The Baxter’s Van

The Baxter’s Van
he could thole the skelfs o steel, shairp an wee,
shot throu his craig, his kist, his saft dern thairm
- he cowps a creel o scones wi a vexed airm -
but reichsprotektor Heydrich canna dree
the buhlitts lowsed in anger at his caur
thae Czech keelies, their faces white an soor
raxin, ettlin for his life: wha wid daur,
when aw ken he could chaw them intae stoor?
his ambulance, stapped wi baps, rolls, bannocks,
skitters on the causey stanes an shoogles
the bomb-shards in his wame. He hoasts, panics
as peerie dauds fae his thrawn Nazi tweed
skails slow venom intil his harigals;
an in his neb, the reek o fresh-baked breid.
Matthew Fitt

from Kate o Shanter’s Tale and other poems (Edinburgh: Luath, 2003)

Reproduced by permission of the author and translators.
Pekařský vůz
Drobounké, ostré střepy šrapnelu, 
Které mu pronikly hrdlem, hrudí, skrytým měkkým střevem
ty snese—bezvládnou paží převrátí koš pečiva.
Rány vypálené v hněvu na jeho vůz
Však říšský protektor Heydrich vystát nemůže
Jak se tihle čeští lumpové s bílými, zatrpklými tvářemi
Opovažují ukládat mu o život, když vědí,
Že je může všechny naráz rozdrtit?
Sanitka naložená buchtami, rohlíky a chlebem
dostane na kluzké dlažbě smyk a v břiše
se mu pohnou střepy šrapnelu. Heydrich se rozkašle
propadne panice, zatímco se mu útrobami
šíří jed z cárů sukna nacistické uniformy
a v nozdrách vůně čerstvého chleba.
translated by Alexandra Büchler
Der Bäckerwagen
Die Stahlsplitter konnte er erdulden, klein und scharf
in Nacken, Brust und weich-verborgnen Eingeweiden,
- an einen Korb mit Wecken stößt sein ungehaltner Arm -
doch nicht ertragen kann der Reichsprotektor Heydrich
die Kugeln, die sie zornig auf sein Auto schießen,
Tschechenrüpel, die Gesichter sauer, weiß,
die rangeln, ihm ans Leben wollen, wie vermessen,
da jeder weiß, daß er sie doch zu Staub zerreibt.
Sein Rettungswagen, voll mit Schrippen, Buchteln
schlittert auf dem Asphalt, in seinem Bauch
wirbelt der Schrot, er hustet, Panik faßt ihn,
da Härchen von dem groben Nazituch
langsames Gift in sein Gedärm entlassen,
und in die Nase steigt ihm Duft von frischem Brot.
translated by Esther Kinsky
Fan y Pobydd
Gallai odde’r darnau dur, yn finiog fân
Trwy’i wddf a’i frest a’i berfedd meddal, gwan
Ond (mae’n taro’n pentwr pice’n flin hyd lawr)
Yr hyn all mo’i stumogi, fo’r dyn mawr
Oedd bwledi daniodd dicter yn ei wyneb
A’r gwehilion o frodorion sur a gwelw
Yn crafangu tuag ato. Sut meiddiai neb
A hwythau’n dallt y gall eu malu’n llwch?
A’i ambiwlans â’i llond o dorth a theisen
Yn siglo hyd y stryd, fe ry ysgytiad
I’r teilchion yn ei fol. Mae’n tagu. Dychryn.
A’r carpiau rwygwyd mas o rhwysg ei ddillad
Yn datod trwy’i wythiennau’n wenwyn araf
Ac yn ei ffroenau, oglau’r bara gwyn.
translated by Mererid Puw Davies
Matthew Fitt

Matthew Fitt is a poet and educator, working in the field of Scots language education. 

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Alexandra Büchler

Alexandra Büchler was born in Prague and was educated there, in Thessaloniki, Greece, and in Melbourne, Australia. She has lived in Great Britain since 1989. She is founding director of Literature Across Frontiers, a programme of international literary exchange based in the UK, and a translator from English, Czech and Greek. She has edited several anthologies in Arc's series of bilingual collections of contemporary European poetry.

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Esther Kinsky

Esther Kinsky was born in Engelkirchen, Germany and after living in the UK for a decade, now divides her time between Berlin and Battonya (Hungary). She is considered one of the most distinguished translators from Polish into German and was awarded the prestigious Berlin Brucke award together with the author Olga Tokarczuk for her translation of Tokarczuk's novel Taghaus, Nachthaus. In 2009 Kinsky won the Paul-Celan-Prize for her work as a translator. She is also a novelist and poet in her own right.


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Mererid Puw Davies

Mererid Puw Davies grew up in Lancashire and Clywd, and studied in Hamburg and Oxford. She currently lectures in German Literature, film and cultural studies at University College London.

Besides her academic publications, she is the co-author of two fantasy adventure books, and has published two collections of poetry: Darluniau ('Pictures', 1988) and Caneuon o Ben Draw’r Byd ('Songs from the End of the World', 1996). Mererid Puw Davies is also interested in the translation of poetry, notably from and into Welsh and other lesser-used languages, and has worked, translated and published with poets and translators in lesser-used languages across Europe.

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About The Baxter’s Van

‘Voyages & versions / Tursan is Tionndaidhean’ was the title of the translation workshop run by the Scottish Poetry Library and Literature Across Frontiers 12-18 May 2003. The group consisted of Petr Borkovec (Czech Republic), Mererid Puw Davies (Wales), Jakub Ekier (Poland), Matthew Fitt (Scotland), Rody Gorman (Scotland), Milan Jesih (Slovenia),  Doris Kareva (Estonia), Esther Kinsky (England) and Aled Llion (Wales). The group spent days at Moniack Mhor writing centre in the Highlands, returned to the Library in Edinburgh and went up to Dundee Contemporary Arts, and gave multi-lingual readings, producing what was, in effect, an hour’s sound-poem. Several of the poets mentioned their sense of renewed faith in poetry – how refreshed they felt by the chance to look closely at their own and others’ work in company with people whose aesthetics might be quite different but whose skills and passion were recognisably similar.

When is a bannock not a bannock? When it’s a Czech roll. This is not a riddle or a joke, but a real translation problem: the cake problem – how to translate culturally significant food. If you write about an event in Czech history, as Matthew Fitt did in his poem ‘The Baxter’s Van’, and write in Scots, then the contents of the baker’s van will include bannocks: a puzzle to Matthew’s Czech translator, who was almost indignant about the morning roll’s Scottish recreation – and it reverted to something plainer in her translation.

This is the kind of discussion that best takes place in person – the German translator was drawn in, too (an unexpected affinity between German and Scots was discovered in the course of the workshop) – and represents just a fragment of the practical concerns that occupied the gathering of poets and translators.