Poet & Translator Denis Mair
American Well-known Poet & Translator Denis Mair
Sophy Poetry & InternationalTranslation -International Translators -the Third Translator
Poet & Translator Denis Mair
Denis Mair （梅丹理）， 美国诗人，中英文翻译者，俄亥俄州立大学中文硕士。曾担任美国宾州大学东亚语文系讲师，台湾天人研究院任讲师、译者，现任美国中坤公司翻译顾问、台湾日月潭涵静书院院务委员、北京大学诗歌研究院研究员。学术译作包括冯友兰的《三松堂全集自序》（Hall of Three Pines, 夏威夷大学出版社）、真华法师的《参学琐谭》(In Search of the Dharma, 纽约州立大学出版社)、朱朱的《灰色狂欢》(Gray Carnival, 中国当代艺术奖). 诗歌翻译包括《麦城诗选》(Selected Poems of Mai Cheng, Shearsman Books, 2009); 杨四平编,《当代中文诗歌选》(Contemporary Chinese Poetry,上海文艺出版社, 2007); 吉狄马加,《黑色狂欢曲》(Rhapsody in Black, 俄克拉荷马大学出版社, 2014); 骆英,《文革记忆》(Memories of the Cultural Revolution, 俄克拉荷马大学出版社, 2015). 他翻译的当代诗人还包括严力、阎志、孟浪。其个人英文诗集Man Cut in Wood于2004年由洛杉矶Valley Contemporary Poets出版。
Denis Mair holds an M.A. in Chinese from Ohio State University and has taught at University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a translator for the Zhongkun Cultural Fund (Los Angeles), a research fellow of Hanching Academy, Taiwan, and a research fellow of the Poetry Research Institute, Peking University. He translated autobiographies by the philosopher Feng Youlan (Hawaii University Press) and the Buddhist monk Shih Chen-hua (SUNY Press). His translations of modern Chinese poetry include works by Jidi Majia (Oklahoma University Press), Mai Cheng (Shearsman Books), Meng Lang (Waves Culture Media) and Luo Ying (Oklahoma University Press). He has translated Gray Carnival by Zhu Zhu, winner of a China Contemporary Art Award for criticism. Denis Mair’s own book of poetry, Man Cut in Wood, was published by Valley Contemporary Poets in L.A.
The List of Denis Mair’s E-C Poems
1）So Says The Peacock 孔雀这样说
2）Me And George 我和乔治
3）MOWING THEM DOWN 割掉它们
4）”Cows in Mysore” 迈索尔的牛
5）RIDDLES IN GREEN 绿中谜
6）GALILEO’S GAZE 伽利略的眼光
The List of Denis Mair’s C-E Translation Poems
1)互相上瘾 ADDICTED TO EACH OTHER
2) 明天的一首狗诗 A DOG POEM FOR TOMORROW
3) 打桩 PILE DRIVER
4) 无题 UNTITLED
Denis Mair’s E-C Poems
1) So Says The Peacock
By Denis Mair
Get a look at this ornament. You can hardly take your eyes
off it, can you?
See how my eyespots gather you in from all angles. See how
kaleidoscopically I enjoy the beauty of your crest from
the compass points of my tail.
With all these eyes we surely can find the best seeds. Come
and I will show you my favorite forage spots.
All these eyespots sway gently in the breeze. Imagine how we
will gaze together on the perfect garden!
The interference pattern reflected from my feathers gives
them a look of liquid depth. My neck-color reminds you of
a pond seen through the trees at twilight, or your nighttime
hideaway in a thicket.
My tail feathers snap closed, then suddenly fan out again;
I’ve been told the sensory effect can be overwhelming.
It takes a lot of testosterone to keep these feathers growing
long and bright. It’s said that testosterone in my blood increases
my risk of infection, but my constitution is strong enough to
parade these feathers before you.
If you select a well-ornamented specimen like me, rest assured
that the tails of your sons will hypnotize many peahens
in the future. As their father, I’ll give them this gorgeous
Even the humans who keep this garden have taken a cue
from us. (That poet in L.A. who calls himself ‘Bowerbird’ has
the right idea.) Ludicrous apes, they suppose that with gibbering
sounds they can mimic the effect of our resplendent tails!
2) Me And George
By Denis Mair
My life lies splayed out across the years
In serpentine course through town and city
I need an old friend to prod the memory-snake
And let me feel it stretch into the past.
The tail goes back to industrial suburbs
And a sad-eyed boy
Who studied the scenery on the stage
And missed being inducted into the sound and fury;
Then the story bends toward a college town
Where he missed some friends that fate appointed
Being rapt in imagining the hearts of others
Inside the many marks he learned on paper;
Then it makes its way to a Far-East sojourn
Tilting at windmills of someone else’s culture
Hitting the wall of Third World awakening;
Then making a loop to the Midwest
To weather the storm he brought back with him;
Then lost windings homeward, coast to coast
One coil always wrapped tenderly around a child
Many convolutions abysmally submerged.
Finally it climbs out, shakes off the flute-song of ancient books
Winding schoolward again to study its own land’s culture
Allowed to crawl into a classroom, to teach
Which is how it ran into George.
George: quick-witted student and instant pal
You kept our class alive,
Late-met friend to remedy my lonesome youth
You stood out like a ‘Bud’ sign in a dim bar;
Nothing was serious or simple to you
And the rest of that Warren rat-pack
From the favored heights of rusty Youngstown,
But you were good-hearted and tough-minded.
Your remarks were cloud-enclosed captions
In a comic co-written by God and Satan;
You played your thoughts on heavenly piano
(no talk of your tormented fingers).
When my marriage exploded, you and Dave Kelly
Let me and my daughter move into Animal House;
You taught her duets and Beatles tunes
She guarded Dave’s keys so he wouldn’t drive drunk.
Three wild undergrads and a grad-student father
Kept house with a sweet-tempered first grader.
Of course our household scattered soon
I went to work in Philadelphia, then on to China;
You went to law school, then on to New York
Piles of letters have passed between us
As I continued my wandering ways
And you served, and made a life for yourself
As Public Defender at a courthouse in the Bronx.
Now you’re getting prickly and hard-bitten
Still you’re best for sharing thoughts and poetry.
That’s why I don’t need this moment’s tyranny
And I think of George, to touch the memory-snake
To help me keep what’s mine from ten years back,
To give this memory-snake a nudge
So I can know the road I came on
And own it every inch of the way.
I am more than these sensations through beady eyes
Sidling up distractedly to flowers and grasses
To flicker my tongue at the wind is not enough
A friend helps me live in the snake-body of my whole life.
3）MOWING THEM DOWN
By Denis Mair
I’d like to thank the farmer
Who left the yard of lush second growth
Where all my memories date back to,
With gooseberries growing by the mailbox,
And a large toad living under the porch
And me behind a roaring machine
Mowing down an acre of meadow plants.
We had thistles and violets
We had clover and queen anne’s lace,
And it went down in my concentric squares.
I liked mowing over the fairy rings
That sprouted up in circles overnight;
I would shred the white insides of puffballs
Or send up a puff of brown spores;
Mow down lushness from an old chicken coop,
Release the scent of bee balm and chamomile,
Hard to detect through gasoline fumes;
Mow down that fungus most obscene, Mutinus caninus
Which exactly resembled my dog’s erection
Claimed by my brother to have been severed in a mowing accident;
Mow over the toadstools in the sawdust pit
Where my brother practiced his decathalon!
Buzz and snarl through afternoons of years,
While the grape arbor is torn down,
While my brother who cannot tell a lie
Chops down our final senile cherry tree
And goes off to be a conservative;
Mow down the dandelions, and of course grass
Until the last outbuilding comes down
Until my mother has moved to another town,
Until the lawn looks like someone’s crew-cut,
And the muskrat ditch turns into a culvert
And I am entering my college years.
4）”Cows in Mysore”
By Denis Mair
In that district of cow stalls, their haven is a palm-grown promenade.
They return at twilight from their routes, alone or in twos and threes
They thread their way past intersections, all motorists giving way
By day they comb the city, browsing on provender left in baskets
Each cow has a route; checking for kitchen scraps at certain spots
South of Mysore’s city center, there is this special palm-lined street
Every few addresses is a stall for cows, right among people’s houses
The contentment of cows is not a commercial slogan here
This interspecies street brings back my fondness for cows
I learned it from my father’s long deep sniffs of appreciation
In Sirsi’s Marikamba Temple, also at twilight, I see altar-stalls
Where a pair of cows are rubbed down with ghee each week
I feel fondness, expressed by someone else’s buttery hands
In Banavasi’s ancient temple, the cow-statue breathes delight
It sits before the sacred lingam, on the same level with visitors
Humble at Vishnu’s feet, it is the true storehouse of a special spark
From its expression, I know it was browsing on fragrant flowers
This thousand-year-old cow sculpture was touched by many hands
Each day worshippers touch its face, then touch their head or heart
After centuries of touching lightly, just a patina on the still-rough stone
Just a blush beginning on skin of fruit, not like in Hangzhou
Near Tiger-Run Monastery, where Happy Buddha’s belly and face
Are rubbed each day, with covetous touch, for good luck
After a thousand years, the marble shows a glassy sheen
5）RIDDLES IN GREEN
By Denis Mair
The central pillar is so solid and definite
The tier above consists of firm supports, each shaped like half of an arch
Above that, tiers are hypothetical, each limber tip bowed by its own weight
The furthest ends are held up and out toward the light
So delicate that the light shines into their interior
Though flat, there is depth in their will to gather light
They are a slow fountain expressing the quest for light
Where have I seen this shape? It looks familiar to me
As if it comes from somewhere inside me.
I sit on the stump of a chopped-down forest giant
It is hard to imagine the sturdy pillar that once stood here
Or to see a ghost canopy spreading above my head
The pillar’s firmness was a virtue in the plan of a living thing
Now wrenched into a different scheme, it becomes a trial
To my posterior, an armless armchair of discomfort
Why does it seem familiar, and why did I gravitate to such a seat
As if I too had gone through a history of being chopped down?
The gash in a steep mountainside in Chiapas
Is the big brown scream of patient lives that once anchored this slope
Is the big brown scream of farmers who can’t take products to market
Is the big brown scream of fields in the valley, now buried under mud
Further down the valley, a whole mountain buckled and slid into basin land
Because green canopies were wrenched from dreams of gradual growth
Why do they seem so familiar, those howling machines with steel teeth?
Now on the valley floor, smashed by boulders from a landslide they set loose?
The samaras whirl down in bucketfuls I gathered as a child
Seeds with wings, or packets of possibility are otherwise spread
Into caches, to be forgotten by scrambling scavengers
Or to fall from lips that were licking sweet pulp
Most of the pips and nuts have to be squandered;
So only a few can lodge in special folds of earth
Why does it seem familiar, seeing all the living nuggets
Hurled with hopeful intent into the maw of void?
January 21, 2015
By Denis Mair
When Galileo first looked at the moon through a telescope
He saw circles like intersecting ripples.
Who could know that crashing rocks had made them?
By gazing at those circular outlines Galileo discovered
On the light-ward side each rim was edged with a dark line;
The rest of the rim was only a gleaming arc.
Galileo had studied drawing; he knew the look of shading,
His knowing artistic eye was able to judge:
These circles had depth, they must be craters!
At such times aesthetics and reason go journeying together.
Viewing craters, a man brings the moon’s true condition closer:
He can feel its bleak nescience—one long, ageless night,
He knows by contrast the good fortune of living on earth,
He wonders why the earth was not scarred by meteors,
And surmises that velvety air has been our guardian angel.
Aesthetics gave rationality a fuller awareness of the moon:
That desolation never soothed by wind and rain, always exposed,
That bleakness which can never incubate life, and in our lives
We brush shoulders with such bleakness countless times.
This lends a touch of mystery to the moon.
In the river of human seeing, on shoulders of ancient stargazers,
We mused on the barren companion that circles our world;
Through contrast, we became aware of our planet’s marvels;
This is a special virtue belonging to the moon.
By intuition we knew its absolute bleakness;
And that reminded us to love our fertile homeland;
We even treated that bleakness as something sacred in the cosmos;
We hung it as a mirror, for lonely hearts to think of each other;
We looked up to it, to better cherish the warmth of our human realm.
Later Galileo came along; we hailed him as master observer.
He brought us a reminder of something we had already felt
This is a special mystery belonging to humankind.
Denis Mair’s C-E Translation Poems
1）ADDICTED TO EACH OTHER
If only love could be refined into a drug
To get people hooked on each other
And give them even greater contempt for hatred
I often remind myself when going out in the morning
To cancel out all the dreams
That can cancel each other out
To save me from spinning circles in this world
I have been looking for the route
That goes by way of myself to reach others
Just as I’ve maintained all these years
I may take off umpteen times
Only to land on mankind’s runway
Nobody can take away my freedom to fly toward you
Though I can only fly by inventing
A posture that disdains tradition
But I have set forth on the path
That goes by way of you to reach myself
So now that I’ve run into you
I won’t go away to catch rays in some darker place
I have no doubts we two are getting addicted
Maybe the Lord’s prescription came a few seasons late
But for us this is only the onset
Tr. by Denis Mair
2) A DOG POEM FOR TOMORROW
A dog that only goes wild after death
Clamps the world in its jaws and won‘t let go
Poems of tomorrow have no answer either
Clamping their own crimes in their jaws
Those dogs who lived long enough in the city
Taking along apartment buildings softened by furniture
Will charge into the pregnancy of an orchard
And clamp jaws on an unborn infant‘s original face
Dog teeth will have become piano keys
Only bone-crunching music will rate popularity in this world
Suffering will still be re-published sheet music
So machines in printing plants will still be best at singing
The home-guarding talents of tomorrow‘s dogs will be snipped out at the hospital
A homeless world with dogs vacationing everywhere
Puffs of clouds like dogs will often float by in the sky
Some airplaine flying artists
Will paint young women clouds in the sky
Tomorrow‘s dogs tracking June mornings and December afternoons
Will still expose their bored tongues
But swallow even dirtier things to cut down reproduction
Tomorrow‘s dogs make a science of freakishly prolonged life
Tomorrow‘s doghouses can be hung any old place like a shirt
But tomorrow‘s dog skins will be shed by dogs
Tomorrow a dog of an orbital satellite
Having shaken off its tail wagged to cinders
Will go off into space to be human
I too will have such a tomorrow
So take advantage of today
Before the sky, as wide as the solar system, is chained
by a pack of dogs
Holding my shadow in my mouth
From where sunlight is
From out of lamplight
And even from enchanting moonlight
I have come out
I have come out forever.
Tr. Denis Mair
3) PILE DRIVER
All the slander
All varieties of praise or contempt
All the things that people do to each other
Are setting a pile driver in motion
Pounding pylons for the edifice of happiness
Yesterday I was pounded into bedrock
Another ten feet or so
More weight-bearing strength got driven into me
So the house that will rise on this foundation
Can be a few more stories high
I’ve thought of a use for the extra floors I build
They can be a museum for pile-driver heads
The biggest of them will be sculpted out of language
Because it has strength
No mechanical device can ever match
Tr. Denis Mair
Coca Cola and I had our picture taken recently
But friends don’t see much compatibility
They say he’s old, dark, and crazy materialistically
Though we all know he has sold well for a century
Friends say that for the sake of heredity
I should not rate a spouse economically
With body and soul I brew up affection repeatedly
Till I start measuring advantages erratically
Till my youthful advantage starts deserting me
Till the chill of a lonely world settles inwardly
Till my repentant cries echo piercingly
Till like an ice-cube, I float in cola bobbingly
Now consuming is all, ideals don’t appeal to me
Tr. by Denis Mair
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