November 30, 2008

Susanne Jorn


Susanne Jorn [Denmark]
1944

Susanne Jorn was born in Denmark in 1944. For several years she lived in France before graduating from Københavns Universitet with an M.A. in sinology. In 1971 she settled for a time in the United States, receiving her MA in American literature at Connecticut College and her PhD. at the University of Massachusetts.

Her first poetry collection, Splinterne (Splinters), was published in 1970 when she was studying in Japan for two years on a Mombusho scholarship. Since that publication she has gone on to publish several other volumes of poetry, as well as plays, essays and translations.

Influenced by members of the Cobra group, many of her collections are collaborations with painters such as Carl-Henning Pedersen, Pierre Alechinsky and her own father, the noted Danish artist Asgar Jorn (a member of the Cobra Group and a founding member of the Situationist International). She has also collaborated with the reknowned Japanese painter Yasse Tauchi. Her work has been further influenced by her studies in sinology and her many years living in Japan. Jorn integrates elements of the landscape from Chinese and Japanese into her work, and she was translated many poetry collections from those languages, including books by Yang Lian and Shuntaro Tanikawa. With John Caviglia, she also translated the poetry of the Peruvian poet, Cesar Vallejo.

Since 2000, when she returned from the US and Japan, Jorn has been living in Copenhagen.

BOOKS OF POETRY:

Splinterne (Copenhagen: Permild & Rosengreen,1970); Løsrivelser (Copenhagen: Selandia, 1972); Epigrammer (Copenhagen, 1977); Fiskeørn (Århus: Jorinde & Joringel, 1985); Det flydende liv (Copenhagen: Fremad, 1985); Sindbilleder (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1986); Drømmehænder (Copenhagen: Per Kofod, 1991); Clairvoyant (Copenhagen: Per Kofod, 1994); To (Copenhagen: Politisk Revy, 1998); Nimbi (Copenhagen and New York: Politisk Revy and Spuyten Duyvil, 2001); Passionscyklus [with Hajime Kijima] (Odense: Adressens Forlag, 2004); Kokoro (Århus: Bogan, 2005)


ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Tracks in the Sand [in Japanese and English] (Reykjavik: Sigurjon Olafsson Museum, 1994); Nimbi [with Danish and English] (Copenhagen and New York: Politisk Revy and Spuyten Duyvil, 2001)




BrookSong


slipping slipping narrow
swirling bubbling warm
running leaping broad
yielding giving
raging rolling
yearning seducing
senses' senses' song,
chuckling

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Det flydende liv, 1985)


Little Trickling Stream

Imagine
being transformed
from block of ice to stream.

Imagine
being able to sing
and be heard
underground.

Imagine
being able to make your way
so beautifully
everywhere.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from De flydende liv, 1985)




Psychic Material

In secret I worship
a rough statue of
weakness.

By feeling carefully
I touch the edge of
a tender spot
always present
in a hidden fragility.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)



At the Beach

As the black headed gulls
hover aloft
in the gale
my snail-self
inches
slowly forward bowed
against the wind
in the tideline's roiling ellipses.

This is how I know
all is in the most beautiful order:
when I walk backward
and bring everything along.

Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)




Polkadot Poem


As long as I'm the glow of morning
everything moves in spasms, thickly.

I'm made of radiant dots.
My body can't be drawn.


—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)



Goldself


Though everything
is in flux
I'm gathered
at last
into a gold circle.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)


Misunderstood Romance

Within the frame of society
lies a Polar Sea.

I thought
we were floating
with royal blue currents
on a porcelain smooth
iceberg sculpture
united in solidarity.

I rock and swing wildly here
on my unconquerable ice floe
because I have a strange accent and power:
I see pictures too clear in thin air.
Disgust.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)


Winter Precision

The frost sun's
frail pastel light
lies secure
inside a fresh milk white
crystal circle.

A protective
steel gray mask
is ringed with
a sharp yellow white edge
so the sun can
keep up with time
and hit it precisely.

The pale winter sun
will not freeze in place at all,
nor let the frost mask drop
nor lose it
at the same time.

There is just enough winter light now.
Multicolored, fine sunshine
to fit over Copenhagen's morning stiffness.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)


Marks of Spring

High up in the blue air
a male cardinal writes
challenging bright red marks.

Way up at the top
of a stark naked tree
he alights
at the
very
highest point

period.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)



Montage

I came home
that night in a golden chariot
drawn by twelve white horses
I wore a queen's crown inlaid with sapphires and rubies
a white silk dress and diamond shoes.

In the night, the sea colored, I had
a split silvern mermaid tail beneath the sea blue
in waves' crests and
in foam.

Memories of that gold edged night.
Untouchable memories framed under glass.

Nails of gold.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)



Luckily/Unluckily

There are moments
like shoes too small.

There are eternal nights,
nights
like a long long dress
of glistening fire opals.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Sindbilleder, 1986)



Expectations


Happiness
vanishes
insanely
fast,
faster
than time.

Happiness
comes back
on its own.

Not until later
is it sensed.

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drømmehænder, 1991)




First

Dreamhands
Dreamfingers
Palms'
Clumsy
Sensitivity


—Translated from the Danish by Susanne Jorn

(from Drømmehænder, 1991)





Black


Fire eyes gleam
in darkness

Creatures creep around
in dream's cold nightmare

Even hands dream

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drømmehænder, 1991)




Self

I go around
and look for
clear moments
when everything falls into place

Moments
when my new body
and soul take form

I go around
and suddenly
recognize
myself
in a painting by Edvard Munch

This is how I go
round and round
and find myself

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drommehænder, 1991)



Leaping/Longing


I want to hear different weekday sounds
See waving palm trees, sharp light on oceans
wildly foreign towns
bleeding ghettos
inward faces
closed doors

As Eternal Wanderer I want
to walk around in endless concrete labyrinths
past black figures on curbs
sense mankind

Job, family,
corruption and wanderlust
will be replaced by
another wellbeing
another being

— Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drømmehænder, 1991)





Modus Vivendi


I go underground
become invisible
turn up again
somewhere else
with only
dreamhands intact

My daring architecture
survives
breathes

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drømmehænder, 1991)




Hardy

With an eye on each dreamfinger
I draw life
so it sings
in all styles
in the air
in the earth

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drommehænder, 1991)




Growing Season

It's greening up
with quivering ocean blue
weather everywhere

It's greening up
new sounds
throbbing pulses
sudden reconciliations

It's greening up
with a triangle of milk white swans
wingbeat after wingbeat
past past

It's greening up
with more and more Nordic light
over everything

It's greening up
with me algae green
and fuzzy inside
as feelings sprout in my body

It's greening up
with highs from mouth to mouth
Hidden picture upon hidden picture
turns up
on the very wildest forest floors
of my senses

It's greening up
but they don't pick me up:
I go home
and see a parabola
in the grass

Misty drizzle
Fine light rain

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Drommehænder, 1991)






The Last Goodbye


Nordic summer it was
We sat in the lee of the west wind
waiting for the bus
you and I
Sharp slantlight and
reflection from the sea
High skyblue sky and
cotton white mackerel clouds
"The weather's always good in Løkken"
you said back then
even if it was storming
west wind howling outside the house
sand flying
and rain whipping the windowpanes
You were tough and managed—yourself

The North Sea was the ocean in your mind
blue, blue, and blue
proud and great
sea green / kelp brown / foam white
You were tough and managed—yourself

As a very little child
I learned from you
to look forward to things big and small
To my birthday
to vacations in Løkken
When we got off the bus
and it drove away
you always took a deep-deep breath
opened your eyes wide
your face beaming with contentment
"Can you smell that fresh air, kids?"
you said back then
You were tough and managed—yourself

I took a deep breath too
and got an enchanting sensation
all over
That was how you could show
your unique mother and grandmother love
To know how to learn was your motto
"That's no minor detail"
you said back then
You were tough and managed—yourself

Once in a while I remember
sunsets over the North Sea
with you
Sky with fiery patches
Sky of gold
Draped in purple
Painted silver gray
Sea fog chill in twilight
Sea fog icy swirls from the sea
We walked along the beach
Barely spoke to each other
Just a bit
The vast silence between us
echoed the sunset back then
You were tough and managed—yourself

In the silence/the solitude
in isolation and loneliness
you found your way to
a superterrestrial harmony
that only you understood
with your superhuman dignity
in your piece of life—back then
You were tough and managed—yourself

Moody clouds
Winterdark
Far too dark
The last goodbye
memories/loss
You were tough
You were

—Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied

(from Løkken Folkeblad, 1995)



PERMISSIONS

“BrookSong” and “Little Trickling Stream”
Translated from Det flydende liv (Copenhagen: Fremad, 1985). English language translation copyright ©2006 by Susanna Nied. Reprinted by permission of Fremad.

“Psychic Material,” “At the Beach,” “Polkadot Poem,” “Goldself,” “Misunderstood Romance,”
“Winter Precision,” “Marks of Spring,” “Montage,” and “Luckily/Unluckily”
Translated from Sindbilleder (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1986). English language translation copyright
©2006 by Susanna Nied. Reprinted by permission of Tiderne Skifter.

“Expectations,” “First,” “Black,” “Self,” “Leaping/Longing,” “Modus Vivendi,” “Hardy,” and “Growing Season”
Translated from Drømmehænder (Copenhagen: Per Kofod, 1991). English language translation copyright
©2006 by Susanna Nied. Reprinted by permission of Per Kofod.

“The Last Goodbye”
Translated from Løkken Folkeblad, 1995. English language translation copyright ©2006 by Susanna Nied.

Michael Davidson



Michael Davidson [USA]
1944

Born in Oakland, California on December 18, 1944, Michael Davidson attended San Francisco State University and continued his graduate degrees at The State University of New York at Buffalo. He is currently Professor of English at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla.

Davidson began publishing poetry in 1972 with Exchanges and continued throughout the 1970s with three further titles: Two Views of Pears, The Mutabilities, and Summer Letters. In the 1980s he published four new books of poetry, including Discovering Motion, The Prose of Fact, The Landing of Rochambeau and Analogy of the Ion. He also published critical studies such as The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century and, more recently, Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word (University of California Press, 1997) and Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics (University of Chicago Press, 2003). He is the editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen.

A trip to the then Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted in a book of prose (written with Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten, and Ron Silliman). Since that time he has also published two further collections of poetry.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Exchanges (Los Angeles: Prose and Verses Press, 1972); Two Views of Pears (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1973); The Mutabilities (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1976); Summer Letters (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow, 1977); Grill Work (Toronto: Mansfield Book Mart, 1979); Discovering Motion (Berkeley: Little Dinosaur, 1980); The Prose of Fact (Berkeley: The figures, 1981); The Landing of Rochambeau (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1985); Analogy of the Ion (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Post Hoc (Bolinas, California: Avenue B, 1990); The Arcades (Oakland, California: O Books, 2002)




Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006

The Crawl

1
I’m not quite Larry
but neither am I Barry,
maybe if we moved the vertical
closer to the border
we could sit down around
a table and talk this out, sure
some folks like distinctions but heck
the sky’s blue
we’re big you’re not quite
brown or not enough, so
as the crawl says
he’s not his father
which is why the vertical
loves a map
where the kids are small
and there’s not much land
between here and there,
when the weather’s clear
we can move across it
like Alexander in a Hummer
and kick up some sand.


2
I placed our car just outside of Winnemucca
actually, he bolted
having been dragged back and forth
across the desert for three years
in a yellow Volkswagen,
he’d had it, two silver eyes
under a Winnebago at 3:00 a.m.
was the last we saw of him,
besides, the desert needs stray cats
for target practice,
we were heading west
almost perpetually, the East
is made of dust and rust,
everyone know this,
he’s probably an exhibit in Mrs. Border’s
6th grade class, “Fossil Cat”
from the fertile crescent,
we won’t tell her
what exhibits are for and why a gun
comes with the cage,
I’m glad he’s free of us
our youth and our belief
is a perfect highway
we’re not even us anymore
like nothing else in Winnemucca.


3
What’s above the crawl
on Tuesday?
Bush hugs sergeant
Rumsfield chats w/McNamara
Brzenzinski and Carlucci give advice,
displaced Kurdish girl
“pulls laundry off a line”
the arbitrary nature of the sign
is when the thing seen
fails to respond to an appeal
launched by the heat seeking word
and searches in sand storm
for the body whose blood
can signify the state or God
and guarantee this crawl
equals a family in black
passing bodies on the road
“hit by shrapnel” it says,
this way the war
can be a perfect tape
of how we come out
when the wind dies.


4
I know what you’re thinking
he’s given up on big projects
and settled for the modular,
easy to install and includes
all these neat links,
coupons in the Sudany edition,
the aesthetic? pathetic!
we’re moving back to one
and the many, Fudd and Bugs,
this new God in mufti
makes sense when men blend
into sand and sand
clogs the rotors, how
to ascend, fingering
for the French Suites,
half price Goya,
all these granted we take for
freedoms, the line was good
for the age of Auden,
if it returns as farce
it looks like Summer,
secure the perimeter
and elect a committee,
if we back into a mirror
the room we leave behind
will never forget us.


5
I’m glad I have this opportunity to express
bomb dust vacant their it public heart
that so proudly (we got off before the train
stopped) and before long
I stop by the blank fence
gaze at a finch
(the gazing is good next to the sump)
that I compare to my grandfather
who resembles a fence
the crowd at the station
would recognize (at this point
salmon sunset clouds, more clouds
maybe Debussy) blood
of a hero, and I’m not a hero,
I just look good in green,
a simple hunter stalks a buck
a gun kills a doe, we do this
for the music
that ricochets off canyon walls,
later I write it down
click on location
and add password,
children caught in crossfire
illustrate my me, my eye
looking out improved by a tree.


6
Robust response I feel secure,
not know how killed or many,
one reported large or down,
like nothing since,
light then night then light
or many lights no cars one truck,
many shelters, much smoke,
first the phones went dead
aide keeps informed us
you, we, your people
on the ground, on the air
report sketchy but robust force,
maybe dawn can be verified
we’ll check, as for fires
look up
the sun is shining.


7
I’m writing this in the west
men carrying TV's and horses
K-mart jiffy Lube
are men real?
the crawl secures image
with occasional flashes,
I’m writing this in the Best
Western where the towel
and shampoo, we
leave the lights on
all night, read the guide
to the sights,
who pays who learns how water
moves through a city
I’m writing in the flesh
burned out car, tickets
floating in a blue glow
in a dark window,
are we occupied
are we free to go home?


8
The world and the work
the one the bank brought back
and the one the bank forgot
the stain in the ditch where
the world drinks and the work
that lives on the edge of the ditch
that the bank brings back
the face and other face
of the news made face
the work that makes them men
so they can talk, appear
to talk and give a face
to the men that the bank
retains and then talk
and this
is this link, the seam
in the scape where no one lives
but works and the stuff
goes there and then goes there
and they transfer the stuff
and it's on the sheet
and on the phone
someone needs the sheet
the scape of the stuff
and then
it goes blank, it’s in the scope
and so they leave
and the click you hear
is them locking up,
go home
don't buy.

_____
Reprinted from War and Peace, no. 2 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Michael Davidson.

Roberto Sosa


Roberto Sosa [Honduras]
1930

Born in the Honduran village of Yoro, where, as the author has described it, “it rains fish and airplanes,” Roberto Sosa is the major contemporary Honduran poet, winner of numerous awards from his own country and elsewhere.

His first work of poetry, Caligramas, written at a time when Sosa had not even heard of Apollinaire (author of Calligrammes), was a literary experiment that grew out of the magazine Pegasus. His second book, Muros (Walls) was self-published in 1966. But it was his third book, Mar interior (The Sea Within)—which won the Juan Ramón Molinas Award—and the following one, Pobres (The Poor)—winner of the Spanish Adonais Award in 1967—that brought him national and international attention. Sosa himself describes in the latter book a transformation in his poetics—a banishment of “of the obvious and worst of all rhetorical vices, pedantry”—that moved his poetry away from the purely literary to a more sociopolitical position. His 1971 book, Un mundo para dodos dividido, won the prestigious Cuban award Casa de las Américas, with the judges being the noted writers Eliseo Diego, Pablo Guevara and Gonzalo Rojas.

Sosa also edited the magazine Presente, a review of Central American arts and letters, and served as director of the University of Honduras Press. He is also a member of the Honduran Academy of Language and the Honduran Journalists’ Union.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Caligramas (1959); Muros (Tegucipalpa, Honduras, 1966); Mal interior (Tegucipalpa, Honduras, 1967); Los Pobres (1967; Madrid: Rialp, 1969); Un mundo para todos dividido (Habana: Casa de las Américas, 1971; Tegucipalpa, Honduras: Nuevo Continente, 1971); Secreto militar (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Guaymuras, 1985); Hasta el sol de hoy: antología poética (Madrid: Insituto de Cooperación Iberoamericna, Cultura Hispánica, 1987); Obra completa (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Hormiga Roja, 1990); Máscara suelta (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Guaymuras, 1994); El llanto des las cosas (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Guaymuras, 1995); Antología personal (San José, Costa Rica: Universitaria Centroamericana, 1995).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

The Difficult Days, trans. by Jim Lindsey (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983); Poems by Roberto Sosa, trans. by Edward V. Coughlin (New York: Spanish Literature Publications, 1984); The Common Grief, trans. by Jo Anne Engelbert (Willimantic, Connecticut: Curbstone Press, 1994); The Return of the River: Selected Poems, trans. by Jo Anne Engelbert (Willimantic, Connecticut: Curbstone Press, 2002)

Sjoerd Spanninga [Jan Dijkstra]


Sjoerd Spanninga [Jan Dijkstra] [Netherlands/writes in Frisian]
1906-1985

Born in Joure, Friesland—the northern province of Netherlands which includes part of the Frisian Islands—in 1906, Spanninga was a journalist and a publicist in the town Sneek for much of his life.

His first book of poetry, Spegelskrift, appeared in 1949, and he continued to publish books until the late 1960s. In 1951 he was the winner of the Gysbert Japicx-pris for his book Núnders. In 1968 he translated Rudyard Kipling’s “Mary Gloster.”

Spanninga was noted for being a Frisian experimentalist, and was recognized for poetry that was personal and often erotic as in the selection below.

He died in Schagen on July 7, 1985. A posthumous collection Samle fersen was published by the Frisian Academy in 1992.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Spegelskrift (Snits [Sneek]: Brandenburgh, 1949); Núnders (Drachten: Laverman, 1950); Finzen en frji (Snits [Sneek]: Brandenburgh, 1957); Rattelmansreau (Drachten: Laverman, 1962); Kymgong (Ljouwert: Miedema, 1964); Samle fersen (Ljouwert: Fryske Akademy, 1992).




Caravan Song

Look, my love! I have hung my tent with dark-glowing tapestries
and bright-flamed dresses from El Khahira.
When I am with you I feel world-weary.
You are the graceful bride
with whom I wander through the courtyards of meditation,
and my soul of stone becomes a well of mercy,
a pure well for gazelles
jealous of your youthful and light-footed allure.
In the carboniferous age long ago nature mixed the color
of your black locks
in which the fragrance of precious spices
in which my passions yearn to lie.
Never has a sheik’s horse had a more beautiful mane,
nestling on the oasis’ shadow.
Let your hair glide through my fingers
like a bewitching web of glossy silk
spun of the finest threads of primal matter on the spindle of the universe.
Your nose is a poem;
on your cheeks lie the bronze of northern autumns.
Your teeth are a string of pearls in the velvet of your mouth,
and your ears like rare shells
that an ocean ship scooped from the sea in the fresh tracks of the waves.
Your eyebrows were sketched in charcoal:
two small sickles, reaping passion.
Love is still slumbering between your breasts:
let me rouse it, daughter of the South.
You have exquisite arms and the perfect neck of a chamois;
What jeweler has flashing gems like your eyes,
fine-cut diamonds which millennia have chiseled,
sparkling like Orion?
And in them burns the mystic fire of mosque lanterns,
as if escaped from one of Scheherazade’s tales.
Yes, you are calligraphy from the Koran,
and the centuries find well-being in your appearance.
With you there is wonderful, restful repose
and the security of an infant,
in the happy pleasure
of playing ball with sun and moon and stars;
the turtle-dove and the hawk peacefully perch upon your shoulders.
The palm trees rejoice in your slender shape and supple limbs;
all trees halt their whispering and hang their leaves to listen
to the secret dialogue of our hearts.
I shall play the tambour for you,
and sing my sweet-sounding songs of the deserts,
for you are like a deer that dances over the hills,
fleeing the hunger.

—Translated from the Frisian by Peter Constantine




PERMISSIONS

“Caravan Song”
Copyright ©2006 by Peter Constantine

Robin Blaser

Robin Blaser [b. USA/Canada]
1925

Born at Denver, Colorado, Robin Blaser grew up in small desert communities in Idaho where his father and grandmother, Sophia Nichols, worked for the railway. Sophia Nichols appears in many Blaser poems and it was she who helped finance Blaser's college education. From the University of California at Berkeley, Blaser obtained an M.A. and an M.L.S. While there, he formed a com-panionship in poetry with Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan that would define the literary scene in 1950s San Francisco, as the three led what became known as the "Berkeley Renaissance." Studying with the legendary Ernst Kantorowicz, Blaser formed a deep regard for Dante's Divine Comedy, reflected in the all-encompassing ideogram of his life's poetic work: the poet wandering in Dante's holy forest. At the same time, his participation in Duncan's weekly soirees led to a lasting connection with writers such as Stephane Mallarmé and James Joyce.


Blaser was a librarian at both Harvard's Widener Library and San Francisco State College Library. At Widener, among other tasks, he assembled a bibliography and display of American philosophy from its beginnings to Alfred North Whitehead. His poetry has subsequently reflected a thorough engagement with twentieth-century thinkers and philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Alfred North Whitehead, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, Claude Levi-Strauss, and especially Hannah Arendt. In 1960, John Ashbery published The Park and The Fairie Queene in his magazine Locus Solus. Around this time, Blaser also formed important connections to Robert Creeley and Charles Olson. He emigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1966, to become a professor of English at Simon Fraser University, where he taught until 1985, influencing such younger writers as Charles Bernstein, Daphne Marlatt and George Bowering.

As a young man Blaser studied piano, gave recitals and played as accompanist. His love of music merged with poetry when he wrote the libretto for an opera by British composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle entitled The Last Supper, and performed in 2000 to much acclaim in Berlin and London. In 2005, Blaser was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada in recognition of his outstanding contribution to poetry and the philosophy of public life. An expanded Holy Forest and his collected essays are in press at the University of California.

Blaser has written that "the real business of poetry is cosmology." Following Hannah Arendt, he seeks in his poetry to restore the public world as a space to sound out differences in multiple points of view. Hence, his poetry is often resonant with fragments, allusions and the voices of other poets and thinkers. Crucial to his visionary task is avoidance of theological certainties which close out the possibilities of the "holy forest," the totality of which is unavailable to any single human mind. Similarly the totality of his life's writings and explorations cannot be subsumed under any single impulse; rather the poems emerge as fragmentary homage to larger unsayable territories. Blaser, like Spicer, employs the "serial poem" to return repeatedly from different angles, and in open-ended glimpses, to such territories, for example in the numbered "Image Nations" or "The Truth is Laughter" series which form part of The Holy Forest. Calling for recognition of poetic knowledge in public life, and of public life in poetry, Blaser seeks to redefine the lyric as something turned not by a solitary voice closed into itself but rather by a world that is larger than the human, a world that avoids foreclosing in totalitarian abstractions the fragmentary reality of experience.

BOOKS OF POETRY

The Moth Poem (San Francisco: White Rabbit Press, 1964); Les Chimères: Translations of Nerval for Fran Herndon (San Francisco: Open Space, 1969); Cups (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1968); Image Nations 1-12 & The Stadium of the Mirror (London: Ferry Press, 1974); Image Nations 13 & 14, Luck Unluck Oneluck, Sky-stone, Suddenly, Gathering (North Vancouver: Cobblestone Press, 1975); Harp Trees (Vancouver: Sun Stone House & Cobblestone Press, 1977); Image Nation 15: The Lacquerhouse (Vancouver: W. Hoffer, 1981); Syntax (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1983); The Faerie Queene & The Park (Vancouver: Fissure Books, 1987); Pell Mell (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1988); The Holy Forest (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1993); Wanders [with Meredith Quartermain] (Vancouver: Nomados, 2002)



For a large selection of audio recordings of readings by Robin Blaser, click here:
http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Blaser.php

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006


Lollygag


political disgust has no song

to sing these days—not even

“goddamn their eyes”—no

bird in the throat—not even

a penis to unscrew or lallop

to pass—by—to bop this staining

the human—can’t even piss

on it—that’s too natural

the truth seems to be

under the macadam carpet

now, that’s the mind-door’s

business: to pen wide and shout

21 August, 2004

____
Reprinted from No: A Journal of the Arts, no. 4 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Robin Blaser.

Martha Ronk



Martha Ronk [USA]
1940

Born in Cleveland, Martha Ronk graduated with a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1962, and a Ph.D. from Yale, writing her dissertation on Paradise Lost. From 1967-1971, she taught at Tufts University, and then at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles; she began teaching at Occidental College in 1980, where she became the Irma and Jay Price Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies.

She has written critical work of Shakespeare and contemporary figures. She began publishing her work poetry in the 1980s, with her first book, Desire in L.A. appearing from the University of Georgia Press in 1990. Others, such as Desert Geometries, State of Mind, Emblems, Allegories, and Eyetrouble, appeared throughout the 1990s. She also published a memoir focused on various food, Displeasures of the Table (Green Integer, 2001). Why/Why Not, published by the University of California Press, appeared to great literary acclaim in 2003, and her 2004 book, In a landscape of having to repeat, won the PEN West 2005 Award for the best book of poetry. Her 2007 book, Vertigo, won the National Poetry Award. Most recently, Ronk has published a collection of short stories, Glass Grapes: And Other Stories (BOA).

She has been a poetry editor of Littoral Books and the journal The New Review of Literature. With Paul Vangelisti, she edited Place as Purpose: Poetry from the Western States in 2002. Ronk has had residences at The MacDowell Colony and at the Djerassi Foundation.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Desire in L.A. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990); Desert Geometries [with art by Don Suggs] (Los Angeles: Littoral Books, 1992); State of Mind (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); Emblems (Saratoga, California: Instress, 1998); Allegories [with art by Don Suggs] (Castelvetro Piacentino, Italy: ML& NFL, 1998); Eyetrouble (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998); Quotidian (San Francisco: a+bend books, 2000); Why/Why Not (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); In a landscape of having to repeat (Richmond, California: Omnidawn, 2004); Vertigo (Minneapolis: Coffee House, 2007)


[You may purchase a copy of Ronk's Displeasures of the Table by clicking here.]


Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
1993-1994

The Moon over L.A.

The moon moreover spills onto
the paving stone once under foot.
Plants it there one in front.
She is no more than any other except her shoulders forever.
Keep riding she says vacant as the face of.
Pull over and give us a kiss.
When it hangs over the interchange
she and she and she. A monument to going nowhere,
a piece of work unmade by man. On moon
rise up and give us ourselves awash and wear—
we've seen it all and don't mind.

____
Reprinted from Ribot (1993). Copyright ©1993 by Martha Ronk.



Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006



“Often, probably because I was so tired, the rain seemed more than rain”


Then all the pools were like nickels
until dark when the ashes
collapsed. Each time I lit up my face.
the downpour from the Keys and ruined trailers,
a roof flying across the headlines. Listen
to the unaware: water and wood.
She’s waiting for it to leave.
He calls it by its common name, devil in the mist.
It would startle itself if it could
with its repeated blue, its wired-on extensions
its hallucination in the rain.
In the night the copper flashing holds,
the tea makes my mouth open and close
mechanical as any memory.

___
Reprinted from Fascicle, No. 1 (Summer 2005). Copyright ©2005 by Martha Ronk.

Tarjei Vesaas


Tarjei Vesaas [Norway]
1897-1970

Known in Norway primarily for his fiction, Tarjei Vesaas also wrote poetry rooted in an oral tradition from Telemark that includes both narratives and sung poems. The eldest son of a family of Telemark farmers, Vesaas is seen as one of the giants of Norwegian literature. His first novels, published in 1923 and 1924 received some limited attention, and in 1927 he received an award that allowed him to travel and live for a period in Munich, Paris, London, Cologne, Vienna, and other cities. In 1931 he visited the poet Halldis Moren, working in Switzerland, with whom he fell in love. They married in 1934 and settled on a farm a short distance from his family’s homestead.

By the end of that year Vesaas had published ten novels, two plays, and collection of short stories. During the Norwegian occupation by the Nazis (1935-1940), he published three more novels and a second volume of short stories. His first book of poetry, Kjeldene (The Sources) appeared in 1946, the first of five volumes of poetry he published. His novels of the 1950s and 1960s won him his greatest acclaim, among them, Fuglane (The Birds) was published in 1957. His powerful novel of 1963, Is-slottet (The Ice Palace) earned him the Nordic Council Prize.

His sixth collection of poetry, Liv ved straumen (Life at the stream) was published after his death in 1970.

Vesaas’s poetry often seems based in pastoral images and appears driven by the author’s relationship with nature. While that is true of his work, there is also in the poetry a great deal of metaphysical and psychological interplay, as nature and the imagination of the individual interact and transform each other. There also a bleak abstraction to many of his poems—witnessed, for example, in “Dead Lake,” “The Boat and the Fish,” and “The Boats on the Beach”—that draws his writing away from more standard poetry about the natural world into recognizable allegorical structures.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Kjeldene (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1946); Leiken og lynet (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1947); Lykka for derdesmenn (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1949); Løynde elders land (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1953); Ver ny, vår draum (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1956); Liv ved straumen (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1970).


ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

30 Poems, trans. by Kenneth G. Chapman (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1971); Land of Hidden Fires, trans. by Fritz König and Jerry Crisp (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973); Selected Poems, trans. by Anthony Barnett (Lewes, England: Allardyce, Barnett, 1988); Through Naked Branches: Selected Poems, trans. by Roger Greenwald (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000).

Visar Zhiti


Visar Zhiti [Albania]
1952

Born December 2, 1952 in the Adriatic port city of Durrës, Albania, Visar Zhiti was the son of the stage actor and poet Hekuran Zhiti (1911-1989. The young Zhiti grew up in Lushnja, where he finished school in 1970. After his studies at a teacher training college in Shkodra, he began his teaching career in the northern mountain town of Kukës, demonstrating an early interest in verse, with a few publications published in literary magazines.

In 1973, as he prepared a collection, Rapsodia e jetës së trëdafilave (Rhapsody in the life of roses) for publication the so-called Purge of the Liberals broke out in Tirana at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Communist Party. Zhiti’s father had earlier come into conflict with the authorities, and the young poet suddenly became one of the many political scapegoats selected in order to intimidate the intellectual community. The manuscript of his collection, which had been submitted to the editors of Naim Frashëri publishers, was now seen to contain grave ideological errors and was seen as blackening socialist reality. Zhiti and his works were denounced, and with no support by his fellow writers, he had nothing he could say to his interrogators to prove his innocence. He was arrested on November 8th, 1979 in Kukës and forced into solitary confinement. Pen and paper were forbidden. In order to maintain his sanity, he composed and memorized over one hundred poems. Sentenced at a mock trail in April 1980 to thirteen years in prison, he was taken Tirana jail and later transferred to a concentration camp in the isolated northern mountains that was similar to the Soviet gulags. Many of his fellow prisoners died of mistreatment and malnutrition or went mad.

He was released from prison in early 1987 and “permitted” by the Party to work in a brick factory in Lushnja, where he kept a low profile until the fall of Hoxha’s dictatorship. In 1991, he managed to get to Italy and worked in Milan until 1992. Through a scholarship provided by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Zhiti visted Germany in 1993 and went to the United States the following year.

Upon his return to Albania, we worked as a journalist and was appointed head of the publishing company which had planned to print his first book. He was later employed by the administrative services of the new Albanian parliament and in1996 was himself elected to parliament. The somber realities of Albanian politics, however, soon let him to withdraw from politics. In 1997 he joined the Albanian foreign service and was appointed cultural attaché to the Albanian Embassy in Rome, where he remained until 1999.

His first book of poetry, Kujtesa e ajrit (The memory of the air) was published in Tirana in 1993, which included several prison poems. Hedh një kafkë te këmbët tuaja (I cast a skull at your feet) was published the following year. This volume contained all 100 poems composed in prison between 1979 and 1987, verse which had survived only in his memory. Numerous volumes followed, and he is now recognized as one of the major Albanian poets of the 20th century. He has also written numerous short stores, collected in two volumes, and translated works by Garcia Lorca and the Italian poet Mario Luzi into Albanian. His prison memoirs, Rrugët e ferrit: burgologji (The roads to hell: prisonology) was published in Tirana in 2001. In 1991 he was awarded the Italian “Leopardi d’oro” prize for poetry and in 1997 he received the prestigious “Ada Negri” prize.


BOOKS OF POETRY:

Kujtesa e ajrit (Tirana: lidhja e Shkrimtarëve, 1993); Hedh një kafkë te këmbët tuaja (Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1994); Mbjellja e vetëtimave (Skopje: Flaka e vëllazërimit, 1994); Dyert e gjalla (Tirana: Eurorilindja, 1995); Kohë e vrarë në sy (Prishtina: Rilindja, 1997); Si shkohet në Kosovë (Tirana: Toena, 2000)


ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

The Condemned Apple: Selected Poetry, trans. by Robert Elsie (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2005)

[The poems below are from The Condemned Apple: Selected Poetry (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2005. You can purchase the book here.]


Elegy of the Forest

The forests have shrunk
And fear has expanded,
The forest have dwindled,
There are less animals now,
[less courage and less lightning,
[ less beauty
[and the moon lies bare,
[deflowered by force and
[ then abandoned.

The forests have shrunk,
Poetry, sighs have diminished,
There are less words for leaves
[and more rumors.

The forests have shrunk,
The rivers have lost their magic,
The rivers are bewildered,
[They observe us like zebras in a zoo.

The forests have shrunk,
And shame has shriveled,
How little shame we now have,
We regret nothing at all,
We have no little time to regret.
The roads have grown,
[so have the billboards and dilemmas,
[warehouses, cinemas and praise.
The cities have grown,
And shame has expanded
[All that shame the newspapers cannot contain,
[to be continued in the next issue
[and in the next year’s subscription of folly.

The forests have shrunk
[and the forest protection units have grown.
Love has recoiled
[and the birds have less room
[for their lovemaking,
For they cannot make love in office buildings.
Faces have receded.

A little boy draws trees on the walls,
Draws trees in my eyes,
Tattooing a tree
[ on his slender arm,
[like the end of the twentieth century,
Piercing it so often with this burning needles adrip with ink
[that the forest is in a frenzy of blood,
[ the festering sore of suffering.


—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Kujtesa e ajrit, 1993)



Love

How far my night is
[from your night!
Other nights rise between them like impassable
mountains.

I sent the road out for you. But you could not be found.
It grew weary and returned to me.
I sent out the roebuck of my song. But
The hungers shot it and, wounded,
[ it returned to me.
I don’t know which direction the wind took. I got lost
In the forest and in the caverns of pain, and returned to me,
[blind.

Rain is falling, robbed of hope.

Tomorrow at dawn, shall I send out a rainbow
To look for you? But, as naïve as joy itself,
It can only cross one mountain.

I shall set out in the night myself.
I shall search, I shall search, I shall search
Like a hand groping in the darkness of a room,
[to find an extinguished candle.


(Qafë-Bari prison camp, 1983)


—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Kujtesa e ajrit, 1993)




The Colosseum

I finally made it to the Colosseum,
The last slave, with open wounds,
The tiger teeth of tyranny still in my body.
The gigantic walls of antiquity, labyrinths of life,
Crosses and staircases falling like death,
Steps ascending like the cries of the masses,
Up there were the seats of my rulers,
I see their evil, stubby fingers,
Thumbs turned down, demanding my death,
No shadow is cast by those hands, only black blood,
They slew my best friend, sliced me to pieces with a sward,
Cast my bowels away and tore me up like the streets of Rome.
But now I am quiet. Not curious at all. I don’t want to talk
To the bothersome tourists. I have come here
As if from the dead, not in an embassy limousine.
I got out like a ghost in the middle of day,
In the middle of Rome, in the middle of Oblivion.

(7 December 1991)


—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Kujtesa e ajrit, 1993)




The Condemned Apple

The day gapes open
Like an endless chasm under my feet.
How can I fill it to enter the next day?
Hundreds of times have I heaved myself into it,
[trodden upon myself.
Descent into solitude!
I have been left without the comfort of human voices
[as if without fire.
Barefoot day after day
I walk back and forth
With nowhere to go.
There is no road under my feet,
No one here to say “good morning,”
They hurl a broom at me
And make me sweep the floor
[of my misfortune.
And I, gone mad, scream in silence:
Hi there, world!
You may have forgotten me,
[but not I, you.

There I stood before an Apple
How could I not be overjoyed?
An Apple,
Apple, Apple,
Which brought to earth the love of Adam
[and Eve from the deception of paradise,
It fell from a branch,
[proving to us the theory of gravity.
An Apple
As red as kissed lips
What enigma does it withhold, what desire
That even war cannot overcome?
Apple,
A dream to be grasped above the heads of men.

And they even arrest Apples!...

When they take me to the interro(r)gation room
The interrogator shouts: you, you, ou, ou, u, u
Read the book ‘Apple’ by Yevtushenko.
“No,” I reply.
“We have evidence you’ve been translating poetry.”
“No!” I lie.

All night
The leave me standing in a corner.
Into my face they blow cigarette smoke
[spewing out of their throats,
The fumes of civil war,
What ghost does it conjure up, or is it from our ruins?
What can I do? I wrap around myself
Like the Apple hiding in the leaves.
The seed inside
Must be protected.
Words must be shrouded,
Songs must be sheltered
[until the chasms of day are sown with apples
Let them shoot us in the head,
My blood will grow roots
[and will blossom.


—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Hedh një kafkë te këmbët tuaja, 1994)




Prison Leaf

A cigarette butt lay burning
On a green leaf. Some confused being
Had probably thrown it into the flowers.

And I was thinking about the prisoner who took it,
How could he be an enemy?

(Qufë-Bari prison camp, 1985)

—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Mbjellja e vetëtimave, 1994)





















Angel in Holland

I came across a marble angel
With wings
Made for a tombstone,
[that afternoon.

It held a white chisel
And a white hammer
In its alabaster hands,
It was sculpting a face
[to save it from death.

Oh angel,
What are you doing among the graves?
Come and carve our faces,
Remove the excessive, fatal features.
They have been few
Since the creation of this world,
[ not only devils,
[but angels.

(Vaals, 124 April 1993)

—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie

(from Dyert e gjalla, 1995)





Buried a Second Time Over

Never to die
And to be buried twice over.

Massacred
And to wander as a ghost
Through bloody amnesia.

To have them shovel the rich soil
Over your face
And not to cover up the crime.

the Plain of Kosova
Has been sown for centuries with the dead
And it grows but the grain of life.

I gather the heads of grain as a last wish and testament,
Make a bundle and whimper.

the dead do not die!


—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie


(from Si shkohet në Kosovë, 2000)





______
PERMISSIONS

“Elegy of the Forest,” “Love,” “The Colosseum,” “The Condemned Apple,” “Prison Leaf,” “Angel in Holland,”and “Buried a Second Time Over”
Reprinted from The Condemned Apple: Selected Poems (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2005. English language translation copyright ©2005 by Robert Elsie. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

Frances Presley

Frances Presley [England]
1952

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1952, of English and Dutch-Indonesian parents, Frances Presley spent her childhood in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and finally in Somerset. She grew up in the country and had freedom to roam, although the agribusiness was already changing the landscape.

Her defining moment in poetry came in 1969 when she first read Ezra Pound’s “Lustra.’” Her poetic and political interests developed as an undergraduate in the 70s at the University of East Anglia, studying American literature and history. She spent a year in the United States at Franklin & Marshall College and studied contemporary American poetry. Her MA thesis at the University of Sussex compared Ezra Pound and Guillaume Apollinaire, and their response to the visual arts. It was followed by research in modern French poetry and surrealism at the University of Neuchatel. Returning to UEA, she completed a critique of the contemporary French poet Yves Bonnefoy, and of “logocentrism” in French poetry.

In 1980 she moved to London to work as a librarian, and later specialized in research and information for community development and women’s issues. She now works part time for the national Poetry Library. She joined a housing co-operative in North London, which is where she still lives.

Although she had been writing throughout the 70s, and publishing in university arts magazines, her writing and performance came into focus in the late 80s. She took part in the SubVoicive readings in their various incarnations, and it was through these that she met her partner Gavin Selerie. She was a member and later coordinator of the Islington Poetry Workshop. She was also involved in the small press North and South, with Peterjon and Yasmin Skelt and David Annwn, which published her first collection of poems and prose: The Sex of Art.

In the early 90s she established her own small press, the Other Press, and published her second book Hula Hoop. Ian Robinson, of Oasis Books, published her third collection, Linocut in 1997. She embarked on a major collaboration and performance with the artist Irma Irsara, based around the fashion industry and women’s clothing (Automatic cross stitch, Other Press, 2000). She also collaborated on a simultaneous email text with the poet Elizabeth James – Neither the One nor the Other (Form Books 1999).

Somerset Letters (Oasis, 2002), which began as a collaboration with the poet Elaine Randell, experiments with prose, as well as exploring landscape and rural society. The sequence Paravane originated with discussions on the How2 editorial board post 9/11, but then examines the IRA bombsites in London: it was published in New and selected poems from Salt, 2004. She is currently working on another Somerset sequence with the poet Tilla Brading, which retraces Neolithic stone settings through visual experimentation and the writings of women archaeologists.

She has written various reviews and essays about her poetic practice and that of other women poets.

Of her own writing, Presley has remarked: “I have been influenced by my research in surrealism, and by its techniques, such as automatic writing; secular litany; and the exquisite corpse. One method of altering the tension between compression and expansion, as well as providing an escape from individual set pieces, is that of collaboration, particularly the kind of active collaboration favoured by the surrealists, and within a feminist poetics. From compression and reduction we arrive, however briefly, at conversation, intimacy and the open text. I am grateful to all the poets I have collaborated with, especially Elaine Randell, Harriet Tarlo, Elizabeth James and Tilla Brading.

Visual art has always played an important role in my writing and research. It was the subject of the title section of my first collection, The Sex of Art, which included a tribute to Judy Chicago’s dinner party. It also had an increasing effect on my writing practice, through collaboration with artists such as Irma Irsara; and, in terms of the visual potential of the page, through the influence of poets such as Kathleen Fraser and Susan Howe.

Another dominant aspect of my work which ultimately derives from Pound, but which has developed along its own trajectory, is the cross-cutting of styles and genres. It is sometimes referred to as hybrid writing. This has been particularly important to me as a way of undercutting the danger of poetic form which can be both hypnotic and self-deluding in its harmony. David Annwn has described its effect as calmly subverting ‘senses of enclosure or walled hierarchy in language’.”


BOOKS OF POETRY

The Sex of Art (London: North and South, 1988): Hula Hoop (London: Other Press, 1993); Porous [art book by Irma Irsara, with words by Frances Presley] (London: Irma Irsara, 1995); Linocut (London: Oasis, 1997); Private writings (Exeter, England: Maquette, 1998); Neither the One Nor the Other [a collaboration with the Elizabeth James ( London: Form Books, 1999; [CD also available]); Automatic Cross Stitch [collaboration with artist Irma Irsara] (London: Other Press, 2000); Somerset Letters (London: Oasis, 2002); Paravane: New and Selected Poems 1996 – 2003 (Cambridge, England: Salt, 2004); Myne: new and selected poems and prose 1976 - 2005 (Exeter, England: Shearsman, 2006)
To read Presley's Gertrude Stein Award-winning poem from 2005-2006, click below:
[We welcome suggested corrections and comments on all poet entries.]
[For a selection of Presley's poetry, please see The Green Integer Review, 13-16 here.]

Linh Dinh

Linh Dinh [b. Vietnam/USA]
1963

Linh Dinh was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1963, and came to the US in 1975. He is currently living in Norwich, England, where he is the David Wong fellow at the University of East Anglia.
Dinh is the author of two collections stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press, 2000), and Blood and Soap (Seven Stories Press, 2004), and three books of poetry, All Around What Empties Out, American Tatts, and Borderless Bodies. His work has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000 and 2004, and in Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present. He is also the editor the anthologies Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction From Vietnam (Seven Stories Press, 1996), Three Vietnamese Poets (Tinfish, 2001) and is the translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker: The Poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (Tupelo, 2006).


BOOKS OF POETRY

A Drunkard Boxing
(Philadelphia: Singing Horse Press, 1998); A Small Triumph Over Lassitude (San Francisco: Leroy, 2001); A Glass of Water (Austin, Texas: Shanky Possum, 2002); All Around What Empties Out (Kāne’ohe, Hawaii: Tinfish Press, 2003); American Tatts (Tucson: Chax Press, 2005); Borderless Bodies (Chicago: Factory School, 2006)



Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006


Bearings

To sit on one's heels,
With the knees bent
And the weight resting
On the balls of the feet.

To crouch or cower
Close to the ground,
As an animal.

To occupy illegally
And empty, abandoned,
Or condemned building.

Orientals do it.
Occidentals don't.

Baseball catchers and sumo wrestlers also do it.
And a young blonde hiding two cars
After too many brews on tap,
Her white orbs like twin moons
Inches from the steaming asphalt,
Piddling.

After death I will finally be able to squat
Over my own brown face.

____
Reprinted from New American Writing, no. 23 (2005). Copyright (c)2005 by Linh Dinh.

Alan Halsey

Alan Halsey [England]
1949

Alan Halsey was born and brought up in London and has a London University degree in philosophy. After a spell of country living in Devon in the 1970s, he ran The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye from 1979 until 1996. He moved to Sheffield in 1997 and married Geraldine Monk in 1998. He continues to work as a specialist bookseller and has been the publisher of West House Books since 1994. With Geraldine Monk and David Kennedy he founded the Sheffield Poetry International reading series in 2005. He also works as a visual artist.

His first book, Yearspace, was published by Galloping Dog Press in 1979 and at about the same time he began his long association with Glenn Storhaug’s Five Seasons Press. Early experiments with cross-genre work led to a large-scale collage The Text of Shelley’s Death (Five Seasons, 1995) and the prose-poem/essay A Robin Hood Book (West House, 1996). Since the mid-90s he has been engaged in a number of collaborative works, including Fit to Print with Karen Mac Cormack (Coach House, 1998) and Days of ’49 with Galvin Selerie (West House, 1999). Much of his recent work has been text-graphic: Dante’s Barber Shop, a “film treatment” of De Vulgari Eloquentia, appeared from West House in 2001, and Memory Screen was exhibited at the Bury Text Festival in 2005. He provided graphic interventions for Tony Baker’s translation of Blaise Cendrars’ Prose of the Trans-siberian and contributed the graphics to Kelvin Corcoran’s Your Thinking Tracts or Nations.


He has written short studies of David Jones, Clark Coolidge, Bill Griffiths and Thomas Lovell Beddoes. His edition of Death’s Jest-Book (West House & Beddoes Society, 2003) is the first single-volume publication of the later version of Beddoes’ masterwork. With Geraldine Monk he made a recording of Beddoes’ Poems & Songs for the Beddoes Society in 2000.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Yearspace (Swansea, England: Galloping Dog, 1979); Another Loop in our Days (Hereford, England: Five Seasons, 1980); Present State (Peterborough, England: Spectacular Diseases, 1981); Perspectives on the Reach (Newcastle, England: Galloping Dog, 1981); Auto Dada Café (Hereford, England: Five Seasons, 1987); Five Years Out (Newcastle, England: Galloping Dog, 1989); Reasonable Distance (Cambridge, England: 1992); Wittgenstein’s Devil (Exeter, England: Stride, 2000); Marginalien (Hereford, England: Five Seasons, 2005); A Looking Blass for Logoclasts (Boise: Free Poetry, 2005)



Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006


Ars Poetica:
Empsonics including a remark by George Saintsbury

I can't remember who predicted the fancy damage.
Seeing where a noise is coming from
helps. It helps the 'cry' in lyric when it is well managed.
Epic isn't for you if you don't like carnage.
An English fountain won't play after 5pm
even though you've bought your ticket. Fancy damage
to a country house and call it Carthage:
a fountain though a pen when a swan but the museum
turns musician as the night wears on. Carnage
is a joy in an epic and the fanciest damage.
Seeing noises will show you where an owl is coming from.
It helps the 'cry' in lyric when it is well managed.



PERMISSIONS
____
Reprinted from The Masthead, No. 9 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Alan Halsey

Gunter Kunert

Günter Kunert [DDR / Germany]
1929

Born in Berlin on March 6th, 1929, Günter Kunert studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Berlin from 1946-1949, and married Marianne Todten in 1951.

Kunert has written in nearly every literary genre, including literary criticism, short stories, television plays, and poetry. But it is as a poet that he is best known today, particularly for his parable-like writings and his aphoristic and dark wit in the manner of Bertolt Brecht. Kunert’s work of the 1950s grew out of his experiences with war and facism, and in his early writings his poems often served almost as “warning poems” about the dangers of repeating war and military dictatorship. In the 1960s this work changed from warning of the dangers to a sense of general disillusionment, influenced particularly by his disgust with East German socialism. From 1963 on he began to receive criticism from the GDR, and he 1966 his poetry was attacked from displaying un-Marxist qualities, leading to his expulsion from the Communist part in 1977. In 1979 he left East Germany to live in the West.

Kunert has received numerous literary awards, including the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1962 and the Becher Prize in 1973, and the America Awards of 2009 for "a lifelong contribution to international writing."

BOOKS OF POETRY

Wegschilder und Mauerinschriften (Berlin: Aufbau, 1950); Unter diesem Himmel (Berlin: Neues Leben, 1955); Tagwerke (Halle: Middeldeutschen, 1960); Das kreuzbrave Liederbuch (Berlin: Aufbau, 1961); Erinnerung an einen Planeten (München: Hanser, 1963); Tagtraüme: Prosa (München: Hanser, 1964); Der ungebetene Gast (Berlin: Aufbau, 1965); Verkündigung des Wetters (München: Hanser, 1966); Unschuld der Natur (Berlin: Aufbau, 1966); Poesiealbum acht (Berlin: Neues Leben, 1968); Warnung vor Spiegeln (München: Hanser, 1970); Notizen in Kreide (Leipzig: Reclam, 1970); Offener Ausgang (Berlin: Aufbau, 1972); Im weiteren Fortgang (München: Hanser, 1974); Das kleine Aber (Berlin: Aufbau, 1976); Unterwegs nach Utopia (München: Hanser, 1977); Verlangen nach Bomarzo: Reisegedichte (München: Hanser, 1978); Unruhiger Schlaf (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1979); Abtötungsverfahren (München: Hanser, 1980); Stilleben (München: Hanser, 1983); Berlin beizeiten (München: Hanser, 1987); Fremd daheim (München: Hanser, 1990); Mondlichtlandschaft: Gedichte und Biler (Göttingen: Steidl, 1991); Mein Golem (München: Hanser, 1996); Nacht Vorstellung (München: Hanser, 1999); So und nich anders (München: Hanser, 2002); Der alte Mann (Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2006).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Selection in East German Poetry (Oxford, England: Carcanet Press, 1972);
Windy Times: Poems and Prose, trans. by Agnes Stein (New York: Red Dust, 1983).
The Window Has Blown Open

Still no light in the sky. Smoke
In the air. Outside on the gravel
A figure.
Unrecognizable. Wrapped in mist
And twilight.
Knocks at the black, cracked wood
Of your door.
And if you ask the name of whoever it is
Rapping on your house, a voice will say:

The one you drove out of your life
Like useless ballast.
The one you poured away
Like old dishwater.
Whom you allowed to go dry
Like the lilac in the heat
Of noonday.
Who is always dying. Always returning.

I am called truth.
Nothing stops me: not the wood
Of your door. Not the door of your room.
Not the skin of your flesh. Not
the bone roof over your brain.
I am coming in.

Like the sunrise.
Like the day which nothing can stop
From coming.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Erinnerung an einen Planeten, 1963 / Der ungebetene Gast, 1965)



The Shrieking of Bats

While they whiz through the air in the twilight, hither and thither, they shriek out loud, but their shrieks are heard only by their own kind. Treetops and barns, decrepit steeples throw back an echo which they hear in their flight and which tells them what obstacles are looming in front and when the way is open. If you deprive them of their voices, they cannot find the way anymore; everywhere colliding with things and flying against walls, they fall dead to the ground. Without them there is an overwhelming increase of what they normally destroy: vermin.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Tagtraüme: Prosa, 1964)



Film Put in Backwards

When I woke
I woke in the breathless black
Of the box.
I heard: the earth
Was opening over me. Clods
Fluttered back
To the shovel. The
Dear box, with me the dear
Departed, gently rose.
The lid fellow up and I
Stood, feeling:
Three bullets travel
Out of my chest
Into the rifles of soldiers, who
Marched off, gasping
Out of the air a song
With calm firm steps
Backwards.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Der ungebetene Gast, 1965 / Verkündigung des Wetters ,1966)






Berlin Afternoon

In summer under a cloudy sky
in summer with a mild rain falling
in summer in the coolness of old rooms
in among old wallpapers freighted with visions:
to lie there
and listen to the trams
clunk of wheels over gaps in the rails
gallop of cabs
staccato of hand-driven machines
in blown-away back yards
mortal play of vanished bodies
pale in the pallor of secret beds
hidden behind crumbling stucco
behind the teeming scurf of old houses
which one sudden afternoon unwreathed
are carried away by dump trucks and cranes
complete with their contents
out of their existence into our memory
where their transcience welcomed and wept for
stops: in summer
with a mild rain falling.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Poesiealbum acht, 1968 / Warnung vor Spiegeln, 1970)






Speculations about the Writing of Poems
by the Writer of Poems

1
Lest by some mishap
the eternal fire of our transience
blind professional readers’ eyes, poets plug
the unusable hulks of their works
with cultural putty, kneaded into
tough lumps of enigmatic décor:
purloined trouvailles
from all the literary wastelands.


2
Lest
reality trickle through, reddish and
lymphatic mainly, malodorous, poems are
of artificial stuff
and more hermetic than bunker doors underground,
open only for ruin, Pandora’s hoard,
and more impenetrable
than spy networks, the webs
of pensionable spiders, bug officialdom, glamorized
worms that seethe
under the broken paving of law.

3
Better
to let the seed spill on the earth and the tone
crumble or fade: silence
would be
a measurable frequency of undeclared
clear and loud truth.

4
But the never enough is better:
of plain material, short in measure, vessel
for a small flame, illuminating
little of its world, yet little is more than nothing.
To say the right thing is more
than correctness.
To disturb for the good
infinity of a second those
perpetual busybodies laboring
at their own hubris.
To know of the future, that dark mountain,
that a door to the treasure opens, if

one speaks the magic word: to speak this
one word with all the others
is better than every best thing.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Warnung vor Spiegeln, 1970)






Translation of a German Proverb into Historical Kinetics

Before you enter, clean your tongue!
The landlord suffers from sensitive ears,
unlike his lodgers, the obligatory ones,
whose trouble is feeling (or whatever they call it).

Don’t mention rope makers, or sisal,
no hemp taboo, whose days are gone,
whose days perish—nevertheless you are asked
and tempestuously told:
Not to speak of it, one just doesn’t speak
of it,
don’t do it, because one simply doesn’t, therefore:
one may be one: ideal, to all attainable.

But those who have not held their tongues enough
are hung
from that which is unspoken by the unspeakable one.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton



The Hush

It is nearly autumn
when nightfall guarantees
her appearance. The old time traveler
from the beginning of the world,
insubstantial. She leaves
her face in the lamp shadow
or has none. She trades
in a drug that makes me
avoid the reality
I am not in. Sometimes
she even announces her presence
by the rustling of wallpaper,
by a sigh
the sleeping cat heaves,
by, suddenly perceptible,
a heartbeat
that leaves me wondering
where it came from.

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Unterwegs nach Utopia, 1977)




From the Background of a Breughel

The ancient house
in the pictures of distance,
forever surrounding:

so the heavens talk to it,
trees and bushes
long ago came and keep
company with it—
the wild grape vine
belts and circles
rooms of sleep,
dark stripes of staircase
the kitchen midpoint
lit by a log and eyes
of cats

Not even crows
ruffle your flesh,
here it is, no longer
waiting, it is your blood
feeds the beams and the tiles,
the rain has wet your skin
for centuries, or only
as long as you are looking

—Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton

(from Abtötungsverfahren, 1980)

November 29, 2008

Maurice Gilliams


Maurice Gilliams [Belgium]
1900-1982

Maurice Gilliams was born in 1900 in Antwerp, Belgium, where he lived for the rest of his life until 1982. In Flanders and the Netherlands, Gilliams is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, even though his entire oeuvre—with only sixty-eight poems in total—is contained in just one volume, a book he entitled Vita Brevis (“short life” in Latin, but also suggesting the wish for an ars longa, a “lasting art”).

The son of a Flemish printer and a French-speaking mother from an old bourgeois family, Gilliams grew up bilingually. He decided that Dutch suited his poetic purposes best, which was to isolate fragments of a life in words, personal and detached at once, hard and true like stones. Being a poet in everything he produced, Gilliams also wrote lyrical novels (the most famous of which is Elias [1936]), essays on artists and fellow poets, and diaries. Further, Gilliams earned a living as a printer, teacher of typesetting and calligraphy, librarian for the Royal Museum of Fine arts in Antwerp, and finally, director the Flemish Academy of Dutch Language and Literature. Toward the end of his life Gilliams was awarded the most important literary prizes of the Low Countries and given the title of baron when he was eighty years old.

—Marian de Vooght


BOOKS OF POETRY

Vita brevis: verzamelde werken (Antwerp: C. De Vries-Brouwers, 1955-1959; Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1984); Verzamelde Gedichten (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff/Gent: Poëziecentrum, 1993).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

The Bottle at Sea: The Complete Poems, trans. by Marian de Vooght (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006).



Nocturnal Wake in Antwerp

In memoriam Maurice Roelants

It is a swelling of sad water.
the ships stream through the windy night.
The city where I live flows off in years of illusion, rot and thingless blight.

A friend died. His verse I’ve been rereading.
Clawing through the open window comes silence.
From the hardened salt rim of centuries
moonlight whitens on the annals of butterflies.

—Is dream a vapor of perished souls?
It’s freezing in the old house. Its mirrors molded
into hollows of time without any sigh or lament.

Clotted gall of fish sticks to the knives.
The leftovers of the deep of midnight
attach shadows to my surrender.


Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght


Ballad

I saw you working on the field.
Out of the red trees
black birds came flying.
Light sparked on your spade.
Slowly your foot forced
the spade’s white.

Suddenly you jumped up,
staggered and looked for the bottle
and drank for a long time;
but then you keel down
like a broken steel knife.

Your fist clutched clay and stone.
Your feet lay wide
apart.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1920)





Spring Poem

A pipe, a pen, a little chill,
a flower with no leaves on the table,
you can see the rooftops from your chair
what moves you most will make you wiser.
This is you standing by the books,
this is you climbing into the poem;
your eye looms larger
your mouth sinks, aslant in the corners,
your heart is given its own light.
Go back to the good letters
from the past, now and then,
but easy on thoughts of love
where the birds go weeping.

Translated from the Dutch by André Lefevere

(1921)


Fable

In the wooden house
the white horse dwells,
and the wooden wagon sleeps there
beside the firewood,
ponderous and dull.

When the moon melts on the flowers,
around the wooden house,
the water glistens on the heath,
in front of the house.

Passing with the wind
the train whizzed for years on end,
and the house stays forever
with the white horse
and the wooden wagon.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1921)



Saint John on Patmos

Creator with the trumpet.

The scene of the angels
and the cloud monsters
in a struggle toppling down,
stand completed in the tide.

—Humankind dances
silently.
Softly thunder growls.
Far off, betrayed in a flash,
high and towering citadels and
winding paths.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght


Dreamed Joy

You do not taste the melancholy of a thin French book,
in front of the open window and it rains sweetly
on the blue fir tree. Evening is falling,
and I read abundance from the pages
while I keep silent. —With me alone you only want,
as it was in an old song:
to ride across the heath. I remain silent,
because your voice begins to seem unusual
and your restlessness takes its revenge in a kiss:
“stay here.” But a miserable poet
does not have what it takes to buy butter,
and then words of love melt away quickly.
—I am reading about a child who blew a soap bubble
around a beetle: mad and crazy sadness.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1927)

Clarifying Poem

With this biting winter around me,
the mortal silence of my icy mind
—who will, inside, blind me
and would my flesh with ire?

One shine lasts for nights, days,
stronger than my childhood every dreamed;
I have a body mad with pain
and in my head my thoughts in cruel unity.

Like a plant held in a canal frozen over,
my past stands as if petrified;
but my future will be flowing
from the lost honey of my crying.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1927)


The Bottle at Sea

Son navire est coulé, sa vie est révolue:
Il lance la Bouteille à la mer, et salue
Les jours de l’avenir qui pour lui sont venus.
alfred de vigny

The bleak profusion of the blood
brought mind and stomach no stable stock.
We are created out of pride,
out of confusions and bad luck.

*

I fixed my eyes till it was in vain.
This blind pearl I did retain
—here, on the island, spring blossoms
the pleasure of my hearth a monkey’s gain.

*

A lonely man grows fat in bed.
He bites his nails and cries, all sad.
Fleas and specters make him swear.
And he gets lost in swirling depths.

*

The stars move and advance
above my bold and sad existence.
My sleepless eyes discern no end,
but in me the End commences.

*

To marl you offer sun and rain
(your benevolence is rarely famed!)
—Breeches, or bread, a place for the night
did many a child never obtain.

*

A woman had to watch my attire
while I faced dream dragons in a fight.
Down I came from the blade on the grass.
There she sat sweetly lighting some fire.

*

Let me warm my feet, son.
Moon and wind made me all numb.
A man chews turnips his whole life
behind the roses of his passion.

*

The void along the stars gapes deep.
My heart is an emptier void asleep.
—Ah, mother, do not call me into being:
in grieving it is grief that you will reap.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght



Dying in Antwerp

The stone angel on the Cathedral elevates
his scales at midnight for those who collapse.
the army of lice is crackling. Pissing cats
in draftless winding alleys.

Flattened on the knolls of silence,
full-fledged under a rind of sleep, curdled
the laryngeal blood, the skull plucked
bald, the smelly Cocks of torment lie.

Here the rosary’s beads are futile;
no mystery remains of flesh and bones
where in emptiness emptiness resides.

The town of streets and the house of rooms:
woe, leave the clock alone. Drink wine, count gold.
The dirt rots underground. Don’t pray for skeletons.


Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1953)


Epitaph

Those lofty words the break our hearts,
are written in the flowing water.
—A stone rests on the riverbed.
It didn’t ask for the weeds’ caresses.

Translated from the Dutch by Marian de Vooght

(1954)



PERMISSIONS

“Nocturnal Wake in Antwerp,” “Ballad,” “Spring Poem,” “Fable,” “Saint John on Patmos,” “Dreamed Joy,” “Clarifying Poem,” “The Bottle at Sea,” “Dying in Antwerp,” and “Epitaph”
Reprinted from The Bottle at Sea: The Complete Poems, trans. by Marian de Vooght (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1995). Copyright ©2005 by Marian de Vooght. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

Julio Cortazar



Julio Cortázar [Argentina]
1914-1984


Born in Brussels to Argentinian parents, Julio Cortázar grew up in Argentina, where he later worked as a school teacher, university professor and professional translator. In 1951 he moved to Paris, where he worked as a translator for UNESCO. He died in Paris in 1984.

Cortázar is best known as an experimental short-story writer and novelist. His novel Hopscotch is considered the seminal work of the Latin American “boom” of the 1960s. Other works of fiction include Blow-up and Other Stories (the title story later serving as the source for the film of the same name), 62: A Model Kit, The Winner, All Fires the Fire, A Manual for Manuel, A Certain Lucas, and Around the Day in Eighty Worlds.

Upon his death, Editorial Nueva Imagen of Mexico City published his collected poems, Salvo el crepúsculo, which consisted of a 339-page paperback with a variety of graphics, a deck of poems to be shuffled and “played” as a literary game.


BOOKS OF POETRY:

Salvo el crepúsculo (Mexico City: Editorial Nueva Imagen, 1984).


ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSATIONS

Save Twilight: Selected Poems, trans. by Stephen Kessler (San Francisco: City Lights, 1997)



Gregory J. Racz on Julio Cortázar's Save Twilight

Save Twilight: Selected Poems, Julio Cortázar. Translated from the Spanish by Stephen Kessler (San Francisco: City Lights, 1997), 169 pp.

The acclaimed Argentinean novelist and short story writer Julio Cortázar may always remain best remembered for Rayela (Hopscotch, 1963), his “flip novel” and “book-kit” of indeterminate sequentiality; but in addition to a prodigious narrative output, Cortázar wrote poetry quietly, though steadily, throughout his lifetime. Published posthumously in Mexico as one volume in 1984 under the title Salvo el crepúsculo, this eclectic but well-crafted collection has been pared down and gorgeously translated for the first time into English by Stephen Kessler for City Lights.


Kessler’s rationale for his somewhat traditional selection takes a page from Cortázar’s own avowed passion for playful disorder; quoting from the book’s “Preface,” Kessler notes that Cortázar advises his reader: “don’t begin, jump in wherever you can. No chronology, such a mixed pack that it’s not worth the trouble.” The translator feels justified in revealing that in choosing these poems, he, like Cortázar, has “favored his personal sentiments over any more objective standard of excellence.”


Lucky for us, then, that Kessler exhibits such good judgment and able handling of Cortázar’s colloquial Spanish throughout this gem of a small-format book (Number 53 in City Light’s Pocket Poets Series), whose cover greets its readers with an affectionate photo of the author sitting on the floor playing with a cat. Kessler’s middle-ground approach to Save Twilight dispenses the original Spanish text’s line drawings and pictures of rhinos, turtles, starlets and the like; the few pieces written in French and Italian, as well as the handwritten ones; many rather canon-conscious poems on classical themes and literary forbearers; Cortázar’s ludic repetition of a poem, and whatever other efforts might have displeased more conventional audiences (or typesetters).


Instead, Kessler opts wisely to focus on Cortázar’s one-page, free verse works, although the occasional sonnet or piece in syllabic meter does appear, as does a handful of judiciously arranged prose poems, which punctuate Cortázar’s meditations on love, time, the gods, Buenos Aires, and the Argentine political situation, with their ironic reflections on the nature of what might be called the “poetry industry.”


The reader may be surprised to find so many pieces centering on the devastation of separation from this most postmodern of authors, yet these efforts compose the bulk of Save Twilight. After his lover’s departure in “El breve amor” (“The Brief Love”), for instance, the speaker wonders: “So why is / what’s left of me, afterwards, / just a sinking into ashes ‘ without a goodbye...?” The mistreated lover in the sardonically titled “Liquidación de saldos” (“Clearance Sale”) similarly realizes “I’m barely a bubble / reflecting you, which you’ll burst / with the blink of an eye.” So keenly felt throughout the volume is this pain at the loss of shared heightened experience, not necessarily erotic, that two poems, “Haben, tienen tres minutos” (“Speak, You Have Three Minutes”) and “Estela en una encrucijada” (“Stele at the Crossroads”), feature speakers who imagine their lovers experiencing their own experiences without them. It may well be the fear of encroaching age and impending death which prompts the speaker of “Policronías” (“Polychrony”) to obsess wryly: “It’s incredible to think that twelve years ago / I turned fifty, no less,” while self-consciously tossing off this muted accusation at his lover: “When your hand explores my hair / I know it’s looking for gray / surprises.”


For those acquainted with his better known narrative oeuvre, a more familiar Cortázar will be found in the author of “Crónica para César” (“Chronicle for Cesar”), whose speaker declares that the titular figure “shall build a great city” where all things “shall praise [his] name,” before revealing that these professed beliefs of grandeur will be mere delusions, since “[n]one of this shall pass beyond the walls of [his] room.” This motif of reality confined to consciousness plays itself out again in “El héroe” (“The Hero”), whose medieval warrior envisions glory in hard fought battle until the final stanza, which reads:

Then he’s not so sure,
maybe the goal isn’t really a beginning;
and at the end of the street
that looked so beautiful
there’s nothing more than a withered tree
and a broken fan.

Two cynical poems about the nature of the divine, “Los dioses” (“The Gods”) and “A un dios desconocido” (“To a God Unkown”), the latter which ends: “Whoever you are / don’t come. / We’d dump on you, garbage, made / in our nylon and orlon / image, Jahweh, God of mine,” are elsewhere balanced by the even-tempered secular bent of “Distribución del tiempo” (“Time’s Distribution”), which optimistically declares: “Every day we’re more, we who believe less / in the utilization of humanism / for the stereophonic nirvana / of mandarins and esthetes.


Kessler’s translations in Save Twilight are uniformly excellent, and always manage to transform Cortázar’s argentinisms into a natural-sounding English. One might quibble about his reluctance to render fixed stanzaic forms, such as the sonnet, or the few seven- and nine-syllable lines scattered sparsely throughout the volume into their metrical equivalents (with or without rhyme), but Kessler does ably handle the syllabic exigencies of “Ley del poema” (“Law of the Poem”) out of necessity, since the piece self-referentially thematizes the “perfect poem’s need for “precisely nine syllables per line.” The reader of this fabulously entertaining edition may wonder whether these poetic licenses would have upset a poet who writes in “Un amigo me dice...” (“A Friend of Me”): “Anyway, the only thing that really matters today in Latin America is to swim against the current of conformity, the received ideas and the sacred cows, which even in their highest forms play along with the Big System.” On the contrary, Cortázar would undoubtedly have approved highly of Kessler’s superior work. “[A]t least there doesn’t seem to be any risk in taking this all too seriously,” Cortázar writes serio-comically in “Poemas de bolsillo” (“Pocket Poems”), where his prose-poetic persona restates his “[m]istrust...of the anthological.” After all, as he so pointedly phrases it at the close of “Un amig me dice...”: “I never wanted butterflies pinned to a board.”