pour me another one

Hi there,

I'm a long time fan from Buk's works, and I'm reading the threads since a bit.
I'm thankful to read about the "tragic rape" of his poetry, and like this I could read all the good ones.
I'm enjoying his poetry so much that I started to translate some of it (I'm french) for fun, perhaps I'll suggest it to some publishers in the future.
I would need your help for some details, some lines I don't get.
I'll post about that on an other part of the forum.

see ya
 
Hello,
as I said on my introducing post, I'm also trying to translate some of Buk's poems (not in Chinese though), and some help from natives would be great and very helpful. so here are some lines that I have trouble to understand (all are from Mockingbird) :

but i imagine
war being swine mob being swine


(last lines of the poem ww2)
I don't get "swine" as a verb. usually it means pigs or bastards, right ?
and also in that case, what is "mob" (the crowd ?)

hoping he'll chitter
and peep some pink
back into white elbows.


(from the passing of a dark gray moment)
not a clue about "peep some pink ..." what does that mean ? is it an expression ?

lift high their fish-green beer

(from drunk ol' bukowski drunk)
neverd heard of fish-green beer ... is it a brand ? or some expression ?

rough-tit crab (from a free 25 pages booklet)
I get the rough crab, but why is there -tit ? is it adding something ?

I itch from the slush of the Philippines
to the eye of the minnow
(from notes upon the flaxen aspect)

I get the main idea, but not exactly. any help on this ? what's "slush" in here ? a liquid, like some kind of beer ?


thanks,
 

Purple Stickpin

Over 5000 posts
First of all, welcome and you've asked a number of good questions. For starters, translating any written word to another language is a perilous task. Even between two languages as similar (at least in terms of word similarity if not in structure) as English and French, there are problems. Poetry is even more difficult and poetry that is full of word imagery is like trying to make lobster thermidor from a pile of hay and a crowbar. If you understood that, then read on. I studied French some 40 years ago and know something of the language, but perhaps Black Swan can help here as she is from Québec and not only speaks great English, is something of a Buk scholar as well.

Before I get to your questions, Buk's poetry went through several phases. Lots of imagery at the beginning that eventually became a far more direct approach later. In the late '60s/early '70s, when many of the poems in Mockingbird were written, he still had quite a bit of imagery - not abstract imagery like early on, but more like stream-of consciousness imagery. So translating that is difficult.

As to your questions:

but i imagine
war being swine mob being swine


I don't get "swine" as a verb. usually it means pigs or bastards, right ?
and also in that case, what is "mob" (the crowd ?)
"Swine" is being used as a noun in both cases (pig is a synonym, although bastard is not a bad translation). What Buk seems to be getting at is that the war itself is filthy, but the mob (yes, crowd is a synonym, although mob has a connotation of being more disorderly) who are all gung-ho about the war as just as filthy as war itself.

hoping he'll chitter
and peep some pink
back into white elbows.


not a clue about "peep some pink ..." what does that mean ? is it an expression ?
It's hard to say, but reading the poem, it would seem to be about the changing of the season from Winter (such as they get in LA) to summer and the bird he is referring to (chittering being something a bird does when ruffling his feathers, so to speak) is hoping to get some color back into his body - not so much literally as much as "becoming alive" again in warmer weather. At least, that's what I take from the lines.

lift high their fish-green beer

never heard of fish-green beer ... is it a brand ? or some expression ?
Not a brand but perhaps a reference to the swill some folks drink on St. Patrick's day, but more likely just a term for cheap beer. Or beer being drunk by men who don't think as much as Buk does.

I itch from the slush of the Philippines
to the eye of the minnow.
I get the main idea, but not exactly. any help on this ? what's "slush" in here ? a liquid, like some kind of beer?
Not beer, I don't think, but I'm stumped by this line. Perhaps something to do with WWII and how the Phillippines were tangentially involved.

rough-tit crab
I get the rough crab, but why is there -tit ? is it adding something ?
Just a little embellishment to the image, I think. Obviously crabs don't have tits (shame, really) but sometimes he just tosses in a "street-lingo" type of thing to keep it real. Even if it isn't.
 
Last edited:
Thanks a lot for your answer. That's very helpful.
Indeed translating poetry is the most difficult thing. I really liked the quote from the movie Paterson (Jarmusch is one of my favourite directors): Translating poetry is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.
there is something like that. In fact it's quite impossible to make it the same, but it worths trying to catch the essence, from my point of view. To spread it.

For the lines, I understand them better now. for the swine one in French, that would be maybe becoming something like : war is a bitch mob is a bitch (la guerre est une salope la foule est une salope). I don't know, I have to think it, if I find something more suitable for the image of being filthy.

The Philippines still a mystery so. I have to admit that's the most difficult poem to understand by far, it's quite absurd.
 

Andreas

Over 100 posts
The Philippines still a mystery so. I have to admit that's the most difficult poem to understand by far, it's quite absurd.
Some parts of the poem (notes upon the flaxen aspect) don't necessarily have to be connected to each other. If you just see it as thoughts running through an author's mind then you might get a better understanding of it.
I like Bukowski's name-dropping. Germaine Greer, for example. She wrote a book in 1970, The Female Eunuch. If you know that (I didn't know that, I've just looked it up), then one might guess that the line towards the end of the poem - 'eunuchs are more exact than sleep' - could be related to that book.
 
I agree that poetry is not to take literally. and this one poem is a bit surrealist maybe, "stream of consciousness". As you said Andreas.
Never heard of Greer before either. That could be related yes. Thanks for pointing it.
I noticed that Buk liked to "puzzled" his poems sometimes. Putting some clues, some details here and there and come back to it later on. I really like his way to build his stream.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
Over 1000 posts
I think that Purple answered your question quite well.
I would find it very difficult to translate Bukowski in French because he was a master at telling something complicated in just a few words and an equivalent is not always there to be used without changing the sense in another language. He made up some word combinations that were perfectly abstract but yet perfectly clear.
His poetry has a lot to do with rythm, an understanding of his lingo and a love for the sound of it too.

Yes, it is doable but not always without adding an explanation. As mjp said, it shouldn't always be read word for word.
The meaning is in the feeling that it gives you.

if you have questions or want to discuss some of those lines, the best place is right here. Good luck!
I would like to have a look at what you have translated.
Bonne chance!
 
There is another line with some questions, first line of More or less, for julie :

on the Hammond or through the bomb-shadowed window,

Any clue about this kind of window ?
and the Hammond, is it the instrument ? I have seen that there is a river Hammond in Canada ...

(I have discussed it with Black Swan, but we are not sure about this one, thanks again Black Swan for your help).
 
Top