J. D. DeJong

Rod Jellema

Rod Jellema Translates J.D. DeJong

Poetry in Translation Issue
Volume 16:3, Summer 2015

Sailing-Barges at Night

It has passed;
the cold light gone, a dim light left, blind
from one bank to the other over the water,
a knocking and asking delicately
against the black barges, until
it just disappeared.

Boats at night.
It was a dark land and a black sky,
little lights in the small waves, else nothing
except for the sound of a child, a hush:
the intimate breath of the canal.

Where is it blown
as the reeds rustle on stalks turning brown
and sigh on the dreary banks?
We slide our last boat ashore
and doze off—the currents
have drifted farther.               


Skûten by Nacht

It wie wol dien;
‘t kâlde ljocht net mear, mar in skimer, blyn
fan wâl wer oan wâl oer it wetter
en in klopjen en freegjen, fyn
tsjin swarte skûten, letter
is ‘t hinnegien.

Skippen by nacht;
‘t wie in tsjuster lân en in dûnkere loft,
wat ljocht yn ‘e weachjes, oars neat
as in bernelûd, in sêft geroft;
‘t ynlik amjen fan ‘e feart.

Wêr is it bleaun,
as it reid sa rûst op al bruner stâl’
of flústert yn sûmbere seamen?
Wy skowe ús lêste skip oan wâl
en slomje yn—De streamen
binn’ fierder dreaun.


Original text of poem in the Frisian language are copyrighted in the Netherlands,© 1985 and 1989, Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert. Used by permission. English translation is from Rod Jellema, bilingual books Country Fair, Poems from Friesland Since 1945 and The Sound that Remains: a Historical Collection of Frisian Poetry ©Rod Jellema, 1985, 1990.


J. D. DeJong (1912-1996) was a professional photographer and filmmaker. In 1937 he produced the first Frisian movie, Kar út twa ("Choice out of Two"). His debut book of poems Lunchroom (1936) demonstrates a modernization in Frisian poetry, turning its back on the rural village settings in favor of the modern city and introducing sentiments of anger, fatalism and a powerless sense of justice. After World War II he did not develop his talents as poet any further; a final collection of poetry appeared in 1963.

Rod Jellema is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, where he was the founding director of the Creative Writing Program. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Incarnality: The Collected Poems (Eerdmans, 2010). He met and studied the language of his forbears by editing and translating two Frisian-English bilingual books, The Sound that Remains (Eerdmans, 1990), and Country Fair (Eerdmans, 1985). He is the only American to have been awarded Fryslân's highest literary award, the Pieter Jelles Prize. Jellema has been twice awarded writer's fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. To read more by this author: Audio Issue, Memorial Issue, Jellema on Ezra Pound, Five Poems, Volume 3:1, Winter 2002