The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 24, 2008

All Of Us Are Horses, Sort Of

Here I have two recordings for you of Mayakovsky's poem "Getting Along with Horses," read in both English and in Russian by translator Val Vinokur. Vinokur is one of several translators who worked on FSG's collection Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky.

I'm not positive, but I like to think that perhaps Vinkour chose to read this particular poem because it does a lovely job of highlighting the work that a translator does in retaining the rhythms of a poem in translation. If you listen to the English version first, you'll hear a lot of noise words representing sounds, like 'clip clop' and 'jingle jangle.' In listening to the Russian version I didn't hear those exact words--the rhythm was there, but the words were slightly different.

Again, I have to say that I don't speak Russian, but I find it fascinating that words I take to be simply onomatopoeic are also subject to mutability of language (David Sedaris also talks about this, albeit it a humorous way, here).

Here are the pieces for downloading, or you can stream them below--and if there are any Russian speakers reading, I would love to know what the Russian equivalent of 'jingle jangle' is...




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Val Vinokur

"Jingle jangle of laughter" is how I rendered "smekh zazvinil i zazvikal" -- which literally means "laughter rang out and jingled."


Russian "zazvinil i zazvikal" translates as "ringed and sound" but not exactly since the vocals are changed in the original Russian words. Sould sound something like "r-i-n-g-i-d and s-a-w-i-n-d" :)
The end of the poem is so beautifully rimed Mayakovsky stile! Unfortunately the translation does not reflect it.

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