Tuesday, 29 May 2012

gloria fuertes

I Write Poetry, Gentlemen!

I write poetry, gentlemen, I write poetry,
But please don’t call me poetess;
I swig my wine like bricklayers do
and I have an assistant who talks to herself.
This world’s a strange place;
things happen, gentlemen, that I don’t disclose;
they build cases, for example, yet never build homes
for the poor who can’t afford them.

And old maids are always having it out with their dogs,
married men with their mistresses,
yet no one says anything to the brutal tyrants.
And we read about the deaths and flip the pages,
and the people hate us and we say: that’s life,
and they step on our necks and we don’t get up.
All this happens, gentlemen, and I must say it.

trans by brian barker

Friday, 25 May 2012

jorge de lima

Distribution of Poetry

I took wild honey from the plants,
I took salt from the waters, I took light from the sky.
Listen, my brothers: I took poetry from everything
To offer it to the Lord.
I did not dig gold from the earth
Or leech blood from my brothers.
Inn-keepers: let me alone.
Peddlers and bankers:
I can fabricate distances
To keep you away from me.
Life is failure,
I believe in the magic of God
The roosters are not crowing,
The day has not dawned.
I saw ships go and return.
I saw misery go ad return.
I saw the fat man in the fire.
I saw zig-zags in the darkness.
Captain, where is the Congo?
Where is the Isle of Saint Brandon?
Captian, wat a black night!
Mastiffs howl in the darkness.
O untouchables, which is the country,
Which is the country that you desire?
I took wild honey from the plants.
I took salt from the waters, I took light form the sky.
I have only poetry to give you.
Sit down, my brothers.

trans by john nist

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

miriam van hee

Sycamore at Nîmes Station

their skin was beginning to wrinkle
they were growing old and would die
as we would without fear
as if they were in on something
and we were not

already our parting was approaching
storm cloud, derailed trains
uncertainty there always was
certainty one might achieve
but how, how
to become like the trees

I felt I would write
(because everything was always
As it could not remain)
of how we sat here
on a bench beneath sycamores
the sun shining, a dog barking
and chasing pigeons

trans by judith wilkinson

Sunday, 20 May 2012

caitlín maude

I Long for a Rhyme of Health

I long for a rhyme of health
a small fresh syllable
a poultice of words
to put the soul right
and make the body strong.

I long for a rhyme
to put the soul right.

trans by pearse hutchinson

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

yang lian

Museum Windows Carved with the Names of Different Oceans

no ocean stands as utterly still as this
words paralysed on windows
different storms that you’ve read
carved deep into white stone walls
the only time the museum collects is as fragile as glass
you stand here having sailed from sea to sea for many years
you look trees are drowned once again by the sky
green quietly threatening
make a sea’s name command all its dead
no one can reach an unnamed sea
make a living skull reveal its thoughts for spring
the headstone’s statement shines utterly clear

standing by different shores you have been stripped bare
the sea rushes all around fleshy carnivorous leaves
are cards sharks migrate among the specimens
everywhere beneath the water pale teeth that carve out pictures of the living
drops of water utterly famished parched
when thoroughly deprived a make-believe piano is smashed
a vision so transparent that the eyes become the conclusion
the sound of glass lying only makes the ears more ear-piercing
you touch only the waves in your own fingerprints
strangled to death by the same madness on the other side of the window

the moon’s pale yellow skull makes time sharpen its knife
moonlight carves what it destroyed long ago on the museum’s face
the heavy treetops of all the oceans
use you to take root to let spring surge in is to let it surge out
death is like a seed that is greener than you
in unchanging time the footprints on the sea’s surface are all along bent in pain
who knows whose name must make the funeral limitless
a window shut forever
contains the sea outside the bottle only the light that overflows
phosphorescent light that condenses on your bdy after the storm dies
utterly extinguished before your return

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

what we did next

went to islay.

amazing weather. lots of wind but sun enough that in mid week i got burnt badly enough to put me off exposing any skin for the rest of the week. i did get out on the bike and my lungs were functional rather than functioning but, after so long off, i wasn't too dismayed. i'd taken the boat but the wind, along with a bit of worry about how i'd be physically, kept me out of it.

as for islay this year we had time to give it a proper preliminary exploration. outside of golf and whisky it hasn't got that much going for it in the way of tourism which is just about the way we like it. what archaeology there is needs to be looked for as well as looked at but is there in abundance with a bit of patience. interestingly there was a copy of the 1408 islay charter in the finlaggan centre that had a gaelic orthography i'd never seen - all those dh, bh etc sounds were replaced by a single letter with a diacritic - made the reading much easier but of course that would be just too easy for gaelic! what it is tho, i haven't been able to find out.

and altho we'd come to see choughs ( i did, briefly but it only counts for us if we both see the bird) there was a mass of wildlife, esp hares to be seen. we'd just got a new camera which aided the whole nature thing by some magnitude so at least some of our evenings were spent trying to identify the various plants we'd seen during the day. geologically there seems a lot going on - interesting sediments with odd quartz bandings and dykes where we were and chunk oif gneiss lying about elsewhere. we're not so good on the geology but our geology mentor was pleased with our efforts and is pleased with the manner in which he has corrupted us to the ways of the rocks.

all in all a grand break for t's birthday. her work must've agreed as they're now trying to make it a permanent one. such is life! but it will just give us more time to get to islay! hurrah!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

aonghas macneacail

the year’s tree

after her labours
see the year’s high tree
cast off her clothing

her breath has been stifled
the rags of her branches
wrapped up in the dark month

her heart is now withered
under white frozen veils
under great quilts of snow

beyond vision her movement
when the sun starts to turn around
tiny song of unfolding

trans by author

Friday, 11 May 2012

lucie brock-broido

And So Long I’ve Had You Fame

How odd that she would die into an August
night, I would have thought
she would have gone out in a pale clear
night of autumn, covered to the shoulder
in an ivory sheet, hair
fanned out across the pillow perfectly.
Fame will go by, and, so long, I’ve had you, Fame.
From under the door, the lights leak
into the hall & Sinatra going
over & over in the bedroom on repeat.
I was six & you were dying out.
I was sitting in a sky blue metal chair
in our kitchen in the east
digesting the fact, still, of my mother’s second
honeymoon & the man living all over
our house, that she loved him, had him hard.
The sun was on our kitchen table, lighting
the back of my hand & the headline
in the Post Gazette said you were done.
That you were dying
even in the hour when our neighbourhood
went indigo last night, in the hour
when our palms were stained by Sno-Cones,
in the hour when Russell’s father would take home
the bases from the baseball diamond,
then my sister & I would move like spiders
into the nests of our dotted swiss nightgowns,
in the hours of a windless August night
in Pittsburgh & somewhere
Sinatra redundant
no one lifts he needle up, he’s singing
like an angel
all night long along the famous dusk
of the Pacific shoreline
as your breathing slowed into the sweetest
toxic nothingness, so long, I’ve had you, fac
down, Cursum Perficio

Thursday, 10 May 2012

elizabeth bishop

seeing as i've been writing about adrienne rich recently it's a happy coincidence that i was browsing thru anne stevenson's five looks at elizabeth bishop, to then find that stevenson was speaking in paul farley's r4 programme on bishop in brazil. given that bishop didn't write a whole lot it's easy, if you have the material, to read along and, as i did, refer to some of her letters. true the programme is a wee bit biographically constrained but it is only half an hour and still well worth a listen.

i don't quite know why rich and bishop occupy much the same space in my mind. i used to much prefer bishop's poetry and certainly with a couple of examples, still do, but rich, in particular her essays, is a place i'm loving to come back to, as if i was visiting a challenging old aunt! certainly sufficient that when i've been hearing about a couple of women only commemorations of her while i can kind of see why they would do such a thing it seems, to me at least, to kind of miss the point. where bishop's poetry takes me to a place, to an atmosphere, rich demands things from me. bishop makes me a better human being, rich makes me a better man.

read both! of the two bishop is easier to get into a first glance. her letters are worth a read, funny, poignant and, in the case of the last one written on the day she died, a top quality rant. rich, on the other hand, is perhaps more opaque but once she's in your head it's a hard trick not to find yourself looking back at old underlined quotes or embarking on daft google odysseys in response to some discursive point. plus anyone who writes a poem about caroline herschel is doing okay by me!

so, it strikes me that if i ever get to have some dead female poets round for their tea i could do worse than bishop, rich with anne sexton coming in late. now that would be entertainment!

Monday, 7 May 2012

lysandros pitharos

Green Line

I can’t see this green line.
Textures are more useful,
like the crevice this finger traces around your masks
and the damp breath of those still alive
and the theatre of sighs,
as we post our condemnation to various presidents,
the acrid envelope’s lip.

And sometimes our little towns are quiet
and only flags flutter as tributes to the silence,

And I poke my tongue
into the hole of history
and wriggle my toes in the damp sand, beyond the cafeteria,
and observe that I can’t see this green line, I just can’t see it.

I can only see gold,
and the eyes of my people blacker than embers,
and the strong smell of their lovemaking,
and secrets which they say nestle in their breasts,
standing like monoliths looking toward the sea,
saying nothing
as if they are chanting.

Friday, 4 May 2012

barbara korun


to Christian Bobin

Language – river, pool under shade of spruce.
I lie on the bottom, on sand, the water
laving me. I look at it, I look through it
at sun and at shadow.
It cools me, it soothes and I saddens.
Language like water, to make cool.
The body, as Bobin says, made light,
the soul burned to transparency –
just so. This takes my breath away,
it’s all too big, too much…
I nurse, I absorb, I knead sweetness
into the soul’s body. He strokes my hair,
my face, my breasts, spills gently
across my hips like a spreading palm.
Language – words, rhythms, pulse of the heart.

trans by theo dorgan