Friday, August 12, 2022

The Swan, by Rainer Maria Rilke

I recently undertook a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem, "Der Schwan". My intention was to translate it from English into Spanish, but I had some questions about prior English translations, so I set out to understand the poem in its original German. The problem is, aside from "guten Tag", I know very little German. I began with a literal, word-for-word translation from German into English. I then studied many of the German words and their deeper meanings and tried to understand the essence of Rilke's poem. I also sought input from friends who speak German, and I received some wonderful input and feedback. Helge Moulding offered profound advice, explaining that Rilke "stacked" words in German in order to create new words and deeper meanings, which makes some of the translation difficult. Helge also provided input on some of my original word choices. After considering the input I received, I am posting the translation below. That's not to say that it is complete. I am open to further input and revisions. Thanks to all who provided feedback. (Additional note: I know that Rilke used rhythmic meter in the original poem. I am not skilled enough to both rhyme and capture the soul of the poem, so I instead opted for free-verse.)

The Swan
 by Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translation by K. Wasden)

As he toils at tasks left undone,
his steps are heavy and hindered,
like the graceless gait of the Swan.

And dying–that detachment from
the ground on which we daily stand–
he descends apprehensively

into the water that receives him gently,
as it flows past happily
beneath him, wave after wave,
as he, infinitely calm and certain,
evermore ready and regal,
consents to pass.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Espero Despierto

Espero despierto,

Y cuando la esperanza se apaga, duermo. 

En los sueños busco otro anhelo

O al menos escapar.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Un Cuco Común

Sometimes things just sound better in Spanish. 

Un Cuco Común

Soy un cuco común
      Destructivo y engañoso,
           Inocente por naturaleza.

Mi padre y su familia
      Ellos piensan que soy de ellos
          A pesar de mi estatura,
               A pesar de mi palidez, 
                   A pesar de la prudencia en mis ojos.

La verdad en mi sangre
      Me desconecta,
           Dos veces hijo bastardo.
Lo que tengo no es mío,
Y lo que es mío, nunca lo he conocido.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Mistakes were made on purpose

"When you make a mistake, it just might be the most brilliant thing you did all day." -Brent Knopf

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Good of a Bad Story

T. is a good kid, but like many good kids, he still gets himself into a little bit of trouble now and again. Today, T. was challenging a substitute teacher, nothing major, but enough that the narrative found its way back to me. I pulled him aside on his way back from lunch.

"Hey, T. Can we talk for a minute?" His eyebrow raised as he tried to figure out what might justify a conversation with the principal.

"Sure," he answered timidly.

"T., can I tell you a story?"

"Yeah. I guess."

"Once upon a time . . . " I began, giving myself a moment to gather my thoughts. I was making the story up on the fly. I knew what I wanted to say, but not exactly how. It wasn't going to be a great story, but I pushed forward anyway. ". . . there were two backpackers climbing a mountain. They walked side-by-side, their backpacks filled with a lot of heavy objects. As they climbed, one of the backpackers tired more than the other. He began to take objects out of his own pack and place them in the pack of his companion. Soon his companion's pack was so heavy that he could barely continue and struggled to reach their destination. The end."

T. looked at me as if to say, "that wasn't a very good story."

I smiled and said, "T., can I tell you another story?"

"Um, yes," he said.

"Once upon a time there were two backpackers climbing a mountain . . ."

"Hey, that's the same story," he interjected.

". . . They walked side-by-side, their backpacks filled with a lot of heavy objects. As they climbed, one of the backpackers tired more than the other. The stronger of the two, seeing his friend's struggle, began to take some of the heavy objects out of companion's pack and place them in his own. Together they reached their destination. The end," I concluded. "T, what's the difference in these two stories?"

"Well, in the first one, the backpacker put heavy objects in the other's backpack and made it harder for his companion. In the second story, one backpacker made it easier for the other."

"That's right," I said. "Which type of backpacker do you want to be?"

Recognizing where the conversation was headed, he dropped his head slightly and said, "the one who helps the other."

"T., you have a substitute teacher in your classroom who is doing her best. COVID-19 is placing a heavy burden on our teachers and these substitute teachers are jumping in and trying to help us out. Are you increasing her burden or trying to reduce it?"

He knew the answer.

I followed up with the substitute teacher the next day and was informed that T. had done much better the remainder of the day and into the next.

Obviously, I'm not a great story-teller, but what I want to share from this experience is this: as teachers and administrators, we need to remember that every opportunity to punish is actually an opportunity to teach.

I believe our students, almost without exception, want to do what is right, but sometimes they just need a gentle reminder.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Painting Goals

I've had to be kind to myself as I have tried to find time to draw and paint more.  I set the goal of completing 25 acrylic paintings by the end of June.  It was a good goal, but, with only 10 paintings currently completed, I have little hope of achieving my objective.  Still, the effort has been beneficial.  I have seen improvement--perhaps I'm not close to the same skill I was developing a decade ago, but I can see growth, even when my practice has been greatly limited.  Below are some of the paintings I have created in pursuit of my goal:

Common Cuckoo (second draft)

Common Cuckoo
by Kevin Wasden
© June 2020

I am a common cuckoo
     Destructive and deceitful,
          Blameless by nature.

My father and his family
     They think me theirs
         In spite of my stature,
              In spite of my paleness,
                  Despite the prudence in my eyes.

The truth in my blood
     Disconnects me--
          Twice a bastard child.
That which I hold is not mine,
And that which is mine I’ve never known.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

John Haines

I wish I had discovered John Haines sooner.

I am nearly 50 years old and only stumbled onto his writings a few months ago. I wish I had found  "The Tree" or "Poem of the Wintry Fisherman" twenty-five years ago. I want to think I would have been just as inspired by his writing then as I am now.  I want to think I would have felt the same connection and been inspired to greater works.  However, I am sure his words would not have had the same meaning for me. I was immature and felt unrooted.  I wasn't ready.  What I have now, that I lacked then, is a greater connection to "place."  I understand better how place--the small towns and big cities, the people and the land--have shaped me and my perspectives.

I love this excerpt from Haines' Living Off the Country:

"Poetry seems to have been a natural response to my living there [Alaska].  My first winter in the cabin at Richardson, unable for some reason to paint, I began attempting poems in which I could express some of my feeling for this place I was coming to know, amazed at all I was seeing and learning.  The poems were not, of course, very good.  They were hardly poems at all.  I had a lot to learn, about writing and about myself.  To really know the place, I had to live here, build here, become intimate with it and know it for a long time, before I could say anything about it that would be personal and distinctive.  It was nearly ten years before I wrote anything that satisfied me" (Haines, Living Off the Country: Essays on Poetry and Place, 1981, p. 11).

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I discovered John Haines at just the right time.  I have lived in my current home for the past 13 years.  Prior to that, I averaged a move every two years of my life.  I struggled to identify myself with the places I had lived.  It's not that I wasn't shaped by them, but I felt my identity wasn't connected to them.  Now, I have watched my children grow in the same home for the past 13 years.  I have made contributions to my community and made connections to the people around me and been supported by them in times of need.  This connection to place has awakened in me a greater awareness of other places from my past that, although fleeting, have shaped me.  So much of my life can be best understood within the context of the places I have lived, and more particularly the spaces I connected to.

Rediscovering Art

In 2016, I became the Dean of Students at Venture High School and in 2018 I moved into a principal position at Venture Academy.  The move into administration brought with it an increase in responsibility and work hours.  I still tried to maintain a sketchbook and draw or paint when I could, however, art was relegated to a lesser role in my life.  I don't regret the decision to move into educational administration.  It feels right and I hope and believe there is purpose for my service.  However, I've realized that I still need a creative outlet in my life, so I've made a more concerted effort to make time to draw and paint.  That means I've had to sacrifice time I used to spend on other things, but mostly that means I spend more time with a sketchbook and less time time watching Netflix or movies.  No, I still don't have time to complete any major works of art, but it feels good to sketch and to share my art with a larger community via social media.  Following are some of the drawings/paintings I've done over the past month or so.  I post new art more regularly on Instagram at @Wasden_art.  Feel free to follow.