marcel barang

Ungkarn Chantatip in the noughties

In English, Reading matters on 12/10/2010 at 9:13 pm


I’ve got to hand it to him: after those few lines in this blog stating my inability to translate his classical poems, Ungkarn Chantatip (pronounced ang.kharn jan.tha.thip) called my bluff when he came here with the posse of free verse practitioners I had managed to translate: he handed me two of his collections of free verse – Khon Rak Khong Khwamsao (Sadness’s lover) 1999/2007 and Thee Thee Rao Yuen Yoo (Where we stand) 2007 – plus a photocopied batch of his thirty-three latest poems.
The least I could do, then, was to go through that lot. For the most part, I found even his free verse damn hard to understand, thus do not feel qualified to sit in judgment of his poetry, which trusted Thai friends have praised. Put it down to my weakness as a Johnny-come-lately to the Thai language.
The few pieces below are not necessarily representative of Ungkarn’s production: they just happen to be the shortest and easiest I could (just about) handle.

Little fates [2002]

Little fates
A girl – a boy
Second Saturday of January – late morning
Sunshine – banana plantation – gentle wind

I think … I too am sad
That you have no cake
Ice cream toffee candy to eat
No toy to treasure – never mind

Friends around here far and near
Are having roaring fun
Gone out since morning
Without us two brother and sister

Mum in a bad mood
Dad drunk – dad only complains
This bastard – that bitch – and at the receiving end always
You and I – us two

Hush! Hold your tears
Still blameless – don’t be sad
My arms lightly hug your shoulders
To comfort you – do understand

The banana bole into a horse will turn
A present I’ll find for you
Yours to ride and command and show off
Your friends will want when they return

Two arms enfold – two feet climb up
The big horse is so high one must look up
Feet slipping – both arms exhausted
Arms and legs instant failures!

A pointed stump below
Receives the falling body perfectly
In that blurry dream the banana bole horse twirls
Teardrops – thick blood
Cramp – pain – hurt until…

Between the clouds [2003]

Hammock hung in tree shade
Gaps between the sheaves of leaves…
Stretched out counting hot season clouds
At such a time even good books won’t appeal
As you mark time past, present and future
And visit those that come by then leave
Along the paths between the clouds
Eyes sparkle – hearts shine
Happiness? Sorrow?
Only the span of a sigh
Life? Dreams?
Oh … just gone off with those clouds

February [2006]

Rice fields – mountain jungle – river – overseas
People – distant countryside
Each and every town
Always strange in the telling
Adrift – wandering
Like your soul
O gypsy…
How to tell the hot wind on its way here
That dreams are fast asleep
In the safe houses of fairy tales

The heart’s fifth chamber [2007]

Deep vale – houses – flowing river
The edge of the sky fenced up to white clouds
Over big mountains stretching into a long range of peaks [?]
Peak after glittering peak like arms enfolding the land [?]

The heart dreams of peace
Amidst sorrow fanning fires without end
Whose roar weakens into flying vapours [?]
And becomes rainfall to put out the heat

With a deep vale – houses – flowing river
The heart returns to dreams of old
When caring land and sky
Were home from crib to pyre for so long
Were home from crib to pyre for so long


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