Wednesday, 24 September 2008


is good for you! after stalker i feel sufficiently ennervated to go out for a night cycle with the dunkeld squad. maybe it's better rest or maybe it's the cyclocross intervals i've been doing. whatever it is, i cycle the wheels off them. which is good but now means at least two of them'll be training to beat me the next time!

better yet i discover the virus of road cycling is getting to them and another one has succumbed. we should all emerge fitter and stronger from the winter. it's all good!


okay, here we go. style : fast and rambling

so i decide to have a lazy day (until that is, i decide to go out on the bike), tucked up watching stalker.

i haven't seen this film since i was in my teens. something tells me i'm most likely to have seen it at the university film club as we favoured such things but i can't be sure. i'm certain had i seen it with others i'd recall talking about it so maybe i saw i rare showing on tv. i do remember thinking 'what the hell is this?' but that's about all

and maybe i associate with my university days because what a great film for us to have talked about. because watching it now it seems just so... adolescent! which is probably harsh but it just felt like such a boys film, well actually, let's face it it is a boys film, and i can just imagine my young peer group getting all earnest about it.

look at the references we'd say, but you can say that about the simpsons. but what about the philosophy we'd say - because (and it isn't necessarily a bad thing) the philosophy is easy enough for teenage boys to access. and we'd have got into the characters, oh yes we would, any one of the three of them. last of the mohicans ref? even better!

today i hated them all. what a bunch of wankers! how i wished there really was actually an alien beast there to kill them. which is pretty good characterisation in my book! lol (or it might be if you didn't have to include the wife in that. did i like that portrayal? er no i didn't) and i don't think young me noticed or even would've have liked that much all the cinematography going on. do i remember a film where faces were filmed better? not off the top of my head i don't. but the ending. i look at the wee girl and i think - don't you dare. what a cop out!

but did i like it? i live in a country where the x factor is one of the most popular programmes! so even with reservation i'm looking forward to sitting down to watch it again, tho this time without the many year hiatus. would i watch it before i;d watch the likes of terence malik? i'm unsure

what i would like to do is remake it. i couldn't watch it without the idea of beckett thumping around in my head. why not take some of those ideas and make a shorter scottish fanboy tribute version? now that sounds interesting....

paul celan

Mit wechselndem Schlüssel

Mit wechselndem Schlüssel
schliesst du das Haus auf, darin
der Schnee des Verschwiegenen treibt.
Je nach dem Blut, das dir quillt
aus Aug oder Mund oder Ohr,
wechselt dein Schlüssel.

Wechselt dein Schlüssel, wechselt das Wort,
das treiben darf mit den Flocken.
Je nach dem Wind, der dich fortstösst,
ballt um das Wort sich der Schnee.

With a variable key

With a variable key
you unlock the house in which
drifts the snow of that left unspoken.
Always that key you choose
depends on the blood that spurts
from your eye or your mouth or your ear.

You vary the key, you vary the word
that is free to drift with the flakes.
What snow ball will form round the word
depends on the wind that rebuffs you.

trans michael hamburger

for roxana, who has another version of this, along with yet more entrancing images, here

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


i'm not convinced it's good for you (my inner voice is now reminding me of what i was doing at the weekend which may well be related!). everything hurts! so rather than work in the garden, finish a painting, source canvas, write some poetry i'm going to lie down in my quiet house, smother myself in blankets and watch some tarkovsky.

Monday, 22 September 2008

nizar qabbani

Clarification to My Poetry-Readers

And of me say the fools:
I entered the lodges of women
And never left.
And they call for my hanging,
Because about the matters of my beloved
I, poetry, compose.
I never traded
Like others
In Hashish.
I never stole.
I never killed.
I, in broad day, have loved.
Have I sinned?

And of me say the fools:
With my poetry
I violated the sky’s commands.
Said who
Love is
The honor-ravager of the sky?
The sky is my intimate.
It cries if I cry,
Laughs if I laugh
And its stars

Greatens their brilliance
One day I fall in love.
What so
If in the name of my beloved I chant,
And like a chestnut tree
In every capital I, her, plant.

Fondness will remain my calling,
Like all prophets.
And infancy, innocence
And purity.
I will write of my beloved’s matters
Till I melt her golden hair
In the sky’s gold.
I am,
And I hope I change not,
A child
Scribbling on the stars’ walls
The way he pleases,
Till the worth of love
In my homeland
Matches that of the air,
And to love dreamers I become
A diction-ary,
And over their lips I become
An A
And a B.

trans by ellisar


i get the kayak in the water. it's a close run thing, after the last west coast escapade i'm cautious about going out to the pub so, fortuitously as it turns out, we limit ourselves to limited stocks from the off license. i limit myself to vodka but the boys break out the whisky and it gets messy.

no surprise then that i'm first up and we're away before there's any sign of movement. t stocks up on rocks and shells for future craft projects as well as delving into rock pools while i gingerly make my way out to sea. despite it being nigh on ten years since i last put a paddle in the water even that phrase, going out to sea, reminds me of that excitement. and after a few minutes i'm getting my confidence back and the sheltered bay seems confining. i sit out at the buoys, cormorants pass by and there's nothing but the sound of the water. i disappear into the moment and i'm reminded just why i like the bike so much.

no sign of the boys so i decide to paddle back to town. we realise pretty quick we need to get some radios, better and more waterproof than those we currently use. my arms feel odd, like my legs on a long bike ride, except in the wrong place! i hug the shore, aware that i just don;t have the juice for a long push. the wind and waves pick up. adrenalin happens! but i stay calm and easily complete my transit (all of two miles! lol). and finally the boys appear so we pile the boat back into the van and return to the beach. no cycling for me!

saturday night is far more chaotic. we go off to see shooglenifty who cope well despite an oddly muted venue and the fact they themselves seem strangely schizophrenic, as if there's two bands playing on stage. there's the first band with all the usual scottish tunes and accoutrements, to whom the dancers can stomp around merrily to, but there's the other band who're bringing in all these other sounds, almost eastern european, who are much more interesting! i tell them so but by this time the lake of vodka and red bull we've been putting away probably make it sound like gargling.

much stupidity ensues. in the morning we feel like we've been assaulted. our plans to get my picture to exhibition disappear in a hungover haze and we can only piece together the night before with glimpses in between the blanks. we get back and can only sit on the couch nursing ourselves back to health in tv land. no wonder i don't do this anymore! i don't like it, not one bit, even less so than last time and i really think that it's reaching the time when the swiss drinking boots are put away once and for all. there's just too much else to do without wasting time and money pouring the day down my neck.

so, the sun is up, maybe i can get some cycling in before t wakes up, then maybe, just maybe a paddle down the river and some time to look at the wildlife. sounds like a plan...

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

more alastair reid

What Gets Lost/Lo Que Se Pierde

I keep translating traduzco continuamente
entre palabras
words que no son las mias
into other words which are mine de palabras a mis palabras
Y finalmente de quien el texto?
Who do words belong to?
Del escritor o el traductor writer, translator
o de los idiomas or to language itself?
Traductores, somos fantasmas que viven
entre aquel mundo y el nuestro
translators are ghosts who live
in a limbo between two worlds
pero poco a poco me occure
que el problema no es cuestion
de lo que se pierde en traduction
the problem is not a question
of what gets lost in translation
sino but rather lo que se pierde
what gets lost
entre la occurencia – sea de amor de agonia
between the happening of love or pain
y el hecho de que llega
a existir en palabras
and their coming into words

Para nosotros todos, amantes, habladores
for lovers or users of words
el problema es este this is the difficulty –
lo que se pierde what gets lost
no es lo que se pierde en traduction sino
is not what gets lost in translation but more
what gets lost in language itself lo que se pierde
en el hecho en la lengua
en la palbra misma

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

octavio paz

The only possible translation is poetic transmutation
or metaphor. But I would also say that in writing
an original poem we are translating the world,
transmuting it. Everything we do is translation
and all translations are in a way creations

alastair reid

Speaking in a Foreign Language

How clumsy on the tongue, these acquired idioms,
after the innuendos of our own. How far
we are from foreigners, what faith
we rest in one sentence, hoping a smile will follow
on the appropriate face, always wallowing
between what we long to say and what we can,
trusting the phrase is suitable to the occasion
the accent passable, the smile real,
always asking the traveller's fearful question -,
what is being lost in translation?

Something, to be sure. And yet, to hear
the stumbling of foreign friends, how little we care
for the wreckage of word or tense. How endearing they are,
and how our speech reaches out, like a helping hand,
or limps in sympathy. Easy to understand,
through the tangle of language, the heart behind
groping towards us, to make the translation of
syntax into love.

and again....

so you have this idea and it turns out to be a good idea and you work it all out and it's fun but at the end you think to yourself - i'm never doing that again

so how is it i find myself back at the same task, new, expensive and ever so short lived materials in hand, doing exactly that? total concentration but mind numbingly boring! and a dead line to make it worse

james wright

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

marin sorescu


Today, I photographed only trees
Ten, a hundred, a thousand.
I'll develop them at night
When the soul is a dark room.
Then I'll sort them
According to leaves, according to circles,
According to their shadows.
Oh, how easily
Trees merge one into another!
Look, there's only one left
That one I'll photograph again
And then observe with terror
It resembles me.
Yesterday I photographed only stones
And the last stone
Resembled me
The day before yesterday - chairs -
And the only one left
Resembled me

Everything is so much
Like me...

I'm afraid.


Wherever I go
I take my body with me,
Because I've nowhere to leave it.
The earth, the sky,
And the water steal it.

In happiness, in love,
In sadness, and in agony,
I must feel my hands and forehead close to me,
I must feel my heart beating
Otherwise I worry.

We tremble, the way we tremble,
For the earth of our body,
Not yet evolved,
From which after every shower
Worms still appear.

trans andrea deletant and brenda walker

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit déjà
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le coeur du bonheur
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Moi je t'offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu'après ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D'or et de lumière
Je ferai un domaine
Où l'amour sera roi
Où l'amour sera loi
Où tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je t'inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs coeurs s'embraser
Je te raconterai
L'histoire de ce roi
Mort de n'avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
D'un ancien volcan
Qu'on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu'un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu'un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s'épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Je ne vais plus pleurer
Je ne vais plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t'écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L'ombre de ton ombre
L'ombre de ta main
L'ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

rita dove

Then Came Flowers

I should have known if you gave me flowers
They would be chrysanthemums
The white spikes singed my fingers.
I cried out; they spilled from the green tissue
And spread at my feet in a pool of soft fire.

If I begged you to stay, what good would it do me?
In the bed, you would lay the flowers between us.
I will pick them up later, arrange them with pincers.
All night from the bureau they'll watch me, their
Plumage as proud, as cocky as firecrackers.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

philip levine

A Theory of Prosody

When Nellie, my old pussy
cat, was still in her prime,
she would sit behind me
as I wrote, and when the line
got too long she'd reach
one sudden black foreleg down
and paw at the moving hand,
the offensive one. The first
time she drew blood I learned
it was poetic to end
a line anywhere to keep her
quiet. After all, many morn-
ings she'd gotten to the chair
long before I was even up.
Those nights I couldn't sleep
she'd come and sit in my lap
to calm me. So I figured
I owed her the short cat line.
She's dead now almost nine years,
and before that there was one
during which she faked attention
and I faked obedience.
Isn't that what it's about-
pretending there's an alert cat
who leaves nothing to chance.

carl sandburg


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches

and then moves on.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

bo carpelan

'The old man asked...'

The old man asked: 'Are the oaks still there?
There were forests in my time. Are they still there?'
He was sitting in a mini-house in Monterey,
no longer remembered Swedish, spoke a few words of Russian.
He sat there like his own shadow, watching,
with unseeing eyes the scorched garden -
the surge of sea scarcely reached here, brought no coolness.
'They used to dance, the farm-lads, of a Saturday.'
He cleared his throat, his hands were restless.
'Bagpipes? or something like that, don't remember
the trees, I remember them, the huge oaks, the forests,
it's as if they could still give us coolness - '
He looked at me with an almost furious glance
as if he suspected the truth. I replied as he wanted:
'They're still there, it's good to rest beneath them.'
There was a pause. Then, already far away, he said:
'When the wind moves through an oak forest, you remember that always.'

trans robert fulton

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

did i?

write a bunch of poetry? why yes i did.

did i finish a painting. ah well, you can't have everything, the light's gone, i wasn't in the zone.... all those usual excuses. still eight poems in 24 hours (plus two i haven't written up yet). not too bad

the hiatus? i put it down to the computer disaster. sure yes i've got some of the things back but it kind of took the mood away from me.

what else is new?

in the interim

i did not cycle from john o'groats to land's end as planned. i had to cover some sick time which led, directly or indirectly, to me getting sick, missing training and generally feeling unpleasant. what did happen was a bit of a northern scottish epic. one of the elvis lot was there but photo opportunities didn't materialise due to forgetfulness, the epic nature of the landscape, midgies and the fact that all i could really do off the bike was sleep

planned kayaking did not happen. boat got delivered late and as a result (in conjunction with my motorcycle being back on the road) i have affected all the weather systems in the country. for the worse.

food happens! our erratically planned garden bears fruit, or at least vegetables. and they're great. possibly the least toxic things i've ever eaten. which leads me to scavenging fruit from my mum and dad's garden and onto further culinary odysseys. i'd never have thought i'd be having a conversation with my mum about making crabapple jelly but now i have and very enjoyable it was

mmoneypenny does not visit. we are disappointed but at least i manage a brief actual person to person conversation which was a bit odd given that it was the first time in who knows how many years. but at least it wasn't on the day of catastrophic drunken-ness

which occurs on a solitary mission to see geo, ostensibly an overnighter before i catch the ferry to one of the islands. beware of conversations that begin - we'll just have one before you pack the bike! maybe i am getting old but the hangover lasted more than a day!

and that will be the end of the summer. i feel sunshine is not compatible with bloggery

Monday, 8 September 2008

normal service

will shortly be resumed. today i will write many poems and finish at least one painting.

oh yes i will...