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Greetings! I’m a writer, editor, and teacher, and I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers. From 2017 to 2021, I served as Alabama's Poet Laureate. I call this blog and website "A Map of the World" because I think that, as writers, we each map the world through our own lives and imaginations. Welcome to my particular map! To get in touch, you can email me at forjenhorne@gmail.com or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/for.jen.horne where I post a Mid-Week Poetry Break every Wednesday.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On Being Born Across

I recently heard from my friend Gretchen McCullough, who teaches at the American University in Cairo, that her partner, Mohamed Metwalli, was choosing some American poets to translate for an Egyptian journal called Wasli (which, I'm told, means "link"). Mohamed will be translating some of my work for the March issue, I’m delighted and honored to report. Can’t wait to see what those southern Bottle Tree poems look like in Arabic!

Mohamed and Gretchen collaborated on a translation of three of her stories for a bi-lingual edition published by AFAQ Bookshop in Cairo as Three Stories from Cairo (http://www.gretchenmccullough.com/). Gretchen will have a collection of her stories in English out from AFAQ soon.

Mohamed himself has compiled (with translator Mohamed Enani) “an anthology of the off-beat new Egyptian poets” titled Angry Voices. My home-state press, the University of Arkansas Press, is the publisher. http://www.uapress.com/titles/sp03/enani_angryvox.html

Back in the early 90s, my husband and I lived in Bucharest for a year when he worked as a Fulbrighter at the University of Bucharest, and a few of my poems were translated into Romanian then. I never saw the translations, but I did write a poem playing with the idea of translation and being translated. The word itself comes from the past participle of the Latin word for transfer, whose roots are in words meaning “across” and “to bear.”

Here’s that poem:


--for Taina Duțescu-Coliban

Translating Shakespeare
from Barbu's Romanian
back into a different English,
you showed us, at the symposium,

what translations can do.
No surprise your name
means mystery, Taina.
Now you too have been translated.

The BBC World Service
announced two Romanian climbers
missing in the mountains
the day of our going-away party.

Your colleagues hid it well.
We didn't learn until later
more important departures than ours
disturbed the air.

They were angry at you for leaving,
for taking yourself away--
your spirit, your intelligent,
excitable sense of play.

You were the one
who always made it through, alive.
The Cold War was over;
why crave snow?

Bucharest was a city
of pale survivors
when we arrived,
city of minds freshly cut

with memories of want.
I learned slowly
the cruelties of Ceausescu:
nights without heat,

walls that listened,
light curbed to a 40 watt-bulb,
the gradual crumbling
of "the Paris of the East."

All so he could build
his grand People's Palace,
a crazy man's version
of Versailles.

In the end,
no grim Securitate agent
came for you. A Sherpa guide?
I'd like to think so:

a mountain village, a new tongue.
Better think of that
instead of bitter air,
a night without stars, the hours long.

I see you on a white mountainside,
light, heat, and food running out.
You are laughing at this absurdity,
speaking in the dark.

(uncredited photo of Taina Duțescu-Coliban from alpinet.org)

1 comment:

  1. my throat and eyes feel warm with heat of almost tears. xoxo good job, sister.


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