Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 1

Please find poems for the first of December! I have finished galloping behind in the November issue of "Poetry" and in the email provided links to translators notes in this special issue on translation. To keep up the Irish spirit, you will find a translation of Seán Ó Ríordáin, but also Yiddish and French.
I was delighted to see a Chinese and Anglo name for Liu Xia's ekphrastic poem, UR's Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer* for Jerzy Ficowski's poem and further to find out more about the poets themselves. Grotz alludes to George Steiner’s “total reading” where meaning and interpretation lie beyond the text and a quick look at Bonnefoy will yield this thought: poetry is less about saying something about reality than coupling with it, less an accidental formulation than a quest for a light that is beyond words.
Although Larry Levis writes in English, I like how he adopts 15th century French poet François Villon.

Empty Chairs (p. 110) by Liu Xia
August 5, 1942, (p. 112) by Jerzy Ficowski
The Museum (p. 123) by Yves Bonnefoy
Switch, (p. 136)by Seán Ó Ríordáin
What Will Stay Behind (p. 147) Abraham Sutkzever

Also considered, but not used:
François Villon on the Condition of Pity in Our Time (p. 116) by Larry Levis

The first poem implies connection, and a state of becoming in spite of repeating three times, "empty"
and "leave", where empty chairs seem to wait, trapped in their "frozen state". It's the sort of poem I like, because I read it several times, and start to see new relationships... ideas -- one doesn't question that the speaker of the poem is sitting in a Van Gogh painting, nor that he doesn't see her.

The Ficowski poem is memorable, with the repeated "I don't know", the doctor in the holocaust... the comparison with Charon, the "I know" at the end...

After it, it feels trivial to comment on the sounds of Bonnefoy's poem, or the changing registers of the Riordain.

In a way, all of the poems addressed the "mirror man" of our selves. Certainly the Sutzkever, one of the “Diary Poems” were, like his earliest work, a navigation through the landscape of the self. We closed with the In Memoriam by Alastair Reid 3/221926- 9/21/2014 printed on the inside cover of the November issue of Poetry.

Could it have been mine,
that face—cold, alien—
that an unexpected mirror,
crossed by a quick look,
flashed me back?

It was a moment’s chance,
since, at second glance,
the face has turned familiar—
my mouth again, my eyes
wide in surprise.

Now, though I verify
oddness of bone and eye,
we are no longer one,
myself and mirror-man.
Trust has gone.

I had thought them sure,
the face and self I wore.
Yet, with no glass about,
what selves, whose unsuspected
faces stare out?
-- from Poetry, February 1959
reprinted in the inside cover of the November 2014 issue

No comments: