A translator aspires to make cultures meet by bringing words - with all their shades and tones - in contact two at a time to blend and join the nuanced meanings of those words. Promoting this change of state involves some skill, art, and plain sleight-of-hand. I am lucky - the harmony and liveliness of Italian mingle well with the inventiveness and crackling beauties of English. But making meaning flow (like jazz, like electric current) calls for experimentation. The translation grant from the NEA gives me freedom to spend time experimenting with word choices to make Giovanni Raboni's incisive Italian poems poetic in a second language.
Ogni Terzo Pensiero, p 59, by Giovanni Raboni
translated by Donald Gecewicz
Adesso non è più dai rigattieri,
è da qualche antiquario che potrei
comprarmi l'infanzia, riavere i miei
feticci di fulgida latta ieri
derelitti, oggi preziosi, stranieri
venuti da un tempo in cui tu che sei
la mia vita eri ancora in mente dei
e che forse per questo ami. O c'eri
forse anche tu, invisibile, e nell'aria
ulcerata ti credevo magari
la famosa sorellina mai nata,
l'attonita infanta dei calendari
illustrati, muta depositaria
del bene, mite bellezza insidiata?
No longer from second-hand dealers
now it is from antiquaries that I
would purchase my childhood, to have my
fetishes made of shining tin once more,
abandoned yesterday, precious today, strangers
returning from a time when you who are my
life were still in the mind of God and I
perhaps for that reason love you. Or
perhaps you were also there, invisibly,
and in the ulcerated air, did I possibly
believe you the famous little sister never
born, the dumfounded infanta of calendars
with illustrations, the mute repository
of good, the gentle, threatened beauty?
Donald Gecewicz works as a writer, editor, and translator. His new play, Night Battles, premieres on 22 April 2001 at Live Bait Theater in Chicago. Inspired by the discoveries of historians Carlo Ginzburg and Franco Nardon, Night Battles tells the stories of peasant mystics and includes new translations of religious poetry by Jacopone da Todi and Saint Francis of Assisi. In January 2001, he was awarded a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts to support his translation of the work of contemporary Italian poet Giovanni Raboni. His translation and adaptation of Colette's Chéri, which premiered at Live Bait Theater in March 1999, was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson citation. His translations of Italian poets appeared in International Poetry Review (vol. 23, no. 2), for which he served as guest editor. An essay on Rome's eternal allure, "Indirections to Rome," appears in Travelers' Tales Italy. Don has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago. He has been a writer-resident at the Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, and at the Château de Lesvault in Burgundy, France.