Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dick Davis


 Dick Davis
Iran Twenty Years Ago

Each summer, working there, I’d set off for
The fabled cities – Esfahan, Kashan,
Or Ecbatana, where Hephaestion died,
The poets’ towns – Shiraz and Nayshapour,
Or sites now hardly more than villages
Lapped by the desert, Na’in or Ardestan . . .

Their names now mean a dusty backstreet somewhere
Empty and silent in the vivid sunlight,
A narrow way between the high mud walls –
The worn wood of the doors recessed in them
A talisman to conjure and withhold
The life and lives I never touched or knew.
Sometimes I’d hear a voice, a radio,
But mostly there was silence and my shadow
Until a turn would bring me back to people,
Thoroughfares and shops . . .

                                              Why is it this that stays,
Those empty afternoons that never led
To anything but seemed their own reward
And are more vivid in my memory
Than mosques, bazaars, companionship, and all
The myriad details of an eight year sojourn;
As if that no epiphany, precisely,
Were the epiphany?  As Hafez has it,
To know you must have gone along that way;
I know they changed my life forever but
I know too that I could not tell myself
– Much less another – what it was I saw,
Or learnt, or brought back from those aimless hours.

© Dick Davis; originally printed in The Hudson Review.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Dick Davis (1945- ): “The Translator’s Nightmare”
Born in Portsmouth, England, Dick Davis is one of the most brilliant and witty poets working in formal verse today.  For links to several of his other poems, including one of my favorites, “Iran, Twenty Years Ago,” click here

In addition to writing his own poetry, he is also the most prominent translator of Persian medieval verse, having translated the great Persian epic, the Shahnameh; an early version of the Tristan and Isolde legend from Persia called Vis and Ramin, and many other great works of Persian literature.  Davis now teaches at The Ohio State University.
It was while I was a graduate student there that he taught me much of what I know about translation, and it was in his class that I did one of my first translations, Hagiwara Sakutarō’s “The Town of Cats,” which was published several years later.  It was in large part thanks to him that I started down the path to becoming a translator.  I still owe an enormous debt of gratitude to him.
大学院生の頃、私はデービス先生の翻訳講座を取ったが、その講座で翻訳の理論と実践を初めて味わえた。振り返ってみると、その講座は翻訳家になる 切っ掛けだったというのは、決して大げさではない。その講座の期末プロジェクトのために、萩原朔太郎の「猫町」を翻訳して、数年後にその英訳を本の形で出 版した。十五年が経った今でも、デービス先生に心から感謝している。
In honor of National Poetry Month


1 comment:

Zohreh Khaleghi said...

Reading The prose-poem like writing of Dick Davis,one wonders how the other translators or orientalists are missing the point and trying to corrupt names of persons or places,while Mr Davis justifiably spells them as they are pronounced,such as:Esfahan or Hafez.It is pitiful that many Iranians also contribute to this confusion and write their own name wrong,due to being unfamiliar with transliteration.For example instead of MASUDمسعود
you see:massud,massood.masood,masod,etc...I am glad an insightful soul in his solitude came out with a formula was sincere to words and respect their existence and originality.--Dr.Faramarz Soleimani