Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Vasko Popa

I first discovered Vasko Popa in 1969 when I bought his SELECTED POEMS in the Penguin Modern European Poets series for the princely sum of four shillings.

Here is the opening of GIVE ME BACK MY RAGS:

Just come to my mind
And my thoughts will scratch out your face

Just come into my sight
And my eyes will start snarling at you

Just open your mouth
And my silence will smash your jaws

Just remind me of you
And my remembering will paw up the ground under your feet

(translation by Anne Pennington)

Described in Ted Hughes' introduction as a Yugoslavian, he was born in 1922.

A bilingual reading of this poem can be found at Spoken Word Antics Archive.

Robin Vaughan-Williams writes
This is a recording I made recently of the modernist Serbian poet Vasko Popa's 'Give Me back My Rags' with a couple from Serbia and Croatia using Charles Simic's translation. We experimented with various ways of performing a bilingual reading that manages to convey the meaning in the English but also sound texture of the original Serbian.
The recording was made during the Spoken Word Antics radio show on Sheffield Live (13 Feb 2007), and can be downloaded as an MP3 from the Antics sound archive. The live reading was follwed by a discussion, also available to download, which covers topics such as Popa's use of folklore, his position in relation to socialist realism in Yugoslavia, and how he is perceived today in Serbian and Croatian cultures.

I found it very interesting to compare Simic's translation with Pennington's. Simic's sounds much freer and more immediate than Pennington's which seems more formal. Which is truer to the original, I've no idea, but the question is irrelevant as both affirm the power of the poetry which still thrills.

1 comment:

G said...

Cool post. Translations fascinate me, too, and I love to compare them -- although more with literature than poems, so far, and usually Russian novels!

I'm just starting to read Simic. He's fantastic.