Friday, June 22, 2007

Nomadic Lyrics published in English


Timeless is a very problematic moniker to attach to art, for it bespeaks the somehow otherworldly and the distant. But the world inhabited by G Mend-Oyoo’s poems and narratives can easily fall into the catch of timeless, they are as particles of memory in the modern world, gravid visions in a haze of exhaust fumes.
Mend-Oyoo is perhaps equally timeless, but in a very Mongolian fashion. He is forever taking calls on his cellphone, forever heading this way and that in some vehicle or other; but he thinks like an ancient man, slowly, deliberately and with care, and like a spiritual man, with compassion and with lips of prayer.
All these qualities will be found in the pages that follow. His language is clean and elegant, his ideas contemporary, but his subject matter – that word again – is timeless, oneiric, mythic. The poems are structurally modern, they do not follow necessarily the structure of classical Mongolian litarature, but they talk of family and nature and nomadic life, of horses and airag and landscape, and this is the world in which Mend-Oyoo grew up and became himself.
I have not sought to make these translations literal. Rather I have sought to create a kind of looking-glass, through which Mend-Oyoo’s world is seen perhaps as though beneath the moon or through a haze of heat and dust.

The initial idea for this book, then, came from my dear friend Mend-Oyoo, who asked me to translate a selection of his poems while I was in Ulaanbaatar during August 2006. Although it is I who am listed as the translator, I would like to acknowledge the work done by Peter K Marsh and S Sumiya in translating, respectively, The Legend of the Horse-Head Fiddle and My Gentle Lyric.
Two people deserve special thanks for acting as my living, breathing Mongolian-English dictionary supplements. Mugi Oyoo not only brought me buuz and khushuur on a daily basis, she also consistently placed me and my lexical questions near the top of her to-do list, which, given the Byzantine length and complexity of both her list and my questions, was no mean feat. Tsog Shagdarsüren was always at hand to help explain (in excellent German when necessary) the special nuances of Mongolian and how they could be translated, both semantically and culturally, into English. Tsog was more than a gifted translator, though: he quickly became my friend and his sudden death during the preparation of this book affected me very deeply. I only hope he can see his influence somewhere in these pages.

Simon Wickham-Smith
Seattle WA
February 2nd 2007

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