Nothing in Particular Happened — Lina Kostenko

You get a slant rhyme! You get a slant rhyme! Everybody gets a slant rhyme! Every single line in this translation consists of a slant rhyme!

The original poem here is so breathtakingly beautiful, and I am so embarrassed by the crimes against rhyme and meter I committed trying to make it fit into English.

I am not happy with this — far from it, I think it’s probably the worst poetic translation I’ve done yet — but done is better than perfect and habit is better than honor. Maybe someday I’ll get it right.

When I at least have decent pairs of end rhymes but the meter is lumpy and the phrasing is awkward, I can untangle that. When the rhymes themselves are bad, I find myself a little stuck. This poem had a lot of words that were quite difficult to rhyme or rearrange adequately in the relatively short lines.

I am pleased with how well I stuck to the subject matter of the original, though. The only truly extraneously injected bits here:

  1. The original line about unraveling is more like a simple “Life unraveled, unraveled,” and
  2. The “farewell” was not, strictly speaking, in the original, but I needed an iamb and it made sense thematically.

And I do love that last line.

This is the sixteenth poem in Kostenko’s Three Hundred Poems, originally untitled and found on page 23.

Нічого такого не сталось

Ліна Костенко

Нічого такого не сталось.
Бо хто ти для мене? Сторонній.
Життя соталось, соталось
гіркими нитками іронії.
Життя соталось, соталось.
Лишився клубочок болю.
Нічого такого не сталось.
Ти просто схожий на Долю.

Nothing in Particular Happened

Lina Kostenko

Nothing in particular happened.
What are you to me? Someone else’s.
Life unraveled where it was unhemmed
to irony’s bitter farewell threads.
Life unraveled where it was unhemmed.
A yarn ball of pain’s all that is left.
Nothing in particular happened.
You just look a little like Kismet.

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