Lisa’s Literal Translations #2 – Emily Dickinson #294


What a Literal Translation is: A word-f0r-word translation that swaps words out with literal synonyms

Why a Literal Translation: They help dissect hard-to-understand poems. Most of the time.

Emily Dickinson’s poem #294, the Original:

The Doomed – regard the Sunrise
With different Delight –
Because – when next it burns abroad
They doubt to witness it –

The Man – to die – tomorrow –
Harks for the Meadow Bird –
Because its Music stirs the Axe
That clamors for his head –

Joyful – to whom the Sunrise
Precedes Enamored – Day
Joyful – for whom the Meadow Bird
Has ought but Elegy!


Lisa’s Literal Translation:

The Condemned – look at the Emerging of the Sun
With altering Happiness –
Because – the time soonest again it fires far away
They question to see it –

The Male Person – to expire – the day after today –
Listens for the Field Small Winged And Beaked Animal –
For The Reason That its Song moves the Bladed Hammer
That calls for his uppermost appendage –

Ecstatic – to whom the Lifting of the Sun
Comes Before Love-Smacked – AM
Ecstatic – for whom the Field Small Winged And Beaked Animal
Holds nothing but Lament for the Dead!


This poem implies that even someone on death row might be looking forward to the new day (their death day). I’m guessing because death means freedom. I chose a Dickinson poem at random, because I just love her, even if her poems are a bit hard to understand sometimes.

If you have a poem you’d like to see me translate literally, just let me know!

Five Things I Loved about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is the story of two magicians raised from childhood into a competition with each other—though at first they do not know who they are competing against, or what the rules of the competition are. All they know is that they are supposed to be extraordinary. And eventually, they discover that their competition is to take place in the mysterious Night Circus, or Le Cirque des Rêves (or the Circus of Dreams). The circus is really their canvas, and thus it becomes something more than just a normal circus. It becomes magical. Here are some of my favorite things about this book:

night-circus-cover-low-res1) The circus itself.

Everything in the Circus is black and white. And the tents described are stunning, to say the least. A garden made entirely of ice. A maze that climbs up, but that you can jump down from without harming yourself at any height. A true labyrinth. A wishing tree. And those are just a few. I love the imagination that went into these lovely things, and I wish I could see them.

2) Except that you almost can see them.

You know how some books get bogged down with description? There are some VERY thorough descriptions in this book… but you never feel as if they’re weighing on you as a reader, because the things they are describing are so beautiful or unique or fascinating. I have such a clear idea of what some of the circus looks like, because Morgenstern showed me exactly what she wanted me to see. I listened to this on audio, but the gorgeous details alone make me want to buy the physical book so I can leaf through it at my leisure.

3) The reader is invited into the circus, too.

I know this part throws some people off, but there are bits here and there throughout the book in second person (that’s using “YOU” instead of “He/She” or “I”). Some people are so unused to this that it really threw them out of the book and made them uncomfortable, but for me this made the book so much more. I let these second person bits take me away, and I really felt as if I was being enveloped in the magic of the circus, right along with the other patrons.

4) The perfect escapism here.

What I love really, is that this book is everything a circus is supposed to be. Mystical. Wonderful. A bit of something beyond everyday life. This book made me feel like a child who could believe in absolutely anything. And that it can be beautiful on top of everything else. Maybe I’m being repetitive here. But really, the book is So. Full. Of. Magic.

5) The End

I have to admit, I was expecting this ending to tear my heart out and stomp on it. And while I was a little surprised at how not traumatized I was by the ending, I did love it. Finishing this book was like a hot cup of cocoa… rich and satisfying.

And as a bonus, if you listen to the audiobook, it’s read by Jim Dale. Who happened to once play Phineas Taylor Barnum in the Broadway musical Barnum (one of my favorites!) (and you know, of Barnum & Bailey?) so he is really the absolutely perfect person to read this.

In truth, there wasn’t a lot about this book that I didn’t love. Well, except maybe that there was a touch of uncomfortable eeriness here and there—but really, that’s all part of the deal when there’s a circus involved. 😉

Highly, highly recommend this one.

What is the most magical book you’ve read?

Lisa’s Literal Translations #1 – Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18


Sonnet #18 by William Shakespeare (Literal Translation):

Should I balance your qualities with those of a 24 hour period in the hottest season?

You are prettier and milder.

Callous movements of air rattle the dear flowerettes of May,

And the season of sun’s rental agreement possesses totally too brief a calendar length.

Once in a while overly high in temperature the visionary organ of paradise gleams,

And usually is his yellow metal coloring darkened by some degree;

And each decent from decent occasionally slopes downward,

By luck, or Gaia’s altering route, unshaven;

But your forever hotness won’t diminish,

Or fail to keep hold of that nicety you are in debt of,

Or will afterlife crow you meander within his darkness,

When in unending single dimension pictures to passage of days you syretch.

As opposite of short as males can take in oxygen, or ocular lenses can perform their primary function,

As opposite of short exists such, and such presents animation to you.



The Original:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

What a literal translation is: A literal translation is taking something and rewriting it in literal synonyms. For example rewriting “house” as “home,” or if you want to be less pretty about it, “living abode.”

The trick is you can’t use any of the same words as in the real poem, minus the’s and and’s and whatnot. Any word you can replace, you do replace.  This is something my favorite professor had us do in college with poems that were hard to understand, or when she wanted us to think about them a different way, and it was one of my favorite things to do in her classes.

Every Thursday I’m going to be doing a literal rewrite of a poem for you. They may be long or short, but I hope they’ll be fun! I’m going to start out with some more familiar poems just to get things started. And I might throw in a song here and there for fun. If you ever want to see something literally translated, just let me know in the comments!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor – A Musing



These. Books.

Okay, I’m going to preface this by saying that I am not really a fan of angel/demon stories. A small part of this is because I’m religious, but mostly because… blech. Boring. I just don’t think there is much you can do with that approaching it via the conventional methods. Fallen angel. Misguided angel. Whatever.

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone books, on the other hand, is so richly imagined that I just want to wrap my mind inside it for hours at a time. Which of course is exactly what you want from a book. I devoured these books on audio. Which isn’t hard when you work graves, but that’s hardly the point. The point is: I loved them.

While this series is indeed about angels and demons, it is really about two fantastical nations that are ancient,  rich with history, and happen to have been at war with each other since time out of mind.

I can’t even really go into how the main characters fit into this without giving a lot away, but I can tell you that I am so, so impressed with this world. The descriptions are beautiful, the characterizations rich, and the monsters are, well, monstrous. What I love about it most, maybe, is that it is filled with shades of grey. There are good characters and bad characters, but they aren’t all on one side of the battle or the other. And they don’t always know what they’re fighting for.

And oh, Taylor has a knack for ripping your heart out. Which personally, is something I love in a good story. Just when you think that things are about to get better, they get so much bone-crushingly worse. On the flipside of the coin, though, just when your heart has been ripped through the shredder, something happens like a gift—a boon—something that tells you that after everything, Taylor is a merciful god, at least.

Also, the settings are superb and full of escapism/wanderlust fancy that made me want to quit my job and move to Europe. Ish.

If you haven’ read this yet, go out and get it. It is fabulous. You will not be sorry. Well, until you realize that the next installment doesn’t come out until 2014.


By the by, this Thursday I’ll be starting a new weekly series involving literary nerdliness. Come back and check it out!

On the Terrifying Notion of Change


Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’d say I’ve been busy (because I really, really have) but I’ve also been a little bit overwhelmed by something that I am just starting to really wrap my head around.

I recently returned home from a writer’s conference with a buzzing sense of clarity on how to fix my novel. My novel that is 80,000 words and “completed” but just not done. Not ready.

I was already going to have to rewrite it to pretty it up, but I’d been putting that off until I figured out what I needed to do to strengthen it into what I really needed it to be. Now I feel as if I have a good strong idea as to how to make this book as good as I can truly make it on my own, but And here’s the kicker: I would have to change all of it.

Okay, not all of it. My story really in its basic form is almost exactly the same. But I am working to rewrite it with more conflict, higher stakes, and stronger motivations.

And while it was a little bit terrifying, when I got home from that conference, I ignored my 80,000 word document and opened up a new, utterly blank one.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t think this will be easy. I don’t know how long it will take. But I’m thankful that I knew what I was doing well enough to know that I wasn’t doing it well in the first place. If that makes sense.

Right now I have some 1600 words in my new document. It is… nothing. So far I’m working from my head and my heart and rewriting things word for word. Soon I’ll get to patches that I can more or less transcribe, but right now it’s a whole new terrifying ballgame. I feel a bit like I’m freefalling. Which isn’t new for me on this project.

But you know what else? For the first time since I finished the first draft? I’m thrilled to be working on this project. For he first time, the freefalling is actually fun. Is another project still distracting me a little bit? Yes, I have to admit that it is. But I’m not too worried about that.

This is a big change for what Isabelle Santiago calls my “heart story,” but if it takes it closer to becoming something that will last in the hearts of others, I’m all for it.

Have you ever had to start something over completely before? Where did it take you?