modern Proustian remembrance of things past.  

The Flowing Hair by Charles Baudelaire

Oh mane, foaming like waves to the clavicle
Oh curls! Oh perfume vapors of insouciance!
Ecstasy! Tonight to fill the dark alcove magical
With memories sleeping in these locks that are navigable
I’d wave them, a handkerchief, in the great expanse!

Asia the languid and Africa that burns,
A faraway world, absent almost gone,
Dwells in your depths, aromatic ferns!
Like other souls surf on melodious turns,
Mine oh my love! swims in your perfume alone.

I’ll go where trees and men, full of verve
Swoon at length in the burning hazes;
Mighty locks, become the tides that swerve
Sea of onyx, shimmering dreams you conserve
Of sails, rowers, masts and blazes.

A busy port where my soul might drink
In big gulps perfumes sounds and colors
Where the vessels glide toward the golden brink
Open wide their arms to welcome the glint
Of a pure sky where the trembling heat gathers.

I’ll sink my head with love astray
In this dark ocean that encloses another;
And my subtle spirit caressed by the sway
Will find you, oh fertile, lazy day,
Endlessly cradling, a leisurely balmy cover.

Blue hair, a tent of darkness splayed
An immense dome you make the blue sky seem,
On the fuzzy edges of your strands displayed
I passionately become drunk on the scents arrayed
Of coconut oil, musk and tar supreme.

At length! always! in your heavy mane my hand
Will plant rubies, pearls and sapphires,
So that you never buck to my demand!
Are you not the oasis where I dream, and the land
Where I avidly inhale the wine my past perspires.

03 February 2023

Translation: Jacques Prévert The Clown

Les 400 coups, François Truffaut, 1959

This is Bora Mici's original translation of the poem, Le cancre or The Clown in English, by the French popular 20th century poet Jacques Prévert. Prévert was known for blending poetry and song, but this particular poem, beloved by French school children, briefly tells the story of how a young ne'erdowell, who fails to impress the classroom at the blackboard, finds a way to triumph and have the last word.   

The Clown by Jacques Prévert

He shakes his head no
but his heart tells him yes
he says yes to what he loves
but for the teacher won’t acquiesce
he gets up
to answer out loud
all the problems are laid out before him
suddenly he starts laughing at the crowd
and erases all
the measures and the names
the dates and the planes
the sentences and trick questions
and despite the teacher’s threats
with multicolored chalk
as the gifted children jeer
on the blackboard of fear
he draws the face of good cheer.

25 January 2023

Translation: Giuseppe Ungaretti Compassion

Avalokitesvara, Tibetan

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem La pietà or Compassion in English, by the 20th century Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. The poem expresses his despair and an existential crisis at the idea of death without redemption, a lonely, Godless world where words are but shadows and where sin does not lead to salvation. Standing alone before him, Ungaretti addresses God directly as in prayer but his poem is utterly human and simultaneously mocking and pitiful towards the human condition. 

Compassion by Giuseppe Ungaretti


I am a wounded man.

And I would like to go
and finally obtain,
Compassion, where is heard
the man who is alone in himself.

I have nothing other than self-righteousness and goodness.

And I feel exiled among men.

But I feel sorrow for them.

Am I not worthy of becoming me?

I have filled the silence with names.

I have broken my heart and mind into smithereens
in order to fall into the slavery of words?

I rule over ghosts.

Oh dried leaves,
Soul tarried here and there…

No, I hate the wind and its voice
of a forgotten beast.

O God, do those that pray to you
only know you by name?

You have ousted me from life.

Will you oust me from death?

Maybe man is not even worthy of hope.

Even the spring of remorse is dry?

What does sin matter,
If it no longer leads to purity.

The flesh barely remembers
That once it was strong.

The soul is mad and spent.

God looks at our weakness.

We would like to find some certainty.

You don’t even laugh at us anymore?

So, cruelty, feel for us.

I can no longer be stuck
in desire without love.

Show us a sign of justice.

What is your law?

Lightning bolt my wretched emotions,
Free me from unrest.

I am tired of screaming silently.


Sad flesh
Once alive with joy
Half-closed eyes, the tired reawakening,
You see, very old soul,
What I will be, when I fall to the ground?

The road of the dead is among the living,

We are the stream of shadows,

They are the seeds that sprout in our dreams,

Theirs is the distance that remains,

And theirs is the shadow that gives weight to names,

The hope of becoming a bunch of shadows
Is this our only fate?

And are you nothing but a dream, oh God?

At least a dream, we bravely,
Wish it could be like you.

It’s the birth child of the most lucid madness.

It does not tremble in clouds of branches
Like sparrows in the morning
At the edge of eyelids.

The mysterious wound languishes in us.


The light that stings us
Is an ever subtler thread.

You no longer blind with your light, if you do not kill?

Grant me this supreme joy.


Man, a monotonous universe,
Believes he is increasing his possessions
Yet his feverish hands
Produce nothing infinite, but limits.

Hanging from the void
From his spiderweb,
He fears and seduces
Only his own scream.

He repairs the ruin by digging graves,
And in order to contemplate you, O Eternal one,
He only blasphemes.

22 January 2023

Translation: Eugenio Montale The Mediterranean

Claude Monet, Cap Martin, 1884

This is Bora Mici's original translation of the poem Il Mediterraneo or The Mediterranean, in English, by the Italian 20th century poet Eugenio Montale. Montale's poetry often is set in the Italian landscape. The Mediterranean is an ode to the eternal sea that was the backdrop to his coming of age and an old teacher to the poet, providing a metaphor for his own life: how to be ever-changing, caught up in the crashing waves of the unknown, yet enduring and still, capable of cyclically filtering what remnants the years collect as they wash up on the shores of our lost days. 

The Mediterranean 

Oh ancient one, the voice
that seeps from your mouths when they come apart
like green church bells that throw themselves
backward and dissolve
makes me drunk.
The house of my faraway summers
was by you, you know,
in the country where the sun burns
and mosquitos swarm in the air.
Today, like then, I become still before you,
oh sea, but I no longer believe myself worthy
of the solemn warning in your breath. You were the first to tell me
that the tiny stirring
in my heart was nothing more than an instant
of yours; that ultimately
your rule was risky: to be vast and different
and at the same time unmoved:
and so empty myself of all the filth
as you do when you crash on the shores
among cork, algae, starfish
the useless debris of your abyss.

02 December 2022

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni (Part 2)

This is Bora Mici's original translation from Italian into English of the short story Il marziano innamorato or The Martian in Love, in English, by the contemporary Italian author Stefano Benni. The story tells of an unlikely encounter between the Martian and the author and is told from the quirky point of view of the Martian. It includes delightful plays on words, descriptions of a desolate planet of origin and its contrast with all of the unusual colorful and variegated good stuff that can be had on Earth, and many comical situations arising from a miscomprehension of what is valuable to humans and what is not. Kraputnyk Armadillynk is on a quest to make his beloved girlfriend Lukzettina stop crying -- otherwise she will rust -- and find her an original gift that cannot be had on Becoda.    

The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 2

—The universe was inhabited by many trond and large quazz structures. The television (we have it too, it’s required) had told us that these worlds were absolutely the same as ours. On Jupiter, there are larger trond, on Venus there are particularly beautiful quazz, but nothing else.

—Well, I thought, it must be so because the TV hardly ever lies, but I want to check for myself. Because, if in some faraway part of the universe, there is a real gift, something that is neither trond nor quazz, to bring to my lover, well then, I will find it. Having made that decision, that very evening I prepared a provision of trond filets, put it in my lunchbox and launched my astroquazzmobile into the stellar corridors of Serpentone number 8, which leads to the Zatopek crossing, and from there, to your solar system. I don’t know why I aimed immediately for Earth. Maybe it was because of its color, which seemed pretty, or maybe because of the way it tronded in space. The fact remains that I engaged my macrotelescope and aimed it at you.

—Alas, the first thing I saw discouraged me. There was a large space with green fur and all around it people were screaming. In the middle, some beings dressed in two different colors were fighting with their feet over a small trond. Here they are even worse off than we are, I thought: we have only quazz and trond, they barely even have any trond. Indeed, huge brawls broke out over this trond, everyone wanted it for himself, and people yelled like crazy. I aimed my macrotelescope somewhere else, and I saw a city made of quazz, stacked on top of other quazz. No sign of life. Maybe, I thought, the aboriginals of the place do not eat the quazz, but it’s the quazz that eats the aboriginals.


Indeed, I saw them disappear by the thousands inside of illuminated quazz.

—Discouraged and disillusioned I had decided to leave when oh, how amazing! I finally saw something that was neither quazz nor trond, nor rock nor lapillus, a wonderful new thing. I landed and got closer to it. It was a large metal box, similar to an obese Becodinian, full of mysterious objects made of materials that I later found out were called paper, plastic and metal sheet. They came in different colors, and even if among them there were examples of quazzism and trondism, the variety was astounding. And what strange smells they emitted! Strong, penetrating, so different than the Becodian smell of ash and boiled quazz. I rummaged a bit with my arm and pulled an amazing object out of the large box: a shiny red cylinder. It was signed in trondsome writing that, with the help of my universobulary, I was able to decipher as saying coco-colo or colo-coco. I thought it was the work of two artists. Then I saw a splendid animal, made up of a hairy body terminating in a long wooden tail, and precious, snow-white fabrics with the writing “Publix supermarkets” and “Filene’s” and more oblong and transparent objects, wonderful aromatic sauces, spiraling skins, and crinkly pieces of paper with hieroglyphs on them. I stood there with the door wide open, gazing at all these riches, when I saw the first earthly creature. It was blessedly rummaging through the wonderful objects of the large box. Immediately, I grabbed the interstellar tourist dictionary and recited the following words clearly:

— Exc-use me, you man of earth, can I bu-y one of these wonderful objects of yours?—The creature open wide its beautiful yellow eyes, wiggled its tail and responded:

—No buy, everyone can take, but now scram, since trash men coming—


— And the creature I had taken for a man scurried off frightened by the arrival of a growling being, large as twenty Becodians, from which the men descended; one of them looked at me and said:

—Since when have they put these new trashcans here?

—Don’t know—said the other one,—it looks empty anyways—And he grabbed me by the nose (which is not the nose!) and moved me out of the way.

—Back to work—said the other one—let’s dump this junk—They took the large box of wonders and tipped it over into the mouth of the large being. Then they jumped back on and left. At that moment, I felt bad, then I thought: if they throw out this splendid stuff and do not value it, think about the other wonderful things they have, much more precious than these. Reassured and thinking of my Lukzenerper, I followed them at full speed on my trondskates, until I got to the city and almost melted from surprise. What a variety of shapes and colors! What exquisite gifts everywhere, both still and moving, large and small! This is paradise, I told myself, but I need to remain calm and choose well, and not let myself be dumbfounded by all this abundance. Above all, I do not want just any gift. I want a gift that even earth women see as precious and important. I already knew how to recognize the men, now I had to find an earth female. How would she have been made? I carefully entered a bar with the writing “bar and tobacco”. I immediately saw something that could have been a female, something with a lot of noses and a man that was pulling on it up and down, which for us means gibolain or mating. But then I heard the man call it a “coffee machine”. It was not her. Over there, I saw her, the female. She was beautiful, all adorned with multicolor lights, she screamed and cried while a man held her by the sides and shook her.


Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 3 here.