Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Unpublished French Poems— Tanella Boni

Feb 6, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the French by Patrick Williamson 


Unpublshed poems by Tanella Boni

Image used for representation


It’s a paper sun
a sun adorned with big dreams
that you’ll open at dawn
among your singing words
the memory of the country of women
whose echoes reach you

From echo to echo
you set down in your word
the interferences of the world
where your body, on borrowed time
immerses itself

From echo to echo
you build your dream world in words
where the powerful and the trampled
breathe the same boundless air 

You pace the gates of the night
all senses lit up
as if you had left
the land of shadows
that you abandon
in the early hours

You will restore your spirits
close to nature
which takes you under its wing

You, the traveler who awakens
you don’t know where to land on the moon which sky
when you hear your Earth’s call 

This place makes it all come back
it knows where you live
it names your neighbors
they are humans
it’s the tree-savannah
the great forest dying
the glaciers on borrowed time
your home is the Earth
where you live surrounded by green
and all the colors of the rainbow
weaving the beauty of the splendid day

Here you are back at high noon
you’ve forgotten the mood
of great uncertainties
you want to wear the pagne of hope
that is slow to be born
but the choice is no longer yours
You have to bring together
under the same sky
the sun and the moon
which don’t look at each other
don’t speak to each other
coveting the same power
to rule night and day
far apart
without ever meeting

And you who see
our world from up high
you’ve lost
the key to sharing
the map of meeting
you enjoy sowing
the long story of the land of the living
who don’t talk to each other
yet they wear the same soles
that travel the meanders of time
where the treasures of humanity lie 

You who imagine
that a new land is possible
you spread your ingenious wealth
who knows why now
it is scattered and wasted
like the grains of an endless game
that stirs your desires


Some of the lines above are from the translation by Nancy Naomi Carlson & Catherine Maigret Kellogg of a previous version of these poems that were published in The High Window, in June 2022.

Also, read a Bengali story by Satadal Mitra, translated into English by Shamita Das Dasgupta, and published in The Antonym:  

The Sal Tree Or An Occult Narrative— Satadal Mitra

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Tanella Boni is a poet, novelist, and philosopher (Ivory Coast). Her second most recent collection is Là où il fait si clair en moi (Bruno Doucey, Paris, 2017). Her latest collection is Insoutenable frontière (Bruno Doucey, Paris, November 2022). Her most recent novel, published in October 2022 is Sans parole ni poignée de main (Nimba, Abidjan).

Patrick Williamson is an English poet and translator. He is a part-time lecturer on a master’s degree in translation at ESIT, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3. His most recent poetry collections are Take a deep look ( 2022), Traversi (English-Italian, Samuele Editore, 2018), Beneficato (Samuele Editore, 2015), Gifted (Corrupt Press, 2014), Nel Santuario (Samuele Editore, 2013; Menzione speciale della Giuria in the XV Concorso Guido Gozzano, 2014). He is the editor and translator of The Parley Tree, Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World (Arc Publications, 2012), and translator notably of Tunisian poet Tahar Bekri, Quebecois poet Gilles Cyr, as well as Italian poets Guido Cupani and Erri de Luca. Active in film poems (Afterwords with Mauro Coceano) and projects in association with artists’ book publisher Transignum in France. Founding member of transnational literary agency LINGUAFRANCA



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