A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to my literary translation class on the parallels between musical performance and translation (which I hope to write up as a blog post one of these days). I specifically focussed on the translation of poetry because, of all literary genres (other than theatre, I suppose), poetry is distinctive in that it really needs to be spoken aloud; in other words, performed.
I concluded my presentation by mentioning that writing poetry is a great way for translators (all writers, in fact) to hone their craft. The prof, not a poetry buff at all but eager to learn more about it, took up my call to arms (the pen, in this case) and "suggested" to the class that they all write a sonnet. There were many groans, and I think I may have made a few enemies, but I was happy for the excuse to put my poetry hat on again. Here's my effort, a first draft, really. It's a tribute to the wonderful musicians, and good friends, of Apollo's Fire, with whom I had the great pleasure of touring the Monteverdi Vespers last fall.
Evening Prayer on Green Mountain
We scale the green mountain this perfect day,
stand awestruck at its peak in black tailcoats,
long dresses. Like so many golden motes
adrift in the sky-vault, red echoes stray
in a sea of psalms. We sing to Mary, pray
that we can grasp the world—or just one note—
in our hands. To our children we devote
our lives, but they must always sail away.
Amidst all this, one person’s ecstasy:
I catch your eye across the altar—why speak
when words can only mean something when sung?
This is how we fabricate our legacy:
A tear for what we lost, for what we seek;
a smile for sharing music, nature’s tongue.