Poetry in Translation from English to Italian

Jo Shapcott, Poems/Poesie. Translated by the Monteverdelegge Workshop of Poetry Translation

About the Author

Jo Shapcott was born and continues to live in London. Twice winner of the National Poetry Competition, she has published seven collections with Faber including Her Book: Poems 1988-1998 which selects from three earlier volumes: Electroplating the Baby (1988), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998), which won the Forward Poetry Prize. Tender Taxes. Versions of Rilke’s French Poems (2010) is a translation work. Her most recent collection Of Mutability (2010) won the Costa Book Award and in 2011 she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

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I Tell the Bees

He left for good in the early hours with just

one book, held tight in his left hand:

The Cyclopedia of Everything Pertaining

to the Care of the Honey-Bee; Bees, Hives,

Honey, Implements, Honey-Plants, Etc.

And I begrudged him every single et cetera,

every honey-strainer and cucumber blossom,

every bee-wing and flown year and dead eye.

I went outside when the sun rose, whistling

to call out them as I walked towards the hive.

I pressed my cheek against the wood, opened

my synapses to bee hum, I could smell bee hum.

‘It’s over, honies,’ I whispered, ‘and now you’re mine.’

 

The Threshold

I waited all day for tears and wanted them, but

there weren’t tears. I touched my lashes and

the eyewater was not water but wing and fur

and I was weeping bees. Bees on my face,

in my hair. Bees walking in and out of my

ears. Workers landed on my tongue

and danced their bee dance as their sisters

crowded round for the knowledge. I learned

the language too, those zig-zags, runs and circles,

the whole damned waggle dance catalogue.

So nuanced it is, the geography of nectar,

the astronomy of pollen. Believe me,

through my mouth dusted yellow

with their pollen, I spoke bees, I breathed bees.

 

The Hive

The colony grew in my body all that summer.

The gaps between my bones filled

with honeycomb and my chest

vibrated and hummed. I knew

the brood was healthy, because

the pheromones sang through the hive

and the queen laid a good

two thousand eggs a day.

I smelled of bee bread and royal jelly,

my nails shone with propolis.

I spent my days freeing bees from my hair,

and planting clover and bee sage and

woundwort and teasel and borage.

I was a queendom unto myself.

 

Going About with the Bees

I walked to the city carrying the hive inside me.

The bees resonated my ribs: by now

my mouth was wax, my mouth was honey.

Passers-by with briefcases and laptops

stared as bees flew out of my eyes and ears.

As I stepped into the bank the hum

increased in my chest and I could tell the bees

meant business. The workers flew out

into the cool hall, rested on marble counters,

waved their antennae over paper and leather.

‘Lord direct us.’ I murmured, then felt

the queen turn somewhere near my heart,

and we all watched, two eyes and five eyes,

we all watched the money dissolve like wax.

 

CCD

My body broke when the bees left,

became a thing of bones

and spaces and stretched skin.

I’d barely noticed

the time of wing twitch

and pheromone mismatch

and brood sealed in with wax.

The honeycomb they

left behind dissolved

into blood and water.

Now I smell of sweat and breath

and I think my body cells

may have turned hexagonal,

though the bees are long gone.

From Six Bee Poems, Poetry Review (vol. 101:1, Spring 2011)

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Lo dico alle api

Se ne andò per sempre all’alba con solo

un libro, stretto nella mano sinistra:

L’Enciclopedia di Tutto Ciò Che Attiene

alla Cura dell’Ape Mellifera; Api, Arnie,

Miele, Attrezzi, Piante da Miele Ecc.

E io gli invidiai ogni singolo eccetera,

ogni filtro da miele e fiore di cetriolo,

ogni ala d’ape e anno volato via e occhio spento.

Uscii al sorgere del sole, fischiando

per chiamarle mentre andavo verso l’alveare.

Spinsi la guancia contro il legno, aprii

le sinapsi al ronzio delle api, sentivo l’odore del ronzio.

‘È finita, dolcezze’, sussurrai,’ e ora siete mie’.

 

La soglia 

Attesi tutto il giorno le lacrime e le volevo, ma

le lacrime non vennero. Mi toccai le ciglia e

l’acqua dell’occhio non era acqua ma ali e peluria

e stavo piangendo api. Api sul viso,

nei capelli. Api che mi entravano e uscivano dalle

orecchie. Operaie atterravano sulla mia lingua

e danzavano la loro danza di api mentre le sorelle

si affollavano per sapere. Anch’io

imparai quel linguaggio, di zig-zag, corse e cerchi,

tutto il dannato repertorio della danza ad onda.

È ricca di sfumature, la geografia del nettare,

l’astronomia del polline. Credetemi,

con la mia bocca impolverata dal giallo

del loro polline, parlavo api, respiravo api.

 

L’alveare 

La colonia mi crebbe nel corpo tutta quell’estate.

Gli spazi tra le ossa si riempirono

di favi e il petto

vibrava e ronzava. Sapevo

che la covata era sana, perché

i feromoni cantavano per tutto l’alveare

e la regina deponeva almeno

duemila uova al giorno.

Odoravo di ambrosia e pappa reale,

le unghie brillavano di propoli,

passavo le giornate a liberare api dai capelli

e a piantare trifoglio e salvia bianca e

vulneraria e cardo e borragine.

Ero reame e regina.

 

A spasso con le api

Andai in città portandomi dentro l’alveare.

Le api risuonavano nelle mie costole: ormai

la mia bocca era cera, la mia bocca era miele.

Passanti con cartelle e portatili

mi fissavano mentre le api volavano fuori dagli occhi e dalle orecchie.

Mentre entravo in banca il ronzio

mi aumentò nel petto e capii che le api

facevano sul serio. Le operaie sciamarono

nel fresco salone, si posarono sui banconi di marmo,

agitarono le antenne su carta e cuoio,

‘Signore guidaci tu’. Mormorai, poi sentii

la regina voltarsi vicino al mio cuore,

e tutte guardammo, due occhi e cinque occhi,

tutte guardammo il denaro sciogliersi come cera.

 

SSA (Sindrome Spopolamento Alveari)

Il mio corpo si spezzò quando le api se ne andarono,

divenne una cosa fatta di ossa

e spazi e pelle tirata.

Quasi non avevo notato

il tempo di uno spasmo d’ala

e l’incompatibilità dei feromoni

e la covata sigillata con la cera.

Il favo che

si erano lasciate dietro si dissolse

in sangue e acqua.

Adesso odoro di sudore e fiato

e penso che le cellule del mio corpo

siano diventate esagonali,

anche se le api sono andate via da un pezzo.

*

About the Translators

The Laboratorio di traduzione Monteverdelegge is a five-year-old association based in Rome. The number of participants has increased over time. In 2016, the Laboratorio published two books: Tutto ricomincia by Eleanor Wilner, translated by A. M. Basile, F. Mormile, A. M. Rava, A. M. Robustelli, P. Splendore, and J.Wilkinson, and Erranti senza ali by Philip Schultz, translated by A. M. Basile, F. Mormile, A. M. Rava, A. M. Robustelli, and P. Splendore. The former was shortlisted for the “Morlupo Città della Poesia” Translation Prize, which the latter won in 2016.

Maria Adelaide Basile taught Italian language and literature at Rutgers University, the College of Charleston, John Cabot University in Rome, and currently teaches at Arvalia University in Rome. She has translated poems by Alain Bosquet and Anne Carson and her own poetry has appeared in the collection Viaggi (Campanotto, 2014).

Marta Izzi works as a librarian at the University of Roma Tre. She writes poems and short stories that have been published in literary anthologies (Haiku a gonfie vele verso l’Elba, 2008; Verrà il mattino e avrà un tuo verso. Vol. XI, 2014; Premio Tapirulan 8, 2014; Mevoj, 2015; Il Giardino di Babuk. Proust en Italie, 2015).

Giselda Mantegazza has worked for over twenty years at a leading reinsurance company, where she specialized in business relations with companies from English and French-speaking countries. She has also worked for Video Recording, a translation and dubbing agency, as a translator for BBC documentaries and films.

Fiorenza Mormile is a poet and translator. Her works include: Le calibrate spine, (Fermenti, 1999), Variazioni sul Lausberg (Dars, 2003), “Percorsi di rarefazione” in Cajorata 3 (Buckfast 2015).  She is the coeditor and translator of two bilingual anthologies of poetry, Corporea (Le Voci della Luna, 2009) and La tesa fune rossa dell’amore (La Vita Felice, 2015). She runs the Monteverdelegge Translation Workshop.

Anna Maria Rava is a retired Professor of Italian and Latin in Rome’s secondary schools and a Lecturer of Italian at the Justus-Liebig-Universität in Gießen (Germany). She is a board member of the Associazione Alzheimer Uniti Onlus as well as the managing editor and publishing coordinator of its quarterly magazine.

Anna Maria Robustelli is a poet and translator. She is co-editor and translator, along with L. Magazzeni, F. Mormile and B. Porster, the anthology Corporea. Il corpo nella poesia femminile contemporanea di lingua inglese (Le Voci della Luna, 2009) and La tesa fune rossa dell’amore. Madri e figlie nella poesia femminile contemporanea di lingua inglese (La Vita Felice, 2015).

Paola Splendore is a retired Professor of English literature from the University of Roma Tre, Italy. She has translated works by J. M. Coetzee and several contemporary poets such as Sujata Bhatt, Ingrid de Kok, Karen Press, Moniza Alvi, Jo Shapcott, Philip Schultz, and Choman Hardi.

Jane Wilkinson taught English literature at the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” Until 2012, she was the editor of Anglistica. An Interdisciplinary Journal (the issues she co-edited include: Texts in Transit, 2001, and Re-imagining Africa:Creative Crossings, 2011). Co-editor with Paola Splendore of an anthology of South African women’s poetry, Isole galleggianti: poesia femminile sudafricana (1948-2008), Le Lettere 2011.