You are currently viewing as the sea fathomed you out
Katsushika Hokusai, Chôshi In Shimôsa Province, 1883.

Language: Maltese
Poet: Leanne Ellul
Translator: Albert Gatt
Region: Malta

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as the sea fathomed you out

Three poems by Leanne Ellul, translated from Maltese by Albert Gatt. 

Fuq għedtlek 1

L-ewwel ħaġa li għedtlek
– bil-baħar ifannad fik –
li l-baħar ma jinkitibx u
li int mhux il-baħar.
Stramb il-baħar u d-daqsijiet tiegħu.
Daqs issa u mbagħad. Daqs dawk u dawn.
Daqs hemm u hawn. Daqs hawn u hemm.

L-ordni mhux l-istess.

L-ordni qatt mhi l-istess.

L-ordni qatt mhi.

On Telling 1

The first thing I told you
—as the sea fathomed you out—
is that one does not write sea and
sea is not what you are.
Strange is the sea and strange its measures.
The measure of now and later. Of that and this.
Of there and here. Of here and there.

The order’s not the same.

Order never is the same.

Order never is.

Fuq għedtlek 2

It-tieni ħaġa li għedtlek –
il-baħar multiplikazzjonijiet mewwieġa.
Stramb il-mewġ u strambi s-somom li rridu nsolvu.
Int kumplikazzjoni daqs il-mewġ; eqdes mill-mewt.
Bejn mewġ u mewt hemm ittra tkompli tilgħab.
Fewwaq il-jum mil-lejl u ejja hawn,
serraħ ġenbek fuqi.

On Telling 2

The second thing I told you—
the sea is cresting wave times wave.
Strange are the crests and strange the sums we have to solve.
You and the waves alike are complication; more sacred than death’s rest.
Crest and rest: a single letter is in play.
Relieve the day of night, come over here,
lean your flank into me.

Fuq għedtlek 3

Mudlama l-ispazji sejjieħa li għammarna fihom.
Ħallih il-lejl jaħdem hu l-multiplikazzjonijiet mundana.

On Telling 3

Such dark enjoining spaces we’ve inhabited.
Let night work it all out, each one of these mundane multiplications.

Leanne Ellul writes poetry and prose, and has published works for both adults and children. She was named Best Emerging Author in the 2016 National Book Prize, and her works for children have garnered various Terramaxka awards. L-Inventarju tal-Kamra l-Kaħla, her first poetry collection, was published in 2020. Her latest published work is Bjuda, the fruit of an interdisciplinary project centered around the color white. Ellul lectures in Maltese language and literature and is active in Inizjamed and HELA Foundation, two NGOs that have Maltese language and culture at their core.

Albert Gatt trained as a linguist and computer scientist. His research focuses on the use of language in artificial (AI) and human systems, and on the relationship between perceptual and symbolic data. He has translated poetry and prose by several Maltese authors, including Clare Azzopardi, Karl Schembri, Claudia Gauci, and Achille Mizzi. Recent translations include Last-Ditch Ecstasy by Adrian Grima (Malta: Midsea Books, 2017 and Mumbai: Paperwall Publishing) and In the Name of the Father by Immanuel Mifsud (UK: Parthian, 2020). Excerpts from his translation of the modernist classic Nanna’s Children in America by Juann Mamo (1934) have appeared in the journal Countertext. He currently works at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and is also affiliated with the University of Malta.