NaPoWriMo Day 21

Today’s prompt was to “Find a poem in a language that you don’t know, and perform a “homophonic translation” on it.” In other words, you write a ‘translation’ based on the way the words sound. I’ve chosen a Welsh poem – my knowledge of Welsh is very limited (I know ten or twelve words), but I think the language has a lovely, lilting rhythm to it and so I’ve chosen a poem by Menna Elfyn, a Welsh poet, playwright, columnist and editor who writes in Welsh. I hope she isn’t too offended by my translation.

Cerdd garegog (Menna Elfyn

Carreg ddrws dy fodolaeth,
Sy’n llechen lan y bore

Maen ar gronglwyd f’enaid,
Un cam wrth fur cariad
Sy raid. Un syml, sownd.

Wnes i ddim deall helfa
Pobl am risial, neu glap aur,
Na deiamwnt. Dim ond

Diolch am y meini mewn llaw,
Meini mellt weithiau o’r awyr,
Maen sugn., dwy long mewn harbwr,

Maen tynnu atat synnwyr
A’r maen hir mewn oes o raean
Fe dreigla, heb fwsogli.

Maen hogi fy ymennydd
Meini cellt, yn mynnu tanchwa
Dan feinwe’n chwarel grai.

Maen ar faen yn gerrig milltir
Y cerddaf atynt yn llawen,
Gan delori fel clap y cerrig

Without looking at the original meaning, this is what the sounds suggest to me:

Mountain Poem

The mountain draws its followers

Since the time the earth bore it


Mine was the idea for the journey

A precious idea for my darling

Or so they said. Simple. Sound.


When I think I need help –

Pebbles are rising, never clapping anyone

Nor diamonds. Diamonds.


Thankful am I for my many laws

My melting weather over awe

My sun, day long, my harbour


My tiny attack of sun

In my hair, my eyes, o rain

For dry glass has followed


My hug for the many

Myself and many tankards

Then finally quarrels grew


My fine and gentle army

I serve a tint and thaw

Going delirious, feeling claps and cheers

And then, it’s only fair to the poet to add a ‘proper’ translation of her work – especially since I have more than a slight suspicion that mine is definitely not what she was trying to say:


The doorstep of your existence
is the morning’s clean slate,

a stone on my soul’s roof-hurdle,
a single necessary step
by love’s wall. Simple, stable.

I’ve never understood why people hunt
for crystal, or a lump of gold,
or a diamond. I’m simply

grateful for the stones at hand,
meteorites from the sky at times,
the magnet that holds two ships in harbour,

the loadstone of sensibility,
and the long stone that in an age of gravel
rolls, and gathers no moss,

the whetstone of my brain,
flints demanding an explosion
beneath the tissue, a fresh quarry.

Stone upon stone. Milestones
I walk towards happily,
chirping like a stonechat.

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