My Translation of “Untitled” by Grace Hartigan- Turning a Painting into a Poem

Into the Fields

Originally ‘Untitled’ by Grace Hartigan

Translated by Mady Neal

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Into the fields there came a soul called Ada

The fruit of a mediocre American Dream

Parting before her feet

Like that one ancient body of water.

This young woman

Had, earlier that day, fled the confines of Mother’s rule

By fear of responsibility

And want of perks generally reserved for men.  

There she would stay, this outcast called Ada,

In the shade of an intuitive red barn

And light a cigarette-

Because that seemed to be the thing to do.

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada

Inhaling quiet felicity

Exhaling anxiety,

Hoping to more easily avoid expectation labelled ‘duty’

Than the 600*

Who rode into the valley of Death

And were left to do and die-

Just as they had been told.

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada

Whose profoundly premature principles

Convinced her to fly

From a golden sky

And a dried up pond

And a family lacking in love aside rudimentary financial devotion

And a belief system unaltered by progress.

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada

Remembered always in summers past

Though unknown to the individual heads of grain

Sprouting new every year,

Never having heard told of the gentle creature that preceded them

But nevertheless feeding off of cigarette butts and tobacco residue that lingered there.

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada.

Leave her where her body lay

So that from her ashes grow barley and bean

Roots take their place from her chestnut hair

No longer sheltered by the welcoming exterior of a kind old structure

That lay, a pile of red-scratched wood

Without a skeleton.

But to her soul, reserve

A more ethereal abode-

One which she had never truly left:

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada.

Resting finally in a cushion of grass stalks

That were her refuge

In life and in death

When she could not rely on maternal affection

To protect her from objectification

And disappointed hopes

And child-bearing hips

And growing up in order to be sold off.

 

Into the fields there came a soul called Ada:

The fruit of a mediocre American Dream,

Inhaling in quiet felicity.

Whose profoundly premature principles

Remembered always in summers past-

Leave her where her body lay,

Resting finally in a cushion of grass stalks.  

 

Into the fields there lies a soul called Ada, evermore.

_________________________________________

*”The Charge of the Light Brigade”, Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Translator’s Note: ‘Into the Fields’ is a poem derived and translated from ‘Untitled’, a painting by Grace Hartigan.  The predominately warm colors of Hartigan’s art were ultimately contrasted by vivid, yet dark, purples- a reminder of the balance in life between light and dark.  The ultimate comparison being that of life and death or right and wrong- which are equally explored in my interpretation.  In my own attempts at translating the original creation, I kept coming back to the figure of a woman, fading until she seemingly became nothing more than the fields themselves.  It is in this way that I have captured my own focus; ‘Into the fields there came a soul called Ada’ which was repeated throughout the translated poem, as well as demonstrating the possible reasoning for which the creature in the painting appears so forlorn and frail.
In short, translating this visual piece, for me, was the equivalent of climbing a mountain; beginning at the bottom tier and grasping for any helpful hint as to how to climb the rest of your way to the summit.  Nevertheless, you do eventually find yourself standing a bit higher on its slope and begin to see the formation of a reasonable explanation as to the original author’s intentions- just as, initially one can see preceding footsteps through the snow.  While ascending and, inevitably tripping and sliding back down (exactly like the expression ‘one step forward, two steps backward’) you manage to make progress anyway.  The falls become less frequent and less painful when they do occur, as you now have the necessary tools to pick yourself up immediately and try a different route.  It isn’t until reaching the peak, and seeing not only the steps you took to reach it, but in looking out over the underlying valley, that you can at last understand the immensity of your own journey, and suddenly your own work seems to have been for this precise reason and your exact perspective inevitable; having been not a matter ‘if’, but ‘when’ and ‘how’.

NaNoWriMo 2015- The Prolonged Afterlife of Rachel Morrison

This month, I will endeavor to take up the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge!  My goal is 20,000 words- though it is a flexible and relaxed goal.  

I have inaugurated NaNoWriMo 2015 with the first ‘scene’ of my novel The Prolonged Afterlife of Rachel Morrison.

Part 1: Blanche

“I have to admit, I love to be waited on…” 

-Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

She possessed every staple of a ‘youngest child’ in abundance.  From her boisterous manners, to her practiced smile, perfected only by large periods of her education devoted only to the contortion of those specific facial muscles, it was obviously obvious that a spotlight (one all too religiously nourished) was an everyday accessory- accompanied, of course, by extravagant jewelry that always seemed slightly too formal for the occasions on which she wore them.

She grew up in the cotton-field filled South, on an estate-like property that hadn’t changed since its days as a plantation.  I suppose it was only fitting that she liked to consider herself a modern Scarlett O’Hara; a fantasy that was happily funded and encouraged by her family, who had more than the necessary to support her.  Although, as I’m sure you’ll discover later, financial support is, most definitely a beneficial way to be loved though, standing on its own, does not at all substitute compassion when compassion is needed.

A more apt comparison of our temporary protagonist would be that of Tennessee Williams’ character Blanche, after whom she was named.  The fictitious Blanche was Stella’s audacious older sister in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Our heroine’s mother had never actually read the play.  She had instead heard of it from the other local socialites.  It was from their broken information that she learned of Williams’ Blanche; a dashing heiress turned school teacher, all the while managing to epitomize a traditional Southern Belle.  That was not the actual truth.  Hopefully it’s not wrong to assume that had Blanche’s mother known what her aristocratic friends had failed to understand and communicate (the character was drowning in financial ruin, budding alcoholism, and a terrible scandal surrounding a love affair with a student), she would not have so eagerly bestowed such a name on her daughter.

Blanche Conrade.  This was the girl who got Rachel’s heart.  It is an interesting notion that despite all the wealth one can possess, it does very little in the way of diseases, which was exactly what Blanche suffered from.  Ironically, it was her heart that failed her, even though she had no trouble securing the hearts of all those around her.  Even then, the details of her ailment were quickly concealed.  In fact, it was months before her family would even admit anything was wrong.

When word did spread (with the help of a hired maid that was immediately dismissed and sanctioned by the Conrade legal team), any actual fact in the story was rendered useless and futile amongst the collected uproar that travelled through every street in support for the Southern-bred gem.

“Did you hear?  Blanche Conrade is sick!”

“Yes!  I’ve heard it’s fatal!  The poor angel!”

To keep updated on my progress, click on the links below, or check back here!

NaNoWriMo

Figment

Please leaving any fitting feedback on how I can improve my writing and this novel, in the comments below!

11 Ways of Looking at a Pen

1.

Gobs of ink

Drip out of the volatile black hole

Staining the virtuous paper forever

 

2.

I know not whether I prefer

The idea of the pen

Or the pen itself.

Is there not a – sometimes debilitating- expectation

Upon picking it up?

 

3.

Both an instrument of a written art

And a thing of my own demise,

Sometimes I have no choice

But to sign my life away.

 

4.

A writer and a pen

Should be inseparable,

Just like a musician to her harp.

 

5.

I alone know the pain a pen can inflict.

 

6.

Does it matter more

What your pen writes

Or which pen you take with you?

When I am angry,

I find my pen much different

Then when I am otherwise inclined.

 

7.

The paper is all filled up,

Now to mark my skin.

 

8.

Shakespearean souls

And brothers in arms

Would be weaponless

Were it not for

The ultimate ingenuity.

 

9.

By blending the perfect consistency

Of ink

I rekindle the idea of my own opinions

And express that which

I believe.

 

10.

Perhaps all I have truly learned

In my study of pens

Is that it really isn’t the pen

That makes the magic, but the ink.

Then again, maybe it’s me.

 

11.

My birthright

Is to think

To feel

And to write.

 

(Thanks for reading!  Please comment below any changes I could make to improve this piece!)

Project: Hope

Welcome back and Happy 2015! I hope that this year treats you right- you deserve it! This post is going to be a little different, because I won’t be doing a book review! Instead, I will be talking about something very exciting that I’ve worked for- and finally accomplished. I’ve written and published my first book!

This book, entitled “Project: Hope” relates the true stories of refugee kids and their lives after moving to the United States, specifically Indianapolis! For those who aren’t clear on the subject, a refugee is someone who is forced to uproot their life and move due to persecution for their religion, beliefs, race, ethnicity, and more. These people generally move to refugee camps, where life is harsh and cruel. They cannot leave the camps, nor can they work to provide food for their loved ones.

That being said, there are a select few heroic families who- thanks to the United Nations- manage to leave those refugee camps in search for a better life. Many of them make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana, and are received by Exodus Refugee, and organization that helps them reboot their lives in their new home.

Throughout my journey of writing this book, I was fortunate enough to meet with several of these families, and help them give a voice to the struggles they had been through, and the perseverance that helped them along the way. I talked to kids from ages 6-19 and from places like India, Congo, Kenya, and Burma.

Though this book is different from your typical biography, I truly believe that it is essential to learn about the world that we live in- be it a couple miles away or a couple oceans.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 8.39.14 AM“Project: Hope”, expressed through poetry, journal entries, and reflections, is available on the following websites for purchase:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/madelynneal

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/project-madelyn-neal/1120994381?ean=9781312717862

Please consider making “Project: Hope”, by Madelyn Neal, your new read, to support and raise awareness about the plight of refugees globally. For more information or questions, please email: mady.neal@me.com