Sample Translations

A man and an angel - Foto: Erik PostA man collected questions, uncertainties,
vague inklings, dubious assumptions,
wrong-headed conclusions, debatable motives,
misplaced convictions, mood swings,
painful states of mind, feverish fluctuations in character
and unremitting, conflicting thoughts about death

collected himself into the ground

and an angel touched him very gently, very carefully
and with the greatest possible tenderness
and autumn came
and the wind lifted the man up and blew him away

children, a few small children, caught a last glimpse of him dancing
on the rays
of the setting sun.

Toon Tellegen, A Man and an Angel, Shoestring Press 2013. Translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson

raptorscover

My father

was already himself,
my mother was still a young girl,
my brothers so very unborn
that they sparkled in the sun

‘are you coming…’ my mother asked,
she was wearing red shoes
and her mother’s corals,
she had glitters on her nails
and in her long red hair,
but dumbness struck my father,
chased him away

stalks snapped, frogs blew themselves up
and everything that shone evaporated

it was May
and my father didn’t know that he would never be anyone
but himself,
and that he lacked something,
something painful,
something invaluable of no consequence

and that summer was in the air,
and something misleading,
over and over again.

Toon Tellegen, Raptors, Carcanet 2011. Translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson

Instead of silence cover

summer evening in sainte-croix

In a spot where we had not
expected them, there were poplars
waving, festive and communicative
yet contained, in their foliage
the light of the past day
had been collected, like stained glass
they gave warmth to the valley

we stood in the evening beyond tracing
not waiting for a thing, for we lived here
in this lostness, this tenderness
the light of poplars

Miriam Van hee, Instead of Silence, Shoestring Press 2007. Translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson

 

travel money

he says he has experience
he says we should be satisfied
with small improvements he weighs
his words and keeps them
under volumes of lloyd’s register he
sometimes poses questions
but doesn’t want to know

we’re cast in a different mould
we don’t trust the hereafter
we don’t sleep we go in search of
happiness we argue
and acknowledge blame
we take risks
and we pay

Miriam Van hee, Instead of Silence, Shoestring Press 2007. Translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson

 

TO A MAN IN THE SUPERMARKET

Then, poisonous muse, he crept across my aisle,
a man, small, fat, with a vacated face,
who looked as if his name were Jim or Bill.
I knew exactly what was on his mind:
the taxman, football, a Miss Holland pageant,

broccoli, coffee filters. His whole mouth
a thin letter of intent, alive with
blank conviction. And I was pregnant with a
twisted poem, wanted to hate him, couldn’t –
for everything he dreams, I thought, I dream

no better. Be greeted then, pale uncle,
whose magic dreams of bed sheets are like mine.
Join the queue, then off home, doormat, fridge,
the sofa, oven, then that sleep again.
I’m so afraid you might not even exist.

Menno Wigman, translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson. First published in Poetry Salzburg Review.

 

IN THE SHADOW OF PETTEN’S NUCLEAR REACTOR

Here Holland is a gaping rent in nature,
where balding men save simply what they save.
Smugly the reactor mutters its sour tales
about a village that insists on living
and coastal folk who just go on and on.

Those who live near the reactor uproot
their fears or leave. And those who work there
use brainpower to bend the lightning bolts,=
and tirelessly cut atoms down to size.

Dusk. Streetlights switch on submissively.
It is our brain that will not suffer flaws,
and village, Bach, bed, ring-road – all endure.

In Petten even the poshest houses are grey.
The place is haunted by infinity.

Menno Wigman, translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson. First published in Poetry Salzburg Review.

 

THE TRUTH

You must, they said, face the truth.
Now! Immediately!

When it grew dark they whispered:
now you may face something else –
if you like.

It was quiet
and I faced love
and thoughtlessness with its giant wings
and the simplicity of the moonlight on my wall.

Now the truth again, they said. Now!

Toon Tellegen, About Love and About Nothing Else, Shoestring Press 2008. Translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson

 

DAPPER STREET

Nature is for the satisfied or hollow.
And what does it add up to in this land?
A patch of wood, some ripples in the sand,
A modest hill where modest villas follow.

Give me the city streets, the urban grey,
Quays and canals that keep the water tamed,
The clouds that never look finer than when, framed
By attic windows, they go their windswept way.

The least expectant have most to marvel at.
Life keeps its wonders under lock and key
Until it springs them on us, rich, complete.

One dreary morning all this dawned on me,
When, soaking wet in drizzly Dapper Street,
I suddenly felt happy, just like that.

J.C. Bloem, translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson
Winning entry, David Reid Poetry Translation Prize

 

CLOSER

I am with you so close
No web of tighter threads
Is spun no tissue wins
From what our fingers weave
Winds itself more
Tightly round life
Binds itself so close
To the skin

I am with you so close
So language-close so close
To understanding going where
Spittle and tears mingle
Where the borders leave us
So we forget the body
That separates us
Into you and me

So close – so close
Beyond breaking now
Tighten – tighten the stitching
Of tightest thread am I
So close am I to you
Of tightest thread am I

So bound
So free

Nynke Laverman, from her new album, Alter, translated by Judith Wilkinson

©of all poems featured on this site remains with Judith Wilkinson

 

 

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