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Stickie introductory post

Characters frequently appearing in this drama:

  • I - your humble narrator, sometime writer and poet (preferred pronoun: he/him/his)

  • Janni - spouse and writer (preferred pronoun: she/her/her)

  • Eaglet - nom de internet of our child, formerly known as TBD, not yet a writer (preferred pronoun: they/them/their)


Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/632515.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

How to translate a Tang poem in a few easy steps:
  1. Copy the poem into your working file. If necessary, convert to simplified characters.

  2. Scan through for characters and words you already know. Note those down.

  3. Look up all the characters and words, even the ones you (think you) know. Jot down the readings and all relevant senses for each, paying attention to probable grammatical roles in the sentence. Remember that most modern two-character words didn't exist back then, so break those down into their characters. If possible/needed, try to find a historical dictionary entry.

  4. Construct a best-guess, painfully literal, line-by-line translation, marking all words you had to supply, such as pronouns, in (parentheses).

  5. If you are completely lost in places, consult an online Chinese commentary or two. (300 Tang Poems is studied in school; there are tons of explainers for confused students.) Pay special attention to glosses on terms modern native speakers find confusing, as well as word-salads that turn out to be names. Incorporate what you've learned into your by-character notes and painful-literal rendition.*

  6. If you are STILL confused on something, okay fine go find a couple ponies English translations. (300 Tang Poems is famous; there's at least three complete translations (though don't use Bynner's) plus well-known singletons are in multiple anthologies and translation blogs.) Only do this if you REALLY have to.

  7. Once you think you know what the poem is doing, line-by-line, write it out in something approaching natural English. This will be closer to free verse than metered, but generally at this point you'll start hearing cadences in places.

  8. Consult an online Chinese commentary or three. If you haven't done this already, check the glosses, but also now focus on modern-language translations and explanations of context. Fix the parts you seem to have gotten wrong. (There are always parts you got wrong.) Don't worry about whether a commentator is talking through their hat -- it's not like you'd recognize if they were, or not yet. If commentators disagree, go with what makes the most sense to you.

  9. Apply a belt sander to your free-verse translation. If possible, fine-grit paper as well. Listen for and bring out the cadences of English meter within the grain of the wood. When something doesn't seem to be working, double-check possible alternate meanings of characters and more commentaries. Iterate.

  10. Once you've gotten as close to graceful as you can at this time -- and it will be very far away -- put down that working file and step away slowly.

  11. Set aside a minute to angst and despair about the impossibility of translation and the stupidity of trying this given your language level.

  12. There. Now take a deep breath. Move on to something else.

  13. Some time later, come back and sand it some more. Iterate until either a) it has that quality the ancestors called "passable" or b) you just aren't getting anywhere.

  14. Put the poem in the draft posting queue.

  15. Just before posting the poem, triple-check your work.

  16. When you post, move it and all your notes to the compilation file of translations. If it's a not-getting-anywhere version, mark it as needing more work.

  17. Between bouts of working on later poems, return to the compilation file, reading through drafts and making corrections/improvements as you see them. If comments on a draft post are helpful, incorporate those insights. Eventually, as you learn more about the language and the genre, you'll see things you got wrong before. Iterate.

  18. [Eventually there will be later steps, but I haven't gotten that far so don't know what they are.]
See? Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.**


* Ideally, into your flashcards as well, so as to expand step 2 faster, but this is not an ideal world.

** Here, have some lemonade.


---L.

Subject quote from 32 Flavors, Ani DiFranco.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/729060.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

“The Pomological Watercolor Collection comprises over 7,500 paintings, drawings, and wax models [of fruits] commissioned by the USDA between 1886 and 1942.” Wikimedia copy. (via)

Where Did the All-Too-Familiar Chinese Zodiac Placemat Come From? tk,dr: we don't know. (via)

The 2019 Lyttle Lytton Contest winners are overall a bit disappointing. *thumps cane*

---L.

Subject quote from Isaiah 38:14.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/728716.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

For Poetry Monday:


The Plateau, Claude McKay

It was the silver, heart-enveloping view
Of the mysterious sea-line far away,
Seen only on a gleaming gold-white day,
That made it dear and beautiful to you.

And Laura loved it for the little hill,
Where the quartz sparkled fire, barren and dun,
Whence in the shadow of the dying sun,
She contemplated Hallow's wooden mill.

While Danny liked the sheltering high grass,
In which he lay upon a clear dry night,
To hear and see, screened skilfully from sight,
The happy lovers of the valley pass.

But oh! I loved it for the big round moon
That swung out of the clouds and swooned aloft,
Burning with passion, gloriously soft,
Lighting the purple flowers of fragrant June.


---L.

Subject quote from The King Of Ys, Bliss Carman.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/728513.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

Okay, so it's been long enough since I did a Reading Wednesday post that the list has built up a bit. Hrm.

Finished reading aloud:

Dogman books 3 & 5, story and art by Dav Pilkey, which are both quite funny; Castronauts book 4, story and art by Drew Brockington, which has plot elements even Eaglet didn't buy; a collection of Antman and Wasp comics, which were a mixed bag; (reread) Ivy + Bean Make the Rules, Annie Barrows, which is the one where the girls invent a spring-break day-camp in the park; Zoey & Sassafras books 1 through 6 (out of order because library holds are asynchronous), Asia Citro, which are a fabulous blend of whimsical fantasy, scientific investigation, and silly cat antics; Dragon Masters books 1-4 complete, Tracey West, which do indeed work better for an audience still learning fantasy tropes; and Nightlights, story and art by Lorena Alvarez Gomez, which has wonderful art for a creepy story that Eaglet is not quite old enough to grasp.

I strongly commend Zoey & Sassafras to the attention of parents and friends of children who consume early chapter books. After book 1, the order doesn't matter much. Book 6, with a longer than usual experimental setup (including plating petri dishes), drags the most.

Finished reading silently:

Unstoppable Wasp: Fix Everything, story by Jeremy Whitley, art by Gurihiru, which was meh despite the very appealing art (I love Gurihiru's understandably manga-influenced style -- they being a Japanese artist duo); Princeless v1, story by Jeremy Whitley again, art by Mia Goodwin, which was also meh despite the appealling story concept; Aquicorn Cove, story and art by Katie O’Neill, which I didn't like as much as The Tea-Dragon Society, despite being as close to a graphic novel distillation of Kathy Apelt (with more queerness) as I can imagine; Spark, Sarah Beth Durst, which is a middle-grade fantasy about finding one's voice without changing oneself and the power of being the right spark in the right situation, with bonus lightning dragons storm-beasts.

Plus a few Chinese readers (titles not noted).

In progress:

A College of Magics, Caroline Stevermer -- a reread, of which I'm about 1/3 in and need to find again (it's a hardcover and so didn't travel with me).

On hold:

Lady Cultivator (一仙难求, literally "an immortal is hard to find" -- though I've seen 仙 rendered as "fairy"), Yun Ji (云芨) -- Female-protagonist Chinese fantasy by the author of Phoenix Destiny,* and like that focused on the difficulties of being an outsider in multiple directions, including being female. Unlike that, this one is really a xianxia, focused on the practice of being a "Daoist" cultivator -- and more, uses the genre as the scaffolding for a bildungsroman. This just may be the best intro to the genre I've read -- and so far I haven't met any reason not to rec it to first-time readers. Bonus: it sidesteps or outright ignores many common formulaic tropes.** That said, a Content Note: the protagonist spends the first 100+ chapters, starting in childhood, under the pervasive threat of sexual violence, and is directly attacked a few times (this doesn't go completely away, but she eventually gets strong enough to counter most threats). There's also a lot of sexist gender essentialism, but I can't tell yet whether the author believes it, baked it into the worldbuilding to make things harder for the protagonist, or will eventually be poking holes in it. Caught up with the translation at chapter 230 (out of 685), shortly after wrapping up a wanderjahr.


* Speaking of which, I'm current with the translation at chapter 268.

** For example, there hasn't been a single tournament arc.


---L.

Subject quote from Don't Stop Believing, Journey.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/728072.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

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So, woofs, it was a week off for, in part, a camping vacation, the likes of which it had been too long since we'd taken. Highlights* include Eaglet hiking a mile and a half three separate times -- getting to climb a volcano and peer into the crater, tromp through jagged lava rocks, and climb ladders to ruined villages turn out to be good motivators for them** -- and a couple episodes of exploring Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return installation.

It was also a week of, in part, dealing with family stuff. I could have done without the visit to the ER, but at least my mother now has a pacemaker installed implanted, hopefully preventing further visits (at least for heart reasons).

And now it's back to work. Again.


* According to me. Eaglet insists the jumping pillow at the Flagstaff KOA is just as highlighty.

** Though on that last hike, they did poop out after that 1.5mi-plus-ladders and had to be piggibacked out.


---L.

Subject quote from Blue Sky, Patty Griffin.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/727867.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

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For Poetry Monday:


A Morning Scene, Sarah Mayo

    Amid the rosy fog stole in and out
The little boat; the rower dipped his oar,
    Gleaming with liquid gold; and all about
The red-sailed ships went swimming from the shore.

    Against the canvas, moving to and fro,
The dark forms of the fishermen were seen;
    Around the prow long wreaths of golden glow
Rippled and faded ’mid the wavy green.

    The sea-gulls wheeled around the rocky cape,
And skimmed their long wings lightly o’er the flood;
    The fog rose up in many a spectral shape,
And crept away in silence o’er the wood.

    The sea, from silvery white to deepest blue,
Changed ’neath the changing colors of the sky;
    The distant lighthouse broke upon the view,
And the long land-point spread before the eye.

    Clear as a mirror lay the rock-bound cove;
Far off, one blasted pine against the sky
    Lifted its scraggy form; the crow above
Flapped his black wings, and wound his long shrill cry.

    I paced the beach like some sleep-waking child,
Wrapped in a dream of beauty and of awe;
    Were they ideal visions that beguiled?
Was it my eye, or but my soul that saw?


Sarah Edgarton Mayo (1819-1848) was a Massachusetts-born writer, editor, and Unitarian hymnist.

---L.

Subject quote from The Demon-Ship, Thomas Hood.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/727578.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

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For Poetry Monday in a heat wave, something more hibernal:


Betrothed, Jack Gilbert

You hear yourself walking on the snow.
You hear the absence of the birds.
A stillness so complete, you hear
the whispering inside of you. Alone
morning after morning, and even more
at night. They say we are born alone,
to live and die alone. But they are wrong.
We get to be alone by time, by luck,
or by misadventure. When I hit the log
frozen in the woodpile to break it free,
it makes a sound of perfect inhumanity,
which goes pure all through the valley,
like a crow calling unexpectedly
at the darker end of twilight that awakens
me in the middle of a life. The black
and white of me mated with this indifferent
winter landscape. I think of the moon
coming in a little while to find the white
among these colorless pines.

—L.

Subject quote from Morning at Sea in the Tropics, George Gordon McCrae.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/727401.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

Postscript to these translations, with a warning.

I chose my base text because it's one of the first search hits and it has a built-in dictionary pop-up for the hanzi. This last feature could be useful for those who want to try to follow along. I no longer use that dictionary myself (Pleco is more comprehensive and lets me work offline) plus I have to convert the text to simplified characters, but absent finding a clearly better edition I'm continuing to use those texts.

But the warning: the English versions on that site are from the collection's first complete translation, The Jade Mountain by Witter Bynner with Kiang Kang-hu.* They are, er, not reliable. Which is to say, of the 40-or-so poems I've worked through myself, I've found at least one mistake in. Every. Single. One. Not just difference of interpretation or other judgement calls -- something Outright Wrong. Sometimes it's minor, but all too often it completely warps what the poem's about.

Because of its age (it's from the 1920s), Bynner's is the only readily available translation online, so unfortunately it's all over the place. But seriously -- Do Not Use.


* Or so he preferred his name spelled -- in pinyin it's Jiang Kanghu.


---L.

Subject quote from Elevate, DJ Khalil.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/727121.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

Three Hundred Tang Poems #224-260

Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐诗三百首: Táng shī sānbǎi shǒu) was first compiled in 1763 by Sun Zhu out of the massive Complete Tang Poems collection, covering works written during the Tang Dynasty* between roughly 600 and 900 BCE. It originally had 310 poems, but other editions have different numbers—most versions today have 320. All editions are arranged in eight parts by poetic form, including a handful of fixed forms, rhymed poems of arbitrary length, and folk-style poems (with variations on how some works are categorized).

Below the cut is a translation of Part 7 of this version, the jueju poems with four lines of five characters each—not coincidentally, the collection’s shortest poems. (Baby steps, baby.) These are very much apprentice work, and I don’t vouch for their accuracy. (Baby steps, he repeated.) Most have been revised, sometimes significantly, based on better understanding since initial drafts were posted here.

My translation priorities have been, in order, rendering the literal sense, matching rhetorical structures and tone, using as close to regular meter as I can manage without doing violence to those first two, and only after that, when I can manage it, including some form of rhyme. I’m dissatisfied that the last priority is last,** but I don’t yet have enough experience to judge what to sacrifice to match forms (see below). Although the originals are all in the same meter, translations use either a four or five beat line, usually the former, usually iambic, depending on what I can make work best for a poem. This, too, is not ideal. (Baby steps, he said firmly.)

In Middle Chinese, the second and fourth lines rhymed, and sometimes also the first, and there were four possible patterns for the tones of syllables. In modern Mandarin, after a millenium-plus of sound shifts, the rhymes are usually obscured and tone patterns completely botched—and there is no solid scholarly consensus on original pronunciations. As a result, pinyin transcription is all-but-useless for appreciating the original form*** and I give only the hanzi (simplified) characters.

As always, suggestions/discussions/corrections are welcome.


* Not counting one 14th century poem mistaken for an earlier work.

** Replicating the rhyme structure is all too often ignored in Chinese translations, skewing our impression of what the originals were like.

*** This is in striking contrast to the changes from Classical to Modern Japanese, where just about all sound shifts were regular, making modern-pronunciation transcripts, however inaccurate, at least useful.


Green lees in fresh unfiltered wine / The red clay of the little stoveCollapse )

That was an interesting exercise, to say the least. I am continuing on with the next-shortest form of poems—we’ll see for how long.

---L.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/726920.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

Poetry Monday:


A Sea Glimpse, Lucy Larcom

High tide, and the year at ebb:
    The sea is a dream today:
The sky is a gossamer web
    Of sapphire, and pearl, and gray:

A veil over rock and boat;
    A breath on the tremulous blue,
Where the dim sails lie afloat,
    Or, unaware, slip from view.

They veer to the rosy ray;
    They dusk to the violet shade;
Like a thought they flit away;
    Like a foolish hope, they fade.

But listen! a sudden plash!
    A ship is heaving in sight,
With a stir, and a noisy dash
    Of the salt-foam, seething white.

Tar-grimed and weather-stained,
    The sailors shout from her deck:
Naught of the sky blue-veined,
    Or the dreamy waves they reck.

And the sunburnt girl who stands
    Where her feet on the wet wrack slip,
Eyes shaded with lithe, brown hands,
    She sees but the coming ship.


Larcom (1824-93) was a teacher, poet, and magazine editor who spent her teens as a mill-worker in Lowell, MA.

---L.

Subject quote from Rainbow, Sia.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/726782.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

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So it turns out that in 2001, Lego released a Women's Soccer Team set. It has a half-dozen minifigures in the USA women's national team colors of the time plus stickers for jersey numbers. And Janni found a set at the local used book-n-toy store.

Which means, after applying #9 and a brunette ponytail (most of the hairs are ponytails) we now have a Mia Hamm Lego.

*fanboy geek-out moment*

(I need a better icon for squee ... )

Eaglet, of course, has no idea and is far more focused on playing with the striker-and-goalie setup. We've been watching all the game highlights together in the evenings, though, and their soccer day-camp has been showing games on TV during lunch -- as they ought to, at a soccer camp.

(In what sense is a small plastic soccer ball that comes with a Lego set but has no connector features still a Lego soccer ball?)

---L.

Subject quote from Jack Roy, Herman Melville.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/726361.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

... a place for posting bits of fluff caught in my filters. Warning: I list "very bad poetry" among my interests.

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