Translator's notes

Daylicht

By Ernesto Cardenal

I had the privilege of meeting Ernesto Cardenal, the Nicaraguan poet, priest, and revolutionary activist, at the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada in Nicaragua, in March 2015. I hoped to obtain permission to print Scots versions of two of his poems, including ‘Daylicht’ which features here. The Scots used in the poems is basically north-east ‘Doric’, and has particular advantages in rendering the context and character of the language of Cardenal’s poems at that time. Working and living conditions for Scots farm labourers were not very different in some respects from those affecting their Nicaraguan equivalents. Sometimes the tone and precise meaning can be caught in Scots in ways simply not possible in English.

Cardenal at ninety is still very much caught up in political activity, as well as continuing his work as a poet. Before he read
at the Festival, he unrolled a poster of protest against the Chinese development of a new canal to cut across Central America, in a deal agreed with the Nicaraguan government, which appears to bring very little benefit to the economy or the people of the country. He was, however, in good spirits when we talked. At one point, seeking clarification from Luz, his assistant, he asked her about the use of Scots for translation of his work: ‘Is it as good as English?’ I leaned forward and tapped him on the wrist, and when he turned round, said smilingly to his face: ‘Better. Better!’ He gave me a broad grin at that, and we shook hands in agreement.

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