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Preservation of Metaphor in Translation: Analyzing the Chinese Poet Su Shi

By Yangfan Helynna Lin, VI Form 

Preservation of Metaphor in Translation: Analyzing the Chinese Poet Su Shi

“Bad translations communicate too much” (1). In After Babel, George Steiner points out that a bad translation strips the original text of something important by unnecessarily applying new elements to the original text. In English translations of Chinese poems, one type of bad translation attempts at over-explaining the metaphors, or metaphorical objects, in the poem, which puts readers at the risk of accessing less information that the metaphor otherwise would have presented to the reader- – that is, a fuller image that the poem originally presents.

Let’s compare the following two translations of the same poem: Nian Nu Jiao: Chi Bi Huai Gu by Chinese poet Su Shi (2). *Literally translated into “Nian Nu Jiao: At Chi Bi Cherishing the Past”, with which Nian Nu Jiao is the tune that the poem rhymes.

念奴娇(赤壁怀古) 苏轼

大江东去,浪淘尽、千古风流人物。故垒西边,人道是、三国周郎赤壁。乱石穿空,惊涛拍岸,卷起千堆雪。江山如画,一时多少豪杰。

遥想公瑾当年,小乔初嫁了,雄姿英发。羽扇纶巾,谈笑间、樯虏灰飞烟灭。故国神游,多情应笑我,早生华发。人生如梦,一尊还酹江月。 (more…)

On Spoken Word Poetry

By Grace Darko, VI Form

On Spoken Word Poetry

Before I start, here are some of my favorite spoken word pieces: one by Loyce Gayo and a few by Kanye West.

Spoken word poetry is the lovechild of rap and free verse. She definitely had an identity crisis and couldn’t decide whether she should speak in verse or in prose. But, it turns out her audience is multilingual, so she never really had to choose. She instead takes from both parents, honoring them by presenting the best of both worlds.

I was introduced to spoken word in my later years of elementary school. My brother had recordings of performances from the show called Def Poetry Jam, hosted by rapper Mos Def. Each episode of Def Poetry Jam was an oral anthology of poems with no particular order, and the show includes poetic performances from popular singers and rappers. It was amazing to hear some of the performances. Up until middle school, I never saw the video recordings because I only listened through my brother’s mp3 player. Yet, when I finally looked at the tape, the experience was even better than just the music. (more…)

Moral Obligation…in Hamlet & a Fetus

By Lulu Eastman, V Form

Moral Obligation…in Hamlet & a Fetus

Hamlet, a Shakespeare play, follows the tragic tale concerning a deeply troubled Danish prince of the same name. Hamlet is forced to confront his traitorous mother and uncle in order to avenge his murdered father, who, as a ghost, has requested Hamlet takes his uncle’s life in order to bring him justice. However, Hamlet is distressed by the thought of committing such a bloody deed. As he wavers through indecision regarding his proposed mission, he also struggles against the drowning weight of his depression, as the toxic environment of the palace causes him to lose faith in the goodness of people. In the novel, Nutshell, by Ian McEwan, the story of the fetus is based off of Hamlet. With the reflective fetus entangled in the plotting of his traitorous mother and uncle, he finds himself in a predicament similar to that of the Danish prince. Although he has yet to even experience life for his own, the fetus has already lost hope for the vitality and decency of humanity. Every moment of his being is spent listening to conversations that only reveal more and more of the villainous and duplicitous ways of his mother and uncle, Trudy and Claude. Both Hamlet and the fetus reach a point where they contemplate committing suicide, as it seems to be the only way to put an end to their pain. However, both decide to live instead. Though both Hamlet and the fetus have cynical views of the world, and both consider suicide, they continue living through their suffering because they have moral obligations, beliefs, and fears that bind them to life. (more…)

“I Simply Speak Best in Metaphors”–Creative Writing at SM

By Alex Colon, VI Form

“I Simply Speak Best in Metaphors”–Creative Writing at SM

Editor’s Note: The Rise of the Short Story and News That Stays News are VI Form elective courses that constitute a key part of St. Mark’s creative writing program.  In the fall, students examine the integral parts of a successful short story in order to craft their own. In the spring, students explore poetry, both originally in English and in translation.  In News That Stays News, students attempt to define poetry, experiment with form, and establish a personal voice.

Alex Colon’s short story, “Completely Undone,” was composed while using the second person pronoun (you) perspective as the driving force of the story.  This is a particularly difficult task, as one risks alienating the reader.  For Alex’s second piece here, a poem entitled “The Morning Inconspicuous,” the assignment was simply one of form: write a sestina.  However, a sestina is a very complex form of obsession, where the six words at the ends of the lines in the first stanza are repeatedly woven, in a given order, throughout the poem.

Completely Undone

Your heart beats slow- abnormally slow. You are healthy and lean, but your heart is beating along like you are on your deathbed. You must have been in love at some point because there is no other reason why your heart should beat so slow. Your feet struggle to pick themselves up. With every step you are putting yourself in danger. (more…)

Seamus Heaney: The Pen and The Spade

By Logan King, IV Form

Seamus Heaney: The Pen and The Spade

“The Forge” by Seamus Heaney expands upon the theme of strength that he first established in his poem, “Digging.” However, instead of exploring the similarities between using a pen and a spade like in the latter, in “The Forge”, Heaney examines the craftsmanship and beauty a blacksmith uses despite the force required to do his job. The bluntness of the short words used contrast with their meaning to create the image of a tough, rhythmic job that creates art. He does this similarly in “Digging,” where his word choice creates a non stereotypical image of farmwork, all underscored with the rhythmic act of digging. Linking both poems is not only the sense of wonder and appreciation the author holds for the two jobs, but also regret, because he can only recognize instead of participate in the art of their work. (more…)

U.S. Historical “I am” Poems

By Samantha Sarafin, John Hart, George Littlefield, and Ginny Walsh, V Form

U.S. Historical “I am” Poems

Each of our United States History courses revolves around eight major themes prevalent throughout history. One of those themes is the question of “Who is an American” at any given time in the nation’s history. In keeping with our work and also trying to connect what we do inside our classroom to the broader St. Mark’s community and world at large, each class took their Community and Equity Day “I am” poems and looked at them from a historical angle. Each student was asked to look at an “I am” poem from the perspective of a figure from history. Some students were asked to be someone as specific as Alexander Hamilton, while others were (more…)