Monday, December 30, 2013

A dream deferred - ஒத்தி வைத்த கனவொன்று

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode? - Langston Hughes

My translation
ஒத்தி வைத்த கனவொன்று என்னவாகும்?

வறண்டு விடுமா

வெயிலில் உலர்ந்த திராட்சை போல ?
இல்லை தீராப்புண்ணாய் அரிப்பெடுத்து -
பின் சீழ் வடியுமா?
நாளான மாமிசமாய் நாற்றமெடுக்குமா?
இல்லை கெட்டித்து இனிக்குமா
தேனில் ஊறிய மிட்டாய் போல ?

ஒருவேளை சும்மா கனத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கலாம்
சுமக்கவியலா பாரத்தைப் போல.

இல்லை வெடித்துச் சிதறிவிடுமா?

I read Langston Hughes' poem in Bala Jeyaraman's FB wall - while traveling in a crowded bus to Kancheepuram. There are times when the words just form themselves and you have that incredible urge to write them down immediately. This was one of those times. I keyed in my translation single handed in my mobile (while clutching the overhead bar to balance in the rickety bus) and posted in his comment box. Maybe it is the directness of the poem or the universality of its theme or my middle age - somehow the poem struck a chord with me.


Mohamed Ismail MZ said...

Good one. It made me think which dream I have deferred so far...

Anonymous said...

Since you are so committed to the vocation of translator, you may be interested in this talk/reading by Dick Davis.

Chenthil said...

Thanks Ismail. The poem does have that effect on middle aged people like us.

Anon -Translation isn't my vocation, I am a truck fleet operator :-). I hope I am that committed. Thanks anyway.

Anonymous said...

The poem does have that effect on middle aged people like us.

No.... well, maybe the ones who are oblivious to the context of the poem. It has nothing to do with "which dream I have deferred", it has to do with which dream African-Americans were denied by society.

Personally, I'd rather read your posts on trucks than about poetry, if there's to be voting on the topic.

Chenthil said...

Anon, when I first read the poem, I hadn't heard of Langston Hughes. I did a search and read about him. I understood the context in which he wrote it - African American rights, and if you want to further deconstruct, his homosexuality and not being able to come out of the closet.

However, a literary work can transcend what it's author meant to, right? Death of the author, Barthes and all that. So I interpret it the way I want it.

As to trucks vs poetry - no, there won't be a voting on that topic. Being a poetry translator, even a bumbling one, is my choice.

Anonymous said...

Taking a poem about African-American freedom and reading it as prompt for middle-aged navel-gazing is not "transcending," it's diminishing. And dragging in Barthes doesn't make me cringe any less.

As to trucks vs poetry - no, there won't be a voting on that topic.

I just received the ballot for voting on whether you can identify a joke. :-)

Chenthil said...

Anon - I still think it was about Hughe's homosexuality than African American freedom. Let us leave it at that. In my 10+ years on the net, I have learned that it is impossible to change any person's perception.

I try to write without the help of smileys, just to see whether I can get my joke across to the other person. Guess I failed badly this time.

Thanks for an involved discussion - anytime better than an indifferent "good work".

Anonymous said...

The point is not what you think or don't think, the point is what evidence you bring to bear.

The poem was written during the period of the Harlem riots, hence "explode". It was part of a "Montage of a Dream Deferred," which explored the suppression of black liberty in different voices. It is not a personal lyric poem, it's a public poem, and Hughes was largely a public poet.

It is also quite a famous poem, so there are mountains of secondary works on the context of its writing, its reception history et al. See for example: A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes.

Hughes rarely wrote about homosexuality, in comparison to voluminous poems on black liberation, and the "explode"-ing in gay rights happened about two decades later.

Now, if you're going to argue against all of this to say that Hughes inserted a coded lyric about his own closetedness (though see Rampersad's arguments against that) masquerading as a public lyric into the middle of Montage of a Dream Deferred that he knew everyone would read as being about black liberation, except for you who figured out his cunning plan, well where is the evidence?

You can "interpret the way you want", you can translate the way you want, you can insert words, ingore technique, pontificate on poets you first heard of yesterday, and I will say, my god, man, why must you commit such crimes against literature.

Chenthil said...

Anon - I surrender. I don't know as much as you do about Hughes and his poetry. I can google and bluff but the fact is I don't know about him except for this poem I found by chance.

I do not agree with strait-jacketing this poem to Harlem riots alone, but that is my opinion - no hard facts or proof.

Why do I commit such crimes against literature? I don't know and I hope I can find an answer to that.

Anonymous said...

Anon - I surrender. I don't know as much as you do about Hughes and his poetry.

Well, yes, but that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is that over and over again, you act like literature is something easy that you can type away at without doing any of the WORK necessary.

But it seems you are committed to your no standards, so I guess I just have to stop reading.

W 113th Street said...

The title of the poem is Harlem.

Anonymous said...

Chenthil, Sorry I was late to the part.

Anon, WTF Mr. Karuthu Kandasamy, the savior of all literature.