! one of those twisted angels who live in the shadows
MODERN POETRY IN TR ANSL ATION The best of world poetry
MODERN POETRY IN TR ANSL ATION
No.1 2014 © Modern Poetry in Translation 2014 and contributors issn (% print %) 0969-3572 issn (% online %) 2052-3017 isbn (% print %) 978-0-9572354-7-2 isbn (% ebook %)978-0-9572354-8-9 Editor: Sasha Dugdale Managing Editor: Deborah de Kock Design by Katy Mawhood Cover art by João Sánchez Printed and bound in Great Britain by Charlesworth Press, Wakefield International distribution by www.pineapple-media.com For submissions and subscriptions please visit www.mptmagazine.com Modern Poetry in Translation Limited. A Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England and Wales, Number 5881603 uk Registered Charity Number 1118223
Modern Poetry in Translation gratefully acknowledges the support of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. Work published with the support of The Ministry of Culture of Brazil / National Library Foundation. Obra publicada com o apoio do Ministério da Cultura do Brasil / Fundação Biblioteca Nacional.
M O D E R N P O E T R Y I N T R A N S L AT I O N
editorial 1 nicolas born, three poems 3 Translated by eric torgersen marina tsvetaeva, six poems 7 Translated by moniza alvi and veronika krasnova pier paolo pasolini, from Richezza 1955–1959 1 3 Translated by n. s. thompson kim hyesoon, five poems 19 Translated by don mee choi raúl rivero, eight poems 27 Translated by david shook håkan sandell, four poems Translated by bill coyle
henri michaux, six poems 4 0 Translated by jane draycott ludwig steinherr, four poems 45 Translated by richard dove antonella anedda, six poems 51 Translated by jamie mckendrick
Brazilian Focus carlos drummond de andrade, four poems Translated by richard zenith
adriana lisboa, three poems 67 Translated by alison entrekin ana martins marques, six poems 71 Translated by julia sanches and alison entrekin nicolas behr, five poems 78 Translated by alison entrekin paulo leminski, six poems 81 Translated by jamie duncan hilary kaplan and leo villa-forte, 8 8 A Small Library in a Poem: a conversation angélica freitas, seven poems Translated by hilary kaplan
Reviews margaret jull costa, The Sun Sleeps in Valparaíso 103 Juan Cameron, poet and exile from Pinochet’s Chile mary-ann constantine, A Home made of a Shawl 107 The presence of the past in Menna Elfyn’s Murmur chris beckett, Standing the World on its Head The many faces of Aimé Césaire’s Notebook
notes on contributors
anthony rudolf, On Danny Weissbort
CELEBRATE BRAZILIAN LITERATURE AT THE BRIGHTON FESTIVAL 22 May at 8pm The Studio Theatre, Brighton Dome Booking at brightonfestival.org
I’m a Russian speaker so for these last few weeks and months my aAention has been trained on Russia and Ukraine. Like most Russia-watchers I take the official Russian media with a pinch of salt, I listen to friends, independently-minded Russian journalists and online news and I use social media to gauge the situation. Social media doesn’t replace ‘objective’ media sources, as TwiAer surveys show most users only really follow like-minded feeds, and certainly Facebook is an accretion of friends and friends’ friends, but it works a liAle like an extension of one’s own subjectivity into a situation. I know my friends and I am fairly sure I would agree with them if I was there with them, I get to engage virtually and remotely. I don’t pretend to have independent views or verified views, but at least in the great Chinese Whispers game I know the person whispering in my ear. I’ve also learnt through social media to be chary of information: TwiAer is as effective a mechanism of misinformation as it is of information. Sometimes it is quite clear, the falsehood, the provocation, but sometimes (‘Please RT: X shoots at Y’) it looks much like the truth. It is frightening how impressive, convincing and constant the misinformation is, the fact of it is newsworthy in itself – and, like a corrupted source of water, it pours into the river of news and spreads its poison until its traces are found everywhere. The British media, the assured and comfortable authorities of my childhood, consistently fail to report the situation in a way that accords with my understanding. The journalists themselves (I follow them on TwiAer) have a good grasp of events, but the editing, the various biases of the papers, the responses of politicians, the imperatives of audience and market, online comments by trolls and the ignorant lead to a trickle of information that appears to me to be editor i a l
anti-news when at its worst. It is very easy to be cynical: I know this situation a liAle so I am able to judge a liAle, and even my ‘liAle’ finds the media wanting. But what about the rest of the news, the latest from Syria, Europe, on the various domestic issues that affect us? Is it all as skewed? I can only guess at the extent of the damage, but I am forced to keep reading: I am not able to make any sense of anything without the media, even though I suspect that I am being fed a watereddown gruel of partial understanding. That feeling of ignorance, dependence, vulnerability – it pains me. Do I know nothing? This is why I’d like to make a plea for poetry: ‘Poetry is the liberty of language of everyone,’ wrote Paulo Leminski. It is this liberty, poetry’s freedom, which makes it irrepressible. As soon as you aAempt to frame in a poem the compromises that life forces on us, the poem transforms them. It demands a truth of some kind and sometimes, like a living organism, it finds a truth and a beauty of its own, it sorts them from all the detritus that liAers lives. This is the peculiar property of poetry: it needs liberty, it asks of its creator the liberty to pursue those grave-fellows, truth and beauty. Sometimes it is not a truth you particularly wanted to tell, sometimes it is not a truth you even thought you knew, nor a beauty you thought you possessed. All great literature is irreducible, refusing to be co-opted into the service of an idea or ideal, but poetry takes this waywardness to an artform. In mpt wayward poetry comes to you from all over the world. If you seek enlightenment on the maAer of the globe from a publication you should read on: in poetry the state of our souls is laid bare. It needs saving (sos) but it won’t be taken partially, it won’t be watered down. Sasha Dugdale 2
editor i a l
NICOLAS BORN Translated by Eric Torgersen I began to translate the early work of Nicolas Born in the late 1960s and met him in 1969 when he spent a year at the International Writers’ Workshop at Iowa. ADer a time we lost contact and I learned of his early death only years aDer it occurred. When contacted in 2005 by his daughter and literary executor Katharina Born about leAers for the forthcoming volume, I took up the translations again, and discovered what a brave and lonely course his work had taken in the interim. Turning against the prevailing assumption that literature must serve the ends of social change, he developed a distinctive case for what he called a utopian poetry: ‘Literature must, with the help of counter-images, of utopias, expose reality as the monstrous giD that it actually is.’ Later he wrote, ‘We must destroy the exclusive claim to representation made by the delusion system which is reality. Its taboos, its code of behaviour enforced by laws alone, are directed at nothing else but other realities. The representations of these, utopias, are mocked by those who practise Realpolitik or (in the case of dangerous utopias) criminalized. But every person is a dangerous utopia if he discovers beneath the reality-inventory that has been forced on him, his wishes, longings and imaginings.’ Born alienated many friends by rejecting what passed for radical political poetry in his day, but his critique and the work it produced are arguably more radical still.
n icola s bor n
False Imagining with Janitor Shit Money Red Wine Etc. I imagine a fat glass full of red wine and a really bad suit of mine on the back of the chair and you the way you smiled at me ten years ago before we rolled slowly over onto our backs in an old Volkswagen which took about ten years and then I imagine that with one blow that hit me I wasnâ€™t young any more and on the other side I was met by hissing nightsticks and from all that I was totally dumb and angry so no janitor would dirty his hands with me and behind my back you said I was a real shit and supposedly had no money and never any red wine for example in the house and never any everything else and already I didnâ€™t have you at all not even now where I imagine you come in with money and red wine and you and by chance Iâ€™m not home at all but off in imaginings 4
n icola s bor n
when the only imagining I’m still really in is that all this is true
! HAVING ARRIVED HERE we can only go back the tapes chaAer in rewind farther farther back to the place where our own voice reads fairy tales with a bike behind the house a railroad embankment a hedge an animal everything is true everything in our own voice a class picture sings things creep and swarm under the rocks Then came bosses so strong they weakened us weakened us ‘I am a realist,’ one said prosperously ‘So die then,’ I answered him And further back there’s a loneliness of five thousand hectares a cart path leads whistling into the distance and at the end there’s a woman ready n icola s bor n
I’ve had my eye on her a long time bigger than me though still no hair in the places but there’s fear from frightened teachers there’s peppermint in the peace-pipe a house is rising that will fall the same time as I will my big mouth mutinies in the South Seas and already here’s A REALIST again fist cocked for a punch slowly it all falls in on me slowly everything’s gone and here again is the place where the bird winks and at path’s end the woman always skips away
Emergency Exit Change doctors if you’re feeling beAer but don’t forget to keep a wound open
n icola s bor n
M A R I N A T S V E TA E VA Translated by Moniza Alvi and Veronika Krasnova Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) spent most of her life in emigration aDer the Russian Revolution of 1917. Her outstandingly precise, passionate and at the same time highly intellectual poetics is close to the leD wing of Russian Futurism (Mayakovsky and Kruchyonykh). In her aAitude to the world, she was always first a Poet, everything else was secondary. Tsvetaeva, with her virtuoso use of syntax (the poetry of grammar!) and her use of rhyme, is a particularly difficult poet to translate. It is hard to keep something of Tsvetaeva’s precision and idiosyncrasy whilst creating poems that ring true in English. Those we have translated here were, all except one (‘BiAer Berries’), wriAen during the same year, 1934, when she began to reflect on European politics, her native Russia and her life and writing. The poems speak to each other, sometimes using the same words, and they become incantatory as a group. It becomes evident that Marina Tsvetaeva was not only one of the great poets of the twentieth century, but a profound thinker as well.
June 1934 My life has sung – has howled – has hooted – an autumn tide – has wept over itself
m a r ina tsv eta eva
Longing for a Garden Oh this torture this madness! Send me a garden in my old age. For my old age to soothe my troubles all the years of toil the hunched-up years. For the long years, my hellish, burning years allow me one treasure – a cool, shady garden. Lead me to this haven fit for a fugitive an oasis of solitude – not a single soul. Pathways – and not a single footstep bushes – and not a spying eye grasses – where no one hides borders – and no confines. Say to me: You have suffered enough – enjoy this place, lonely as yourself. Dear God, not even You’ll be there. A garden, God, as lonely as You are. 8
m a r ina tsv eta eva
A lovely garden for my old age. To walk in that summer garden – or perhaps to stroll in the next world. A garden for the freedom of my soul.
Solitude Aloneness: retreat into yourself, as our ancestors fell into their feuds. You will seek out freedom and discover it – in solitude. Not a soul in sight. There is no such peaceful garden – so search for it inside yourself, find coolness, shade. Don’t think of those who win over the populace in the town squares. Celebrate victory and mourn it – in the loneliness of your heart. Loneliness: leave me, Life!
m a r ina tsv eta eva
Exile the churn of stale words in the heart again – Becke$, ‘Cascando’ Nostalgia. That cliché! It doesn’t maAer to me where I am, where I’m solitary, on what pavement I heave my shopping back to a home that doesn’t know it’s mine, no more than a hospital, or barracks. No difference to me, captive lion, whose faces stare at my tormented self, what crowd hurls me back, predictably to the loneliness of my heart – I’m like a polar bear without an ice-floe. Precisely where I don’t fit in (don’t try to) or where I’m humiliated, it’s all the same – I won’t be seduced by my mother-tongue, it’s milky lure. It doesn’t maAer in what language I’m misunderstood by everyone, (those readers gorging on newsprint, hungry for a scandal). They all belong to the twentieth century. 10
m a r ina tsv eta eva
Born before time, I’m stunned like the last remaining log when the whole avenue’s been felled. People are undistinguishable. Nothing alters – and what’s most stale are those reminders of my past, of what was once so dear to me. My dates have been erased – I’m just someone born somewhere. My country has such scant regard for me that even the sharpest detective could search my entire soul and find no clue to where I’m from. Everywhere is alien, every church is empty. All is stagnant. But if I should glimpse a rowan tree by the roadside…
m a r ina tsv eta eva
Bi$er Berries The rowan tree was alight with berries – crimson its leaves falling – the day of my birth. Hundreds of bells argued. A cacophony. St. John the Divine – his feast day. Now, as ever the biAerness I long to crush – from a cluster of fiery berries.
God Be With You! Well then, God be with you! Behave like a flock of sheep! Not a mark, not a thought to call your own – Follow aDer Hitler, Stalin uncover from the sprawling corpses a star, or the hooks of a swastika.
m a r ina tsv eta eva
PIE R PAOLO PA S O LINI Translated by N. S. Thompson These poems are from the sequence Richezza 1955–59 (‘Wealth’) from the volume La religione del mio tempo, 1961. Pasolini was an inveterate night owl prowling Rome’s streets and low life for sex. It is thought these dangerous exploits led to his murder in 1975 when he was found baAered to death on a beach near Rome. The poetic impulse for the sequence is almost cinematic, a series of miniature travelogues into Rome’s low life, where paradoxically the poet finds a rich vitality that is in contrast to his own richness: his passion and the learning he has been privileged to receive. And yet he too had been extremely poor. He moved to Rome with his mother in 1950 aDer life became impossible for him in the Friuli, where he had his maternal roots. He had been arrested for homosexual acts with a minor (although these were never proven) and lost both his teaching job and membership of the Communist Party, for which he had served as a local secretary. Life was extremely difficult for the two of them, his mother Susanna taking menial domestic work, while Pasolini himself eventually found work in a private school teaching children from Rome’s new slums (borgate). He came to identify with Rome’s underprivileged class as he had with the peasants in Friuli and the sequence explores his feelings as he meditates on his new life among them.
pi er paol o pa solin i
Towards the Baths of Caracalla Off they go to the Baths of Caracalla, young friends astride Rumi or Ducati bikes, modestly or insolently male, hiding unconcerned or showing off in the hot folds of their trousers the secret of their erections… With wavy hair, youthful coloured sweaters, they cleave into the night in a never ending carousel, invading the night, splendid owners of the night… Off he goes to the Baths of Caracalla, body erect as on his native Apennine slopes, among the sheep tracks that smell of age-old flocks and holy ashes of Berber villages – already impure in his dusty loutish beret, hands in his pockets – the shepherd, migrant at age eleven, and now here, his Roman laugh malicious and festive, still warm with red sage, fig and olive… Off he goes to the Baths of Caracalla the old head of the family, unemployed, whom rough Frascati has reduced to a cretinous animal, a holy fool, with the useless junk in the chassis of his dilapidated body raAling 14
pi er paolo pa solin i
An excerpt from Modern Poetry in Translation - Spring 2014.