Literary Translation

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of “A Mean Abode” by Liu Yuxi

SEP 4th 2017







A Mean Abode

It is not how high the mountain, if there be spirits within fame follows. It is not how deep the water, if there be dragons within wonder follows. In this mean abode, only my self graces it. Traces of moss cover the steps green, grass shows green through the hung screen. The learned are here for talks and laughter, no unlettered folk come and go. I can play simple melodies, read the scriptures. No strings or flutes troubling the ear, no papers tiring body and soul. Here is as famous men of integrity passed simple lives in mean places far apart.*

So did Confucius ask, “ In what manner is this mean?”


  • Liu Yuxi (772–842)
*As Nanyang’s (Henan) Zhu Gelu and as distant Shu (Sichuan) in the West, Yangze’s pavilion.



Three poems by Ikuko Tanaka – translated by Miho Kinnas & Shelly Bryant

SEP 1st 2017











いま おさない象が群れからはぐれたのだ





ああ やっと


しかし 風は吹き荒れ雪を舞い上げ







だが 聞く耳ひとつあればいい

わたしは ふと自分の耳に触ってみる








Snow Time


The bare paddy field buried in deep snow is an unknown field

The wind of memory blows over the piled snow

The snow drifts

The snow slides

Some more snow falls, some more wind blows

And the drift is shaped into an elephant ear

Now a young elephant has strayed from the herd

For the stray elephant

the snowstorm slowly begins to draw his body

Some more snow falls, some more wind blows

Following the body the snowstorm outlines the trunk

Ahh- finally

a distress signal is sent out in a low voice

But the wind roughens and blows up the snow

the painstakingly stretched trunk is erased

the body is erased

only one ear is left

The wind blows, ho ho, from the river surface

in the valley twisting

and playing with the elephant

You know, though, one ear to listen is enough

I now touch my own ears

A countless number of ears are asleep

in the deepest place

The forgotten ears

For my stray ears

the snow storm begins to mold my ear

Thus some more snow falls

Thus some more wind blows





今夜、鶏が鳴く前にあなたは三度わたしを知らないと言うだろう マタイ二十六章





赤い花の芯にとらえられ つつぬけにのぞき込まれてしまう






二千年前の炭火が赤く燃え 裏切るもの死刑を望むもの




わたしが赤い花をのぞくと 男の涙がこぼれそうだった






それはわたしの声だった わたしはそこにもいたのだ


ぼんやりしていると 鶏が鳴いて男は外に出て激しく泣く






Caiaphas’ Courtyard


Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice Matthews 26


Out of the window of twilight

I gaze blankly at the camellia blossoms

There comes a day the camellia sees

through to the bottom of my heart

Caught by the core of the red blossom

through and through I am seen

Being led I stoop under the branches

and step into Caiaphas’ courtyard from the back gate

where he is said to be judged

The high priest Caiaphas’ courtyard is also

filled with camellia blossoms

I watch from the space between the leaves

He denied, saying, I know not what thou sayest

Two thousand year old charcoal burns deep

who betrays and wants death

a crowd of servants and maids gathered

And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man

A fish swims away from the far away heaving lake of Galilee

I look inside the burning

and see his tear about to overflow

Who left a stumbling stone, here?

For the third time I hear the voice, saying, I know not the man

Another maid said unto them that were there,

This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth

That was my voice;

I was there, too

Camellias, wrapped by the dusk, open their crimson petals

I am lost in thought; the cock crow, and the man goes outside,

cries out

Unnoticed, two thousand years have passed

Unchanged, something in the shape of a red flower

falls onto the ground passing on

Sins and weaknesses

I go to and from Caiaphas’ courtyard






かつて 父たちが植林し造林につとめた杉山に分け入っ

たことがある 天に垂直なその杉の木に絡みついたカズ

ラを切るのだ きつく巻きついた紐状のものを力ずくで

引っ張る 細い毛根がびりびりと剥がれる 引きながら

解きながら木の周りをぐるぐる回る 解くと締めつけら


わたしは 解いたカズラを束ねて 一つの輪に編んで行

く 最初の輪につぎつぎ絡ませ 縄目を作り隙間を埋め

ながら 偶然にゆだねてオブジェを作る 壁掛けを作っ

ていく 隙間には野の花と杉の実とカモガヤの野を飾る

と 朝と夕を加え小鳥も加えることになって ドライフ

ラワーの壁掛けとなる やがて乾いてくるとピソンの川

もユフラテの川も流れはじめる 浅瀬の葦の間にきのう

誘われた聡い蛇のことばを置く これがわたしの園であ

る それを玄関に飾る 誰にも気づかれない わたしだ

けのオブジェの中で わたしは いまだエバのままであ

り 出る時も入る時も 魂のありかをとわれつづけてい




(Miho Kinnas’s translation of an essay by Akira Kisa, Where Bibliobattles Are was published in Asian Literary Journal Cha in June, 2017.  More poems by Ikuko Tanaka in translation can be found at Poetry Kanto.)


Lian Hai Guang – Essay on Translating ‘Constellations’ by Todd Boss

MAY 26 2017


Todd Boss attends to how a poem happens. Hence, Motionpoems emphasise movement and kinaesthetic action. His work is also about facilitating meaningful encounters with art[1]. “Constellations” is no exception.

An emphatic voice gives chase to an elusive and energetic star, but only manages to catch a glimpse of it. An apostrophe, short but forceful.

The poem attempts to capture a sublime encounter with a single gesture, somewhere between the impermanence of a shooting star and the constancy of a constellation. An encounter so elusive and fleeting, we can only gesticulate about with language.

To translate this poem on its terms is to appreciate its inherently performative nature—a mimesis demonstrating the temporal nature of an aesthetic encounter. Something that can only be performed, but not fixed, with words. Something impossible without an intimate reading.

An adequate translator is foremost an adequate reader. Reading is more than just understanding the signification of words, but also how they dance and contribute to a dynamic whole. Imagery, form, rhythm and rhyme. These are some of the poetic elements that require breaking down and reconstruction in the target language. Reconstruction because there is no natural or necessary equivalence between languages and their respective cultures. Translation is reading is rewriting.

The original has a lot of style. We have on page, a river of words gushing with too much force. A voice breaks the surface, now and then, when it can; the tone imploring, and desperate. Words are ejaculated, spat in passion. These exclamations are followed by long dashes of silence—as the voice succumbs to the drag of undercurrent emotions precariously balanced between ecstasy and hysteria. The lines of the poem look like an afterimage, a blur of motion. Just like an encounter with the ephemeral.

The river of words flows east, and arrives at a place where they can drop vertically down. In Chinese, words can cascade and fall. Much like stars. They are also complete and whole on their own, not just an assembly of letters. They now hang better in the sky; this being one of the low-hanging fruits. I hang the words up like stars, and build a constellation. Joining them dot-to-dot, I trace their intractable paths in this alternate linguistic universe, probing for my reclusive rocket.

Reclusive rocket. How does one ignore the sweet sounds of alliteration? I took the bait. More than just a falling star, I add the sense of a lone ranger travelling through endless space. Alone. Aloof. I allow some words to break out from the safety of the constellation, with one that ends up alone. Empty. Drawing nothing.

I ask myself if this is too much, but decide no. After all, Boss writes for the displaced[2].



[1] Boss, T. (2016). Retrieved May 12, 2017, from
[2] Boss, T. (2009). Retrieved May 12, 2017, from


Lian Hai Guang – Translation of ‘Constellations’ by Todd Boss

MAY 22 2017

Lian Hai Guang is currently a postgraduate at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Masters of Translation and Interpretation (MTI) Program, located in Singapore. He can be reached at

– Todd Boss