Poetry > Wirndzerem

On Own Translation

by Gideon Barfee Wirndzerem


Wirndzerem takes on the task of translating his own poem; ‘Blood Game’, to French. (see notes below).


Blood Game (13/04/08)


Unbridled genius. The leash snaps at vulnerable points,

Frees the beast and shivers the streets of an inebriated world.


Crowds solicit bullfighters with prized trophies,

And let out roaring moos, a hankering for adrenaline


It flows and floods the arteries of the city

And fills into the ventricled cul de sac of a roman colossus:


In beast, in sapiens; it flows in veins, blows out nerves – all crimson.

It flows, it electrifies: it’s current: it charges furious like taurus.


Unleashed gifts. Later-day gladiators size up guts

On the necropolitan sands of the arena;


With sanguinary poise and posture of macabre arts,

They sketch death with a sword’s gleaming fang,


And court blood with the deft and vicious wave of a red and yellow rage…

There will be blood, one swears in the red promise of a red thrill:


A merciless scimitar gashes deep lesion through hide; the tribunes leap up,

Roused into loud delirious arias: the howling of animalistic holas!


The beast bleeds. With rage…that fevers our fervor

For the sport that spurts crimson sweat: hurt is our love –


Death, our passion. Intrigued and urged by the adrenaline of peril

We auction sundry brands of wounds to all past times.


Jeu du Sang (trans : author, 15/12/2011)


Génie débridé. La corde se casse aux points vulnérables,

Libère la bête, et tremble les ruelles d’un monde étourdi :


La foule réclame les toreros avec des trophées primés,

Hurlant le désir d’une quête bestiale d’adrénaline.



Elle coule et inonde les artères de la ville

Jusqu’au cul de sac ventriculé d’une Colosse romaine :


Chez les bêtes, chez les sapiens ; elle coule, elle saoule

Dans les veines, dans les nerfs – tout cramoisis.


Elle coule, elle électrise : c’est le courant :

Elle charge, l’énergie d’un taureau furieux.


Dons déchaînés. Et les gladiateurs des temps modernes

Se mesurent les crans sur le sable nécropolitain de l’arène.


Le port sanguinaire et la posture d’un art macabre,

Le crochet de leur sabre scintillant esquisse la mort,


Courtise le sang, aussi, avec l’agissement habile et vicieux

D’une rage rouge et jaune…


Il y aura du sang, jure-t-on dans la promesse rouge d’un frisson rouge.

Et la bête saigne. Avec une rage…qui enfièvre notre ferveur


Pour ce sport qui fait jaillir la sueur cramoisie :

Le mal, notre amour ; la mort, notre passion:


Intrigué et aiguillonné par l’adrénaline du péril,

Nous vendons aux enchères diverses marques des blessures à nos loisirs.


Notes: On Own Translation


There is this popular, and almost trite, lamentation about things lost in translation. It is a pertinent sentiment especially when translating from a language that one has not just an acute native, experiential and componential connection with; but also same when one translate from a source language to which has a deep sensitivity and emotional attachment to. And this is usually and naturally the language of the writer-translator’s finest mastery and one through which his or her ambient identity is most competently expressed. But then that’s for translating from native tongue to another tongue with a graph of diminishing competence and attachments. What about translating own work between foreign languages (say from English to French, as the case here is) where you are a native speaker of none? Will your attachments and passions (of loss and gain) remain same?



I had never translated my work from English to French before. I have written exams and administrative documents in French, but then these are very different kinds of discourses, that do not possess the nuance and subtleties of aesthetic compositions. I have written a few songs in French, but not translations. Then, the fact that these were written directly in the target language made the pieces to escape by some degrees the sophisticated labyrinths of linguistico-aesthetic transubstantiation, transliteration, transfiguration, etc that go with the translation of literary, especially poetic works, whose discourse can be densely tropological and idiomatic thereby rendering the task trickier.


So when I was humbled with this opportunity to translate myself for Sentinel Literary Quarterly, I immediately and diffidently confessed that I will do the rough work and get an il migglior fabbro to polish up the craft. This was, I significantly suspect, due to the original issues in basic linguistics that go with language acquisition and language learning. In present contextual, relative or comparative terms, I can say that I acquired English but learned French. As such translating from the English source to the French target becomes more exacting because the componential gradient drops on the target end. That fact instinctively fed my dread and diffidence. I circled the issue around poems in my upcoming collection and swooped down on action, staccato, bloodletting ecological piece, ‘Blood Game’. As soon as I got my dentition into the raw meat; I could resist the taste of it and the adrenaline of its blood. The translation revved on with bon enfant verve, fired by the serviceable availability of my computer dictionary. After the first draft of ‘Jeu du Sang’, I swore that for good or ill, I was dispensing with all intentions of contracting a better craftsman in translation. I will allow it stand as it with the honesty and passion of this new translative gauntlet. I am henceforth ready to dare any future English-French translation challenge with constructive confidence. It’s been worth the stab. GBW


Gideon Barfee Wirndzerem is a poet based in Cameron. He has a published collection, Birds of the Oracular Verb.

One response to “Poetry > Wirndzerem

  1. Wirndzerem G. Barfee

    Thx Sentinel 4terly & especially Tinashe for the fab job. Though i will crave your editorial indulgence to fix the following:
    1) “componential”, read as “competential”
    2) “I could resist the taste of it “, read as “I could not resist the taste of it”.
    More ink to your stylus for the great job.

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