Folksinger, translated by Rosie Evans

You walk
looking everywhere for the song
although your feet don’t yet know it.

Like a peach tree
you see so many flowers on its branches.
And when the peaches begin to ripen
you pace round and round its base
longing to pick yourself the best fruit.
you bite into it eagerly.

You walk sometimes looking
to be alone
and the song of the rooster, the bird, the owl
and the cricket accompany you.

If your eyes have
found a place to look within,
if your mouth speaks
and the guitar plays,
with you there will be
a peach blossom.


This poem is the first poem of the anthology ‘Ahora bebemos de la tierra’ or ‘Now we drink from the earth’ by Elizabeth Pérez Tzintzún. The first problem that I faced was the title. Cantador translates not only as folksinger but also as singer-songwriter or even chorister. I eventually decided to translate the title as folksinger because it encompasses the meaning and natural, traditional feeling of the poem. Describing the natural world is a common feature of folksongs, which can be seen in the description of the peach tree and the animals accompanying the song, therefore, I decided that folksinger would be most appropriate. The second problem which I encountered was in translating el canto on the thirteenth line. At first, I translated this as the tune however, after some deliberation, I changed the translation to the song. This is because of the repetition of the word song, or the verb singing throughout the poem. Even the title references the word ‘song’. Therefore, I could not leave this repetition, integral to the meaning of the poem, out. The final problem which I encountered was when translating the lines fifteen and sixteen – Si tienen tus ojos, dónde mirarse. I was puzzled by the intended meaning of this line, since the verb used, mirar, is reflexive – whether it was the eyes looking at each other, perhaps the peach tree, or inwards towards the soul. The translation ‘if your eyes have found a place to look within’ seemed most appropriate because this retains some of the reflexive meaning yet has a sense of contemplation of the soul and and the natural world matching the imagery and description in the poem.

Cantador (Spanish version)

buscando por todas partes la canción
aunque tus pies no lo sepan todavía.

Como al árbol de durazno
miras así tantas flores en sus ramas.
Y cuando comienzan los duraznos a madurar
das vueltas y vueltas a su pie
con la gana de cortarte el mejor fruto.
ansioso lo muerdes.

Andas buscando a veces
estar solo
y el canto del gallo, del pájaro, del búho
y del grillo te acompañan.

Si tienen tus ojos
dónde mirarse,
si habla tu boca y suena la guitarra,
habrá de estar contigo
una flor de durazno.

Pireri (P’urhepecha version)

iápuru pirekuani jirinantani
nak’itiru jantsiriticha no mítiaaka.

Eska anatapu turasuni
ménkuri xáni uáni tsitsiki erarhukuasinka.
Eka turasu uénak’a ninirhuni
uanantukuni ka uanantukusinkari
sántiru ampanarhiri p’ikunchaparini.
anenchaparini katsat’akusinka.

Jámasinkari ménchani jirinani
jantiak’u jarhani
ka t’arhechuiri, kuíniri, tukuruiri
ka t’irhikiri pirekuakini pámpisinti.

Eka éskuticha jatsiaaka
nani eratikurhini
eka penchumikuti uantaaka
ka sétima kúskani
tsitsiki turasu
t’únkini jinkoni jauati.


Original poem by Elizabeth Pérez Tzintzún. Spanish and P’urhepecha versions reproduced by kind permission of the poet.