Yukon poetry, found in translation

When Clea Roberts first drove up to the Yukon almost 10 years ago, it was the dead of winter, dark and 30 below. At some point along the Alaska Highway, she could see faint lights over the hills.

When Clea Roberts first drove up to the Yukon almost 10 years ago, it was the dead of winter, dark and 30 below.

At some point along the Alaska Highway, she could see faint lights over the hills.

“Those must be the city lights of Teslin,” she told her husband, when in fact they were the Northern Lights.

“I moved to the Yukon sight unseen and I had no idea that a dot on the map could mean such a rural village,” she told the News last week.

“There is significance in those dots and it altered my previous conception of solitude and isolation. I found that as soon as I moved up here, the landscape required some kind of response, more so than other places I’d lived in.”

Inspired by Yukon’s long winters and the diaries of men and women from the Klondike Gold Rush era, Roberts spent the next several years honing her craft and writing poetry.

The end result is called Here Is Where We Disembark, a collection published in English in 2010, and in German last year.

It turns out that German, with all its guttural sounds, was a great fit for her poetry because it contains words that can express complex concepts in English.

“They have these words that have a huge back story and meaning,” she said.

“They condense meaning down to one word, like schadenfreude. That’s the best poetry.”

Translators from different backgrounds approach ideas and images differently, and might filter them through their own cultural lenses, she said.

The translation process took three years.

Her publisher, Freehand Books, reached out to almost 10 German publishers and finally, it was Edition Rugerup that stepped up.

“I found the publishing industry a lot more competitive there,” she said.

“It appears as though their funding for contemporary poetry isn’t as good as it is here. They’re really limited in what they can publish.”

Roberts has German friends who read and compared the English and German versions of her book, and concluded the end result was very similar.

“She did a very accurate translation, both literally and figuratively,” Roberts said of the translator.

“It’s interesting given the German approach to wilderness, and how they might see it differently than we see it. They have these deep cultural memories of winter that go back to the Little Ice Age, a period between the 16th and 19th centuries when summers were shortened and they had to significantly adjust crop cycles to keep people fed. People started spending more time indoors and it definitely had an impact on people’s creativity.”

Now a mother of two, Roberts is inspired by her children and interested in exploring the internal and external components of landscape.

“The romantic poets used to use weather to reflect their current state of emotion,” she said.

“The words we use to describe the feelings evoked by the landscape suggest an interior element.”

She would love to see her future work published in other languages, such as French and Japanese.

“People have told me there’s a zen-like quality to my writing,” she said, “very much like a haiku.”

“I never meant to do that, it came naturally. It seemed like language was so foreign to foist onto this amazing place (Yukon), I wanted to be careful with the words I used because I didn’t want to overwhelm what I was describing with long line breaks.”

Roberts is currently working with renowned Canadian poet Don McKay on her latest manuscript.

Contact Myles Dolphin at myles@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Most Read