Saturday, October 07, 2006
This personal interpretation of world poetry was a hard task to complete, to begin with. It needed an extensive research on the versical literatures of the nations represented here. As there were countries with no single representative poetic form, it pained me to use one and to neglect the others in the process, since all of them were worth interpreting. Space was also considered, so rewriting epics is out of the question. In the end, here is a sample variety of literary imaginings from the world over, from my very own country’s dalit to lines as diverse as a Barbadian proverb of the West Indies, a Skaldic poem of the Old Norse and a ghazal of the Urdu tongue. Having started from the Philippines, the chronology moves to the neighboring Malay Archipelago for its traditional pantun, the Chinese Tang Dynasty with its song, Japan with its globally renowned haiku, Korea with its once-popular sijo, India with its unlawful love poem, Sri Lanka with its Akam, the Hebrew nation with its Christian Biblical verse, Arabia’s “hanged” poems in Kaaba, Egypt with its ancient love poem, African tribes with Ibo- and Akan-flavored poem, Italy with its charming Petrarchan sonnet, Ireland and its mischievous limerick, Iceland with its alternative to the Eddaic poems, Barbados with its literary gem in miniature, South America with its eloquent “little life,” USA with its traditionally nontraditional poem, Hawaii Islands with its Hula, and New Zealand with its Maori lament song. Enjoy my humble poetic worldview.
1. Philippine Dalit:
We may be colonial people
But what’s important most of all
Is that our songs are audible—
Our distant mem’ry can recall.
2. Malayan Pantun:
The beginning is not even near
To what the next lines tackle on
This proverb’s meaning starts here
For the brown race to ponder upon.
3. Chinese Tang Poem:
The land’s majestic nature inspired wise men
To rhapsodize about the trees and the rivers;
The middle country is home to them:
Away and their spirit will be broken.
Summertime will soon creep in
And urge the poet to cast the satin off his skin.
4. Japanese Haiku:
The Rising Sun’s Land
Produced this short verse: charming,
Quick, but then, lasting.
5. Korean Sijo:
This haiku-like verse presents a problem in the first line
The second one presents the development or the turn
Meanwhile, the last line, besides resolving tension, provides surprise.
6. Urdu Ghazal:
This poem’s innate lyricism
Carries a Persian origin
Illicit love is always its theme
Unattainable in the context of Sufism.
7. Tamil Akam:
This love poetry can be any of these plants:
A mountain flower that keeps the lovers in secret
A water flower wherein the lady is left by the lover
An evergreen where the lovers run away
A jasmine wherein the lady awaits the end of the lover’s journey
A queensflower wherein the lover reconciles with the abandoned wife.
8. Hebrew Biblical Verse:
Chosen from the world’s multitudes,
Believers of God look up to Bible praises
For they will be saved by the nourishment of His word
Forever and ever. Amen.
9. Arabic “Hanged” poem:
In the sacred box of Kaaba
Dangled these literatures from pre-Islamic Arabia
Each line resembles a lace of pearls
So-called for its beauty and perfection
Even the Koran will pale in comparison.
10. Ancient Egyptian poem:
By the lily-filled river Nile, the lover lies
Waiting for the pharaoh’s maiden to come
He sicks at the heart when she fails to arrive
But he lets his hands write on papyrus his spurned love.
11. Ibo folk poem:
What occurred to this black tribe?
The White Man conquered the black tribe.
The White Man enslaved the black tribe.
What else did the White Man do?
The White Man took away the tribe’s resources.
The White Man depleted the tribe’s resources.
Without resources, what was left with the black tribe?
Only its identity, but then it’s contaminated.
The black tribe’s identity got polluted.
12. Akan folk poem:
The rains won’t stop, just won’t stop
Since the White Man came.
When I step out, the mud bore prints
Of feet too large for my people to have done.
It is this that the White Man asserts
We need Him to carry us up
Can’t he see we have our own feet to stand on?
13. Italian Sonnet:
Trees of cypresses shed their tattered leaves
Each time the snow-cold air begins to blow
Rome’s varicolored floras just won’t grow
In piercing drops of silver rain that grieves.
Younger have become the solemn eves
And yet, the poisoned Tiber ceased to flow
Knitted basil threads lament like crow
In want of traceless dew for thirsty sheaves.
Jaded is this life I lead today,
Obscured by haze of my own solitude
So sad I go for you’re away from view
Even lovely music shortens its stay.
Parting never does me any good;
That’s why I wrote these fourteen lines for you.
14. Irish Limerick:
Out of the world’s cold corner
Originated this nonsense verse
It may be satiric
And sometimes lunatic
Although it amuses at first.
15. Icelandic Skaldic poem:
Our homegrown queen conquers the world
She is last year’s most beautiful woman
With the grace and charms of a swan
She left spectators in awed murmurs.
16. Caribbean Proverb:
The dog looks up to its master
And asks if he gets a bone or a blow.
Water aplenty for one’s funeral
Begins with a pail early morning.
These short verses ring truth
In the West Indies setting.
17. Latin American Vidalita:
This little life is wrapped in melody
To be sung under the shade of the guava tree;
The lover strums his guitar while his lady
Breaks an aria full of harmony.
The canons of prose and poetry
Is incomplete without the Latinos’ mastery.
18. Modern American poem:
The bastion of non-tradition
Revels with the free verse, and more
As it looms before the entire planet
Contaminating other cultures with its own
No sonnets, no to conventional form
Liberalism is the name of the canon.
19. Hawaiian Hula Song:
I am inspired to compose letters
For these dancers in their grass skirts
Their ears abloom with gumamelas
Their ankles strung in garlands
The lei around their neck
Is like my poem: colorful and flowery.
20. Maori Tangi:
This poem from the South
Sings of the Pacific and the Sky.
The sun freshens the mountains and the grass
While the cool winds blow the scent of nectars
It is as if the beloved were still around
Although the single star in the sky says he’s not.