Martial, translated from Latin by George Held

In this installment, we’d like to bring you the spicy taste of the poems and epigrams of the ancient poet Martial. The guest of this post is George Held, a poet and translator of great versatility who moves with ease from sonnets to epigrams to witty insights in his own poems—and always surprises his readers. Suffice to say, February at NTM is hot, dear friends!

And remember, all this month and beyond: read, write, and share your favorite translated poems.

—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman

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Archipelago Books presents: Aimé Césaire, Nichita Stanescu, and Karl Ove Knausgaard

We’re happy to share with you today some great excerpts from the works of three remarkable writers published recently in translation by Archipelago Books: Return to My Native Land  by the groundbreaking poet from Martinique Aimé Césaire, Wheel With a Single Spoke and Other Poems by the beloved Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu, and My Struggle: Book Three  by acclaimed Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Archipelago Books is a prestigious American non-profit publisher located in Brooklyn, NY, and dedicated to promoting literature in translation. On marking its 10th anniversary, Archipelago had published one hundred books, translated from more than twenty-six languages into English. Archipelago Books has won numerous prizes for its publications. As The Three Percent blog writes, “What sets Archipelago apart from most publishers is not only their impeccable taste, their faith in their writers and their translators, but it is this magical element – they have faith in readers out there, in you and me.” We hope you enjoy these selections.

—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman

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Fleeing Between the Lines: An interview with Roger Hickin and new translations of Latin-American poets

Welcome to the third year of National Translation Month! We have great things in store for you this February: two interviews with renowned translators, exciting new poetry, prose, an excerpt of an opera libretto, and even lyrics of songs by famous Russian rock bands, in one of the most eclectic and fun translation projects on the web today.

To get started, Claudia Serea interviews Roger Hickin about his craft and latest projects, featuring poems by Juan Cameron and Blanca Castellón, a Latin-American feat.

We hope you like these selections as much as we did.

And remember, in February and beyond, the world lies open. Take time to enjoy it. Read, write, and share your favorite translations.

—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman

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National Translation Month 3 just around the bend…

Welcome to the third year of National Translation Month! We have great things in store for you this February: two interviews with renowned translators, exciting new poetry, prose, an excerpt of an opera libretto, and even lyrics of songs by famous Russian rock bands, in one of the most eclectic and fun translation projects on the web today.

Please be sure to download our badge and add it to your website during NTM 3!

And remember, in February and beyond, the world lies open. Take time to enjoy it. Read, write, and share your favorite translations.

—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman

Just right click the badge below and save, or drag it onto your desktop!




Adina Dabija, Translated by Claudia Serea

I’d like to share with you a new book by an award-winning Romanian poet, Adina Dabija. The book is titled Beautybeast and was published last fall by cover_dabijaNorthShore Press, Alaska. Adina Dabija’s poems have the freshness of a wind gust that steals the unsuspecting reader’s hat. Lighthearted, irreverent, and playful, this self-exploratory collection combines a strong discourse with startlingly original ideas for a dazzling result. One of the most acclaimed poets of the Romanian new generation, Adina Dabija brings new energy to the American literary landscape.

Here is what Andrei Codrescu said about her work: “My disposition and appetite for poetry were immediately aroused by these poems, like a bear’s nose awakened by the scent of honey in August. They are beautiful, fresh, naughty, full of life, and quite intelligent.”

Below are three sample poems with their Romanian counterparts. Check out the book and another poem on the publisher’s website.

And remember, in February and beyond: read, write, and share your favorite translated poems.

—Claudia Serea

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Hafez, translated by Roger Sedarat

We’d  like to share the Persian poet Hafez, translated by Roger Sedarat. Again, remember, in February and beyond: read, write, and share your favorite translated poems.

—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman


Ghazal 1                    

Hey wine boy! Keep giving us more to drink.
Love’s not something we endure or outthink.

The musky flower’s perfume in the breeze
Buzzes bees blindly to its core to drink.

Bound to the world, my beloved jangles
Chains of existence to sever the link.

The holy man knows best. If he insists,
Paint prayer rugs with rags and wine-colored ink!

We who’d drown in love know the wave’s terror.
Those with closed hearts, safe on the shore, won’t sink.

My selfish verse made me notorious.
(Truth remains hidden when the liars speak).

Hafez, don’t run away from his presence.
When caught by him, release the world and sing.

Ghazal 6                                

Who will recite this prayer to the sultan:
“Let love link the beggar to the sovereign” ?

When demon eyes watch me in the dark woods,
Offer light and shelter to the sovereign.

Idol, be mindful of dark eyelashes.
Deceit doesn’t matter to the sovereign.

A loving expression consumes a world.
Your selfishness looks poor to the sovereign.

In restless nights, I pray the morning breeze
Will carry the lover to the sovereign.

Moon-strike them, beloved! Cypress-shake them.
Show the lovers’ nature to the sovereign.

For God’s sake, give Hafez a morning drink.
He’ll bless you in a prayer to the sovereign.

Ghazal 22                                          

You don’t know words, just language of the heart.
Your sense of truth’s a pure gauge of the heart.

I need not bow my head to this cold world.
My thoughts live in hermitage of the heart.

I cannot find myself in clean order.
I’m lost in frenzied garbage of the heart.

My love goes looking for you in music,
Performing on the grand stage of the heart.

I need not be paid in their currency.
Your beauty gives me the wage of the heart.

Bad dreams won’t let me sleep. Where’s the tavern?
I’ll drink to the sacrilege of the heart.

I stained the sacred walls with my own blood.
Can wine clean me? Tell me, judge of the heart.

To keep my love eternally burning,
The mystics make a hostage of the heart.

I can’t stop singing that song from last night,
(Instilled melodic knowledge of the heart).

Though they shout it while I keep it within,
My love contains a strong surge of the heart.

Ghazal 31                                          

This dark sky knows how powerful night is.
Stars, can you say why our luck’s the brightest?

To keep outcasts from reaching your great trees,
Prayers in our circle hold your love highest.

I’m one of many killed by your dimple.
Under your chin’s where all beauty’s might is.

The moon mirrors the dark face of my horse.
His light hooves track where the sun’s gold ride is.

I can’t leave wine or the beloved’s lips.
They are my only religious guidance.

“Life swiftly flows in stealth, a cold dark breeze.”
(The black crow uses my pen to write this).

Who’s look has shot an arrow at my heart?
Hafez’s smile, a shield, lives as it dies.

Ghazal 35      

Do your own work; don’t judge what we have done.
We broke our hearts. Tell us what you have done.

God created Adam out of nothing.
No man knows the miracle you have done.

I am the reed; his lips hold my desire.
The wind tells me my job’s only half done.

The beggar stands removed from paradise.
Between these worlds you’ve made us stand alone.

Love’s ecstasy overwhelmed my being.
My mind couldn’t grasp what the heart has done.

Don’t fight the beloved’s violence toward you.
By his strict outrage true justice was done.

Hafez, enough of your poems. Stop here.
The world feels the power your verse has done.

RogerRoger Sedarat is the author of two poetry collections: Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s 2007 Hollis Summers’ Prize, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian verse have appeared in World Literature TodayDrunken Boat, and Asymptote. Current translation projects include a collection of ghazals by Hafez and a prison diary by an Afghani child bride. He teaches poetry and translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York. More at is website.


Mircea Cărtărescu, translated by Adam J. Sorkin

Pitfalls and Armpits: On Rhyme in Translating a Mircea Cărtărescu Poem

Sometimes translations just flow, as if dictated magically by a muse situated between the language they derive from and English, but always they need tomircea-cartarescu-foto-cato-lein seem as if they do, whether they work out with ease or trauma. Indeed, often it’s a struggle, a tension between what one hears and intends, and what one can craft. Recently I faced such a problem revising the Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu’s poem, “Letter with Armpits,” which, in a collaboration with poet and friend Ioana Ieronim, I translated years ago without the rhymes that the author used effortlessly in every pair of lines except one. But that one oddity offered me solace: if Cărtărescu could skip one, so might I. Or two, three, more… And for honesty’s sake, I must admit his varied line lengths made it much easier to adjust syntax for words that rhymed or otherwise echoed in sound.

Omitting the opening rhymes was the first pitfall, and a necessity. The quick movement into narrative (as if the title and first line denoted something conventional) and the allusion of the second line to the 1934 James M. Cain noir novel (or maybe the 1946 or 1981 movies?) had to be maintained—lots of rhymes for “armpits,” but not this phrase. Similarly, narrative flow led me to forego forcing the 3rd and 4th lines to rhyme. But after that, I felt the musical pattern had to be established, even by inserting a very natural idea (“I think”—foreshadowing the participle two lines later, “scrutinizing”) to precede “India-ink.” A few strong rhymes fell into place (“risk”/“asterisk”; “darkness”/“P.S.”; the internal rhyme of “Braille” with the subsequent end word “tale”; and my favorite, the yoking of “server”/“fervor”). At other moments, I relied on slant or partial rhymes (“signature”/“fiber”; before that, if the reader accepts it, “verdicts”/“wax”; “mound”/“understand”; and “tale,” mentioned above, as an end rhyme paired with “mole”). To me, the odd line ending, “below,” set up “manifesto” nine lines later, just as “virgin,” hanging in space, perhaps resolved at the close with “unforeseen”/“skin”).

I could talk about resisted urges, a “without fail” to rhyme with “fishtail,” or turning “bizarre tale” into an awkward noun-adjective structure so as to add the obvious “bizarre and timeworn” to rhyme with (the nouns trading places) “a virgin and a unicorn.” Both impulses disrespected the original text. In the last stanza I badly wanted that “kiss” as an end-rhyme but it’s true echo popped up only three words later, in “missive.” After all, just as “read…bite…kiss” made a simple, direct, apt series, so “prospectus,” in my judgment, and the awkward “kiss”/“prospectus” couplet, maybe made their own apt, jokey point. (Yes, “prospectus” could have been “pamphlet” and “manifesto” a “leaflet,” a namby-pamby chiming for a dull, null effect.)

A lot happened on its own along the way, sometimes more consciously (the ee vowels in five of the final eight lines) than others (e.g., four lines right before those with long-a sounds).

There’s of course more, but I’ve reached my word limit.

Letter with Armpits  by Mircea Cărtărescu

you’re a letter with armpits
when he delivers you, the postman always rings twice
I lay you on the bed,
slip you out of your envelope of striped polyester
unfold you and read you while I think
about the hieroglyphics of your eyelashes’ India-ink.
I scrutinize deep precedents, profound verdicts,
until I arrive at a pair of round insignias
of red sealing wax.
it’s evening in the room
yet I take the risk
of following my findings as far as the asterisk
and the entangled signature
of anthracite fiber
but very agreeable.
although almost completely obscured in darkness
I can still construe your ankle’s P.S.
and after that, with my finger,
trace the Braille of your beige and coral mole
which tells a bizarre tale
about a unicorn and a virgin.

I can’t make much sense of you, likely I don’t at all understand.
your text gathers itself here into a little mound
and then somehow ends below
in a sort of fishtail.
you’re a database
only curves and graces,
a mainframe server
only keyboard and fervor.
you seem encoded in an incomprehensible script.

what do I read? what do I bite? what do I kiss?
a love missive or a financial prospectus?
an incendiary manifesto?
a desperate appeal? a terrifying curse? a plea on bended knee?
a telegram that reveals a death unforeseen?
who are you? what’s spelled out on your skin?

translated from Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Ioana Ieronim

Adam J. Sorkin is a prize-winning translator of contemporary Romanian literature. In 2011, he published Liliana Ursu’s A Path to the Sea, Ioan Flora’s Medea and Her War Machines, Ion Mureșan’s The Book of Winter and Other Poems, and, with Claudia Serea as his major co-translator, The Vanishing Point That Whistles: An Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry. In 2012, two chapbooks appeared, Dan Sociu’s Mouths Dry with Hatred and Ioan Flora’s The Flying Head. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State Brandywine.


Three Bulgarian poets translated by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Here is a selection of brilliant, engaging, innovative and new poems by living, currently active Bulgarian poets. The anthology is still a work-in-progress, and it is expected to be published in June/July 2013 by Accents Publishing. I love every poem in the book, but I wanted to share with the readers of The Writing Center three poems by three authors. These are Vanya Angelova, Krasimir Vardyev, and Petar Tchouhov. I hope you enjoy their work.

—Katerina Stoykova-Klemer



the horse’s nostrils breathe.

And the moist eye

is half-shut on purpose

Since he knows,

why does he need to see?

Only the habit

still prevents him

from rattling his hoofs

towards the stars.

Author: Vanya Angelova

Translated by: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Vanya Angelova was born in 1953. She holds a master’s degree in slavic philology. She is the author of the poetry books “Rain of Chinese Drops” (2003) and “The Possible Travel Notes of the Body” (2010).


the good son K.,

it’s closing time dad

turn off the luminaries

close the taps of the springs

drain the lakes

fold the trees wither the fruit

arm the alarm of the forbidden one

feed the animals

check the ropes of the dome

kiss the snake goodnight

turn off the source

energy is expensive

keep grandpa’s inheritance

draw the shutters roll down the blinds

don’t be late for mom’s supper

finally free at last

go to the harbor’s tavern

to make passes at the white Russian girls

like a good father

and I, the good son

am going to kill my brother

Author: Krasimir Vardyev

Translated from Bulgarian: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Krasimir Vardyev was born in 1978. He is the recipient of ten national literary awards. He is the author of two poetry books and is about to publish a third one. His poetry has never before been translated or published in English.


Only her dress

is red

in the black-and-white photo

but this is not proof

of murder


it is not proof

of love


the night train passes

from one date to another

the door of the cabin opens



Only his eyes

are blue

in the black-and-white photo

but this is not a sign of weakness


nor is it a sign

of life


the night train passes

from one darkness

to another

the door of the cabin closes


Petar Tchouhov

Translated from Bulgarian: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Petar Tchouhov is the author of 11 books of poetry. He has received international recognition for his haiku. His work has been translated in many languages. He writes and performs music in several bands.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is the author of three poetry books, most recently The Porcupine of Mind (Broadstone Books, 2012). Her first poetry book, the bilingual The Air around the Butterfly (Fakel Express, 2009), won the 2010 Pencho’s Oak award, given annually to recognize literary contribution to contemporary Bulgarian culture. She hosts Accents – a radio show for literature, art and culture on WRFL, 88.1 FM, Lexington. In January 2010, Katerina launched Accents Publishing. Katerina is acting in the lead role in the independent feature film Diamond Days, to be released in 2013. You can find her on all the channels below:

Accents Publishing

Katerina’s website