Hello, everyone, Marina Sofia here back behind the bar tonight and so pleased to see all your friendly faces after the holidays! I thought we’d try to keep the summer mood going for just a little longer and attempt something fun and different today.

I’ve always been very passionate about how poetry sounds and always need to read a poem out loud to ‘get’ it.  So I’ve been intrigued by the concept of ‘homophonic translations’, i.e. translations that rely on sounds rather than meaning. It’s a humorous and easy way to free up your synapses to make some brand-new associations. Here is a classic example of what a schoolboy understood of a Latin text.

Caesar adsum jam forte.
Brutus aderat.
Caesar sic in omnibus.
Brutus sic enat.
Caesar had some jam for tea.
Brutus ‘ad a rat.
Caesar sick in omnibus.
Brutus sick in ‘at.

The result is often humorous, but it can also be serious. It won’t surprise you to hear that I made a funeral dirge out of a sweet little ballad when I attempted this exercise with a Croatian poem. Since this exercise works best when the translation is from a language you don’t understand at all, I’m offering you a poem in Romanian.

Lucian Blaga (1895-1961) was a Romanian philosopher, poet and playwright, particularly active during the period between the two World Wars. After 1948 his lack of support for the Communist regime in Romania led to his works being banned for being too ‘idealistic’, rather than describing ‘socialist realism’.

The beautiful, romantic and very melodious poem featured below is one of my all-time favourites. I don’t expect many of you to understand any of it (Italian and Spanish speakers may pick up the odd word or two) but I would like you to allow yourself to be carried away by the sounds and imagine a translation for it. (Don’t cheat by using Google Translate!) Don’t worry about the diacritical signs – just invent your own personal way of reading those letters.

Ne-om aminti cândva târziu
de-aceasta întâmplare simpla,
de-aceasta banca unde stam
tâmpla fierbinte lânga tâmpla.

De pe stamine de alun,
din plopii albi, se cerne jarul.
Orice-nceput se vrea fecund,
risipei se deda Florarul.

Polenul cade peste noi,
în preajma galbene troiene
alcatuieste-n aur fin.
Pe umeri cade-ne si-n gene.

Ne cade-n gura când vorbim,
si-n ochi, când nu gasim cuvântul.
Si nu stim ce pareri de rau
ne tulbura, piezis, avântul.

Ne-om aminti cândva târziu
de-aceasta întâmplare simpla,
de-aceasta banca unde stam
tâmpla fierbinte lânga tâmpla.

Visând, întrezarim prin doruri –
latente-n pulberi aurii –
paduri ce ar putea sa fie
si niciodatã nu vor fi.

Read the poem out loud  and try and see if any of the words sound a bit like English words to you. Do any words look like English or Latin or German or other languages you might know? Allow yourself to be swept away by repetitions, melodious cadences or word associations.

Now, try translating the poem using just the sounds and look of the words. Bring in the images that those words awoke in you. If you can, stick to the original line lengths and stanza shapes. Don’t make the poem longer by ad-libbing or over-explaining. Just go wild with it and see what you can come up with! The end result doesn’t have to be full of puns or even humorous.

And, if you are really good and don’t cheat, I promise you I’ll provide a proper translation of this at the end. Look forward to reading your interpretations!

If you would like to join us, but are not sure how to link up—here’s the drill:
• Write your poem
• Post it on your blog or website
• Click on Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and enter your name and the direct URL of your post
• Come to the pub and visit other poets’ work. Take time to comment, if you possibly can, we all learn so much from each other.
• Have fun! If you want to tweet about it, please reference @dVersePoets.