In 2007, as a 21-year-old industrial design student, Yaxkin Melchy Ramos began writing what would become his decade-in-the-making poetic project, EL NUEVO MUNDO (THE NEW WORLD). It is a thousand-page, kaleidoscopic work that he imagines as a “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” exploring “the contemporary world of mega-cities, science, the Internet, school, home, means of access to poetry, networks of friendship, etc.” The poems featured in this issue of ANMLY are taken from El Nuevo Mundo I (The New World I), the first of five full-length books that comprise THE NEW WORLD. Each of these poems showcase the range of Yaxkin’s poetics, incorporating visual poetry, typographical play, and sprawling lyric sequences. As I’ve worked with Yaxkin on the translation of these poems, he’s consistently referred to them as seeds. With that in mind, I’m grateful to ANMLY for providing fertile ground to “replant” them.
In 2015 I came across a downloadable pdf of The New World I, and was immediately struck by Yaxkin’s celebratory, collectivist approach to poetry. At the time, I was new to the world of poetry and even newer to the world of translation. Already, I was frustrated with the hyper-academic, prestige-driven current that I felt swirling through the stoic readings and prize tallying of many literary spaces. In Yaxkin’s work, I encountered an ethics of access and action that treated poetry as an embodied, community-rooted, community-producing art meant to live and breathe beyond the page or university walls. This was a poetry I could believe in.
Since first encountering The New World I, I’ve been itching to translate it. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Yaxkin to make that dream come true. In the throes of 2020, it’s been restorative to spend time in a collection that is simultaneously playful, meditative, and unabashedly heartfelt, while also heavily critical of, in Yaxkin’s words, “the commercialization, violence, frivolity, and egocentrism that are values capitalist culture has tried to impose on daily life and literature.” Rather than wait for a better world to come—a world of ecological connection, queer love, and cybergalactic creativity—Yaxkin writes it into existence and invites us to join. It is poems like these that help me to know that a new world is not only possible, but ready to bloom.
Ryan Greene is a translator, poet, and book farmer from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a co-conspirator at F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS, and he’s translated work by Elena Salamanca, Claudina Domingo, Ana Belén López, Giancarlo Huapaya, and Yaxkin Melchy, among others. Since 2018, he has facilitated the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective bookmaking workshops at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore. Like Collier, the ground he stands on is not his ground.
Yaxkin Melchy Ramos (Mexico City, 1985) is a Mexican and Peruvian-Quechua poet, translator, ecopoetics researcher, bookmaker, and artisan-activist-editor. He is the author of THE NEW WORLD, a five-part “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” which was written intermittently between 2007 and 2017. Currently he is a graduate student at Tsukuba University in Japan, where he is researching ecopoetic currents between Japan and Latin America. Since 2017, he has been translating contemporary Japanese poetry to Spanish, and currently he runs the artisanal press Cactus del viento, which focuses on ecological, spiritual, and transpacific poetics. He also publishes on his personal blog, Flor de Amaneceres.
The boxes are read from right to left and from top to bottom. I am here to say what I heard. Christ holds a little devil popsicle. It could be a mirror, given the inscription I Am. I Am A Honeycomb. Just a little stick. The head that is not looking at me, I am. For this they have given me a good conduct award, some centuries ago. I left it there, look, next to the snails.
And my body meat. And my body upside down. Very high up, next to the keys.
Do not open the door.
There may be more things in the bottle of quinine. I meat all through. I dead meat.
And as if I were a fish, I shall guess them at once.
The meat on the plate is served, said the nana Neera. Now wait here, I gotta go for cartridges—as grandma would say, to speak of what I would see.
The house burned down. I can’t imagine this would be zebras’ work. Nor even result of the war—it was heard. An egg’s voice was, a man’s voice. (To clarify at some point that they are not the same thing.) In whichever case, the sound of three coins, three stamps, three marine fossils and many head bones next to —or above, preferably—the fishhook, and a thousand times higher than the voice.
(One must not exaggerate)
In the background, the sea, at the corner of the leaf factory.
Here, stirring, since I have left a spoon for it. And then one would listen to the airplane that will go on dropping dust over the span of the pine forest.
And the wagging meat, and the diluted crown, falling, here, into the view of the bearer.
The reconstruction of the cabinet of Ebodia Novena is inevitable: carrying little bone flowers in a pot that starts with an a (Hebrew) and after ten thousand things returns to three, and so on. It’s inevitable: eclipse something and enlarge your bloody cheek (sometimes yes, sometimes no) with a magnifying glass according to the date.
(We should remember that we are still inside of the end of the world.)
A line of lithium, a path of bones for dowsing right above your name. Here, perhaps, what’s eclipsed is your hair, even if I say it so as not to speak of the flag and its eagles (opals, those, angles, winged-zebras) light blue mostly dirty, and at the center.
If I raise my head, I know there will be poison, even if I won’t see it. And far behind, I know that Izunza is being read. In a crystal container that everyone will need to see, because it hangs, and it’s there. I have tried to not speak of all the elements, but one goes three times a little below the eye, and not necessarily from it I enlarge.
And mama. At the bottom of these things is always mama.
In order to ride a horse, especially if we are speaking from the end of the century, we must examine the box’s three points of view. The initial call: Asmodeus! Asmodeus! Comes panting with vibroplex resources, or more precisely: locomotive. The misshapen drops, the legs I don’t see. They come in turbine form and they come leaving little red dots behind, marking a helix of countryside and balconies. It is not for showing off, but this is all about a letter.
If you guessed it is because you wear your mirror differently. Your teeth guarded behind the vertical bar. No one filmed it? Just that and nothing else?
Let’s speak then of the little wires that they would put to it: 42, c3, 00, 11h.
Here probably it’s about the gut of another box. (Everything that is spoken is about the other). And it will carry nails in its name. And it will carry a handle, so you can run wild.
Asmodeus, Asmodeus: everything is in order.
(Although I still need to talk about the headgear they forced me to use the day of my first communion; and of everything else.)
A cocoon that something was giving birth to from concrete thorns, arrived. The little vials of elixir were on number ten. The key was also obvious and it slept (standing up) next to it. Someone was singing their desire to be a bison. Or it was the reverse. The stamp repeated: winged feet, drawn, faint and scepter.
The caduceus was a heron, for example, a sparrow or its ca-daver. Preening itself totally anonymously, already engaging the guardian:
WELCOME TO CIUDAD PROGRESO.
It was an extraordinary day which we remember as “November 20th of 1910.”
Six graves there were, but only if you looked sideways, ignoring the natural enterprise of feet. The face, it could be said, stayed questioning, in a frame entirely vectorial, defeating. At every light, challenging us with its me, me, me.
But I think that his true name was Santa Catalina and not Bison Dreamingme, Sealed Knight, Commonsense “Gar- cía” Guardian.
Not at all.
These five poems are the first in a series entitled “Probable Synonyms of the Word Sololoy,” which opens Diana Garza Islas’ 2017 book, Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera.
The word “sololoy” is a Mexican-Spanish phoneticization of the English word “celluloid,” and originated as a reference to a particular kind of doll made of the material that became popular in Mexico in the early 20th century. Celluloid, which is produced by mixing nitrocellulose and camphor, along with dyes and other agents, becomes brittle over time, and the dolls often fell apart.
In Garza Islas’ poems, the reader witnesses a breaking apart of the inner materials of language. She works with the component parts—but with a sharp attention to the cultural reference points and socio-political factors that build our understanding of words. It’s as if each of the poems that make up this series are themselves synonyms of “sololoy.”
Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera is in part based on the work of Veracruz-born artist, Carlos Ballester Franzoni. The book includes images of Franzoni’s pieces—assemblages inspired by cajas parlantes, a folk-art form from Soyalo, Chiapas. As Garza Islas writes in an endnote, cajas parlantes are “mediators of voices, healers y guides of rebellion.”
Garza Islas positions herself too, as a mediator of voices. Her playful, richly layered syntactical turns, her portmanteaus and puns sometimes turn so chaotic that it seems like multiple voices are speaking at once, that the poet is recording a colliding conversation.
As Miguel Angel Diaz writes, Islas “makes a reading of [Franzoni’s] boxes from the material approach, in the first place, to build her own talking boxes with those materials.” She creates, “‘dialogicity,’ when between two works there is a semantic and ideological tension, not just a referential transfer.”
Ian U Lockaby is a poet and translator currently living in New Orleans, LA, where he serves as Editor in Chief and Translations Editor at New Delta Review. His poetry translations have appeared recently in Sink Review and Desuetude Journal, and his own poems have recently been published, or will soon be, in CutBank, Denver Quarterly, Datableed, Posit, and elsewhere.
Diana Garza Islas, born in 1985 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, has published three books of poetry: Caja negra que se llame como a mí (2015); Adiós y buenas tardes, Condesita Quitanieve (2015); and Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera (2017). This “first yellow cycle” of writings was collected and published as Todo poema es yo de niña mirándola (2018). Her photographs, drawings, and video installations have been featured in various publications, interdisciplinary festivals, and collective expositions. She has twice received grants from FONCA (National Fund for Culture and the Arts). Texts and visuals: hastrolabia.net / @hastrolabia.
I come to this place every day where ghosts flock thickest — trepidatious dancer pressing her beating heart —
along the way I meet cut flowers they are so beautiful that I pause and look
the fountain dried up you need perception to notice this among many minor deaths while the trees have proliferated wonderfully they sing at four in the morning – I know
the narrow thread of dawn has turned white during my twenty-eight years the last four I’ve spent on philosophy I wanted to solve the mystery of being but this is what I was shown: not a body or a tree but words on words on words
people are mortal Socrates is human so Socrates must die his sentence was delivered Socrates is dead store-bought flowers flop in a golden vase
I visit this place every day I do not expect a pardon
the apostles in the clouds got absolutely plastered the world started to wobble from side to side those perfect apostles flawless and infallible
the people walking the streets with hands outstretched held on to the bricks business blossoming on every corner
Peter half-supported this partying with hands falling like golden leaves and raised a glass yelling hallelujah with all his voice his juice was spiked the people spread their toes and propped up the sky
Our discovery of Halina Poświatowska carried with it that stroke of serendipity that made translating her poetry seem like a personal mission.
In summer 2018, we picked up a copy of her Wiersze Wybrane (“Selected Poems”) on a whim at a flea market in Kraków, near where Karolina was born, intrigued by her rather spare verse, curious to try translating her. We didn’t spend much time with the book until a few months later, during our time at the Bridge Guard artist residency in Štúrovo, Slovakia, when we began to read about her life in earnest. We were surprised to discover she attended Smith College in Northampton, MA, where Ryan lived for a number of years.
We took the 8-hour train ride to Poświatowska’s hometown, the city Częstochowa, in October. We spent a few days there, visiting her childhood home, which has been converted into a museum devoted to her life, run by her brother Zbigniew. Among the many editions of her poetry in translation—in Italian, Persian, Bulgarian, French—artifacts of her life stood on display: printouts of angular EKGs, typewritten college essays, letters to friends and family, and a map of Smith College, on which she had drawn a square around her dorm.
As aspiring translators, devotees of Polish culture, and, like Poświatowska, a native of Poland (Karolina) and a former inhabitant of Northampton (Ryan), we felt as if a job had fallen into our hands. But as we started to translate her work, we ran into the pitfalls inevitable in the act of carrying poetry into another language. Our trip to Częstochowa confirmed our hopes that translating Poświatowska would be a compelling project. It did not prepare us for the difficulty of the task.
Poświatowska’s poetry is succinct. Many of her poems contain lines that are only one or two words long. Her grammar and vocabulary are uncomplicated. She barely uses punctuation, and her imagination is grounded in simple, physical detail, even when writing on philosophical themes – it’s as if her lines are naked. All of this makes word choice particularly challenging in English. As collaborators who are both poets, one of whom is a native Polish speaker, we turned over every word, thinking through all options, stretching or changing words and phrases when we found it necessary.
At the end of our stay at Bridge Guard, we held a reading of Poświatowska’s poetry in four languages—Polish, English, Slovak, and Hungarian. Two local high school students who helped us produce those translations read with us that night. Translation, we think, is a process that never truly ends. There are always better words to find, better ways of organizing a line, other languages to try. That night, we celebrated the imperfection of translation, as we all listened in our own languages to this tragic, lyric, and delightfully cheeky poet who lived a day’s train ride away from where we stood. The feeling of serendipity hasn’t worn off since.
Ryan Mihaly and Karolina Zapal’s collaborative work dwells in the crossroads between Polish, English, text, image, and music. Their collaborations have been published in Tupelo Quarterly, The Adirondack Review, 3:AM Magazine, and Anomaly. From 2018-2019, they attended three artist residencies: Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Ireland; Brashnar Creative Project in Skopje, Macedonia; and Bridge Guard in Štúrovo, Slovakia, where they began translating Polish writers Halina Poświatowska and Olga Hund into English. They are both graduates of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, CO, and live in Greenville, SC.
Halina Poświatowska (1935-1967) is one of Poland’s most beloved poets. She survived the German invasion of her hometown, Częstochowa, in 1945, though it left her with a chronic heart condition, which would claim her life at the age of 32. Knowing her life would be brief, Poświatowska wrote prolifically: her collected work includes 4 books of poetry, a memoir, and several hundred unpublished stories, essays, and plays. She travelled extensively across Europe and America, and earned a degree in philosophy from Smith College in 3 years. New editions of her work—as well as biographies and critical studies—continue to be published in Poland and around the world in translation.
I want to make an exhibition with the title Female Abstraction I’ll ask Chris Kraus to write the catalog and give a talk at the opening The first room is long and narrow and full of small paintings A few by Marthe Donas one by Sonia Delaunay from back when she still went by Terk and work by other Russian women, too Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Lyubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, etc. Behind that a large hall full of blood-red panels by Marthe Wéry crammed together on the floor so that almost no one can pass between them Those who do I will surprise in the next room with drawings by Nasreen Mohamedi and Agnes Martin Follow their lines and you end up in a little room off to the side with sculptures by Lygia Clark and another with watercolors by Etel Adnan In the next room, a giant painting by Helen Frankenthaler Most people stop here and go back home where they will tell everyone what they do not yet know Those who keep going end up in a space where music by Sofia Gubaidulina is playing but where nothing can be seen since it’s pitch-black because of the blackout curtains made by Lili Dujouri Instinctively, you kick off your shoes and walk on barefoot On the floor, there are rugs Turkmen and Afghan full of bald spots from years of kneeling If you get cold there are blankets woven by Berber women and frayed by Anni Albers for better praying Men who miss their mothers come here for furtive embraces and to pass each other notes with handwritten poems by Ariana, Athena, Ida and Monika In the second-to-last room I will hang the final work by Ilse D’Hollander and on the floor, one of Mary Temple’s painted shadows of a tree The exhibition ends in a space dedicated to Lilly Reich There is no masonry, just glass also known as “curtain walls” looking out onto trees in autumn sometime in late October when there are still leaves and the sun is out one last time before the long dark begins again Oaks, beeches, ash and plane trees I ask Ann Veronica Janssens to stop by with her hammer and smash all the windows In the middle of the room there’s a bench, just big enough for two people, you and me We sit there for hours and talk about us
Les Barricades Mysteriéuses, or How I Was Suddenly Old
1. Clement Greenberg drilled holes in the ceiling, big enough to stick his head through With wide nostrils— cocaine of fresh air— he sniffed us this day our daily bread His footman, equally optimistic, assisted him but gave up straight away I prefer it down here, he said with a touch of resignation and made a well
2. In the morning I hoped to bike past it but it was already too late The dug-up asphalt blocked the lane in piles of remains Let me through, I begged, grant me one last look. Songs nor candles helped as lubricant Please, Father Clement, I’ll wear a bowtie if need be Alas, his class consciousness won out. Dejected, I sat down on a rock, had almost given up, when, luminous, I got up again and shouted ‘Kafka is a Jew’ A smile of recognition allowed me in and I joined the past
3. It’s so beautiful here I said to no one in particular, at least, it was dark and smelled damp pleasant really this lack of people The deeper I descended the greater the pleasure There was a fair amount of clemency the odd worm sometimes a mole
4. Little creatures, I said have you heard? I’m your new past Everyone jumped up and tickled me during the petting that followed
5. I found myself again in a container, left with a group of children who were begging to be adopted I was made to wait in a dark room that smelled of rotting meat One of them wouldn’t stop screaming Wherefore!? Therefore!? A shortage, expressed as a surplus, comforted me beneath the curtainless windows I lulled my self to sleep until the hour assumed the perfection of morning
6. In the end I wrote a letter in broken alexandrine and recorded it as a message: Dear Clement, Leaden is the weight that rarely if ever softens, abates the fates of those of lowly state He wanted history on Earth, he wrote back, something heavenly, if need be, for security, leisure and comfort, juggling in a lonely jungle of immediate sensations
7. On salt and wet asphalt I spread my joy a t-shirt with logos or workmen with usernames I cursed my cobblers and hobbled around a hole, threw daily bread onto the ground and watched a cloud of crows fall apart, unanswered
8. I looked at repairs but kept to the old
Two influences are a recurring theme in Tom Van de Voorde’s work: visual art and modernism. In these poems both are represented. In “Les Barricades Mysteriéuses,” the speaker follows prominent 20th-century art critic Clement Greenberg into a hole in the road. It’s a kind of Orphean descent, into the past, into the world of the subconscious. Tom himself considers it to be a watershed poem, describing a journey that fundamentally transforms the speaker’s consciousness.
For the most part, the language in Tom’s poetry is direct and straightforward, even if what’s going on can be quite cryptic. The surreal quality derives first and foremost from the scenes and images being described. But there’s something Eliotian about the economy of language—the way a sudden, inventive adjective or neologism can cause a line to reverberate, as when the speaker watches ‘a cloud of crows / fall apart, unanswered.’
As a translator, I try to be attentive to these moments, and replicate the shifts in register that lift the poem above the immediate and referential and invoke something deeper, more lyrical, ancient: for instance, at the end of “Us,” when the speaker imagines glass walls that give the visitors to his imaginary art exhibition a view of the autumn leaves in late October, ‘before the long dark begins again.’
Emma Rault is a writer and a translator from Dutch and German. LitHub voted her translation of Rudolph Herzog’s Ghosts of Berlin one of the best books of 2019. She is a 2019 Idyllwild Arts Non-Fiction Fellow and the recipient of the 2017 GINT Translation Prize. Her work appears in the LA Review of Books, Literary Hub, Asymptote, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles.
Tom Van de Voorde (b. 1974) is a writer, curator of interdisciplinary projects, and translator of poetry into Dutch. He is the author of four volumes of poetry: Jouw zwaartekracht mijn veer (‘Your Gravity My Feather’), Vliesgevels filter (‘Curtain Wall Filter’), Liefde en aarde (‘Love and Earth’), and Zwembad de verbeelding (‘Swimming Pool Imagination’). His published translations include work by Wallace Stevens, Michael Palmer, and Ariana Reines, and his own poetry has been translated into ten languages.
My first days in the world were marked by an inability to decide on the question of whether to live. My body, as if it were controlled by a yearning desire for twilight, repeatedly suffered many and varied illnesses, and was like someone whose soul cleaveth to the dust. My own desire was insufficiently distinct, and it was only years later that I felt that life is no more than a habit. But I was too impatient to wait, and at the age of one I opened my mouth and said that it seemed I would go to Nebraska. My parents were surprised by the timing, and insisted that because of my young age it was impossible to comprehend my words. The compromise imposed on me compelled me to raise my hand as if asking permission to speak. I therefore raised my hand and repeated what I had said. It seems that I will go to Nebraska, I said, and my mother said that for boys of one year old it’s early to go to Nebraska, and my father said, But still, if you’re going, and at this age, if you’re going, Nebraska would be preferable, and immediately sank into thought, and surfacing in his thoughts were fragments of syllables and place names like Texas and Nevada, and eventually—Las Vegas! Rage stood in his eyes, and my uncle, Father’s brother, expounded on the wonders of Nebraska as he’d read in the tour magazine, that it is a lovely country with the sound of joy in the streets and the people’s teeth are as white as ivory when they smile. And my mother put a frightened hand to her mouth, for where could a helmet for such a small boy be found, since she presumed that I would be going to Nebraska on my bicycle, and from between the pages of the magazine my uncle shouted, Hallelujah! because the weatherman had announced that fine days were forecast for Nebraska, where the sun was always shining. And that’s a good reason, he added importantly, and my father, whose thoughts hovered in the room, said triumphantly, Nebraska, Nebraska, and his eyes sparkled.
A helmet was finally found for me. It was a yellow fireman’s hat, and my father, from the depths of his wanderings, murmured coquettishly, A fireman’s hat, a lifesaver’s hat, it will protect us… and after short pause summarized: Long life and happiness! I embarked on my journey with great ceremony, my bicycle clattering slowly on its innumerable wheels and the rattle of the rims silenced the weeping of those left behind. I took to the road and a great belief filled my soul. But when I got to Nebraska I was already old, and the belief in my heart was extinguished. My childhood illnesses were replaced by the ravages of time, the blotches of rubella by age spots. Again the body hesitates—To live? To die? And around me Nebraska, a dust-laden desert… yes, the sky is blue and the people’s teeth are white as ivory when they smile… but nobody smiles in Nebraska lest his mouth fill with dust! Ha! Why the hell Nebraska, I shout, and you, why are you looking at me like that? Have you never seen an old man in a yellow fireman’s helmet on a child’s bicycle…? And I hum to myself: A fireman’s hat, a lifesaver’s hat, it will take us, and afterwards… Hop!
This short story was brewed in me while taking a long walk in Tel-Aviv, a few years ago. It started almost simultaneously with two sentences, the opening sentence and the one near the end of the story, which was translated to “I was already old, and the belief in my heart was extinguished” (in Hebrew it is merely a four word sentence). Quickly the two ends moved toward each other and the other details arranged around them. And when I got home I just had to write the complete story down. I sent it to Tony, who had translated a few of my stories before and I really admire his work. I think he did a beautiful job here too. He lived in the north of Israel, a few hours drive from Tel-Aviv. We spoke on the phone and corresponded by emails, but never met in person. For a long time I was planning to drive up north to visit him, but never did. He passed away in 2018.
Anthony Berris was born in the United Kingdom and lived in Israel for most of his adult life. He was a translator and editor.
Yoram Naslavsky is the author of two collections of short stories published in Hebrew: In the Sight of This Sun (2009) and A Man on a Bench (2019). His stories have been published in various literary journals in English and Hebrew.
One woman noticed a cockroach, slowly and somehow lopsidedly crawling out from under her computer. Armed with a napkin (thank God, a whole pile of napkins was lying right there), she tried grabbing the creature by its tail, although most likely it was some other part of the insect’s most unpleasant body, but the creature ran away from the napkin, quickly ran under the table and then, pursued by the merciless woman, ran across the floor to the front door, quickly and masterfully moving its legs … The woman’s napkin overtook him, her hand rushed at him like a snake on its prey, covered him completely – and then… she killed him and lived happily ever after. (No, she didn’t. This woman was not predisposed to happiness).
– What should I do with him now? the woman thought, sighing. Deep in thought, she opened the front door, shook out the contents of the napkin into the cold air … and she could not take her eyes off the unlucky creature as she watched the cockroach fly out of the napkin, growing transparent wings in the air, turning into a beautiful butterfly, and, in an instant, it was gone forever.
Одна женщина заметила таракана, медленно и как-то кривобоко выползающего из-под её компьютера. Вооружившись салфеткой (слава богу, целая груда салфеток валялась прямо под рукой), она было схватила его за хвост, хотя скорее всего, это было его малоприятное туловище, но он убежал от нацеленной в него салфетки, быстро спустился по столу и, преследуемый беспощадной женщиной, побежал по полу до самой входной двери, быстро-быстро семеня ножками… Тут женщинина салфетка его и настигла, ее рука бросилась на него, как коршун на дичь, накрыла его полностью – а что было потом… (“Суп с котом?” скажете вы? да нет, эта женщина любила котов).
– И что мне с ним теперь делать? – подумала женщина, вздыхая. В глубокой задумчивости она открыла входную дверь, вытряхнула содержимое салфетки в холодный воздух… и не могла глаз оторвать от своего незадачливого питомца, всё смотрела, как таракан вылетает из салфетки, на лету наращивая прозрачные крылышки, превращаясь из таракана в красавицу-бабочку – и только его и видели.
How to be a Famous Poet
Once upon a time there lived a young man who wanted to be a poet. His father was a shoemaker who made the most beautiful shoes in the country because many years ago, when the father himself was a young man, he went to an older shoemaker who gave shoemaking classes to anyone who wanted to learn the trade, and that’s where the father, when he was still a young man, learned all the tricks of shoemaking. The young man knew that no one in his town was teaching poetry writing, and because he couldn’t write any poems himself yet, he started going to readings at Poetry Stars, a town coffee shop where, after drinks and elegant appetizers, long-haired poets and poetesses in sequin jackets that lit up at every long vowel, sang out their verses in front of the audiences still busy with their multi-colored drinks and unusual appetizers. One of the long-haired poets told him that, if you wanted to be a poet, all you had to do was to start reading in front of the public: there was no need to struggle writing poems in order to read them in “Poetry Stars”, all you had to do was get a reading date, and for that you needed the loving support of the most important poets, which meant that you could skip the initial step and instead of wasting time on writing poems, you could get to the end result right away, just be famous, so basically, said the long-haired poet, all you had to do was get a reading, that was the hardest and the most important part of being a poet, and this was what everyone here was trying to do.
“So what do you have to do in order to get a reading?” asked the young man.
“I will teach you a secret, son,” said the long-haired poet. “As I’ve already explained, all you have to do in order to be a poet is do a lot of poetry readings – prezentatzii, as we say in our town, and all you have to do in order to get a reading is bow deeply every time you see the most important poet, that’s enough to be a poet, said one of the poets. Just make a deep bow, and make sure he sees how deeply you bow to him. Now that you know the secret of poetry, young man, you’re well on your way to becoming the best young poet of your generation!” The young man did as he was told, and in less than two weeks since the day when long-haired poet had taught him the tricks of the trade, he had his own reading at the Poets’ Cabaret, and he realized that his teacher the long-haired poet, had been right in everything, including the little-known fact that there was no need to bring any of your own poems to the reading: you could simply say the vowels, stretching them so they sounded interesting: a-a-a-, o-o-o, u-u-u, o-o-o… The audience loved the young man’s avant-garde poetry, gray-haired editors of respectable publications approached the young man during the intermission with offers to publish his avant-garde poems in their journals, young women brought him bouquets of carnations, and all the other long-haired poets wanted to sit at his table and drink with him.
Only one thing bothered the young man: a strange creature that looked like a fat girl but was a bit too round to be either a girl or a boy, sat in a special chair, in a special enclosure, up above everyone’s tables, and every time the young man said his vowels and the audience clapped and screamed for more, the round creature in the enclosure said, “I like Miss Cinderella because she is nice. I like Miss Cinderella. She is nice.” And on and on it went like this, and only when the round creature was asleep, only then nothing about its feelings for Miss Cinderella issued from its mouth.
“Why can’t someone tell him to shut up during my readings?” asked the young man who was no longer just a young man but a famous poet.
“Ah, don’t you know who that is?” said one of the long-haired poets to the young-man-who-was-now-the-famous-poet.
“No,” said the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet. “So who is that creature?”
“Chief Poet of All Main Poets,” said the long-haired poet, bringing yet another glass of wine to his lips. “Without his approval no one, and I mean no one in the entire world, can be awarded the highest prize, the Mobel Prize, given by the World Academy annually to the best poet of the world. The prize, of course, is worth millions of dollars.”
At this point the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet regretted those times when he disrespected the round creature by shushing him when the creature said his usual Miss Cinderella lines during the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet’s reading. How could he have known that the creature was the Chief Poet of all Main Poets? And that the biggest annual poetry prize depended on the creature’s whim? From now on, the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet bowed deeply every time he passed beneath the enclosure where the round creature sat in his strange chair, but since the enclosure was above him, the young man’s deep bows were in vain, since it’s physically impossible to bow to that which is far above you, and therefore the creature could not appreciate the young man’s attempts to erase his previous disrespectful shushing of the creature, and the creature went on making his pronouncements on “Miss Cinderella” during the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet’s readings, and alas, it goes without saying that the Mobel Prize was never awarded to the young-man-who-was-now the-famous-poet.
Как стать знаменитым поэтом
Жил-был молодой человек, который хотел быть поэтом. Его отец был сапожником, знаменитым на всю страну изготовлением самых красивых ботинок, потому что много лет назад, когда сам отец был молодым человеком, он отыскал старого сапожника, проводившего занятия сапожного мастерства для всех, кто хотел преуспеть в этой профессии. Вот так отец, будучи еще молодым человеком, узнал все хитрости своего будущего ремесла. Молодой человек знал, что в его родном городе никто не ведет занятия по поэтическому мастерству, а сам он не умел писать стихи, и поэтому решил – была не была, начну регулярно посещать поэтическое кабаре. И вот он стал проводить каждый вечер в городском кафе, где после напитков и элегантных закусок, длинноволосые поэты, а также поэтессы в разноцветных куртках, выступали со своими стихами перед публикой, все еще занятой интересными напитками и закусками. Один из длинноволосых поэтов сказал ему по секрету, что для того, чтобы стать поэтом вовсе не необязательно писать стихи, нужно только начать читать их перед публикой. Главное, сказал он, это заручиться согласием самых важных поэтов на выступление, и поэтому гораздо умнее, сказал он, вместо того, чтобы тратить время на писание стихов, сразу приступить к главному – к результату, так что, сказал длинноволосый поэт, думай о согласии главных, это самая сложная и самая важная часть жизни поэта, всё остальное не так важно.
– Так что же для этого нужно делать? – спросил молодой человек.
– Я научу тебя, – сказал длинноволосый поэт. – Как я уже говорил, все, что нужно, чтобы стать поэтом, – это как можно чаще выступать перед публикой, – «делать презентацию», как говорят у нас городе, а всё что нужно для того, чтобы получить разрешение на презентацию – это поклониться главным поэтам. Этого вполне достаточно, чтобы быть поэтом. Просто глубоко, до земли поклонись главному поэту, когда ты в поле его зрения. Теперь, молодой человек, ты знаешь секрет поэзии, благодаря которому ты станешь лучшим молодым поэтом своего поколения!»
Молодой человек всё сделал так, как ему сказал длинноволосый поэт, и менее, чем через две недели ему было дано разрешение провести собственное выступление в «Кабаре поэтов», и он понял, что его учитель был прав во всем, включая тот малоизвестный факт, что вовсе не было необходимости приносить с собой пачки стихов: молодой человек просто говорил гласные в микрофон, растягивая их, чтобы они казались необычными: aaa, ooo, ууу, эээ … Аудитория полюбила авангардную поэзию молодого человека; седовласые редакторы респектабельных публикаций подходили к молодому человеку во время антракта с предложениями опубликовать его необычные стихи; девушки приносили ему букеты гвоздик и норовились поцеловать его в ухо; десятки длинноволосых поэтов хотели сидеть с ним за одним столиком и вместе с ним пить через трубочку молоко из длинных бокалов. Единственное, что беспокоило молодого человека было странное существо непонятного пола, слишком необ’ятное, чтобы быть девушкой и слишком круглое, чтобы быть юношей, существо сидящее в специальном кресле, на специальном балкончике, надо всеми столиками с поэтами, и каждый раз, когда молодой человек выступал со своими гласными и аудитория хлопали и кричала «браво!», круглое существо громко и внятно говорило: «Мне нравится мисс Золушка, потому что она хорошая. Мне нравится мисс Золушка. Она хорошая». И так по многу раз за вечер… И только когда круглое существо спало, чувства существа к мисс Золушке оставались невыраженными вслух и от этого всем становилось немного легче.
– Почему никто не может заставить его помолчать во время моих выступлений? – не раз спрашивал молодой человек, который уже был не просто молодым человеком, а известным поэтом.
– А ты не знаешь, кто это? – сказал один из длинноволосых поэтов, сидящих за столиком молодого человека, который уже был не просто молодым человеком, а известным поэтом.
– Нет, – сказал молодой человек. – Так что же это существо?
– Это самый главный поэт, главнее всех главных поэтов, – сказал длинноволосый поэт, поднося очередной бокал вина к губам. – Без его одобрения никто, и я имею в виду – никто в мире, не может получить высшую награду, Мобелевскую премию, ежегодно вручаемую Всемирной Академией лучшему поэту года. Премия, конечно, не только премия, но и миллион долларов.
В этот момент молодой человек, который уже был не просто молодым человеком, а известным поэтом, пожалел о том, что он не только не обращал внимания на круглое существо, а ещё и шикал на него, когда существо озвучивало свои чувства к Мисс Золушке во время выступлений молодого человека, который уже был не просто молодым человеком, а известным поэтом. Откуда ему было знать, что существо было самым главным поэтом всех главных поэтов? И что самый главный ежегодный приз поэзии зависит от прихоти этого круглого существа? Отныне молодой человек, который был теперь знаменитым поэтом, глубоко кланялся каждый раз, когда проходил под балкончиком, на котором восседало круглое существо, но, поскольку между ними был этот непрозрачный балкончик и поскольку существо было _над_ кланяющимся молодым человеком, глубокие поклоны молодого человека были напрасны, так как физически невозможно поклониться тому, что находится над вами, и вот почему существо не смогло оценить попытки молодого человека заставить существо забыть про прежнее неуважительное отношение молодого человека к существу, и существо продолжало бормотать что-то непонятное про «Мисс Золушку» во время выступлений молодого человека, который был теперь не просто молодым человеком, а знаменитым поэтом, и само собой разумеется, что Мобелевская премия так и не была присуждена молодому человеку, который был теперь не просто молодым человеком, а знаменитым поэтом.
NL Herzenberg lives in New York and often translates Nina Kossman’s Russian work into English. The author sees NL Herzenberg as her alter ego which makes NL Herzenberg the perfect translator of her Russian work.
Moscow born, Nina Kossman is a painter, writer, poet, and playwright. Among her published works are two books of poems in Russian, two collections of short stories, and an anthology published by Oxford University Press. She received a UNESCO/PEN Short Story Award, an NEA fellowship, and grants from Foundation for Hellenic Culture, the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, and Fundación Valparaíso. She lives in New York.
This remains: since throughout the cerulean places of the great world I have unraveled with reason those things which come to be whatever can so that the varied courses of the sun meanderings of the moon we can know what force and cause summons how they can: perish like stars six feet under their light blocked shadows cover the unsuspecting lands just as when they squint their eyes now the aperture opens inspect all places bright with brilliant light now I return to the novelty of the world the soft fields of earth what in the next litter they had in mind at first to raise to the shores of light to commit to the uncertain winds
In the beginning the family of grasses and green splendor earth gave around the hills through all fields meadows flickered in bloom greening a great contest was given to the trees to grow through the breezes reins loose just as now feathers and first hairs and bristles are created for limbs of four-leggers the frame of able-winged then the new earth first raised the grasses bushes next created the mortal generations many things arose in many ways with their own philosophies couldn’t: animals fell out of the sky land-lubbers sprung from salty lagoons true: the earth earned the name Mother since from the earth she created all even now animals mushroom from rain-swept lands curdle in the sun’s humidity no less shocking if greater more fertile things arose made adult by a new world and sky
In the beginning the family of wings a medley of things in flight left their eggs hatched by springtime just as now cicadas abandon their smooth cocoons instinctively pursuing food and life then the earth gave to you the mortal generations heat and moisture the victors of ploughland when some place offered itself a suitable region wombs grew fixed to the earth with roots when time dilated them full infant fish lungs fled seeking the air nature translated the earth’s openings turned them like horses ships moonpaths
forced sap in her open veins to flow very much like milk just as now a woman after she’s pregnant stores within herself sweet milk which every impulse to feed translates to her breasts the earth food for boys mist clothing grass a bed she gave many things overflowing with soft stubble like that of a young man’s first beard the novel world was not used to summoning. harsh cold spells too long droughts winds of great might all things grow equally take their strength at the same time
The earth earned the name Mother she made the family of man and flooded the great mountains with every lunatic animal she filled the sky with wings since everything should have an end for fruitfulness she stopped just like a woman tired in old age time changes the nature of the whole world one state should take all its parts from the last nor should any thing remain similar to itself all things leave return nature changes all things forces them to shift something rots weak grows tired with age something grows up from under escapes from hated circumstances time changes the nature of the whole world one state takes all its parts from the last its bears what it could not before could bear what it has not before
Many were the miracles the world tried to make every face and limb a wonder: a woman who’s a man not in between or both far from either some animals missing their feet some blind some with all their limbs tangled tucked into their bodies they couldn’t: do anything go anywhere avoid evil take what they needed nature reaped them the great pruner they couldn’t: touch the bloom of old age longed for find food join in the (austere and lonely) offices of love for we see many things must happen just right in many ways so that through children we might forge a legacy first: food then: that fluid starting point hidden away like fire in flint which drips from our arching frames like sweat blood honey a woman can be joined with another they possess shared bliss who exchange it between one another
Back then the mass destruction of many generations of the living was unavoidable since they could not through children forge a legacy everything you see feeding on the living air is there either by lying or courage or speed from the very beginning each one his brother’s keeper many are here pledged to us entrusted to our protection by their utility in the beginning the fierce family of lions savage generations courage protected lying foxes and flight deer but the light sleeping minds of loyal-hearted dogs every race born of pack animal lineage wool-bearing flocks horned herds all these were pledged to the protection of mankind eagerly fled beasts sought peace multiplied with scarce food great labor things we gave as prizes for the sake of their usefulness those for whom nature allotted nothing who were unable on their own to live or to prove to us any usefulness why we should suffer their family to be fed by our protection to be safe surely these lay as prizes profit for others every one trammeled by mortal chains until nature reduced that family to extinction
But that kind of man in the fields before was hardier than you’d expect because the hard earth crafted them with larger more powerful bones within built fitted with strong muscles in their flesh the sort not easily caught fever or cold not by the novelty of food or any bodily illness for many solar cycles twisting round the sky they traced their lives in the manner of wide-wandering beasts no strong someone was the tamer of the curved plough
no one knew how: to soften the earth with metal to bury young plants into the earth up above to cut down old tree branches with shears like my grandfather because the sun and rain had given because the earth had crafted on her own a gift that used to soothe hearts enough many used to preen one another among the acorn-bearing oaks those arbutes you see now in wintertime
growing ripe scarlet then the earth bore even more abundantly heavier so the blooming newness of the world gave way too much hardy fare fitting for wretched mortals but rivers and fountains were calling out to settle thirst just as now waterfalls from great mountains brightly invoke the thirsty clans of beasts then they made footholds in wooded regions of nymphs known from wanderings where they knew flowing water washed the slippery wet rocks overflowing beyond the brim wet rocks dripping from above from green moss some which gushes in the floodplains some breaks forth into the fields
Things they did not know: how to wield fire how to use pelts how to clothe their bodies in the corpses of beasts made their homes in groves and mountain caves and woods buried their dirty bodies among the apple trees driven by the rain avoiding the pounding wind how to see the common good know customs or use laws each one took only what chance gave learned to live on her own
in the woods Love joined the bodies of lovers arranged them either by mutual consent or the violence of the man his destructive want or an exchange: acorns strawberries pears
Depending as one does on youth friends intelligence sword they depend on the wonderful virtue of their hands and feet pursuing the woodland clans of beasts with stone slings the heavy weight of a club they vanquished many vanished from some in hiding places caught by the night they gave their naked woodland limbs like bristling boars to the ground nesting themselves with leaves branches never sought in nightshade palewandering daylight the sun in the fields no great cry but silently they waited buried in dream while the rosy firebrand sun raised his eyes to the sky
Ever since they were little they saw sunrise nightfall one after the other never miraculous they did not fear everlasting night more of a consideration than light were the clans of beasts making sleep so often hostile to those insomniacs thrown from their homes they fled their stone roofs at the arrival of a boar or a strong lion foaming like a rip curl they yielded in the dead of night their beds laid with branches shivering at their savage guests
Not too much more then than now were the mortal generations departing the sweet lights of life with tears when one of them was caught she provided a still squirming meal for beasts slurped through teeth groves and mountains and woods she filled with shrieking seeing living flesh buried in a living tomb and those who saved themselves from digestion holding their trembling hands over filthy gashes begged in terrible tones for death while ulcers robbed them of a savage life deprived of assistance not knowing what their wounds want not yet were thousands of boys sent over there Baghdad Fallujah Mosul Sadr City now Sarmada Raqqa Palmyra al-Bab Ildib to their Dunkirks their Cannaes their Birnam Woods their Children’s Crusade not yet was one day giving them to destruction nor was the mutinous seaskin dashing the ships against the rocks and men by chance no purpose uselessly the sea rose often raging—like panthers enraged birds like lunatic poison coursing through the veins like winds like love— lightly placing empty threats as a high roller places bets the quiet sea’s charm could not charm anyone into a costly mistake while the waves snickered the wicked skill of sailing lay secret still then the scarcity of food gave weary limbs to death while now we are drowned in an abundance of stuff those who once poisoned themselves unknowingly now turn their venom on others with skill
After they obtained homes and pelts and fire and women joined to partners yielded to one… (much is to be desired here some clarification on the hegemony of the union the battles won and lost sex is in between the lines) knew how to see their legacy created from themselves at which point hardy mankind began to soften they cared for their hearths since not even now can they bear the cold on their chilly bodies under the vault of heaven Venus shrunk their strength children easily shattered their parents’ proud dispositions with their cuteness then willing neighbors began to form friendships not to harm or to be harmed they entrusted children and womankind into their care with words and gestures they stutteringly signify that it is right to respect all those who are vulnerable not in every way could harmony come to be a good and great part of humankind kept their promises unbroken might have been destroyed already then might not have forged a legacy through children
Nature forced the varied sounds of tongue to broadcast their usefulness minted the names of things lack of language draws boys and girls to gestures forces them pointing to show what’s standing right in front of them each soul feels the weight of itself: before a young bull’s horns are born on his forehead in anger they attack rivals thrust with them cubs of leopards whelps of lions with claws and paws they play at fighting even then with bites when scarcely their teeth and nails have grown every generation of birds we see trusts in their wings seeks featherquaking aid but it is ridiculous to then extrapolate that somebody has distributed all the names to things taught all men vocabulary from the start
Why was this man above all others able to trademark the diverse sounds of language to broadcast his voice and at the same time others are not considered able to have done this? if others did not also use their voices among themselves before from where was knowledge of this usefulness sown like seeds buried like a treasure chest from where was the first power given so that they could know and see in their mind’s eye what they wanted to do just so one man was not able to force many to master the vanquished
so that they would want to learn the names of things to teach with any logic to tell the wind what work must be done is no easy task for they could not allow they would not bear too long for any reason indecipherable noises of voice to thump their ears uselessly what would be so surprising in this matter if the human race in whom voice and language thrives should mark experiences with diverse sounds each according to a different feeling? just as the mute flocks the generations of beasts are accustomed to summon sounds different and mutable when they are afraid or aggrieved or when they swell like firestorms or waves with joy surely it’s possible to understand this phenomenon after some examples
When provoked the soft wide mouths of Molossian hounds growl baring hard teeth their throats tuned far from any other sound as they threaten enraged they howl fill the world with their voice or when they try to lick their pups with cooing language toss them attacking with their paws and nips play at devouring gently their lips drawn back fawn over them with another agreement of sound yelping or when abandoned in the house they whine or crying their downcast bodies avoid their master’s heavy hand it seems not so different from whinnies when among mares one colt of flowering youth rages struck by the spurs of wing-bearing Desire gives out a neigh to arms from flared nostrils and when elsewise his limbs are struck he whinnies finally the race of flight and wings vultures bone breakers divers hunting for food and life in the waves of the salt sea let forth certain sounds at certain times when they vie for food when their food fights back at times they change their hoarse-sounding songs as one in storms just as the long lived generations of crows and murders of ravens when they are said to invoke wet weather rain to call winds breezes even if different emotions act upon animals although they are senseless they give voice to different sounds how much more likely is it for mortal men to have been able to designate different sounds for different feelings
CB Brady is a writer and translator from Hawaii, based in the Bay Area. He writes poetry about dead things, especially languages. He produced a limited-run podcast about the crossroads of classical and American pop culture. He writes for CBR about comics and movies.
An early Christian scholar from the 4th c. CE writes of Lucretius’s life as such: “94 BCE … The poet Titus Lucretius is born. He was later driven mad by a love philtre and, having composed between bouts of insanity several books (which Cicero afterwards corrected), committed suicide at the age of 44.”
every day I you the words are short or long but all mingle to make us tellers of our story a sentence that grows us and verbs us so that everything moves and takes us our language is ahead of us because it only comes to hear us that’s why we don’t sleep much and our words sleep far less
les mots sont courts ou s’allongent mais tous se mêlent pour faire de nous des récitants de notre récit une phrase qui nous dérive et nous verbe tellement tout bouge et nous prend que notre langage est en avant de nous car il ne vient que d’entendre c’est pourquoi nous dormons peu et nos mots bien moins que nous
from Jamais et un jour (Never and a Day),Dominique Bedou, 1986.
I was told about an end of the world where the trees bend
I was told about an end of the world where the trees bend under the weight of butterflies when they arrive to breed a single species only there here surrounded by the shouts the beats of a night club that place I have never seen replaces the tables with vases containing plastic flowers because the nowhere of desire now dwells in the middle of the café among the faces the butterfly tree
on m’a parlé d’un bout du monde où les arbres se courbent
on m’a parlé d’un bout du monde où les arbres se courbent sous le poids des papillons quand ils viennent s’y reproduire une seule espèce seulement là ici dans les cris les coups d’un bar de nuit ce lieu que je n’ai jamais vu prend la place des tables des verres des plantes en plastique car le nulle part du désir met maintenant au milieu du café au milieu des visages l’arbre à papillons
from Nous le passage (We the Passage), Verdier, 1990
The translations are the result of a collaboration between a poet (Don Boes) and a translator (Gaby Bedetti). Our project has been to translate a few poems from each of Meschonnic’s nineteen collections for a Selected Poems of Henri Meschonnic. We chose this sampling from that manuscript to represent the richness, range, and intensity of his poetic output in his nineteen collections.
Previously, six poems from Voyageurs de la voix (Voyagers of the Voice) were translated in “Jewish Poets of France,” Shirim: A Jewish Poetry Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, Oct. 1988. Our translations seem to be the first English translation since then of Meschonnic’s stripped down voice. As with the poems of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jacques Réda, the rhythm of Meschonnic’s poems exposes the subject. He follows Montaigne’s practice—“I do not describe being. I describe the passage… from minute to minute.” Meschonnic’s poems follow Montaigne—“I do not describe being. I describe the passage… from minute to minute.” Untitled and unpunctuated, his poems are kin to W. S. Merwin “climbing out of myself/ all my life.” Meschonnic writes, “I am not in what/ I seek but in what escapes me.”
Our challenge as translators was to capture the continuous movement of the poems, a movement that suggests the possibility of passing energia from subject to subject, of inventing within language new ways of being with oneself, others, and the world. Replicating this movement in English texts was difficult. We could hear and feel the rhythm of the French. And, we thought, Meschonnic’s minimal vocabulary and relative lack of poetic features, such as images and metaphors (his poems are nearly adjective-free), suggested somewhat of a clear path from French to English. However, we soon realized his rhythms and condensed language was in the service of mapping voices, not poems. His use of enjambment and only the most colloquial verbs and nouns made us take a hard look at individual words (no matter their simplicity) and therefore, the world. In translating these poems, we became, like Meschonnic, that accomplished innovator, “patients of life.”
Gabriella Bedetti studied translation at the University of Iowa and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her translations of Meschonnic’s essays and other writings have appeared in New Literary History, Critical Inquiry, and Diacritics. Meschonnic was a guest of the MLA at her roundtable with Ralph Cohen and Susan Stewart.
Don Boes is the author of Good Luck With That, Railroad Crossing, and The Eighth Continent, selected by A. R. Ammons for the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The Louisville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, CutBank, Zone 3, Southern Indiana Review, and The Cincinnati Review.
Henri Meschonnic (1932–2009) is a key figure of French “new poetics,” best known worldwide for his translations from the Old Testament and the 710-page Critique du rythme. During his long career, Meschonnic generated controversy in the literary community. His poems appear in more than a dozen languages; however, almost none of Meschonnic’s poems have been translated into English. His poetry has received prestigious awards, including the Max Jacob International Poetry Prize, the Mallarmé Prize, the Jean Arp Francophone Literature Prize, and the Guillevic-Ville de Saint-Malo Grand Prize for Poetry.
Does your blood make the fool drunk? Do the ignorant dance on your corpse? Does a hungry child sleep on your forehead?
For the hungry child, for the dancing ignorant, for the drunken fool,
this sorrow is mute in witness, despair brains us with a length of darkness, and helplessness gets cruel.
Beauty stands and does not step as blood explodes from its two cheeks, and the shadow of a cry wanders the maze of sound.
A coward eats the mother’s flesh, her entrails scattered in the midst of wolves.
O my heart and my hopelessness, O cycle of futility where all is null, O you who are drunk with the burning of blood,
O children homeless upon the earth—
My child, Arabism is still in Egypt, despite the gore, despite the gouging, Egypt is love. Is giving.
If Egypt were not my homeland, I would plant my heart in its soil,
take the path of love like her birds, become a flower in a garden,
make the perfume of time a necklace, and weave my faith between her domes.
In this world cramped in agony, when will we restore the soul of Egypt?
Dear Egypt, dear friends, don’t leave Al Ka’ba to the idols of rabid money or careless lust. They’re not long for this world,
and this web of light deserves better than petty theft. It deserves better.
God sings in us that despite sorrow we hold to the shrine of the merciful.
O you who are drunk with the burning of blood, O you who lash this land with your rubber tongue, There is no good in money without a look in the mirror.
Your Scent Still
Even if you became a night, a pool of shadows, I still know your light.
Even if I were lashed and twirled by khamaseen, your scent is still my breath.
In every space I am a wanderer, and my heart sees no space as home.
There is no solace for this pain on the shore, no surge of renewal
as when a mariner returns to the sea, but I still adore the light.
We May Meet
Do you think the spring would return and reanimate March into smoother days?
O unknown lover, we too may break this separation and make belief of these tears.
If the days sweep us clean, tomorrow we might meet and the birds will flutter their blue against the sky’s.
Walid and I met as part of an international educational exchange program housed by the College of Saint Rose here in Albany NY, during which Walid regularly visited my high school classroom for about three months to observe, talk, and collaborate. After teaming up for a couple of lessons on political poetry from a variety of countries, we thought it would be fun to collaborate on some translations of contemporary Egyptian poetry, which has received relatively little attention here in the U.S. Walid was particularly drawn to the work of Farouk Goweda, who is a literary giant in the Middle East. It began with one poem, sometime in mid-2014, and now we have nearly enough for a full-length collection
Because I do not speak, read, or write any Arabic, Walid is responsible for the most important step in our translation process: the initial renderings of Goweda’s work into English. Parts of those initial translations need, in my view, very little or no editing or re-casting into poetic American English. I take the parts that do need reworking and edit for simple correctness, clarity, and suggestiveness. Sometimes I move lines around a bit out of their original order to emphasize or re-establish certain images or progressions. I often follow up with Walid on questions about intent, clarity of meanings, allusions, historical figures, cultural symbols, as well as shifts in tone, tense, and perspective. I always send him final drafts for approval.
I take occasional liberties with certain images or colloquialisms, but line and stanza breaks are the most consistent departures from Goweda’s poems; in fact, I do not think any of the poems we’ve published actually follow Goweda’s original lineation or stanza structures. I have approached those features searching only for a combination of line and stanza that both contains and propels the rhythm, power, and image-laden lyricism of Goweda’s work. I am fond of either uniform or alternating stanza lengths, with a small range of syllables per line (5-8 seems to be my preference), but I let lines’ content drive their shaping more than my own formal inclinations, so some poems have had small syllabic ranges, whereas others stretch and sprawl similar to those of Whitman or Ginsberg. Still others have a kind of hybrid syllabic/free verse where the line’s integrity is determined by any combination of image, breath, or music.
In terms of content, Goweda is especially well-known for his political, religious, and love poetry. At times, those lines blur or braid. Part of what has kept me so fascinated with Goweda is how his work is by turns unabashedly romantic, pseudo-surrealist, politically strident, and deeply spiritual, sometimes in the same poem. Of the three poems included here, “Gouge” is clearly the most political, with “Your Scent Still” and “We May Meet” falling neatly into the love category, one thing that binds them—and much of Goweda’s poetry—is a devotion to hope, regardless of circumstance. “[D]espite the gore, despite / the gouging,” his lyric voice serves to witness horror and still say “yes” to beauty, love, and faith.
Walid Abdallah is an Egyptian poet and author whose books include Shout of Silence, Escape to the Realm of Imagination, My Heart-Oasis, and Male Domination and Female Emancipation. He has been a visiting professor of English language and literature in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the United States. His prize-winning co-translations with Andy Fogle of Farouk Goweda’s poetry have previously appeared in Image, RHINO, Reunion: Dallas Review, and Los Angeles Review.
Andy Fogle has six chapbooks of poetry and a full-length called Across from Now (Grayson Books). Other poems, a variety of nonfiction, and co-translations with Walid Abdallah of Egyptian writer Farouk Goweda have appeared in Blackbird, Best New Poets 2018, Gargoyle, Image, Parks and Points, and elsewhere. He was born in Norfolk, grew up in Virginia Beach, and lived for 11 years in the DC area, and now lives in upstate NY, teaching high school and working on a PhD in Education.
Farouk Goweda is a bestselling Egyptian poet, journalist, and playwright whose nearly 50 books have been widely influential in the Middle East for their technique and content. His work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Persian, and he has been awarded several national and international prizes.
I’m speaking to these faces underneath yours churches that line you identifying region grasses and people by the holes of the eyes.
Tempting to de-face you and grasp by thumb and forefinger the shallows of unknown.
What to say to tally your long lives?
To summon the leaves through them?
You are difficult like the face of God.
The harbor was barred. Under the sun rotted the sap of waiting fruit. There were thresholds, nearly black, haunted by mint and oregano. A spring was visible under the sea. It was in the island’s immobility that everything took place. The riddle was posed by an old man, whelk seller. The answer would have been homegrown. Everything disappeared in a large epiphany of waves. The town remained, walled harbor, scents, at twenty meters underwater.
Body with ancient trails retrod in every advent of pain source after source.
Our floating island intimate, at least, with the circuits of its existence does not want to believe:
tomorrow the itinerary will be cancelled? A flesh stuck in the sand then salted with the salt of the void?
And so every wound is sweet as proof of this path known since the blood-dark.
We tell ourselves: Until the death of the soul I have my whole death in front of me.
What persists? What do we have in common? The collective memory of words. Languages are different keys to the same room.
Marie-Claire Bancquart is obsessed with legends and ancient religions, which through her poetry feel eerily indistinguishable from the present (see “Ys” from this selection). On the other hand, her poems often veer into prophecy, describing the contours of an afterlife or even a second coming with a startling matter-of-factness. Or, similarly terrifying: she explores death as the ultimate finality, where consciousness, time, and sensation have no more sway over us and we join the company of objects (see “Sickness”).
These poems come from the first section of her collection Opéra des limites (José Corti, 1988), which is titled “Leçon des choses” or “Object Lesson,” and I believe Bancquart would like us to consider the experience (or non-experience) of being inanimate—as a child, Bancquart suffered from a bone disease that left her immobilized for a long period of time, an experience which suffuses her work.
In many cases, however, the comparison is made with elements of nature, particularly trees, which in Bancquart’s world must have their own sort of consciousness. How would our view of the world change if we found fellowship with a stone or an oak? How would we think about time and what would it mean to belong in this world, connected to everything around us? And then again, how can we identify and celebrate our human presence—our words, dreams, histories, ancestors, pain, loneliness?
Bancquart’s imagery is stunning, weird in the best sense, and she does not shy away from addressing the big themes—seemingly ALL the big themes: god, death, language, the body, time, nature, history—but without cliché and without pontification. This is part of what marks her poems with a French sensibility; they are philosophical and dialectical. She uses questions frequently, and her poems often take place entirely in the conditional tense. Most of the poems from this collection are divorced from individual viewpoint. There is no one “you;” instead there is often a “we.” It shouldn’t work, to have such grand themes divorced from individual experience, but somehow she achieves it.
Claire Eder’s poems and translations have appeared in Gulf Coast, the Cincinnati Review, PANK, Midwestern Gothic, and Guernica, among other publications. She holds an MFA from the University of Florida and a PhD from Ohio University. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Find her online at claireeder.com.
Marie Moulin-Salles is a French teacher and translator with 30 years’ experience. She leads individual and group French classes for children and adults. She holds a Masters degree from Caen University, France, and an advanced Spanish degree from the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her translation work includes business documents, literary texts, simultaneous interpretation in the courtroom, voiceover projects, and live French narration with musical performance. She can be reached at marieSalles1[at]gmail.com.
Marie-Claire Bancquart (1932–2019) was a French poet, novelist, and literary critic. She lived in Paris and was a professor emerita of contemporary French literature at the Sorbonne. Author of over 30 collections of poetry and several novels, she was the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Prix Supervielle, the Prix Max Jacob, and the Prix Robert Ganzo. Her work is anthologized in Rituel d’emportement (2002), Toute minute est première (2019), and Terre énergumène et autres poèmes (2019). A colloquium on Bancquart’s poetry was held in Cerisy-la-Salle in 2011 and was subsequently published by éditions Peter Lang, with the title Dans le feuilletage de la terre.