Image - from the publication Ancient American Poets - Translated and compiled by John Curl ANCIENT MESOAMERICAN POETS
Translated and Compiled by John Curl
I began these translations two decades ago after a conversation with the great translator-poet Jack Hirschman. I had been reading ancient indigenous literature unavailable in English and thought it contained knowledge that could change the world if it could be brought to light. He encouraged me to try to change the world.

To do these translations, I collected all the available original texts and previous translations (mostly in Spanish), as well as various dictionaries and grammars of the original languages. I immersed myself in the languages one at a time--Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, and Quecha--using previous translations as gateways into the original texts.

These translations are literary interpretations designed to communicate the original meanings and beauty, as opposed to being literal scholarly translations. My approach is to try to dig down to the original intent and meaning and bring those out in the translation. A too-literal approach winds up focusing on the trees and missing the forest.

I have followed the lead of previous translators in cutting up the lines and modifying the word division and punctuation in the original language to fit the particular translation. Although this may be at variance with the original manuscript, it makes the poetry much more accessible and easier to follow in the original language. The layouts reflect the interpretations inherent in the translations.

Indigenous words used in the commentaries are in modern spelling, except for traditional spellings of names and words adopted into the English language. The text are in their colonial orthography. In Spanish-language texts, accents in conformity with Spanish grammatical rules are customarily inserted into Amerindian words, the bulk of which are names of people and places, such as Dzitbalché, Nezahualcóyotl, Manco Cápac. In modern English, some books follow the Spanish usage, while others do not. Here we will follow Amerindian usage, so those names will be spelled without the accents: Dzitbalche, Nezahualcoyotl, and Manco Capac.

I hope these translations reflect some of the brilliant light of the original poems. . .

The Songs of Dzitbalche
Ancient Mayan Poetry
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