INCONVENIENT – A Poem by Humberto Costantini


Translating requires different things, depending on the text. I translate a lot of technical documents, which requires research and an understanding of the subject. Poetry is an entirely different beast. You have get into the person’s head, match their tone and style in another language which will likely not have a direct equivalent for many words and phrases. It’s entirely fun, so here is a poem by Argentinean author Humberto Costantini. More information on him here in Spanish. The original Spanish poem follows.


Written by Humberto Costantini
Translated by Sharlene Newman

I am not going to say that I was in the best possible world
but at least I had an archive
with all of its moons perfectly sorted,
the primrose folded four ways in the center drawer
here and there absurdities rest
off to the side of the bureau.

I do not claim to have been in the best possible world
but at least three or four friends delighted in my wine,
and three or four lovers delighted in my bed,
and my publisher truly believed in my novel,
and at a quarter to six
the timid ghosts quietly returned to chat with me.

I will not say that I was in the best of all possible worlds
but my future went on for at least a week out
wherein one could foresee one hundred and twenty lines written,
at least one insignificant inebriation,
as well as five minutes of daily exercise.

I was not, I will admit, in the best world possible
but generally things were reasonably clear;
fireflies did not hang from the roof as they do now,
nor did trains keep a wakeful vigil until dawn,
nor did September arrive declaring its presence
the wind did not show up in order to laugh to death at my face.

I do not wish to say that I was in the best of possible worlds
but this giant, trembling moon,
this unusual smitten moon,
this terrible red stop light of a moon,
this moon made of insomnia and small verses…
how maddening Lord,
how barbaric.


Escrito por Humberto Costantini
Traducido por Sharlene Newman

Yo no voy a decir que estaba en el mejor de los mundos
pero al menos tenía un bibliorato
con todas las lunas perfectamente clasificadas,
la primavera plegada en cuatro en el cajón del medio
y alguno que otro disparate
a un costadito del bargueño.

Yo no digo que estaba en el mejor de los mundos
pero tres o cuatro amigos apreciaban mi vino,
y tres o cuatro amantes apreciaban mi cama,
y mi editor creía firmemente en la novela,
y a las seis menos cuarto
dócilmente volvían a platicar conmigo los fantasmas.

Yo no diré que estaba en el mejor de los mundos
pero tenía un futuro hasta de una semana
donde estaban previstos ciento veinte renglones,
alguna intrascendente borrachera,
y hasta los cinco minutos diarios de gimnasia.

Yo no estaba, lo admito, en el mejor de los mundos
pero en general las cosas eran juiciosamente claras;
no colgaban luciérnagas del techo como ahora,
ni velaban los trenes hasta la madrugada,
ni septiembre llegaba con nombre y apellido
ni el viento venía para morirse de risa de mi cara.

Yo no quiero decir que estaba en el major de los mundos
pero esta enorme luna estremecida,
esta insólita luna enamorada,
esta terrible luna rojo stop de semáforo,
esta luna de insomnios y versitos…
qué trastorno Señor,
qué cosa bárbara.


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