Translate a Poem

One poem can be translated in many different ways - close translations, 'freer' versions, after-images and metamorphoses of all kinds.

Original poem


Acordo de noite subitamente,
E o meu relógio ocupa a noite toda.
Não sinto a Natureza lá fora.
O meu quarto é uma coisa escura com paredes vagamente brancas.
Lá fora há um sossego como se nada existisse.
Só o relógio prossegue o seu ruído.
E esta pequena coisa de engrenagens que está em cima da minha mesa
Abafa toda a existência da terra e do céu…
Quase que me perco a pensar o que isto significa,
Mas estaco, e sinto-me sorrir na noite com os cantos da boca,
Porque a única coisa que o meu relógio simboliza ou significa
Enchendo com a sua pequenez a noite enorme
É a curiosa sensação de encher a noite enorme
Com a sua pequenez…


You do not need to have translated poetry before to have a go at translating this poem, nor do you need to speak Portuguese - a 'literal' translation has been provided from which you may craft your final version.

To gain a better sense of the poem in the original language, you may wish to listen to this reading on YouTube.

» Submit your version

Poem in translation

XLIV - Literal translation

I wake at night suddenly,
And my clock occupies the whole night.
I cannot feel/sense/hear Nature outside.
My room is a dark thing with walls vaguely/inderminately white.
Outside there is a quietness as if nothing existed.
Only the clock continues its noise.
And this small thing of gears on my table
Muffles/covers up/smothers the entire existence of earth and sky…
I almost lose/forget myself in thinking what this means,
But I stop short, and feel myself smile in the night with the corners of my mouth,
Because the only thing that my clock symbolises or means
Filling with its smallness the enormous night
Is the curious sensation of filling the enormous night
With its smallness…

» Read translator's notes

Help on translating this poem

You do not have to be a published poet or translator to send in your version, or to have ever translated a poem before. We welcome submissions from all. You can submit your version using the form below. Please note that submissions via this form for this project will not be considered for publication in MPT Magazine, and you should consult our submissions guidelines if you wish to submit something for publication.

Submitting a version of this poem to MPT? We recommend reading Margaret Jull Costa‘s workshop notes.


Poetry Translation Workshop 2

By Amarjit Chandan

The poem below is by Najm Hosain Syed, a distinguished name in modern Punjabi literature.

First listen to the poem read out by the poet. View video >>

The point of our exercise, whether you know Punjabi or not, is to understand how the poem works and by close reading and translation to try to see/understand what constitutes the poetry of it. And through a foreign languag...

» Read more


Olive Trees, West Bank

By Jennie Feldman

As for you, my captive
olive tree,
a splendid evening to you,
my tree of enduring captivity,
branches of the everlasting journey...

(From ‘The Evening Wine of Aged Sorrow’)*

At a recent event in East Jerusalem in his honour, the acclaimed Palestinian Israeli poet Taha Muhammad Ali was reading from a new bilingual volume of his work, and once again I was struck by his ow...

» Read more


Poetry Translation Workshops

The MPT Editors have had the opportunity to run poetry translation workshops in schools, and as part of poetry courses such as Arvon, and poetry festivals including Aldeburgh over the last few years. They have also participated in a workshop organised by the British Council in Russia. MPT Board members such as Amarjit Chandan have also been involved in running poetry translation...

» Read more

Submit your version

Please attach your translation of the current poem here. We accept the following file formats: Word (.doc and .docx), Rich Text Format (.rtf). Please ensure that you have JavaScript enabled.

MPT cannot be held responsible for any adverse changes inadvertently made to poem formatting.

If you wish, add notes about your translation in the space provided below.

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