At d’Verse this Monday we were discussing translation and poetry.
My daughter Ellen’s favourite poem as a young teen was the translated version of Past One O Clock by Vladimir Mayakovsky and it has also become one of my favourites. Mayakovsky was a playwright as well as a poet, he often satirised aspects of “the state” and found himself in conflict with the authorities. He reportedly took his own life in 1930 aged 36 although there had always been some doubt cast over the timing and nature of his demise. Both he and Lilya Brik had affairs but even after the relationship ended they remained close.
I have no idea if it is a good translation but feel that it is most beautiful. Having lived in NZ I realise that often it is not possible to create perfect translations, so for example some phrases in Maori are more than just translatable words, a poem is a Taonga, which literally means a treasure or something that is highly valued, but the word Taonga is a much more accurate description it carries a sense of the sacrosanct.
Anyway I have to let you read the poem to understand its poignant beauty. It was left as part of his suicide note.
©Alison Jean Hankinson.
Past One O clock
Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.
With love to you all. XXXX
In 1984 at BRGS I was the editor of our School magazine “Squirrel”. I wrote a nihilistic editorial referring to Orwellian disaster, and the truth was the clock was sitting at three minutes to Midnight, something not to be taken lightly.
I suspect most of my friends in the same or similar age-group reflect back on what were perceived to be good times of the eighties despite its obvious flaws. The information age was just beginning to emerge and everything we did in the eighties was bigger and better than it had ever been before. The eighties gave us Top Gun wings and we flew, Gloria Gaynor and Sylvester Stallone made sure we would survive even if times were hard. I sent more than one failed relationship out the door in my pink legwarmers. I didn’t get swept off my feet by some Richard Gere, Officer type but I had fun trying. I am still convinced I owe a little bit of my own fortitude and resilience to Goldie Hawn’s performance in Private Benjamin and accepted my own quirks and foibles because of characters like Ally in the Breakfast Club.
Perhaps the ra-ra skirts and Club Tropicana were our own way of shaking off the pervasive doom that had settled on us throughout the previous decade, which had been punctuated by strikes, unrest, fuel shortages and the three day week. We had come together as a nation to celebrate the Silver Jubilee, to protect our territory in the Falklands and to see our magical Princess wed her Prince and yet still the Cold war raged and the doomsday clock ticked on.
The dystopian nightmare of the nuclear propaganda machine, the make-shift attempts at fall-out shelters for Panaorma documentaries and the secret world beneath our cities seemed to be a dark shadow of a murky past once Gorbachev came to power in 1985 as I moved away to University. The cold war was over and just after my 23rd birthday, the Berlin wall came down, to me the very symbol of the spies and lies and iron curtain and all that we had feared.
Have we now come full circle, is this the return of the nightmare that was. What time is it now Mr Wolf?
Link to the original Squirrel 1984.
There is only one video clip I can think off to celebrate/acknowledge both then and now:
Please forgive me for I do not normally enter the murky waters of the global political arena but this week has made me shudder to the core and I wonder if we can ever truly know the impact of these ripples across our world and I think that the words of Marcus Aurelius are important, sometimes these ripples can go beyond these moments of existence in which we find ourselves and impact forever on those future generations that have not yet even been born. I wonder when and how power is somehow more important than commons sense and responsibility.
The word rhetoric is bandied about across the airwaves by high stakes/high impact global media but the word rhetoric means something akin to- the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, and implies use of persuasive speaking and writing techniques. I hardly think that verbal spats via twitter can be classed as rhetoric when the persuasion comes from the immediacy and availability rather than the subtle and persuasive use of the actual spoken word. The words I have heard seem to be verging on aggression and antagonism and have been blunt and course. Perhaps this is a new form of rhetoric.
What happened to accountability and responsibility here? Are our global futures to be suspended in the wake of the ripples of power hungry egotistical leaders with no care for the long term global impact of the fall-out from this folly?
©Alison Jean Hankinson
The image is my own. It is Te Matau a Pohe bridge in Whangarei. Perhaps we are at a bridge. Fancy a game of Pooh sticks…see who wins?