The art of interpretation

At my writing group meeting last Friday, we had a pretty cool poetry exercise: using literal English translations of poetry originally written in other languages, we had to transform the translations into our own poetry, or make the literal translation more “poetic”. Since I’m rather pleased with what I came up with, I thought I’d share my efforts here.

The literal translation I worked with is based on the Romanian poet Nichita Stănescu’s poem “Emoţie de toamnă”, translated by our Romanian group member as “Emotion in autumn”. (ETA: the group member in question is Marlena Bontas, who, among other things, writes awesome poetry.) Here is the original poem in Romanian. Even though I know French, Spanish and a bit of Latin, it’s not enough to open up the Romanian for me – so the poem below is based entirely on the literal English translation we had at our meeting. It’s pretty close to the translation, but I’ve put my own spin on it. It turned out quite a “me” poem in the end, methinks.


Autumn Tremors

Autumn’s arrived –
draw a veil over my heart,
send a tree’s shadow to cover me,
or send your shadow.

Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t recognise you,
that I’ll grow bat’s wings and take to the sky,
that you will hide in a stranger’s eye
which will close, lidded by a wormwood leaf.

But then I reach the standing stones
and fear leaves me, speech leaves me.
I take these words and drown them in the sea.
Newborn, wordless, I whistle to the moon,
transform it into a crescent of love.



About Sara Norja

I'm a bilingual writer of prose and poetry. Things I enjoy apart from writing include tea, reading voraciously, cycling on warm summer nights, medieval manuscripts, dancing, and the wind.
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7 Responses to The art of interpretation

  1. This a good English version of the poem. It captures the romanticism of Nichita Stanescu. he was such a great spirit!

  2. Kat Soini says:

    Compliments both to the original poet and the translator, this is just gorgeous. Although I don’t want to think about autumn yet…

    • Sara Norja says:

      It is sooo too early to think about autumn – I felt funny posting this, but it made sense to post it right after writing. It’s barely even spring here yet, definitely not in the autumn mood. :D

  3. This is an incredible poem m’dear! Beautifully done, the imagery is lovely, magical. Like opening a wardrobe door and finding Narnia.

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