Representing Europe in NPR's Poetry Games is Slovenian poet Ales Steger. Steger's first work translated into English, The Book of Things, won last year's Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. The translator was poet Brian Henry, who also translated Steger's Olympic poem, "Once More."
Henry explains that the phrase "tralala oompah" in the poem approximates the Slovenian expression "tralala hopsasa," which "is meant to combine the airiness of 'tralala' with a plodding, folksy rhythm ('oompah' is the closest equivalent in English to 'hopsa,' an onomatopoeic sound of the brass instruments used in Slovenian folk music)."
Henry continues: "In a way, the poem is calling for everyone (including 'bankers with pacemakers') to participate in the Olympics, and for the Olympics to affect everyone. I think the poem is a lightly humorous call to action (reinforced by the title, which would be translated as 'Encore' if the poem were translated into French)."
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
More verse now, because every day this week, we're hearing competitors in our Poetry Games, MORNING EDITION's celebration of the Olympics in verse.
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MONTAGNE: Today, competing from Slovenia, poet Ales Steger, who found inspiration in Olympic diver Greg Louganis. Louganis famously suffered a concussion during a dive at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He went on to win two gold medals there. Louganis also won gold in Los Angeles and silver in Montreal. Ales Steger's award-winning poetry is translated by fellow poet Brian Henry. He says the poem, titled "Once More," is a call to action for everyone to participate in the Olympics, and for the Olympics to affect everyone. Here, Brian Henry reads Ales Steger's entry into the Poetry Games.
BRIAN HENRY: "Once More." (Reading) If a great idea is translated into a body, then Greg Louganis is an Einstein. If a body is translated into a great idea, Einstein is tralala oompah. Which gods do chess grandmasters dream about? It is time, my love. We all participate in this outrageous activity. Let bankers with pacemakers run the marathon. Let naked sumo wrestlers decide our common fate. Let us pierce the concrete with our heads. Every time, it's a top score, and we are in no hurry to get anywhere.
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MONTAGNE: Ales Steger's poem "Once More," coming to us from Slovenia. Five days, five poems from around the world. Listen to them all at npr.org, where you can vote on the poem you think deserves the gold. We'll announce the winner next week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.