(translation) poems, herberto helder


Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. In 1964, alongside António Aragão, Herberto would create the first anthology of experimental poetry in the Portuguese language, which punctuated an enormous shift in Portuguese poetic literature. He died in 2015.
He wrote the poems above in his book, Servidões, a book also never translated into English. All translations were performed by me. As a last in this series of posts regarding Herberto Hélder, which I hope is a good beginning to a series of translations I’m hopeful to be able to make and post, I’d also like to introduce you to a Portuguese musical artist that I grew up listening to (quite literally). B Fachada came off of a long hiatus to release his latest album, “Rapazes e raposas”, translated to “Boys and foxes”, which are very similar words in Portuguese. The first single and crown jewel of this record is Anti-Fado, meaning Anti-Fate, and though it’s impossible to translate the infinitesimally sharp and intelligent lyricism of Bernardo, I’ll translate the lyrics of the song for you:

B Fachada’s new album can be found on his bandcamp, as Bernardo is also anti-streaming. It is a great purchase if you have a world-music collection and you’d like one of the absolute best Portuguese lyricists of this century.

Anyway, have a nice weekend!,
João-Maria.

Published by João-Maria

A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

25 thoughts on “(translation) poems, herberto helder

  1. Brilliant poems thanks João-Maria. (I read only the English bits ha ha!) And thanks for the video – I’ll listen to it again later – although I thought it was pretty good on the first listening and a help to have the translation. I’ll send you a link to Eric’s translation website – all mainly chemistry but it might give you an idea or two?? (Rather than clutter your comments up with links…)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ll take a look!
      B Fachada is really awesome. It’s even rare that people listen to him here in Portugal, so, I’m always happy to introduce him to new populations. He was instrumental to my adolescence.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The poems are absolutely beautiful, João-Maria. I always love reading your translations of these pieces of art, and I look forward to more of them in the future. I find that poetry translated from its mother tongue to English expresses specific deep emotion/evocations much more than poems that were originally written in English… I hope that makes sense. Hahaha.

    I was talking to someone about this, and it seems that poems in a native language that were then translated to English have much more interesting phrases and rich imagery; this is probably because of terms that are antithetical in different languages, or ones that don’t carry through entirely in translation in other languages; or it is just how it’s translated to English but the phrasing is of the origin of their homeland or country that may seem unfamiliar to those who don’t understand the particular language.

    It’s as well intriguing as a term or phrase that might be coined in English may mean something else in another, or it may not exist in the way that we’re familiar with in another language.

    I also really enjoyed the music and the lyrics are awesome!

    Amazing translations here with the poems. They are absolutely inspiring and captivate my mind with wonder. I look forward to more of these types of posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Lucy. You’re absolutely correct. I can read at a decent level in about five languages, and it’s not only indubitable that all of them capture very unique sensations, they also capture them uniquely. Portuguese, as an example, has the habit on embedding the substantive into the verb, creating this manifold subversive lines that stitch the poetic subject into the imagery created. It’s irreproducible in English, but Portuguese does not have the freedom of form that English has. French is the most synesthetic of all romantic languages, but its precision makes it very rigid in expression; the antithesis to English.
      The trick, I find, is to find a way to fill what is lost with the qualities of the other. Here, with Herberto, I maintained the translative order but rearranged some verses to conserve the sounds as well as the potency of meaning. He relies heavily on both, especially in Salvações.

      I’m jubilant that you look forward for more of these! And if you speak other languages, you should consider trying it out yourself! It can be so fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are most welcome.

        Yes an interesting point indeed. We research and craft and write our creations because we cannot not do so. A worthy endeavour in itself. But of course we must also display our efforts. For who puts away their paintings in a cupboard or only ever plays their musical instrument one? But we share to have others react and hopefully with positive feedback. Keep up the great work.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The universe is telling you to visit!
      Well, sadly, timing couldn’t be worse, though Madeira is COVID-free and the usage of masks is mandatory even in the street. They are quite tight with it, mostly because of tourism.
      I’ve been to Funchal twice and I really love it. Both Madeira and Azores are, along with the Canaries, the crown jewels of the Atlantic.

      Like

  3. I like the summing of others deaths as part of the weight of the world which if cognizant is befallen upon us to shoulder, succor and work tirelessly to end, Porque Unas injustices are/son Injustices Everywhere! The rivers run into the ocean’s waves which travel whilst, wherefore the Ides of March may direct the flows of Man’s undertakings in the service of Our 🙏🐕♒️🇩🇴🇺🇸😎❤️👮💯🌎

    Liked by 2 people

  4. While I can’t speak to the aesthetic of the music, I’m quite privy to the lyrics!

    It reminds me of “Ikkyu Sojun” (“Crazy cloud”), specifically the transliteration by stephen berg, “Crow With No Mouth”. While it’s painful (expensive) to come by a physical copy, free pdfs are abound! You might enjoy it (He’s a favorite of mine, with this in mind, I really agree with lucy about translating poems).

    Anyway, is there a reason you grouped these two into one post?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, I misspoke,”Ikkyu” means, roughly, “Having Once Paused”, but he is referred to commonly as “Crazy Cloud”…

      If I could figure how to edit comments, I would have done so… One of those mistakes you can’t let go..

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This is a very special book that you’ve just introduced me to; I’m exulted. Thank you, Warren.
      And yes, there is! I tend not to over-saturate the blog with multiple translative posts and/or posts with Portuguese as a part of it, mostly because they are complicated bargains. Anglophones are not normally fond of other languages, especially when they are presented in a cultural vacuum, like in Literature or Music. Such things are normally visible with, for example, someone comparing every single author I translate with Garcia Marquez, because apparently everyone in Portugal writes like an Argentinian, even though there is largely no cultural or even literary overlapping between Garcia and, say, Sá-Carneiro, which I have translated here in the past. Another example is how our music is normally viewed as World Music, which does erase a bit the nuances and textures of different genres within a given generic chamber.
      I’m trying to “put my foot in” in regards to this emprise which is to create in other languages and simultaneously cultivate interactions between nativity and expression.
      I think it’s an interesting alchemy merely because it’s a very recent one. We are only just seeing the beginning wave of creators starting to create in Englishform literature and the import of that unstranslatable cultural baggage only becomes more leaden and starts to encroach on the deeply cultural reflection that English already has unto itself.
      I hope to have a lifetime to explore these things, though. And many essays!
      As always, you are a brilliant visitor to my humble block. Thank you Warren.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! Agitation looks good on you Joao!

        The alchemy is definitely interesting… and as you said, new…

        A friend of mine swears we are heading towards a second renaissance and while I usually laugh it off, I sometimes wonder…

        At any rate, I’m glad you find Ikkyu interesting. I try to share his work when I can. There is a great painting by Kawanabe Kyōsai dedicated to him, called “Hell Courtesan” if it peaks your interest.

        Like

      2. I’m a passionate speaker, Warren!
        I don’t think we’re heading towards a second renaissance, but I do believe that a second large burst of creativity and creative variety will arrive soonish and concomitant to this big linguistic globalisation. Visual arts don’t really benefit much from it, since they already experienced that in the beginning and middle of the 20st century. But Literature, which never had the actual chance at becoming quite as expansive due to linguistic barriers, might begin to have one now. We’ll see.
        I’m really enjoying reading Ikkyu, and the “136 hells” are definitely curious. Again, thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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