Donald McGrath gives us new, original translations of two poems by Italian poet Eugenio Montale, who won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature. Montale is pictured above on the far left, in a group photo (circa 1976) alongside Italian poets Salvatore Quasimodo and Giuseppe Ungaretti; publisher Alberto Mondadori; artists Renato Guttuso and Francesco Messina; and author and journalist Arturo Tofanelli. Image credit: Archivi Mondadori
Bring Me the Sunflower
Bring me the sunflower so I can plant it in my salt-scorched patch of earth, so it can throw back to the day’s reflecting blue the anguish of its upturned, yellow face. All dark things tend to brightness, our corporal forms deliquesce to fluent shades, as do shades to music. The quintessential venture is, then, to fade from view. Bring me the plant that leads where fair transparencies arise, and life evanesces to a shimmering haze. Bring me the sunflower crazed with light.
Forse un mattino…
Perhaps some morning, out walking in the dry, glassy air, I’ll glance back and see, with the terror of an inebriated man, the miracle complete, the void at my back, nothingness behind me and suddenly, as if on a screen, trees, houses, hills will assemble for the usual deception, but it will be too late, I’ll walk on, lips sealed among men who don’t look back, with my secret.
Donald McGrath is a Montreal-based writer and translator. He has published three poetry collections: At First Light (Wolsak and Wynn, 1995); The Port Inventory (Cormorant Books, 2012); and Montreal Before Spring (Biblioasis, 2015), a translation of L’Avant-printemps à Montréal by Québec poet Robert Melançon, who twice received the Governor General’s Poetry Award. McGrath’s poems have appeared in periodicals in Canada and abroad. His poem “Biarritz” was selected for the Web anthology of the 2012 Montreal International Poetry Prize. And his translation of Robert Melançon’s poem “Elégie écrite dans le parc Notre-Dame-de-Grâce” was the winner in the first installment of the Malahat Review’s translation competition, Les poésies francophones du Canada.