A Glazier

Gabo Finalist Summer/Fall 2018

[translated poetry]

He was the same as other people

who know nothing about the white gray glass:

about the flat drop of sameness

in a frame

of white-lacquered window

like a gray block of longing

lying in a day rectangle of colored dough of encounters.

 

He has installed the window panes

in a gray house with white window frames,

in a white house with gray shops.

The first window pane. Second. Tenth.

 

The panes are flat and still, like rectangles.

The panes are colorful tears:

The glass is the color of watery joy.

Glass has a rhythmical smile

like a person after seven years of waiting.

 

Now his face is a transparent glass pane

which takes into itself

streets. Houses. Circulating bodies.

And a flat drop of sameness,

which smiles measured with watery joy:

everything should always be as is.

 

דער גלעזער

 

ער איז געװען גלײך צו אַנדערע מענטשן

װאָס װײסן גאָרנישט װעגן גראָ־װײסן גלאָז׃

װעגן דעם פֿלאַכן טראָפּן גלײכקײט,

װאָס ליגט אין אַ רעם

פֿון װײס לאַקירטע פֿענצטער

װי אין אַ טאָג־רעכטעק פֿון לאַקירטן טײג פֿון באַגעגנישן

ליגט דער גראָער בלעק פֿון דער בענקשאַפֿט.

 

ער האָט אַרײנגעשטעלט שױבן׃

אין אַ גראָען הױז מיט װײסע פֿענצטער־רעמען,

אין אַ װײסן הױז מיט גראָע לאָדענס.

ערשטע שױב. צװײטע. צענטע.

 

די שױבן זענען פֿלאַך און שטיל, װי רעכטעקן.

די שױבן זענען טרערן־קאָלירטע׃

ס’איז דער קאָליר פֿון װאַסעריקער פֿרײד.

גלאָז שמײכלט ריטמיש

װי אַ מענטש נאָך זיבן יאָר װאַרטן.

 

איצט איז זײַן פּנים אַ דורכזיכטיקע גלאָז־שױב

װאָס נעמט אױף אין זיך

גאַסן. הײזער. קרײזנדיקע גופֿים.

און אַ פֿלאַכער טראָפּן גלײכקײט,

װאָס שמײכלט אָפּגעמאָסטן מיט װאַסעריקער פֿרײד׃

ס’זאָל תּמיד אַלץ זײן װי ס’איז גראָד.

 

Translator’s Note:

Debora Vogel’s language could be best described in terms of its plasticity. We may think of plastic as stiff but it’s also a pliable material. It is the material that best exhibits the fact that form is constantly being transformed. The poem “Glazier” from Day Figures poetry collection (1930) is an example of an author’s stylistic play with linguistic malleability and rigidity. The poem is executed in the aesthetic of Constructivism; it is “constructed” as an artwork from the material of words mirroring the preoccupation with materiality of existence in this avant-garde artistic movement. Glass as material fascinated artists, designers, and architects because of its qualities of transparency and opacity, and the possibilities it presented for modern urbanism. Vogel utilizes glass as a “plastic” material, it is both “watery” and angular, voluminous and flat, clear and opaque. Her vocabulary is minimalist, the color palette is sparse (with white and gray colors predominating), yet repetition and lack of color engenders rhythm and colorfulness. The mood oscillates between stasis and dynamism, sameness and difference. The world of circulating bodies and encounters is fitted into a rectangular frame of a window-pane. There is a certain sense of wonder which arises out of monotony and everydayness in this synesthetic creation. These are the elements that my translation strives to reflect, or perhaps, it would be fitting to say, to mirror.

 

Anastasiya Lyubas is a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature in Binghamton University where she is currently at work on her dissertation “Language and Plasticity in Debora Vogel’s Poetics.” Lyubas is a 2017-2018 translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, and a Max Weinreich research fellow in YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York. Her translations of Debora Vogel’s work appeared in The InTranslationat the Brooklyn Rail, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Pakn Treger, and are to be published by The Odessa Review. Lyubas is working on a full collection of Debora Vogel’s essays, reviews, polemics, and correspondence, which she translated from Yiddish and Polish into Ukrainian, to be published by Dukh I Litera publishing house in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Debora Vogel (1900-1942) was a Polish-Jewish writer, philosopher, art critic, and translator. She was a “wandering star” of Polish and Yiddish Modernisms in Eastern Europe and North America. Her writing is comparable to Gertrude Stein’s in its striking originality. Born in Eastern Poland (now Western Ukraine), she was educated in Vienna and Kraków, and travelled extensively in Paris, Berlin, and Stockholm, which is reflected in her work. Given her engagement with visual arts and avant-garde movements, her highly experimental texts challenged every notion of writing in Yiddish in her own lifetime. Her poems are examples of Cubist-Constructivist experimentation in a language that is at once lyrical and philosophical.