Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“Five Haiku”

Translation Tuesday is upon us again, & this time around I’m posting a translation I made of a poem by Paul Éluard, an extremely gifted & important poet who played a large role both in the development of the Surrealist movement & later in the French Resistance—which included writing his famous poem “Liberté.” I didn’t translate much of Éluard’s work—I found him difficult to translate, actually. However, I happened upon his poem “Cinq Hai-Kais” in some anthology—I forget which—& was intrigued by the thought of French Surrealist haiku. Since there seems to be quite a bit of interest these days in Haiku—for instance Kat Mortensen’s Kigo of the Kat & Dave King’s current series on his Pics & Poems blog—I thought some of you might find it interesting as well. Here’s my version—since it’s a relatively short post, I’ve added the original French below.

Hope you enjoy the poem, & be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another of B.N.’s poems!

Five Haiku

The wind
Rolls a cigarette out of air.

The mute girl speaks
This is art’s imperfection
This dark language.

The automobile’s really launched
Four martyr’s heads
Roll under the wheels.

Ah! a thousand flames, a fire, the light,
A shadow!
The sun’s following me.

A feather lends a hat
An air of lightness
The chimney’s smoking.

Paul Éluard
translation by John Hayes, © 1990-2010

Cinq Hai-Kais

Le vent
Roule une cigarette d’air.

La muette parle
C’est l’imperfection d’art
Ce langage obscur.

L’automobile est vraiment lancée
Quatre têtes de martyrs
Roulent sous les roues.

Ah! mille flammes, un feu, la lumière,
Une ombre!
Le soleil me suit.

Une plume donne au chapeau
Un air de légèreté
La cheminée fume.

Paul Éluard


  1. That dude looks SO French. Wow.

    OK. You and your cigar box resinator ... WOW!!! The sound of the instrument is truly incredible, Coridin bottle or not, and you?? How is it that you know how to embody the blues like that? Wow!!

  2. I love this poem - and the way that the 5 haiku sort of go beyond the haiku form by being their own poem as a series.

    I love the one about the automobile! Whenever people talk about "primitive" human sacrifice and brutal ancient martyrdoms, I wonder how the deaths by automobile surrounding them can be so invisible to them that they don't make this connection - and Paul does it in so few words - wow.

  3. Hi Reya & Eberle

    Reya: Eluard was most definitely the Frenchman thru & thru! & thanks for what you said about the blues--very much appreciated!

    Eberle: Thanks! & I know you like PE's poetry!

  4. I'm a sucker for a good haiku. Anyone who wants to write should try his or her hand at them just for the discipline they impart.

  5. Hi K: There's a lot of truth in that--Eluard didn't adhere to the syllable count or the division between the first two lines & the third, however, so his are haikus "just because he says so." I like them anyway.

  6. Excellent. Loved these. I'm working on some Rene Guy-Cadou pieces at present. Hope to have them posted within the week.

  7. Hi Dick: Thank you--I'll keep an eye out for yours!


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.