Poetry Translation: Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch’s poems, translations, essays, articles and letters have appeared in TIME, USA Today, BBC Radio 3, Amnesty International’s Words That Burn, Writer’s Digest–The Year’s Best Writing and hundreds of literary journals. His poems have been translated into eleven languages and set to music by the composers Mark Buller, Alexander Comitas and Seth Wright. He also edits www.thehypertexts.com and serves as the international poetry editor for Better Than Starbucks.


Cherokee Travelers' Blessing I

translation by Michael R. Burch

I will extract the thorns from your feet.
For a little while, we will walk life's sunlit paths together.
I will love you like my own brother, my own blood.
When you are disconsolate, I will wipe the tears from your eyes.
And when you are too sad to live, I will put your aching heart to rest.

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing II

translation by Michael R. Burch

Happily may you walk
in the paths of the Rainbow.
               Oh!,
and may it always be beautiful before you,
beautiful behind you,
beautiful below you,
beautiful above you,
and beautiful all around you
where in Perfection beauty is finished.

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing III

loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May Heaven’s warming winds blow gently there,
where you reside, 
and may the Great Spirit bless all those you care for,
this side of the farther tide.
And when you go,
whether the journey is fast or slow,
may your moccasins leave many cunning footprints in the snow.
And when you look over your shoulder, may you always find the Rainbow.

Sioux Vision Quest

A man must pursue his Vision 
as the eagle explores
the sky's deepest blues. 
—Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877), translated by Michael R. Burch

Native American Proverbs

loose translations by Michael R. Burch

The soul would see no Rainbows if not for the eyes’ tears.

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. 
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
—White Elk

3 comments :

  1. It is an honor to have my translations published here!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have recently created these new translations of Native American poems:

    What is life?
    The flash of a firefly.
    The breath of a winter buffalo.
    The shadow scooting across the grass that vanishes with sunset.
    —Blackfoot saying, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Speak less thunder, wield more lightning. — Apache proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    The more we wonder, the more we understand. — Arapaho proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Adults talk, children whine. — Blackfoot proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Don’t be afraid to cry: it will lessen your sorrow. — Hopi proverb

    One foot in the boat, one foot in the canoe, and you end up in the river. — Tuscarora proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Our enemy's weakness increases our strength. — Cherokee proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    We will be remembered tomorrow by the tracks we leave today. — Dakota proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    No sound's as eloquent as a rattlesnake's tail. — Navajo saying, translation by Michael R. Burch

    The heart is our first teacher. — Cheyenne proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Dreams beget success. — Maricopa proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    Knowledge interprets the past, wisdom foresees the future. — Lumbee proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    The troublemaker's way is thorny. — Umpqua proverb, translation by Michael R. Burch

    ReplyDelete
  3. These are my recent translations of Lorca:

    ***

    Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was a Spanish poet, playwright and theater director. He was assassinated by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and his body was never found.

    Gacela of the Dark Death
    by Federico Garcia Lorca
    loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

    I want to sleep the dreamless sleep of apples
    far from the bustle of cemeteries.
    I want to sleep the dream-filled sleep of the child
    who longed to cut out his heart on the high seas.

    I don't want to hear how the corpse retains its blood,
    or how the putrefying mouth continues accumulating water.
    I don't want to be informed of the grasses’ torture sessions,
    nor of the moon with its serpent's snout
    scuttling until dawn.

    I want to sleep awhile,
    whether a second, a minute, or a century;
    and yet I want everyone to know that I’m still alive,
    that there’s a golden manger in my lips;
    that I’m the elfin companion of the West Wind;
    that I’m the immense shadow of my own tears.

    When Dawn arrives, cover me with a veil,
    because Dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me;
    then wet my shoes with a little hard water
    so her scorpion pincers slip off.

    Because I want to sleep the dreamless sleep of the apples,
    to learn the lament that cleanses me of this earth;
    because I want to live again as that dark child
    who longed to cut out his heart on the high sea.

    Gacela de la huida (“Ghazal of the Flight”)
    by Federico Garcia Lorca
    loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

    I have been lost, many times, by the sea
    with an ear full of freshly-cut flowers
    and a tongue spilling love and agony.

    I have often been lost by the sea,
    as I am lost in the hearts of children.

    At night, no one giving a kiss
    fails to feel the smiles of the faceless.
    No one touching a new-born child
    fails to remember horses’ thick skulls.

    Because roses root through the forehead
    for hardened landscapes of bone,
    and man’s hands merely imitate
    roots, underground.

    Thus, I have lost myself in children’s hearts
    and have been lost many times by the sea.
    Ignorant of water, I go searching
    for death, as the light consumes me.

    ***

    La balada del agua del mar (“The Ballad of the Sea Water”)
    by Federico Garcia Lorca
    loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

    The sea
    smiles in the distance:
    foam-toothed,
    heaven-lipped.

    What do you sell, shadowy child
    with your naked breasts?

    Sir, I sell
    the sea’s saltwater.

    What do you bear, dark child,
    mingled with your blood?

    Sir, I bear
    the sea’s saltwater.

    Those briny tears,
    where were they born, mother?

    Sir, I weep
    the sea’s saltwater.

    Heart, this bitterness,
    whence does it arise?

    So very bitter,
    the sea’s saltwater!

    The sea
    smiles in the distance:
    foam-toothed,
    heaven-lipped.

    ***

    Paisaje (“Landscape”)
    by Federico Garcia Lorca
    loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

    The olive orchard
    opens and closes
    like a fan;
    above the grove
    a sunken sky dims;
    a dark rain falls
    on warmthless lights;
    reeds tremble by the gloomy river;
    the colorless air wavers;
    olive trees
    scream with flocks
    of captive birds
    waving their tailfeathers
    in the dark.

    ***

    Canción del jinete (“The Horseman’s Song” or “Song of the Rider”)
    by Federico Garcia Lorca
    loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

    Cordoba. Distant and lone.
    Black pony, big moon,
    olives in my saddlebag.
    Although my pony knows the way,
    I never will reach Cordoba.

    High plains, high winds.
    Black pony, blood moon.
    Death awaits me, watching
    from the towers of Cordoba.

    Such a long, long way!
    Oh my brave pony!
    Death awaits me
    before I arrive in Cordoba!

    Cordoba. Distant and lone.

    ReplyDelete

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