The Washerman


We were very fortunate having the poet himself, Mohan Rana, with us in our workshop when we were translating this poem as he was able to answer some of those almost ineffable questions that inevitably arise when translating poetry.

Lucy Rosenstein is a very experienced and sensitive translator of poetry into English and so our version is not far from her literal in many places - such as the opening few lines.

We had a lot of discussion about 'the brimming reflection / wrinkle the water': was it wrinkles on the skin, or was the surface of the water 'wrinkled'? Of course, the answer was: both; and we tried to retain that ambiguity in our translation.

The longest discussion was around 'nowness of the dead': their presence and present was hard to convey until we came up with this unusual word - which the poet approved!

And finally, the last image took some thought. It refers to what happens when you're looking down into the sky reflected in the water's surface - which you then 'stir' when you begin to wash.