Michael Ray Burch: Translations from Japanese poets Kurihara Sadako and Takashi Tanemori

Nagasaki Japan_August 8th 2015_eve of the 70th anniversary of the Atom Bomb Fat Man dropped on the city killing 70,000 people

Nagasaki Japan_August 8th 2015_eve of the 70th anniversary of the Atom Bomb Fat Man dropped on the city killing 70,000 people

The U.S.A. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th, 1945. This was the final stage of the Second World War, taking place not in Europe but in Asia and the Pacific. The two August 1945 bombings killed approximately 129,000 people – the largest “single-day” killings in the entire history of human war; and they remain until the present day the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare. Tens of thousands died of radiation sickness in the months that followed – and the majority of the dead were civilians. On August 15th, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, and in early September of 1945 Japan signed an international document/treaty, bringing WWII to an end.

.     .     .

Kurihara Sadako (a Hiroshima Bomb survivor)
Let Us Be Midwives!
(translation from the Japanese by Michael R. Burch)
Midnight . . .
the basement of a shattered building . . .
atomic bomb survivors sniveling in the darkness . . .
not a single candle between them . . .
the odour of blood . . .
the stench of death . . .
the sickly-sweet smell of decaying humanity . . .
the groans . . .
the moans . . .
Out of all that, suddenly, miraculously, a voice:
“The baby’s coming!”
In the hellish basement, unexpectedly,
a young mother had gone into labour.
In the dark, lacking a single match, what to do?
Scrambling to her side,
forgetting their own suffering . . .
. . .
Kurihara Sadako
War Close Up
(translated from the Japanese by Michael R. Burch)
Stirring bugles! Rousing martial music!
The announcer reporting “victory”
like some messenger from on high,
fanning, fanning the fervoured flames of battle!
Masterful state magicians materializing
in a wizardly procession,
spreading cleverly poisoned words
to bewilder reason!
Artistic expression abracadabra’d into state-sponsored magic!

The sound of boots, guns, bombs, cannons
as our army advances, advances, advances toward the enemy!
The thunder of our invincible tanks advancing! Alleluia!
The sudden, sweet gurgles of drowning enemy ships!
The radio broadcasts the sounds of battle:
A war hymn resounding to the skies,
sung by courageous men and women
who worship this cruel idol, War.
Oh, so powerful the merest whiff
addles even the most independent spirit—
the opium of patriotism!
the religion of race!
While on scenic islands
scattered like stepping stones across the globe,
and on farflung continents,
driven by boundless avarice,
the landlords rage and rave again,
instilling hatred in indigenous populations
then prodding, driving them into battle.
Full of high-sounding pretexts
inevitably adapted to expediency
they raise indisputable banners—
God is on our side!
Righteous war!
Holy war!
“Right” becomes the password of thieves.
They square their shoulders:
“To secure world peace,
the evil opponent!”
They bark commands:
“For ten years, a hundred years,
fight to the last man, the last woman!”
The master magicians’ martial music
resounds magisterially;
fanatic bull-mad patriots
roar and run amok;
completely bewitched, the people carol in unison:
“O, let me die by the side of my sweet Sovereign!”
. . .
Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori
The Blade of Grass in a Dreamless Field
Only a few knew it existed;
No one knew its power;
The world would never be the same again,
Changing irrevocably and forever.
The six-hundred-year history of Hiroshima
Disappeared in the ashes,
On this Judgment Day, on this Morning!

Blameless souls forever vanish
on this morning, this judgment day.
Our silent cries, to heaven we appeal,
scattered like the ash of withered leaves.
Our ebbing souls
cling to that lonely sky;
we try in vain to escape this sea of flame.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my haven,
why has your life been sacrificed?

The abounding sadness within my heart . . .
drowning my loneliness in tears of self-pity.
Four abandoned children;
wishing to feel our mother’s love,
just once more;
if only in our dreams.
The heat of yet another long night lingers.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my home,
my tears run dry waiting for the breaking dawn.

My soul is torn—this rage inside,
an orphan of war;
why does this make me feel guilty?
Why do my neighbours turn away
or close their ears when I speak?
Bitterness poisons this innocent child,
I madly waste away.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my cradle,
I am waiting to die.

Gathering remnants of my courage,
I stand alone in this notorious America, land of the enemy.
An outcast with slanted eyes,
I fall before the indifference of strangers;
sightlessly, they trample upon my dignity.
This life of anguish seems to be my destiny.
Praying for death, I endure time.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my comfort,
I am lost in dreams of revenge.

Budding leaves renew this tired place, this tired soul;
gently the rain is embraced—your love,
comforting this savaged heart.
A blade of grass emerges from the ashes,
and my heart becomes a light,
connecting me to heaven.
Living for one another, this is my path!
Oh Hiroshima, forever my love,
may my life become a bridge from you and others.

At the dawn of the 21st century,
we honour this passage through darkness.
We must have the courage to enter
the void again . . . and again,
emerging with the gift of new life.
Healing only comes through learning to forgive
and making peace with our past.
Only then, will the wind whisper:
“Hibakusha, you have not lived in vain!”

. . .

Sadako Kurihara was present on August 6th, 1945 ,when the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was at that moment that her life was transformed from being a shopkeeper to becoming one of Japan’s most controversial poets. Her first major collection of poems, Black Eggs, published in 1946, was censored during the American Occupation because of her boldly addressing the horrors of the aftermath of the Bomb. The full volume of Black Eggs was not published until 1986. Over the years Kurihara has taken a stand on Japan’s aggressive rule in its Chinese occupation, the mistreatment of Koreans in Japan, plus the need for a world-wide ban on nuclear weapons. She was born in 1913 and died in 2005.
. . .

Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori (born 1938) is a “hibakusha“, and an Atomic Bomb survivor. After the bombing, he went from being the treasured Number One Son to being an Oyanashigo or “street urchin”. As he tried to survive after the loss of his parents, he became a “rat”, searching waste sites and garbage cans for food, just to stay alive in the rubble of post-war Japan. He fought constantly against a traditional society that showed no mercy to a “fatherless” child, and was ostracized by his fellow Japanese. Takashi’s life has been controlled by the emotion of Revenge, and he has lashed out at people for their icy unwillingness to help him. He emigrated to the United States in 1956, and, though he initially experienced prejudice and rejection, he has journeyed his way toward a vision of Hope.
. . .

Michael Ray Burch (born 1958) is an American poet and peace activist who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He has translated the poems of Basho, Brecht, Allama Iqbal, Ono no Komachi, Miklós Radnóti, and Rainer Maria Rilke, among others.
. . . . .

Festival Kompa Zouk Ontario 2015 – et poèmes par les haïtiens Joelle Constant, Emanyel Ejen, Suze Baron, Dominik Batravil, etc.


Une famille congolaise qui habite á Toronto...prête pour Le Festival Kompa Zouk Ontario 2015_02 août 2015

Une famille congolaise qui habite á Toronto…prête pour Le Festival Kompa Zouk Ontario 2015_02 août 2015

Translations from Creole (Kréyòl) into English by Merete Mueller:

Dominik Batravil
Depi  lapli
Pa  vini  ak  van
Siyati  chovsouri
Chaje  mi  prizon
As long as rain
marks no wind
signatures of bats
burden prison walls
. . .
Woudof Mile
Yo Ti Fanm Sezan Ki Kanpe
On ti fanm sezan
ki kanpe
kwen gran ri ak ri demirak
a onze diswa
lan yon to wob fatigue
On ti fanm sezan
ki kanpe kon yon I
anba on galeri
Li pa p’tann pesonn moun
Selman lakay li
manman-l grangou
prêt pou mouri
lit pito ret kanpe la
gwo onze diswa
lan fredi anba yon galeri
sou gran ri.
Sixteen year old girl
corner of Miracle and Main
at eleven p.m.
in a faded dress
A sixteen year old girl
stands alone
under the arcade
Not waiting for the bus
Not waiting for anybody
at home her
starving mother is
about to die
But she’d rather be standing
here with the eleven
p.m. crowd in the cold
on Main Street.

.     .     .
Suze Baron
Yo di
san kretyen
Si sete vre
Si sete vret
ala diri
ak mayi
ki ta genyen
la peyi

They say
human blood
If that were true
If that were true
my friends
how rice
and corn
would thrive
. . .
Lenour Suprice
TI BO LANMOU                                                         LITTLE LOVE KISS
(Pou A-F.L.)                                                                        (For A-F.L.)
Soley kouchan                                                             Sunlight reclines
Ti bouch ou                                                                  your little mouth
K’ap pentire                                                                 paints my eyes with
Syel grenn je-m                                                           flecks of sky
Fe dan-m siret siret                                                    My sweet mango tender
Nan dan-w                                                                   between your teeth
Fe dan-w siret siret                                                    Your sweet mango tender
Nan dan-m                                                                   between mine
Fe mwen domi                                                             I fall asleep
Nan bra-w                                                                     in your arms
Fe ou domi                                                                    You fall asleep
Anba-m                                                                          down below me
.     .     .

Merete Mueller:

Creole Poetry from Haiti:
These are poems that I translated as part of a poetry project in 2005, as a student at Naropa University.
Despite not speaking the Creole language, I was inspired to explore the poetry of Haiti by my dear friend, Dominique, who is Haitian and also a writer. I first began reading Haitian poetry in an attempt to learn about the culture of a person whom I admire and care for, and ended up realizing how little I knew about the history of Haiti, despite my own country’s (U.S.A.) influence on its ups and downs.
I made a conscious choice to translate poetry originally written in Creole, rather than French, because Creole has long been the language of Haiti’s dis-empowered majority—less than 10% of the country can read and speak French, despite the fact that it was the country’s official language until 1961. For many writers in Haiti and in the Haitian diaspora, to write in Creole is a political statement, a conscious effort to include all Haitians, and not just an educated élite.
As I dug into the Creole language, word by word, I discovered for the first time that a language is actually a worldview.
Syntax and vocabulary are not only tools for communication, but for organizing and understanding the world that surrounds us. The moment that I really understood this was when I looked up the word “poverty” in my Creole-English dictionary and found that it was also the used to describe a “hollow tin can.” The power of this image is breathtaking, and one that belongs solely to Creole.
I decided to dig up these poems and share them online when I read an email from Dominique…She wrote that amidst the heartbreak of seeing the country that she loves so much in devastation (the 2010 earthquake), and her worry for family members still living there, she had been focusing on the beauty of the country, its history and culture:
“The most beautiful sight I remember ever seeing was in Haiti. And people associate Haiti with ugly, but I see beauty in its complicated history. I see beauty in what I know of Haiti, not what people think they know or read.” I believe that it is important for us to send our appreciation to the people of Haiti, for their accomplishments and artistic vitality, as well as our aid during difficult times. Let’s remember that it’s a country of life, and not just devastation.”
.     .     .

Les Phantoms avec King Kino_Harbourfront, Toronto_02 août 2015

Les Phantoms avec King Kino_Harbourfront, Toronto_02 août 2015

Chanteurs haïtiens du grand spectacle du groupe Les Phantoms_Festival Kompa Zouk Ontario 2015

Chanteurs haïtiens du grand spectacle du groupe Les Phantoms_Festival Kompa Zouk Ontario 2015

La joyeuse foule durant le spectacle-musicale “zouk” à Harbourfront, Toronto_02 août 2015

La joyeuse foule durant le spectacle-musicale “zouk” à Harbourfront, Toronto_02 août 2015

Pwezi Wongol
Pou Ayida
Gendele m’rete
M’gade-ou Ayida
Loloj-mwen vire
Tet-ou gridap se vre
Men lannuit genle
Domi nan cheve-ou
Ayida o!
Soley galonnen
Nan tout plenn lakay
Timounn-yo manje grangou
Vant deboutonnen
Poban lannuit
Tonbe sou fey lavi
Lalin-nan tounen biva
Men nwase-a pews konpe!
Ayida o!
Kile jou-a va sevre?
Zonbi sige l’ale
Zetwal file tonbe
Zwazo leve chante
Nan veye kay Ayida
Zekle file pase
Zam rale tire
Zanset leve kanpe
Deblozay pete kay Ayida
Sometimes I stop
I look at you Ayida
My head spins
Your hair may be kinky
but the night rests
in its tangles
Ayida o!
sunlight pours onto
each pity of our home
Children feasting on hunger
bellies unscrewed
Night fills a jar
collapses into life, paper thin
daydreams become blotters but
man, darkness is thick
Ayida o!
When will daylight attack?
Zombies struggle to die
Stars streak, fall
Birds wake, sing
Watch over the house, Ayida
Lightning shoots through
weapons drawn
Ancestors rise erect
Riots shake the house, Ayida
Youn zetwal file tonbe
Fann fonten tet-mwen
Youn loray gwonde tonbe
Nan mitan zantray-mwen
Tidife boule kale nan ke-m tou wouj
Ou met koupe-m
Rache-m jete-m
Ou met boule-m
Fe chabon ak mwen
Zwazo p’ap sispann
Fe nich nan rasin-mwen
Lespwa p’ap bouke
Fleri nan ke-m
Mwen se samba
Rasin-mwen pa gen tobout
Star sharpens and falls
splits my forehead
temple to temple
Lightning burns
within my gut
Flames hatch in
my pounding heart
You can cut me off
uproot me, toss me away
You can burn me
into charcoal
Birds won’t quit
nesting in my roots
Hope doesn’t wither
but blossoms in me
I am a poet
my roots grow thick
Le youn fledize blese
A dize tapan
Li mouri tetanus
Pa gen anyen nan sa
Le youn choublak senyen
San ko-l benyen ko-l
Wanganeges rele
Sa pa di anyen
Men le youn pye flanbwayan
Fe emoraji
Tout zwazo vole gage
Nan ekziltik y’al chante
Lot bo dlo y’al kriye
Lapenn sa k’rete deye
Van pote nouvel
Nouvel gaye
Zorey Ayida Konen
Li pa tande anyen

When a ten o’clock flower is wounded
at ten o’clock sharp
It dies of tetanus
Nothing gained
When one hibiscus bleeds, its
body bathed in its own blood
hummingbirds cry out
but say nothing
Here, when one poinciania bush
hemorrhages, all the birds
scratch to leave the cockfight
In exile their singing fades
Across the water their weeping fades
Sorrow for those left behind
Wind brings and
scatters the news
Ayida’s ears ring
She hears nothing
Chak gout lannuit ki koule
Se youn tas kafe anme nan ke-nou
Nan je-nou lawouze koule
Detenn kouch poud
Nan machwa douvanjou
Malfini gagannen jou
Beke soley nan grenn je
Limye bite twa fwa
Anvan li trepase gran jounen
Tout kat libete-nou anba kod
Rev-nou mezire nan timamit
Silans-nou fele
Pasyans-nou kankannen sou nou
Men oumenm ki mezire node
Ki lonnen jipon-ou
Nan kat pwendino
Ki peze lanme nan balans-ou
Loray pete twa fwa nan patmen-ou
Le van kase kod
Ki mounn ki va koupe jaret-li
Le lanme souke jipon-l
Ki mounn ki va di-l san lizay
Le loray va bat kalinda-a
Ki mounn ki va leve danse
Each drop that sinks through the night
Is a cup of bitter coffee in our stomachs
Dew trickles from our eyes
streaks the gunpowder
that coats the jaws of dawn
Hawk strangles daylight
Pecks sunlight into pieces
Light flickers three times
Before the whole day dies
All four freedoms under arrest
Our dreams held in tin cans
Our silence breaks
Patience blisters among us
You watch for the storm
measuring out your hem
to the four directions
You weigh the ocean on scales
Thunder cracks three times in your palm
When wind breaks the law
Whose blade will gash its haunches?
When the ocean shakes its underskirt
Who will say it has no breeding?
When thunder comes beating the kalinda
Who will rise to dance?

.     .     .

Merete Mueller’s
Notes on “Wongol Poem”:
The Wongol is a form of poetry developed in Haiti during the 1960s.  Traditionally a poem of two to six lines, the Wongol conveys a brief message expressing deep discontent against the status-quo.  Wongols were meant to inspire dissent towards the government.
The Kalinda were the nocturnal dances performed before the Haitian Revolution, probably to conceal the outlawed practices of Voudun ceremonies.
The Zombie is a constant theme in Haitian literature and poetry.  Jean Zombi, aiding in the execution of all remaining French settlers after the Haitian Revolution, forced men to strip naked before having their stomachs slit open.  In Voudun, the zombie is a dead person resurrected through sacred ritual.  After being resurrected, the body has no will of its own, remaining under the control of whomever performed the ritual.  Figuratively, the zombie has come to represent an easily manipulated, apathetic person with little awareness of his or her surroundings.
In Rasin-mwen pa gen tobout, the last line of Part II, gen, which I have translated as ‘grow’, can also be translated as ‘earn’.  Tobout, ‘thick’ or ‘tough’, also means “prison cell”.  While one meaning of the line is “My roots grow thick”, Ejen is also saying, “My origins earn me a prison cell”.
.     .     .
Emanyel Ejen (born Emmanuel Eugène, in 1946) – pseudonym Manno Ejen – was forced to leave Haiti, but chose to return in 1986, after the end of the Duvalier régime.  Upon returning, he co-founded the weekly Creole newspaper Libete (Freedom) in Port-au-Prince, where he currently lives and serves on the newspaper’s editorial board.

Né à Cuba en 1946 de parents haïtiens, Emmanuel Eugène vivait à Montréal pour plus de trente ans. Il est ouvrier et poète. Sa poésie engage le meilleur de nous-mêmes : l’enfance, l’amour, l’espoir.

.     .     .

Jeanie Bogart Jourdain
Je marche pieds nus
dans les ruelles de ton coeur
tous les sentiers
me mènent à toi
là, je retrouve
mon lever de soleil
mes jeux de cache-cache
parler sans cesse
continuer d’avancer
ce que nous réserve l’avenir
le froid pénètre mon cerveau
Père Noël m’a oubliée
j’essaie de tendre la main
au-delà des frontières
pour que nos doigts
puissent se toucher
jusqu’au tressaillement
je t’envoie mon coeur
tu m’envoies le tien
ils restent suspendus
en cours de route
gelés par le froid
d’Amérique du nord
un verre de rhum
comme je les aime
un petit coup fil
au milieu de la nuit
quelques mots qui me glacent
qui me brûlent
qui ressuscitent mes sens
ma passion
mes désirs
mes rêves
mes sensations
mes vilaines pensées
une si longue distance
condamné notre cœur
de côté l’amour

.     .     .
M ap mache pye atè
toutouni nan riyèl kè w
tout santye
mennen m yon sèl kote
de pla men w
se la m jwenn
solèy leve m
sere liben m
pale pale
mache bouske pi devan
sa demen sere pou nou
se mistè
mwa d desanm
gen yon fredi k antre
jouk nan sèvo m
tonton nwèl bliye m
m lonje menm tout longè
eseye fè l janbe fwontyè
wè si pwent dwèt nou
te ka touche
pase kouran
fè san n mache
mwen voye kè m ba ou
ou voye pa w ban mwen
yo ret kwoke nan wout
fredi lamerik dinò
fè yo tounen glas
yon vè wonm
jan m renmen l la
yon ti kout fil
nan mitan lanwit
de twa ti mo
ki fè m frèt fè m cho
ki reveye dènye sans mwen
pasyon mwen
anvi mwen
rèv mwen
sansasyon mwen
panse malelve mwen
yon distans lan mitan nou
kè nou kondane
lanmou fè jeretyen
.     .     .
Joelle Constant
Ton visage
Reflet de ta beauté intérieure
Ton expression
Témoin de ton cœur d’écrivain
Tes lèvres
Porte-parole de tes amours non avouées
Tes mains
Messagers infatigables de ta tendresse
Tes yeux
Porteurs de tes désirs inassouvis
Ton corps
Aimant attirant le pôle opposé
. . .
Joelle Constant
Ton Franc Sourire
Ton franc sourire
Une source d’émotions
Qui ne peut tarir
Une invitation
Chargée de désirs
La représentation
D’une histoire à écrire
Une poignée de chansons
Entonnées en délire
L’annonce d’une saison
Qui tarde à venir
Ton franc sourire
L’image de ton nom
Que je me plais à redire

. . .
Joelle Constant
Le poète
On ne touche pas un poète
Avec des mains d’acier
On ne parle pas à un poète
Avec des mots vulgaires
On ne regarde pas un poète
Avec des yeux méchants
On ne sent pas un poète
Juste parce qu’il est présent
On n’écoute pas un poète
Avec des oreilles distraites
On ne goûte pas un poète
Comme on goûte l’homme naturel
Un poète, on le traite
Avec délicatesse
Un poète, on le touche
Avec des doigts d’artiste
En interpelant son art
Un poète, on lui parle
Avec révérence
Comme à une divinité
Un poète, on le regarde
Avec les yeux d’un peintre
Car il peint aussi ses mots
Dans sa pensée
Un poète, on le sent
Même absent
Car son œuvre le tient présent
Un poète, on l’écoute
Même si son message
Nous déroute
Un poète, on le goûte
Tout en dégustant
La saveur de ses vers
Un poète, on l’élève
Parce qu’il transcende
Et parce qu’il est
Un poète.
. . . . .
. . . . .