Monday, 30 April 2012

billy collins


There are no pages for the young,
who are better off in one another’s arms,

nor for those who just need to know
about the price of gold,
or a hurricane that is ripping up the Keys.

But eventually you may join
the crowd who turn here first to see
who has fallen in the night,
who has left a shape of air walking in their place.

Here is where the final cards are shown
the age, the cause, the plaque of deeds,
and sometimes an odd scrap of news –
that she collected sugar bowls,
that he played solitaire without any clothes.

And all the survivors huddle at the end
under the roof of a paragraph
as if they had sidestepped the flame of death.

What better way to place a thin black frame
around the things of the morning –
the hand-painted cup,
the hemispheres of a cut orange,
the slant of sunlight on the table?

And sometimes a most peculiar pair turns up,
strange roommates lying there
side by side upon the page –
Arthur Godfrey next to Man Ray,
Ken Kesey by the side of Dale Evans.

It is enough to bring to mind an ark of death,
not the couples of the animal kingdom,
but rather pairs of men and women
ascending the gangplank two by two,

surgeon and model,
balloonist and metal worker,
an archaeologist and an authority on pain.

Arm in arm, they get on board
then join others leaning on the rails,
all saved at last from the awful flood of life –

so many of them every day
there would have to be many arks,

an armada to ferry the dead
over the heavy waters that roll beyond the world,

and many Noahs too,
bearded and fiercely browed, vigilant up there at every prow.

Friday, 27 April 2012

edith södergran

On Foot I Wandered Through The Solar Systems

On foot
I wandered through the solar systems,
before I found the first thread of my red dress.
Already I have a sense of myself.
Somewhere in space my heart hangs,
emitting sparks, shaking the air,
to other immeasurable hearts.

trans by malena mörling and jonas ellerström

Sunday, 22 April 2012

medbh mcguckian


The studied poverty of a moon roof,
The earthenware of diaries cooled by apple trees,
The apple tree that makes the whitest wash…

But I forget the names, remembering them wrongly
Where they touch upon another name,
A town in France like a woman’s Christian name.

My childhood is preserved as a nation’s history,
My favourite fairy tales the shells
Leased by the hermit crab.

I see my grandmother’s death as a piece of ice,
My mother’s slimness restored to her,
My own key slotted in the door –

Tricks you might guess from this unfastened button,
A pen mislaid, a word misread,
My hair coming down in the middle of a conversation.

Monday, 16 April 2012

nordahl greig

Til Ungdommen

Kringsatt av fiender,
gå inn i din tid!
Under en blodig storm -
vi deg til strid!

Kanskje du spør i angst,
udekket, åpen:
hva skal jeg kjempe med
hva er mitt våpen?

Her er ditt vern mot vold,
her er ditt sverd:
troen på livet vårt,
menneskets verd.

For all vår fremtids skyld,
søk det og dyrk det,
dø om du må -
men: øk det og styrk det!

Stilt går granatenes
glidende bånd
Stans deres drift mot død
stans dem med ånd!

Krig er forakt for liv.
Fred er å skape.
Kast dine krefter inn:
døden skal tape!

Elsk og berik med drøm
alt stort som var!
Gå mot det ukjente
fravrist det svar.

Ubygde kraftverker,
ukjente stjerner.
Skap dem, med skånet
livs dristige hjerner!

Edelt er mennesket,
jorden er rik!
Finnes her nød og sult
skyldes det svik.

Knus det! I livets navn
skal urett falle.
Solskinn av brød og muld
eies av alle.

Da synker våpnene
maktesløs ned!
Skaper vi menneskeverd
skaper vi fred.

Den som med høyre arm
bærer en byrde,
dyr og umistelig,
kan ikke myrde.

Dette er løftet vårtfra
bror til bror:
vi vil bli gode
motmenskenes jord.

Vi vil ta vare
påskjønnheten, varmen
som om vi bar et barn
varsomt på armen

charlie brooker

apparently the notion of video games with characters of differing sexual orientation is an issue these days. slaughter things all you like but don't do it in a gay fashion, esp if you're a character from star wars.

They also claim "there were no LGBT characters in any of the Star Wars movies". I don't know which wacky re-cut version of Star Wars they've been watching, but I saw the original when I was about six years old and even then I was struck by how outrageously camp C3PO is. He was a gilded John Inman in space. And what about Luke Skywalker? Apart from briefly kissing his own sister, he shows no interest in women whatsoever. The first film is a tender gay parable in which Luke falls in love with Alec Guinness and gradually "comes out" as a Jedi. The final scene oozes symbolism: having penetrated the Death Star's trench in his phallic spacecraft, he closes his eyes, submits to his true inner instinct and triumphantly blasts his X-Wing's seed into an anus-like aperture, causing an orgasmic eruption that changes his universe for ever. It's hard to see how they could make Star Wars any gayer, unless they gave the Millennium Falcon a handlebar moustache.

all of which would be just so funny if it wasn't happening against a backdrop of increase in homophobic attacks down south. as usual i am stunned by what people can get themselves worked up about. hurrah for charlie brooker tho.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

wireless nights part II

you have to love your lungs. as with all the organs i guess we take them for granted but the function of the lungs is so obvious it makes ignoring them feel just that bit odder. lovely pink functioning lungs are a beautiful thing - makes me wonder just what i was thinking when i was smoking. and now, when i'm proper lurgied up with what may very well be whooping cough (whooping cough!!!) i'm wishing for the day when breathlessness doesn't appear.

which brings me to the radio. i guess i belong to a generation where spoken word was more prevalent - listen with mother, jackanory etc, all those oliver postage classics starting off as if a story - and when i was sick i would get tucked up in bed and my mother would read to me. it seemed a time when spoken word was more alive - will, i wonder, people from today get the same feeling from their iPads?

which brings me neatly to wireless nights part II, ideal listening for lying on the couch in between bouts of coughing. maybe this one doesn't quite catch my imagination as much as the last one - the minister guy talking about evening prayer in part I, that was just lovely. unfortunately if you didn't listen to it, now you can't. bbc, there are some things you should be leaving available for more than seven days!

anyway, this time jarvis takes a wander down to al alvarez's house by way of listening to some late night poker and some badger watching, either of which activity is appealing. now it's true neither me nor t have actually been badger watching but we've been out and about for bats, comets, conjunctions, picnics (if you've never had a night picnic you so, so should), aurorae and everything in between. so badgers - we'll get to that. the poker thing - back in the day i used to go down to washington square to hang out with the chess and backgammon guys. now chess i can't play for toffee, indeed once got slapped in the face by my mate mike for being so bad at it, but backgammon is a while other kettle of coconuts. i never played any of these hustler guys for money - waaay too tempting and far too easy to lose a ton of money - but great for learning a certain technique. i did, at that time, play darts for beers with cops, which was more night time but another story.

i think this time, what got me was the contrived nature of the programme. while i kind of like the artificiality of it, the notion of 'night people' rankles just a bit. all over the course of the day you find interesting folk doing interesting, odd and fantastical stuff. it's not a night shift thing. the chess/backgammon guys were all day time, bright sunshine. i explored pool halls and slot car racing around the same time. i remember sitting in a park in macau listening to the old geezers blethering in the sun.

and it was that i found most interesting in this programme, the incidental sounds. i've been having a conversation with geo for some time that a sound recording is more evocative than a picture, that note taking is more effective for the memory than a photograph. so when i hear the poker players girding i'm hearing recordings i've made of street noise in vienna, listening to voices of people on the bus to croydon.

and i kind of like the notion that this, in my head at least, is what jarvis cocker is trying to get at, that there's a certain something about listening we should do more of. maybe the next time you're tempted to interfere with your view of the world by sticking your camera/iphone etc in between the pair of you, it might be an idea not to do that, but to utilise the sound recording function instead, sit yourself down, maybe take a few notes then wait for about a year - see then if you flick past it like you do with your images....

*i should admit that while i do sound recordings on my phone both my phone and i are too crap to actually get them up loaded - this situation i absolutely will address. recordings i currently have -

waves on the shore at durness
footsteps on ice and a gale at strathpuffer
breathless after a hill in sutherland
police sirens in vienna
t sleeping

thomas hardy

The Walk

You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
By the gated ways,
As in earlier days;
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind.

I walked up there to-day
Just in the former way;
Surveyed around
The familiar ground
By myself again:
What difference, then?
Only that underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

ingrid storholmen

For lenge siden og ganske snart kunne, kan dette skje:
Å nåes av kjærlighet

Kan du folde
meg ut
ja som blomst
som sommer

Blomstene er så forskjellige
Du kaller meg fortellinger
det er store muligheter, skal jeg fortelle deg

A long time ago and quite soon could, can this happen:
To be reached by love

Can you fold
me out
yes like flower
like summer

The flowers are so different
You call me stories
there are great possibilities, I tell you

trans by may-brit akerholt

i was daft for this when i first read it and remain so. you can read the rest of it here. this appears to be the only bit of storholmen's poetry available in english, a great example of poetic wrongness if ever i saw one. some publisher should sort it out!

spoken norwegian action here

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

wireless nights

as part of a conversation about things neolithic i came across the following quote form julian cope on his wikipedia page.
You could put me in a coracle and send me off to some rock somewhere to make art, but do that to any member of U2 and they wouldn't make art, you know, they'd find a way back to the mainland. It's like Joseph Campbell said, it's the difference between the celebrity and the hero. The celebrity will walk across tall buildings and dance on tightropes for his audience, but the hero will do exactly the same things and if the audience has all gone home, he'll still be doing it to please himself. And that's the thing..

i was thinking about this today while i was listening to the radio and doing the drawing thing, the radio being something that's doable while doing something else - tv on the other hand being an exclusive device, demanding attention only for itself. what i was listening to was jarvis cocker's wireless nights in which jarvis imagines himself on a night flight, interspersed with people talking about their lives in darkness. great for a night shift worker! it's the sort of thing that there's too little of on radio these days but is a form that's ideally suited to the medium. it's a quirky, strange wee programme, but brilliant and i can't wait to hear the next one.

where i diverge from julian cope above is that he goes on to say that the campbellesque hero is different from '99.9%' of the rest of humanity. i'm not so sure. i listen to the people on cocker's programme and, a wee bit like my work, find that the lives of day to day people are often far more interesting than anything that can be fictionalised or shown on tv.

what was i going to say? i get distracted. t hangs bits raw fleece in the tree at the bottom of the garden. the robins are squabbling over it for their nests..


Monday, 9 April 2012

al-saddiq al-raddi


In the water
in silence at your side
in a fire that draws us close
I drift –
and only you can call me

. . . . . . . . . .
A bird enters spring
like a lance
Your eyes flash their secrets
A kiss grazes the rainbow
The rain rains

But the streets are empty of my friends
Lamps are extinguished
in the far-flung houses
and the lost heart echoes in its lonely chamber

You give your blessings to those who depart
and leave the rest to fate

trans by sarah maguire and sabry hafez

Friday, 6 April 2012

josé tolentino mendonça

Stone Crop

What do the explorers,
the wayfarers, pilgrims we’d thought had long since disappeared,
the Berbers, the nomadic herders
and the exiled
say to people like us whose law is of the letter and testament
not of the unknown necessity
which moment by moment
is revealed

Beyond us, where they live, there’s a ghost language
which accommodates what no language
can say:
the photons generated by the stars’ clashing
how the antelope wends its way through the orthography
the yellow that returns to the rugged slopes
after the heavy snows

trans richard zenith

Monday, 2 April 2012

ana luísa amaral

The Past

Ah… old copybook
where I wrote out my French themes,
Mes Vacances: I adored holidays
je suis allée à la plage (with two e’s,
the verb être asking to agree), j’ai beaucoup
nagé and then I’d end with the sunset
over the sea, looking up ‘gulls’ in the dictionary

Corrections in red and the Passé Simple,
writing nous fûmes vous fûtes ils fûrent a hundred times
during sunny afternoons
and Madame Denise who said Toi ma petite
like a drill sergeant her face turning angry
and red (I have too many globules! faites attention)
and that look which contradicted it all
with remplit tenderness

And the rules memorized and the verb
endings ais, ais, ait
during extra help and the falling afternoon light
pooling beneath the desks,
our nun lost in her psalms
me dreaming over my open book

once upon a time there was a little boy
and the algebraic equations
with x as unknown

Ah… beautiful afternoons when it was good
to be good, and neither the little saint nor candy,
but the sweet word fondling me from within,
our white smocks spotted with bright hued gouache

the blue belt I always wore draped
like a swashbuckler

Creaking wooden stairs
rhyming to steps
twenty years on,
falling into formation to the roll,
‘present” seemed so logical and certain then,
like going to prayers in the chapel and reading the Epistles
(Saint Paul to the Corinthians:
In that time…),
You have such a beautiful voice and read so well,
and then they made me tighten my belt,
primped in my pew
to the right of the priest

The pull of the confession,
voices murmuring through the fine wooden web
dissembling defects,
smell of the waxed floor and the wax of the candles
and when I stopped believing in sin,
knew words didn’t do any good,
that the wooden web
was useless

Ah… nights of insomnia twenty years on
once upon a time there was a little boy
and he went on a journey
there was a little girl, une petite fille

and the simple past, how its seemed simple and past

Au clair de la lune
mon ami Pierrot
Prête-moi ta plume
pour écrire un mot

To write just a word
just one moonlit word
to request concordance like a caress

Elles sont parties,
les mouettes

trans martin earl