Tag Archives: translation

Langa, for the first time

October 1994 was the first time I had a glimpse of Langa. From the air, as the domestic plane which brought me from Johannesburg descended toward Cape Town International, Langa looked like a massive quilt with uneven stitching.

Each time I leave and return to Cape Town I would see that imposing landscape. Yet I never set foot there, not until last Thursday, 17 May 2018. I drove to Langa for an event organised by the Jacana Literary Foundation to meet with local aspiring poets. It was a hastily put together affair, and despite the initial awkwardness it turned out into an eye-opening impromptu performance/sharing/workshop with all participants ending up laughing together as though we’d known each other for years.

Fellow poets Moses Seletisha (First Prize winner of the 2017 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award) and Rabbie Serumula were also there to share their thoughts and amazing words.

I read two poems by other poets and then one of my own (one of the three that was included in The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology VII).

Today I’ll share the one called “Lament for a Dead Cow” which I discovered by accident in the anthology Sunburst.

Kung Bubuuin, May Darating (haha… kung alam mo ang pinagmulan niyan, ngingiti o ngingiwi ka ba?)

Mahirap panatilihing buhay ang wika kung ikaw lamang ang tanging bumibigkas nito sa iyong kinalalagyan. Hinahagilap ng isip ang bawat hakbang ng salita, hindi madaling magtatakbo kung saan pumapanig-panig at kumakampay ang imahinasyon. Kaya nga dumadalang ang aking pagsusulat ng mga tula sa Filipino. Balak kong gisingin muli ito sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalin. Ang una ko sanang proyekto – idedeklara na kahit hindi tiyak kung mabibigyang-pansin agad – ay ang pagsasalin ng mga piling akda ko mula sa Inggles/Ingles (alin ba ang higit na popular na baybay?). Ito sana ang pamagat:

KaLaman at DayuHan: mga saling-sarili.

KaLaman at DayuHanNgayong taon ilalabas ang una kong aklat ng mga maikling kuwento (SANGA SA BASANG LUPA) sa wikang kinagisnan. Gayong matagal nang nailatag sa papel ang mga salitang naipon bilang mga kuwento, ngayon lamang sila sabay-sabay na hahakbang sa mas malawak na daigdig. Pangamba kong matindi ang kanilang kahihinatnan. Magiging mabuti kaya ang kanilang paglalakbay? Paano kaya sila tatanggapin ng mga mambabasa? Sino kaya ang aampon sa kanila? Ilulunsad sila kasabay ng aking ikapitong aklat ng mga tula (A THOUSAND EYES) sa mga susunod na buwan. Sana, o sana, pagbuksan sila ng pinto, o kahit man lamang ng bintana. Lagi, kakambal ng “sana” ang “pag-asa.”

(ROUGH TRANSLATION: I’m worried I am losing my ability to write in my mother tongue so I am embarking on translating my selected poems from English to Filipino, even as two new books are due to be launched this year – SANGA SA BASANG LUPA (my first collection of short stories in Filipino) and A THOUSAND EYES (my seventh book of poetry). I hope to have an online launch of both books in Manila and a launch of the poetry books in English in Cape Town – if all goes as planned (more “as hoped for”).

Am I a Puddle or a Pebble? Neither? (just a silly title haha)

I finished the initial translation of the first of three sections from my first book of poetry, Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992). It comes as a surprise to me that most of the poems still work – at least based on my own attempt at “pretending-to-be-reading-someone-else’s-work” – and that, translated into or from English, something new starts to quiver as if coming to life. There are a few from the original Filipino that just flounder in translation because the subject matter itself demands a particular knowledge of (dated) local popular culture.
Although I do this work on the side, I do have my own deadline to meet. I need to complete this work so I can get on with writing new poetry, and perhaps get back to attempting essays and stories which, in my experience, take more time and effort.
After I finish translating and editing the text, I intend to find a publisher or, failing that, put it out as an ebook on my own.  I am declaring this to the world in case some good soul urges me to persevere, or even offers me a door. It does seem like a long and lonely road, otherwise.
A pebble that never gets thrown will never cause a ripple. hahahaha. A terrible inverse (or some other term perhaps?) of a poem by one of my heroes, Emmanuel Lacaba, called. . . ready for this? . . .


In puddles and rivers
Pebbles hit bull’s-eyes
Before targets are drawn.

The Thief of Ideas

Translation has become a good way for me to cross between two types of consciousness – as one way of saying it. My Filipino roots and other influences come together when I write, but more so when I translate. Translation has become more than a bridge. It is now like a village with no gates or guards, the borders are always expanding if there are any at all: many ideas come together.

Translation has made me aware that what may seem easy to say in one language becomes a task in another. And often I find there are other ways of crossing the rushing waters – one can even leap. Of course sometimes one lands in a not so graceful way. There are always second, third attempts, or as many as it takes. Sometimes one has to choose another part of the river to cross, or find another river altogether. Hmmm mixing metaphors here now. haha.

Enough of that. I was getting more and more upset with the way a Senator from the Philippines has dragged the word “translation,” and, to my mind, is justifying the stealing of ideas.

This article will shed some light: PLAGIARISM COMPLAINTS VS SOTTO.

Here is an odd poem in two versions and two languages.



Each time his mouth opens, his dummy
falls to the ground. He wails
and protests. It is necessary
to speak to him in simple sentences.

Point out his errors and his heart
breaks like a cookie in a hand
in a jar. It won’t be long before
he trips on his own clumsy feet.

Don’t let him see you
laugh. He bites
like a dog.


version 2

Each time his mouth opens, his dummy
falls to the ground. His cries
sound like yelping hyenas. It is difficult
to reach him even with simple sentences.

Point out his errors and his heart
crumbles like a cookie in a grip.
It won’t be long before he trips
himself as if he had three legs.

Don’t let him see you
laugh. He gnashes
before he bites. Luckily
his teeth are falling out.



Tuwing bubuka ang kanyang bunganga, nalalaglag
ang kanyang dummy sa lupa. Umaatungal
at nagpoprotesta siya. Mahalagang kausapin
siyang gamit ang pinakasimpleng pangungusap.

Kung tukuyin mo ang kanyang pagkakamali
mabibiyak ang kanyang puso tulad ng biskwit
sa kamay sa loob ng garapon. Hindi magtatagal
bago siya matisod ng sariling mabubuway na paa.

Huwag hayaang makita ka niyang
tumatawa. Nangangagat siya
na parang aso.


version 2

Tuwing bubuka ang kanyang bunganga, nahuhulog
sa lupa ang kanyang dummy. Tunog hyena
ang kanyang palahaw. Kahit gumamit ng simpleng
pangungusap, mahirap pa rin siyang maabot.

Tukuyin ang kanyang mga pagkakamali
at madudurog ang kanyang puso, animo biskwit
sa kuyom na kamay. Hindi magtatagal bago patirin
niya ang sarili na tila may tatlong paa.

Huwag hayaang makita ka niyang
tumatawa. Magngingitngit siya
bago mangagat. Mabuti na lang
palagas na ang kanyang mga ngipin.


Resurrecting Words

I am in the process of translating my poems from two early books – Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992) and Salimbayan (with Argee Guevarra and Neal Imperial; Publikasyong Sipat, Manila 1994) – in the hopes that I can release a new edition as an ebook that will be bilingual, expanded, and slightly revised. I hope I won’t have to leave out some poems due to translation difficulties or space limitations. After this I plan to put together a selected poems manuscript initially intended for South African readers. I need friends to keep me focused on this. Any out there? (… there… there… there… — think of echoes in a dark cave)Image

I’m Being Petty, but it makes me happy! (TRANSITIONS Table of Contents)


I laugh at the drop of a hat. Or a hat staying on someone’s head when it should’ve been blown away by the wind. Or just a hat with or without a cat. Or the absence of a hat that used to make me laugh – well, a sad laugh then.
So this makes me ecstatic – seeing my name in the table of contents of Modern Poetry in Translation‘s latest issue, the last one to be edited by David and Helen Constantine, and the first one with incoming editor Sasha Dugdale.
I grabbed this image off the MPT website, so sorry for the low resolution. If you are able to buy a copy of the issue, please do. If you work for or are in touch with libraries – in the Philippines or wherever in the world – please request the staff to subscribe to MODERN POETRY IN TRANSLATION. It is an amazing publication. A bridge of words, ideas and worlds across time.
This is probably not my last post regarding Transitions. Wait til I get my copy from the post! 🙂

It’s Like the First Time Again

I’m stopping myself from rambling … just wanted to post this bit of news for now until my excitement settles down (less likely to say something stupid haha).

That amazing project started by Ted Hughes in the 60s is still going strong – Modern Poetry in Translation – and they are launching a new issue soon. I’m in it!!!!

‘Transitions’, is jointly edited by David and Helen Constantine and the poet and translator Sasha Dugdale, who will succeed them as Editor from 2013.


Thank you, David and Helen, for letting me in. Welcome to Sasha! Can’t wait to see the issue.

“Pet” / “Aso sa Tabi” featured on Modern Poetry in Translation website

My poem, “Pet” (Filipino original “Aso sa Tabi”) has been featured on the Modern Poetry in Translation website (UK). My copy of the issue arrived safely in the post recently and it looks amazing.

I translated four of my own poems and two from a good poet friend back home, Noel Romero del Prado.

CLICK HERE to get to the Modern Poetry in Translation website.

Mangangaso – subok-salin ng “Hunter” ni Bjork

mula sa Homogenic ni Bjork

Kung paghahanap ang paglalakbay
At natagpuan na ang tahanan

Hindi ako hihinto

Hahayo ako upang mangaso
Ako ang mangangaso
Mag-uuwi ako ng yaman
Ngunit ‘di ko alam kung kailan

Akala ko kay daling ilatag ang kalayaan
Ay, tunay akong Scandinavian
Nahulaan mo agad, ano?

Naamoy mo iyon
Kaya mag-isa akong iniwan
Upang wakasan ang pakay
Ngayon lilisanin ko ang lahat

Hahayo ako upang mangaso
Ako ang mangangaso

(Hindi mo lang ako kilala!)

(Hindi mo lang ako kilala)

from Homogenic by Bjork

If travel is searching
and home has been found

I’m not stopping

I’m going hunting
I’m the hunter
I’ll bring back the goods
but I don’t know when

I thought I could organise freedom
how Scandinavian of me
you sussed it out, didn’t you?

You could smell it
so you left me on my own
to complete the mission
now I’m leaving it all behind

I’m going hunting
I’m the hunter

(You just didn’t know me!)

(You just didn’t know me)

Alas dos ng madaling araw dito sa Cape Town, pasado alas siyete ng umaga sa lupang kinagisnan.  Hindi pa ako dinadapuan ng tulog.  Kakaibang-kakaiba ang pagdiriwang ng Bagong Taon dito.  Mas tahimik.  Madalas ang ingay ng kasiyahan ay kakambal ng di-mabilang na bote ng alak.  Hindi paputok ang kinatatakutan kundi ang mga lasing na nagpipilit magmaneho.

Pero hindi iyan ang gusto kong sabihin ngayon.  Tinapos ko ang pagsasalin na sinimulan ko noong isang linggo.  Hindi ko alam kung may ibang interesado bukod sa bagong kaibigang dumadalaw ngayon dito, pero sana magkapanahon akong buuin ang pagsasalin ng lahat ng mga akda ni Bjork – ang isa sa pinakamalaking impluwensya ko mula noong lumipat ako rito sa Timog Afrika.  Ang iba pang natagpuan kong mga bagong kakambal-kaluluwa ay sina Nina Simone, Daniel Lanois, Tom McRae, Arvo Part at Stephan Micus.  Hindi ko maipaliwanag kung bakit.

At muntik ko nang makalimutan.  MAPAYAPA AT MAPAGPALAYANG BAGONG TAON!  2011 na at ilalathala na ang aking dalawang bagong aklat!!!!

Lahat ay Puno ng Pag-ibig, subok-salin ng “All is Full of Love” ni Bjork

mula sa Homogenic ni Bjork — isang subok-salin

pagkakalooban ka ng pag-ibig
may kakalinga sa iyo
pagkakalooban ka ng pag-ibig
pagtiwalaan mo

baka hindi magbukal
sa iyong pinagbuhusan

baka hindi sa panig
kung saan ka nakatitig

lumingun-lingon ka
nakapaligid sa iyo
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
nakapaligid sa iyo

lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
hindi mo lamang tinatanggap
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
wala sa himlayan ang iyong telepono
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
pinid lamang ang iyong mga pinto

lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig

from Homogenic by Bjork

you’ll be given love
you’ll be taken care of
you’ll be given love
you have to trust it

maybe not from the sources
you have poured yours into

maybe not from the directions
you are staring at

twist your head around
it’s all around you
all is full of love
all around you

all is full of love
you just ain’t receiving
all is full of love
your phone is off the hook
all is full of love
your doors are all shut

all is full of love

Bjork may never know or care that I have tried a translation of her song, but here it is anyway, in the words I grew up with.