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One of my Christmas gifts from my friend Cindy was Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, a book of poems by Pablo Neruda translated by Stephen Mitchell. Based on my preliminary reading of a few of my favorite Neruda poems in this volume, thumbs up.
Here’s a sample comparison of Mitchell’s translation with a popular translation of the poem, Ode to Ironing. See what you think.
Ode To Ironing
by Pablo Neruda
Poetry is white
it comes dripping out of the water
it gets wrinkled and piles up
We have to stretch out the skin of this planet
We have to iron the sea in its whiteness
The hands go on and on
and so things are made
the hands make the world every day
fire unites with steel
linen, canvas and calico come back
from combat in the laundry
and from the light a dove is born
purity comes back from the soap suds.
(Translated by Jodey Bateman)
Poetry is white:
it comes from the water covered with drops,
it wrinkles and piles up,
the skin of this planet must be stretched,
the sea of its whiteness must be ironed,
and the hands move and move,
the holy surfaces are smoothed out,
and that is how things are made:
hands make the world each day,
fire becomes one with steel,
linen, canvas, and cotton arrive
from the combat of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born:
chastity returns from the foam.
(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)
“Holy surfaces.” “The skin of this planet must be stretched/the sea of its whiteness must be ironed.” “Chastity returns from the foam.” Yes.