April 13th 2020 • haiku auf Deutsch

    unter einem kurzzeitigen Mond—Aprils

 I speak German reasonably well, though not as fluently
as I would like; and tried writing poetry in German when I
was a teenager. Thought writing haiku might give me the
opportunity to finally breathe in what was, in truth, my first
language, having been born in Berlin and desiring to return. If
any among you care to improve or suggest, please do so. I chose
to translate momentary as kurzzeitig. I considered vergänglich but
that seemed to overstate.

29: January 13th 2020 | bottlecap


12 responses

  1. Patrick, FYI, what was posted this morning omitted the first word “fliessend” which finally appears as the first line after I clicked ‘read more’ but I only became aware of the little screw-up some time after. I was a most marginally successful student of German in high school and college, but I went back to my German/English dictionary in response to your query to the kurzzeitigen/verg(a”)nglich choice. Before I felt steeped enough in the possibilities to write this, I found I went on something of a sound/meaning excursion that put me in mind of past discussion here on poem-line pictures. Discovery of the missing word confirmed I should share these tentative thoughts.

    On Sunday seeing the English rendering I found myself appreciating the wet, lubricity, flowing, ‘spring,’ frog eggs whole of the haiku and, in my mind, the seven ‘n’ and ‘m’ sounds all contributed to that sense of liquidity (and I’d add April’s identity with Spring reinforced it, too).

    So, when you invited us to weigh in on your word choice I found myself coming at it from the point of view of keeping the (most positive sense of the word) lubricious context intact, I found myself thoroughly engaged in Casell’s pages and Google’s translation options. The possibilities, it seems, are numerous. Consider:

    augenblicklich, kurz, kurzzeitigen, verg(a”)nglich, vorübergehend,

    Following the idea that slippery sounds of spring should be employed to reinforce the haiku’s meaning, I lean away from the two “k” words for their angularity, the “vo” word (temporarily) distorts the haiku’s meaning, leaving the “au” and “ve” words. Both have the softer “ich” sound (back of tongue aspirating on roof of mouth) which is a plus, in my view, but augenblicklich (at the moment, at the present, now) has the desired, meaning, its own rhythm (which frogs practice when harrumphing) and a sonorous “n” to link up with the the sibilant “s” and “n” of fliessend along with “n’s” and “m’s” of “unter einem . . . Mond,” so it’s what I’d offer to you instead.

    And that totally shoots my morning plans, all in your behalf, Patrick . . . :-)


    • One often reads about the same difficulties when translating Japanese haiku to English. There are sonic effects that rely on the luck of language or simply can’t be translated.

      And sorry to shoot your morning plans!

      I think you make a good argument for your suggestion. In general usage though, ein Augenblick would probably be too quick. Idiomatically, one often here’s someone say: “Ein Augenblick!” which translates as “Be back in a flash!” Rather than being a momentary moon, it would be more like a “fleeting moon”. So I guess one has to decide, in this case, which better captures the original? :)


  2. Hey good job! German is not my strong suit either. It’s my 4th language. I just put up my own short article in German. From one learner of Deutsch to another: good job!

    Have a good week!


    • Hi there! My other languages are Spanish (2nd), French (3rd), Portuguese (5th), Italian (6th) and Russian (7th) and maybe a little Dutch (8th) and .5% Japanese :/


    • I studied French in high school and college, and studied Portuguese by myself. I can barely say hello in either of them. I’d be satisfied if I could pick up some very basic fluency in French again. I’ve always wanted to study Japanese. How are you studying them? Duolingo?

      Liked by 1 person

    • I study them via CDs I would get at the library or Barnes and Noble plus forcing myself to read books and watch movies in those languages. :/


    • I had cassette tapes for Portuguese. I only recently threw them out—reluctantly. I used to play them in the car while driving. The idea was to repeat what the reader said and that way slowly build vocabulary. She would speak the English first, then the Portuguese. The closest I ever came to speaking Portuguese with minimal fluency was when I accidentally sauntered into a girl’s public shower room (at the beach) while visiting the Azores (when I was still a teen). Alas for me, I was too nearsighted to see anything and don’t remotely look like Leonardo de Caprio.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dang. A story worthy of future mention!
      I was forced to learn Spanish at a young age and so Portuguese is the weird sounding cousin of my 2nd language. I gained knowledge of it by default.


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