A Long Rainy Season

Looking at Women in Japanese Poetry & Short Stories

5.03.2006

A little bit of background

I thought it would be interesting to write a little bit about the translation of the book, A Long Rainy Season, since mood is so important in translations--and also is a main topic of discussion when we analyze stories.

It is amazing how such brief verses can be translated so many different ways. Here is a poem that is in the collection, as translated by the editors:

You,

bright as a tulip in bloom--
take me
away
in February.
--Machi Tawara


Translated directly from Japanese, it reads:

tulip flower / bloom like / brightness / you me / carry away February

Another translation reads entirely differently, but don't you think it keeps a similar "feel" or tone?

With the gaiety of tulips in bloom
carry me off--
February.


All of the versions are certainly different. The translators in the book made a point (as stated in the introduction) to really keep the tone and not attempt to force any syllable count, "...the English was not put into a strict syllable count, sicne we felt this would force the works into a straitjacket rhythm rather than allowing the inherent rhythms of the language to emerge."