A triple Scotch for Francesca

A couple more from the works of the Kulturweider. The first is by way of a small thankyou for Alexandra for organising much — at a certain point at Adishakti, shall we say, we became aware of her alter ego, Francesca. Perhaps I should go no further… Fortunately, Raphael already had a piece addressed to ‘franziska’ to hand. Thanks, Alexandra.

The second piece, from the ‘self-experiments,’ is something I was always going to translate: a poem about drinking whisky. While I was trying to work on it in English, a parallel version started snaking through my head in Scots. This seemed not inappropriate.

from Alle Deine Namen

without doubt francesca we belong to you
we are your lips your arms
and eyes, this smile for you
reminds me of me when I
am full of joy joy francesca
is a warm hand that effortlessly
lifts the heart I hardly
care whether your smile is meant for me
I am taken by it francesca I trust
your hands they know
my heart’s true weight

fraglos franziska gehören wir dir
wir lippen die deinen wir arme
und augen das lächeln für dich
erinnert mich an mich wenn ich
voll glück bin glück franziska
ist eine warme hand die das herz
leicht anhebt es kümmert mich
kaum ob dein lächeln mir gilt es
nimmt mich ein franziska deinen
händen vertraue ich sie kennen
meines herzens wahres gewicht


from selbstversuch

in English

whisky with your brown belly and your
mahogany-resin-miscellany you speak from barrel to
beer to me your clear amber-thrumming stabs
into the middle of migraine’s quarters crawl whisky crawl
you can’t catch me you’re good at burials
piss-poor at betrothals dear whisky
yet again I take another slug give you
my shakes that’s how your brow-clamps warm me
you show the cornfield the charcoal-makers the woods’ gloaming
acrid tyre fire glow slowly going out inside
you in the heart of beige where the sugar lies buried

in German

whisky mit deinem braunen bauch und deinem
hartholzharzgestänge sprichst du vom fass zum
bier zu mir dein klares bernsteingesumme sticht
mitten ins migränegeviert krieche whisky krieche
du wirst mich nicht kriegen du beerdigst gut und
machst dich schlecht auf hochzeiten lieber whisky
ich nehme noch einmal noch einen zug gebe dir
mein fieber so wärmt mich deine schläfenzange
du kannst die kornfelder die köhler das waldfinster
gummibittres feuer glüht noch langsam aus in
dir mitten im beige wo der zucker begraben liegt

in Scots

uisge beatha wi yir broon bouk and yir
haurd-wuid-an-glue-stook ye speak fae cask tae
ale tae me yir caller amber-thrummin stangs
tae thi core o Megrim Central craa whisky craa
ye canna catch me ye’re braw at buryin and
fugly at merryin dear whisky
aince mair Eh tak anither swally gee you
meh fever sae yir pow-nippers waurm me
ye kythe thi corn-rig the wuid-collier thi gloam o thi forest
gutta-wersh bleeze’s gleid slawly gaes oot inside
ye i thi middie o beige whaur thi sugar ligs interrd

(I’m indebted to Mark Husmann for helping me work on these with some actual grasp of the German.)


About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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1 Response to A triple Scotch for Francesca

  1. Sampurna Chattarji says:

    Love them. Especially the last two lines of the Francesca poem: “I trust/your hands they know/ my heart’s true weight”…And can see the differences between this version of ‘Whisky’ and the earlier…very interesting, especially “piss-poor at betrothals”, “amber-thrumming” instead of “amber-humming”… As for the Scots version, do put up a recording, Bill!

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