Translating Poetry – Two Italy-Themed Poems Translated into Italian

This week’s episode of The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast takes a trip to Tuscany, featuring two Italy-themed poems originally written in English, and translated into Italian by a translator based in Italy who specializes in translating poetry. “limano” is inspired by Limano, Italy, a town hundreds of years old tucked along a mountain ridge. “torta di riso” captures the experience of learning how to bake the favorite creation my mother-in-law makes each Easter.

Both poems are inspired by my experiences being married for 30+ years to a first generation Italian, getting to know her parents, and visiting their hometowns of Limano and Bagni di Lucca, in the heart of Tuscany. I wrote these poems to share my experience, and had them translated into Italian so my in-laws and my extended Italian family can also experience my poetry.

In the The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast episode, my wife Mary graciously agreed to recite the Italian version of each poem.

Translating Poetry – Two Poems in English and Italian: limano and torta di riso Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast

James Morehead reciting “limano”
Collage of images from Limano Italy, copyright 2020 James Morehead
Collage of Limano, Italy (photo credit James Morehead 2020)
limano
by james morehead

a wooden door abandoned
for a horse barn built of stone
a courtyard set with wildflowers
sitting all alone
 
an aging calico creeps by
pursuing phantom mice
the baker's wife throws open shutters
fills the air with spice
 
connected stone a wall of bricks
create the mountain roads
carved from apuane ridges
for mule carts’ heavy loads
 
the roads lead up from serchio's bed
(where perfect stones are found)
stones that rolled from higher places
resting on wet ground
 
beneath the church bells you may find
cool water running clean
out from a spout of aging brass
a liquid cool serene
 
tucked behind a soaring tower
walls from granite born
tunneled arches sun and shadow
cool breeze in the 'morn
 
awake with hints of batter mixed
from ground chestnut flour
necci cooked on ferri plates
for the lunchtime hour
 
the only sound for careful ears
that search the mountain air
a distant peal a child's laughter
from a traveling fair
limano
di james morehead, traduzione di chiara garioni

una porta di legno abbandonata
per una scuderia dai muri in pietra
una corte ornata di fiori di campo
nel suo stesso silenzio si è assopita

un calicò ormai vecchio, strisciando
insegue topi immaginari
la moglie del fornaio spalanca le persiane
riempiendo l'aria di odorosi aromi

pietra annodata, un muro di mattoni
plasma le strade di montagna
scavate nei crinali apuani
per i pesanti carichi dei muli

le strade risalgono dal letto del serchio
(dove si trovano pietre perfette)
pietre rotolate da luoghi più in alto
riposano infine sull’umido terreno

di sotto le campane della chiesa puoi trovare
acqua fresca che scorre pulita
da una bocca d’ottone ormai invecchiato
un fluire di liquido sereno

nascosti dietro una slanciata torre
muri di granito un tempo
archi di volte, sole e ombra
brezza fresca del mattino

svegliato da profumi di pastella
di farina di castagne macinate
necci cotti nei ferri
per l'ora di pranzo preparati

l'unico suono per orecchie attente
che frugano nell'aria di montagna
un fragore lontano, le risa di un bambino
che arrivan da una fiera itinerante
Nonna making Torta di Riso (photo credit: James Morehead 2021)
James Morehead reciting “torta di riso”
torta di riso
by james morehead

easter morning and through the ducts
and weathered cracks sweet wisps drift
from nonna's basement kitchen where
she kneads pastry into a textured shell
her fingers working coarse and firm
as still steaming rice waits nearby

details are added a bit of this and that
no measuring spoons or written recipe
i peek over her shoulder frantically scribbling
how much was that nonna?
she laughs this much pouring on instinct
until into the oven to bake and brown

that was before when i would join
mary each year as the good genero
at the table waiting patiently for
torta di riso leaving extra space
nonna knowing i will eat every
slice if not monitored closely

now i can only watch as nonna
tilts the pan for the camera
steam rising out of the screen
drifting west from toronto to san francisco
a pixelated slice hovering ethereal
then asking for just one more per favore
torta di riso
di james morehead, traduzione di chiara garioni

mattino di pasqua, per tubature
e scolorite crepe salgon sbuffate dolci
dalla cucina nell’interrato della nonna,
dove trasforma impasti in frolla lavorata
con operose dita, rustiche ed esperte mentre
il riso ancor fuma nell’attesa.

dettagli sono aggiunti, di questo un po' e un po’ di quello
né misurini, né ricette scritte
sbircio da sopra la sua spalla e scrivo in fretta,
quanto di questo, nonna?
lei ride, tanto così, io vado ad occhio
poi dentro al forno a cuocere e dorarsi

questo accadeva prima, quando ogni anno andavo
come un buon genero da maria
e a tavola aspettavo con pazienza
la torta di riso, lasciando un po’ di spazio,
ché la nonna sapeva l’avrei mangiata tutta
se non mi avesse sorvegliato attentamente.

ora posso solo guardar mentre la nonna
inclina la padella alla macchina da presa mentre
il vapore dallo schermo irradia
e fluttua ad ovest, da toronto a san francisco
una fetta pixelata che nell’etere volteggia,
e poi domandarne un’altra ancora, per favore.

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