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Translation is an activity I keep separate from my own poetry. I translate to give English-speaking readers a sense of the original. This means subduing my own personality in an effort to preserve as much as I can of the original poet. I am unlikely to collect translations with my own poems partly because I translate with my wife, Viera. So I cannot claim that these translations are like my own poetry.

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MILA HAUGOVÁ born 1942


Alfa lives on. She sleeps less.
She hardly dreams. She loves much more.
She blooms in the wastefulness of autumn.
Her sight weakens.
She suffers a silent, deaf mating.
She is afraid.
A man in a circle of evil. Around his neck, blood.
Alfa conceals herself from him, the household serpent hides away.
Can one withstand evil only with evil?

Alfa steps out over the world precipice.
Her brow is furrowed. Her hands are devoted
to movement; she dresses wounds, buries
the dead, comforts abandoned children,
cultivates healing herbs in her garden,
plucks fruit, waters the parched earth,
wanders beneath the trees at night,

intercedes with the long dead.
Far from her the man is lost in a labyrinth of faces.
It's Sunday. Alfa draws breath, her hands folded
in her lap like thousands of women before.
She does not pray. What she sees and knows
is too much for God. She has to bear it alone.
She holds on to loneliness, the world, morning ...

From Scent of the Unseen Arc Publications: Visible Poets Series 2004

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IVAN LAUČÍK 1944 -2004


Let the snow speak out
in the needles of pine
what is again an embrace ...
Let there also be included news from sunlit nights!
Let the silence not forget us
As we do not forget a little flame
Left in a cave!

I write to you from a future void
Wedged already into this moment and from an uncertain
Place on the maps:
Here I invoke a windy night
So as not to extinguish our candles
If the stars of March must fizz out.

From Cranberry in Ice - Modrý Peter, Canada 2001

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JOZEF URBAN 1964-1998


We who don't blow our nose nicely
Offend polite company
And the routines of decent society

For not blowing our nose nicely
It is necessary to cancel us
From the list of folk who live decently
And to change good manners into laws
To exile us somewhere to an island
And there we'll blow our nose like robinsons

For not blowing our nose nicely
we must be deprived of our inventions
of making babies
planting birch trees
and our railway track systems
and be left there on an island
so we won't blow our nose in discussions
and slobber over company
who've come to gorge upon each other, nicely,
utterly to the limits of decency.

From Not Waiting for Miracles - Modrý Peter, Slovakia 1993

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