Category Archives: Translations

Poet as Translator — James Wright (1927-1980)

Ohio born poet, James Wright, is someone whose poetry I stumbled across a few years ago. Last year he was also one of the poets I blogged about here during April, National Poetry Month (including in that blog copies of his poems “Just Before a Thunder Shower” and “A Blessing”).

It is believed that Wright’s childhood, where he witnessed poverty and struggle in the factory town where he was born and raised, made him sensitive to social and political concerns often reflected in his writing. Wright also displayed the ability to depict profound human issues and emotions, modeling his work after writers Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, whom he admired.

What is interesting is that Wright is known as well for his translations (something I did not know until very recently) of German, Norwegian and Spanish poetry, to name a few. Here are two poems – one by Spanish poet, Juan Ramon Jimenez (1881-1958), and the other a Norweigan poem from circa 1000 whose writer is anonymous.

The Dawn Brings With It (from Eternidades by Juan Ramon Jimenez)

The dawn brings with it
that sadness of arriving, by train,
at a station that is not one’s own.
How disagreeable, those rumblings
of a new day that one knows cannot last long —
—Oh my life! —
Overhead, as the day breaks, a child is crying.

–James Wright

Two Spring Charms (fragments from the Norwegian)

Now it is late winter.

Years ago,
I walked through a spring wind
Bending green wheat
In a field near Trondhjem.

Black snow,
Like a strange sea creature,
Draws back into itself,
Restoring grass to earth.

–James Wright