Thursday, 31 March 2011

yves bonnefoy

Le Passant, Ceux-ci Sont Des Mots

Le passant, ceux-ci sont des mots. Mais au lieu de la lecture
je veux que tu écoutes: à cette voix frêle
aimer cela des lettres mangées par l'herbe.

Prêter une oreille, l'entendre d'abord de toute l'abeille heureuse
forageant dans nos noms presque frottés-dehors.
Elle déménage entre deux pulvérisateurs des feuilles,
portant le bruit des branches qui sont vraies
à ceux qui en filigrane l'invisible encore.

Connaître alors un bruit encore plus faible, et le laisser être
murmurer sans fin de toutes nos nuances.
Leur chuchotement monte de sous les pierres
au fusible dans une chaleur simple avec cette lumière sans visibilité
que tu es jusqu'ici, qui peut encore regarder fixement.

Mai votre écoute soit bonne ! Le silence
est un seuil où une brindille enfonce votre main,
imperceptiblement, car tu essayes au nom du désengagement
A sur une pierre:

Et ainsi nos noms absents démêlent vos alarmes.
Et pour toi qui s'écartent, d'un air songeur,
devient ici là sans cesser d'être.

Passer-by, these are words

Passer-by, these are words. But instead of reading
I want you to listen: to this frail
Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.

Lend an ear, hear first of all the happy bee
Foraging in our almost rubbed-out names.
It flits between two sprays of leaves,
Carrying the sound of branches that are real
To those that filigree the still unseen.

Then know an even fainter sound, and let it be
The endless murmuring of all our shades.
Their whisper rises from beneath the stones
To fuse into a single heat with that blind
Light you are as yet, who can still gaze.

May your listening be good! Silence
Is a threshold where a twig breaks in your hand,
Imperceptibly, as you attempt to disengage
A name upon a stone:

And so our absent names untangle your alarms.
And for you who move away, pensively,
Here becomes there without ceasing to be.

trans unkown

Monday, 28 March 2011

louis macneice


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Friday, 25 March 2011

mark strand

The New Poetry Handbook

1 If a man understands a poem,
he shall have troubles.

2 If a man lives with a poem,
he shall die lonely.

3 If a man lives with two poems,
he shall be unfaithful to one.

4 If a man conceives of a poem,
he shall have one less child.

5 If a man conceives of two poems,
he shall have two children less.

6 If a man wears a crown on his head as he writes,
he shall be found out.

7 If a man wears no crown on his head as he writes,
he shall deceive no one but himself.

8 If a man gets angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by men.

9 If a man continues to be angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by women.

10 If a man publicly denounces poetry,
his shoes will fill with urine.

11 If a man gives up poetry for power,
he shall have lots of power.

12 If a man brags about his poems,
he shall be loved by fools.

13 If a man brags about his poems and loves fools,
he shall write no more.

14 If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.

15 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow,
he shall have a beautiful mistress.

16 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow overly,
he shall drive his mistress away.

17 If a man claims the poem of another,
his heart shall double in size.

18 If a man lets his poems go naked,
he shall fear death.

19 If a man fears death,
he shall be saved by his poems.

20 If a man does not fear death,
he may or may not be saved by his poems.

21 If a man finishes a poem,
he shall bathe in the blank wake of his passion
and be kissed by white paper.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

tadeusz rosewicz


When all the women in the transport
had their heads shaved
four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
swept up
and gathered up the hair

Behind clean glass
the stiff hair lies
of those suffocated in gas chambers
there are pins and side combs
in this hair

The hair is not shot through with light
is not parted by the breeze
is not touched by any hand
or rain or lips

In huge chests
clouds of dry hair
of those suffocated
and a faded plait
a pigtail with a ribbon
pulled at school
by naughty boys.

trans by adam czerniawski

Saturday, 19 March 2011

peter huchel


The forest bitter, spiky,
no shore breeze, no foothills,
the grass grows matted, death will come
with horses' hooves, endlessly
over the steppes' mounds, we went back,
searching the sky for the fort
that could not be razed.

The villages hostile,
the cottages cleared out in haste,
smoked skin on the attic beams,
snare netting, bone amulets.
All over the country an evil reverence,
animals' heads in the mist, divination
by willow wands.

Later, up in the North,
stag-eyed men
rushed by on horseback.
We buried the dead.
It was hard
to break the soil with our axes,
fir had to thaw it out.

The blood of sacrificed cockerels
was not accepted.

trans by michael hamburger

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

r. s. thomas

A Marriage

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
`Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance, And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

not everywhere is snow...

only last weekend. i should point out that this weekend the snow has returned briefly and has given way today to that dreich awful rain that scotland is renowned for. but it was sunny once!

*an addendum to the above. bad weather may put me off going out on the bike but it doesn't stop me, at least not when the alternative is yet another session on the trainer. so, wet weather gear on and off i go. not another soul is out. it's not snowing but it is raining, and then more raining. and then wet roads turn into slushy roads and slushy roads turn into snowy roads. right about then is the time i start losing the feeling in my fingers. but that's okay because i'm on the turn to come back. there is a lot of flooding. suddenly up ahead i see a tractor. great, i think, i'll get in behind that and slipstream down the main road. which i do, just, and then realise the fine spray coming from the trailer is not road dirt from the wheels but is in fact some form of animal slurry. i ease back and try not to pay attention to the stuff running down my face. how was it t asks when i get back. worthwhile i say, but not joyful. and hurry to the shower...

Saturday, 12 March 2011

ingeborg bachmann

Im Gewitter der Rosen

Wohin wir uns wenden im Gewitter der Rosen,
ist die Nacht von Dornen erhellt, und der Donner
des Laubs, das so leise war in den Büschen,
folgt uns jetzt auf dem Fuß.

In the Storm of Roses

Wherever we turn in the storm of roses,
the night is lit up by thorns, and the thunder
of leaves, once so quiet within the bushes,
rumbling at our heels.

trans unknown

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

nazim hikmet

A Sad State Of Freedom

You waste the attention of your eyes,
the glittering labour of your hands,
and knead the dough enough for dozens of loaves
of which you'll taste not a morsel;
you are free to slave for others--
you are free to make the rich richer.

The moment you're born
they plant around you
mills that grind lies
lies to last you a lifetime.
You keep thinking in your great freedom
a finger on your temple
free to have a free conscience.

Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape,
your arms long, hanging,
your saunter about in your great freedom:
you're free
with the freedom of being unemployed.

You love your country
as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example,
they may endorse it over to America,
and you, too, with your great freedom--
you have the freedom to become an air-base.

You may proclaim that one must live
not as a tool, a number or a link
but as a human being--
then at once they handcuff your wrists.
You are free to be arrested, imprisoned
and even hanged.

There's neither an iron, wooden
nor a tulle curtain
in your life;
there's no need to choose freedom:
you are free.
But this kind of freedom
is a sad affair under the stars.

trans by taner baybars

Sunday, 6 March 2011


it's that time of year where i'm itching to get back in the garden. this year, we're way more organised and instead of killing myself with the digging and the like i've been increasing our growing area ever so gradually, destroying the encroaching buttercups and generally getting stuff ready for the planting. which, despite our notions to the contrary we'll be leaving for a wee while yet it still being scotland and all.

spring has also seen me out in shorts for the first time this year, not quite sleeveless on the bike but with a gilet on the roadbike which isn't bad. it turns out two of my mountain bikes haven't survived the puffering and are getting some much needed bike shop r&r. in the meantime i've had the rohloff bike out finally for a bit of a test. true the noise of the hub sounds a bit weird but other than that it was all a bit of enclosed hub heaven. i finally got to tackle one of the steepest (and after the winter, most broken) roads around these parts last weekend, not as might be expected on my winter bike, but on a day when the sun split the sky, on the first run out of my main summer bike. it was sublime!

today's maybe not so nice but, after having taken t out for a promenade around the countryside i'll be taking the race bike out for its first outing. it looks like i'm signed up for some triathlon later in the year so the sooner i get get some distance and speed on some proper race gears the better.

big trips on the road bikes beckon. it may even be i can squeeze a coast to coats on the rohloff bike. more kayaking, a new canoe that the pair of us can go in, a bunch of islanding and in between of course, the garden gets to do a bit of growing. i can't wait. in the meantime if anyone's mulling over a visit to the lands of northern loveliness here's jimmy saville

Saturday, 5 March 2011

sarojini naidu

A Love Song from the North

Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha,
Wouldst thou recall to my heart, papeeha,
Dreams of delight that are gone,
When swift to my side came the feet of my lover
With stars of the dusk and the dawn?
I see the soft wings of the clouds on the river,
And jewelled with raindrops the mango-leaves quiver,
And tender boughs flower on the plain.....
But what is their beauty to me, papeeha,
Beauty of blossom and shower, papeeha,
That brings not my lover again?
Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha,
Wouldst thou revive in my heart, papeeha
Grief for the joy that is gone?
I hear the bright peacock in glimmering woodlands
Cry to its mate in the dawn;
I hear the black koel's slow, tremulous wooing,
And sweet in the gardens the calling and cooing
Of passionate bulbul and dove....
But what is their music to me, papeeha
Songs of their laughter and love, papeeha,
To me, forsaken of love?

trans unknown

Thursday, 3 March 2011

john betjeman

The Licorice Fields at Pontefract

In the licorice fields at Pontefract
My love and I did meet
And many a burdened licorice bush
Was blooming round our feet;
Red hair she had and golden skin,
Her sulky lips were shaped for sin,
Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack'd
The strongest legs in Pontefract.

The light and dangling licorice flowers
Gave off the sweetest smells;
From various black Victorian towers
The Sunday evening bells
Came pealing over dales and hills
And tanneries and silent mills
And lowly streets where country stops
And little shuttered corner shops.

She cast her blazing eyes on me
And plucked a licorice leaf;
I was her captive slave and she
My red-haired robber chief.
Oh love! for love I could not speak,
It left me winded, wilting, weak,
And held in brown arms strong and bare
And wound with flaming ropes of hair.