Michael Smith - Maldon & other translations



Available only direct from Shearsman Books.

Michael Smith - Maldon & other translations

Paperback, 154pp, 9x6ins

Download a PDF sampler from this book here.

Maldon contains translations from the Anglo-Saxon (The Battle of Maldon), the 18th-century Irish (The Death of Art O'Leary and Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen) and a large selection of cantes flamencos (flamenco songs) translated from an Andalusian dialect of Spanish. Although better-known in the UK for his translations of the baroque poets Góngora and Quevedo, Michael Smith has also translated the works of Rosalía de Castro, Neruda, Lorca and Miguel Hernández. The cover shows an image by Louis de Brocquy, reproduced by kind permission of the artist. Copyright © Louis de Brocquy, 2004.


"...beyond the characteristic Anglo-Saxon kennings, this is clean-cut, contemporary verse. Smith solves the several problems of Maldon with grace — the compression of the half-line alliterative form and the "clotting" of kennings are mediated by his staggered lineation; hyphenated compounds ("heart-wounded", "shield-hedge") re-naturalise what could seem mannered or opaque. The cover blurb speaks of "a ghost of the alliterative pattern" of the original; Smith's avoidance of the Latinate allows English to do the work by "ghosting" its own antecedents. Maldon and Other Translations is a substantial triptych (its other parts are Eileen O'Connell's 18th-century Lament for Art O'Leary and a selection of flamenco lyrics from the 19th-century collection made by Machado's father, Antonio Machado y Alvarez) in which Smith enlarges not only his own range but, importantly, that of material available in English. His introduction to these Cantes Flamencos reminds us how in thrall we are to Lorca's definitions of Cante Jondo and flamenco, and suggests that poet may not be the most reliable of ethnomusicologists. Certainly, the 250 songs translated here (though I had some reservations about the number which seem to have been tidied up into the form of a single quatrain) are beautiful and sharply idiomatic, if more proverbial than we've come to expect of 'deep song' — "I thought I was the only one who watered your garden, but I have seen there are many who go and draw water'." (Fiona Sampson, The Irish Times)

Related Books