There is a lawless canyon in our lips,
a labyrinth whose exits are burning.

Five poems from Luis García Montero’s Diary of an Accomplice, translated by Alice McAdams.

photo_Luis García Montero (1)

IMG_2836 - Version 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

I, III [Como el primer cigarillo]

by Luis García Montero

Como el primer cigarillo,

los primeros abrazos. Tú tenías

una pequeña estrella de papel

brillante sobre el pómulo

y ocupabas la escena marginal

donde las fiestas juntan la soledad, la música

o el deseo apacible de un regreso en común,

casi siempre más tarde.

 

Y no la oscuridad, sino esas horas

que convierten las calles en decorados públicos

para el privado amor,

atravesaron juntas

nuestras posibles sombras fugitivas,

con los cuellos alzados y fumando.

Siluetas con voz,

sombras en las que fue tomando cuerpo

esa historia que hoy somos de verdad,

una vez apostada la paz del corazón.

 

Aunque también se hicieron

los muebles a nosotros.

Frente a aquella ventana—que no cerraba bien—,

en una habitación parecida a la nuestra,

con libros y con cuerpos parecidos

estuvimos amándonos

bajo el primer bostezo de la ciudad, su aviso,

su arrogante protesta. Yo tenía

una pequeña estrella de papel

brillante sobre el labio.

I, III [Like the first cigarette]

by Luis García Montero

Like the first cigarette,

the first embraces. You had

a small paper star

shiny on your cheekbone

and you occupied the marginal stage

where parties joined with loneliness, music,

or the gentle desire for a common return,

almost always later.

 

And it was not darkness but those hours

that turned streets into public decorations

of a private love.

Our possible fugitive shadows

dared together,

smoking with upturned collars.

Silhouettes with voice,

shadows in which history took shape,

the history that today we are,

once wagered the heart’s peace.

 

Yet furniture

also did this to us.

In front of that window—which never closed well—

in a room that looks like ours,

with books and with bodies

that could be ours,

we loved each other

beneath the city’s first yawn, its warning,

its arrogant protest. I had

a small paper star

shiny on my lip.

translated from Spanish by Alice McAdams
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I, VI [Rojo temblor de frenos por la noche]

by Luis García Montero

Rojo temblor de frenos por la noche,

así sueño el amor, así recuerdo,

entre la madrugada olvidadiza,

sensaciones de turbia intimidad,

cuando tener pareja conocida

es un alivio para los extraños.

 

Borrosa gravedad de parabrisas

en la despreocupada seducción.

Porque los coches saben su camino

y van como animales en querencia

a la casa, sin dudas, entre besos

que nos durán el tiempo de un semáforo

y un poco más; porque decir mañana

es casi discutir el más allá,

y hablamos del dolor de los horarios,

alejados, cayendo en la imprudencia,

como los vivos hablan de la muerte.

I, VI [Red tremble of brakes at night]

by Luis García Montero

Red tremble of brakes at night:

so I dream of love, so I remember.

Between the forgetful dawn,

sensations of murky intimacy,

when to have a familiar partner

is a relief for the alien.

 

Blurred gravity of windshields

in carefree seduction.

Because cars know their path

and they move like instinctive animals

toward home, surely, between our kisses

that last the length of a stoplight

and a little more; because to say tomorrow

is almost to discuss the beyond,

and we speak of the pain of schedules,

remote, succumbing to imprudence,

like the living speak of death.

 

 

translated from Spanish by Alice McAdams
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Pale Cupid: I am geysers, craters, belly-of-the-earth.

Two poems by Lucie Thésée, translated by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau.

Poème

by Lucie Thésée

Les bennes de ma tête bâillant

Partie dans un grand air bleu me revoilà pour la minute fugitive

un tronçon de tujau d’égout

béant à ciel ouvert,

tout y passé, ma vue parallèle de tuyao

a tout happé.

Qui donte maintenant de mon éternité?

moi dont l’oeil pré-natal assiste

au bain eternal des frondaisons compactes dans le fleuve houleux

dans le fleuve fecund de vies féroces, de vies colossales

dans le fleuve des crocodiles et des hippopotames.

Qui donte de mon éternité moi dont le corps

S’est recrocquevillé quand les clous cupids s’enfonçaient

cyniqeument, sinistrement dans ma chair pré-natal de déracinée

et la marquaient indélébilement, ma chair vierge

de ‘makanguia’ riche des bruits soyeux de jadis et des

senieurs retrospectives de la forét équinoxiale

mon bien primitif,

ma chair rouge-noir, vierge encore de tout nombre.

Apaise-toi ma fronde de rose dynamitée, vengeance est faite:

Mon éternité est.

Pourquoi ne m’y prélasserai-je pas? Je vous le demande, moi dont le coeur

de filao gonflé de sève d’impossible en musant dans ses aigrettes vertes

fait chanter le vent

moi dont les antennes de filao jaillissent à l’assaut d’un ciel de frissons.

Qui a voulu me voler mon éternité

O Mort, la vie ne ricane pas, elle rit et elle aime

elle aime en riant et c’est elle qui tue en riant.

Qui tue tous sec esciocs ai coer vague et flasque

O toi qui n’as même pas pu être un miserable.

Qui dit encore que le temps ne m’appartient pas?

moi qui m’étrille à meme l’échine du soleil

et l’embrasse et le baise de ma langue de flame.

L’essence souveraine de mon étrave voyuant la rage aux soutes

sur l’écume de l’injuste et du crime

allume les 89, les 48, les 45

embrasant l’horizon à terme de fraternité et d’amour.

Et maintenant pouffez de vos joues jouflues de graisse

blêmes indigents de la nue

Je suis jeysers, cratère, ventre de la terre au fond de la terre

Je lance la flame, attrapez-la au vol de mes rires, au vol de mes douleurs;

J’injecte la chanson, je perpétue frissons et frémissements fleurs d’éternel.

Eternité, je suis Liberté.

Poem

by Lucie Thésée

My head — a set of trash cans, open — gawps:

I am a drain pipe

Gaping wide,

And the blue day funnels through me.

I suck down everything.  All of it.

Who doubts my eternity now?

A river, prodigal, roiled with ferocious lives—

You crocodiles, hippopotami — all of it, I suck it down.

Who doubts my eternity now?

 

My unborn eye.

My coiled and unborn flesh, fetal, without race, without color,

Unborn, when Cupid’s little stinging dart

Cut in.  The little cynic!  My virgin flesh,

Unborn, was marked: dark.  A makanguia,

Dark with the silky noises of a past

In the darker forests, rich

In a primitive unborn wealth.

Unnumbered.  Unnamed.  Unborn flesh — red-black:

A sling of plucked rose petals, dying.  Vengeance

Was his: my eternity started.

Why not strut in it?

 

Why not?  I’m asking you.  Why not me?

Me, my heart-sap thick as a filao-tree’s,

Thick with the sap of the impossible

Under green fronds singing in wind.

Me, who skin spikes out filao-tree needles, shivering.

Who said eternity’s not mine?

 

My life doesn’t giggle: my life is she

Who kills while laughing.

You, who can’t even muster your misery,

You doubt eternity can be mine.

I’ll comb my hair with the backbone of the sun.

I’ll kiss fire, I’ll sail to those ships’ holds,

Those crimes on the foam of the waves,

Those crimes between the sea’s two horizons:

Liberté, égalité.

Fat cheeked little beggar in the clouds,

Pale Cupid: I am geysers, craters, belly-of-the-earth.

I throw flame in the flight of my laughter,

I take in everything, drink down song.

I’ll shiver and quake with endless flowers blooming.

Eternity, anyway? I’m Liberté.

translated from French by Robert Archambeau & Jean-Luc Garneau
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Profonde allégresse

by Lucie Thésée

Le balcon couvert de tuiles en verre dépoli du vieux manoir est éclairé ce soir; sa lumière diffuse, clignotante dans la futaie ne surprend àme qui vive aux alentours: la longue dame noire ne descend-t-elle pas souvent au vieux manoir quand la lune s’affirme le seul oeil du ciel?  Aussi repose-t-elle, la longue dame noire, pour le voisinage, sur un lit de legends.

 

Dans un léger déshabillé qui dresses a carnation chocolate brun, la dame avec le calme imperturbable de l’éternité se promène sur le balcon; de temps en temps son gros chat tout noir lui tombe dans les jupes en miaulant calinement, c’est que la luminescente face de la lune—une face de mort—trouble profondément la bête dont le geste arranche la longue dame à sa froide meditation.

 

La dame noir prend alors la bête dans ses bras et à rebrousse poi, lui passe les doigts dans la fourrure pour lui saisir la tête à pleines mains; maintenant elle vient de deposer le chat et, lui mure avec un bref haussement d’épaule: “Tu avais peur m’a-t-il dit… il ne s’est donc pas douté une minute que ma vie est pour lui… l’envie de me ravir mon soufflé n’effleura pas son couer.  Il alluma une cigarette…” et le plus subtile sourire humanise son visage.

 

L’animal nullement surpris continuerait son manège mais la dame noire va faire de la lumière aux pieces de l’étage tandis qu’elle éteint celle du balcon pour reprendre sa promenade.  Ellse s’arrête fréquemment aux extrémités du balcon comme pour guetter une arrivvée… mais de guerre lasse elle s’accoude à la balustrade la tête dans les deux mains flottant à travers la tropicale musique d’une évlatante nuit de line, la tête prise aussi dans sa proper nuit… et naturellement malgré l’heure très avancée, pas un ne s’étonnerait: n’est-ce pas la longue dame noire?  Le jour pourrait bien la rencontrer là, à la meme position…

Rapture: The Depths

by Lucie Thésée

The one-eyed sky: the moon-sky, its light on the tiles of the ruined plantation veranda.  And she who comes here often, that black woman, long-boned, slender — long bones stretched on a bed rigged out of scraps and village legends.

 

Long bones, slight — and chestnut-bronze and unadorned, her skin; her clothes a muslin filigree.  Darkness in the dark skirt’s folds, her cat mewls for that dead man’s face, the moon:  Long Bones knows the face it sees.

 

Long Bones runs long fingers through the cat-fur, forehead first, against the grain, suffers the cat-eyed gaze a while.  A brief shrug, a flexion of the neck and shoulders. “He wouldn’t take me, he said ‘you are afraid,’ he lit his cigarette…”

 

Darkness in the Dark is not surprised, would suffer her fingers in his fur some more.  But Long Bones paces in the light of the one-eyed sky, veranda-length, veranda-length again, to pause, as if to wait for someone, as if to hope.  Late, and yet late.  If anyone saw, no one would ask: isn’t it Long Bones, dark in dark?  No one would ask.  She comes here often.  Day will find her.  No one else.

translated from French by Robert Archambeau & Jean-Luc Garneau
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I worship fire
But recant when lightning finds me out

Four poems by Ghalib translated by M. Shahid Alam.

1

by Ghalib

ہوس کو ہے نشاطِ کار کیا کیا

نہ ہو مرنا تو جینے کا مزا کیا

 

نگاہِ بے محابا چاہتا ہوں

تغافل ہائے تمکیں آزما کیا

 

نفس موجِ محیطِ بیخودی ہے

تغافل ہائے ساقی کا گلا کیا

 

دلِ ہر قطرہ ہے سازِ “انا البحر

ہم اس کے ہیں، ہمارا پوچھنا کیا

 

بلائے جاں ہے غالبؔ اس کی ہر بات

عبارت کیا، اشارت کیا، ادا کیا

1

by Ghalib

In crossing limits we become free.

In dying we live dangerously.

 

Why singe my heart all day?

At once, pitch your bolt at me.

 

I surf the sea of extinction. Saqi –

Your slights cannot sink me.

 

In every drop the cry – I am the sea.

He is for me: great is my glory.

 

Ghalib, she takes my breath away.

What a face, what eyes, what sorcery!

translated from Urdu by M. Shahid Alam
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Make each dying rose
a confidante

Two new translations by Micah McCrary from Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Roses.

XIV

from Les Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Été:  être pour quelques jours

le contemporain des roses;

respirer ce qui flotte autour

de leurs âmes écloses.

 

Faire de chacune qui se meurt

une confidante,

et survivre à cette sœur

en d’autres roses absente.

XIV

from The Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Summer:  to be for just a few days

the friend of roses,

to breathe what floats around

their souls in bloom.

 

Make each dying rose

a confidante,

a surviving sister

of other absent roses.

translated from French by Micah McCrary
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XX

from Les Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Dis-moi, rose, d’où vient

qu’en toi-même enclose,

ta lente essence impose

à cet espace en prose

tous ces transports aériens?

 

Combien de fois cet air

prétend que les choses le trouent,

ou, avec une moue,

il se montre amer.

Tandis qu’autour de ta chair,

rose, il fait la roue.

XX

from The Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Tell me, rose.  Where did

your slow essence impose

all this air,

enclosed within yourself,

in this space of prose?

 

How many times has this air

claimed that things perforate,

or, with a sneer,

watch bitterly

while that around your flesh,

rose, cartwheels?

translated from French by Micah McCrary
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Long ago I found out that you were an unfinished animal

Four poems by the Peruvian poet José Watanabe, translated from the Spanish by Carlos Llaza.

 

 

 

 

 

La oruga

by José Watanabe

Te he visto ondulando bajo las cucardas, penosamente,

trabajosamente,

pero sé que mañana serás del aire.

 

Hace mucho supe que no eras un animal terminado

y como entonces

arrodillado y trémulo

te pregunto:

¿sabes que mañana serás del aire?

¿te han advertido que esas dos molestias aún invisibles

serán tus alas?

¿te han dicho cuánto duelen al abrirse

o sólo sentirás de pronto una levedad, una turbación

y un infinito escalofrío subiéndote desde el culo?

 

Tú ignoras el gran prestigio que tienen los seres del aire

y tal vez mirándote las alas no te reconozcas

y quieras renunciar,

pero ya no: debes ir al aire y no con nosotros.

 

Mañana miraré sobre las cucardas, o más arriba.

Haz que te vea,

quiero saber si es muy doloroso el aligerarse para volar.

Hazme saber

si acaso es mejor no despegar nunca la barriga de la tierra.

Caterpillar

by José Watanabe

I’ve seen you squirming painfully under the mallows,

but I know

you belong to the air of tomorrow.

 

Long ago I found out that you were an unfinished animal.

As then,

kneeling down and shaky

I ask:

Do you know you belong to the air?

Has anybody ever warned that those sore yet invisible stripe-humps

will become your wings?

Has anybody ever told you what the ache will be like when they open,

or will you just feel a sudden lightness, a tremor:

sharp shivers up your arse?

 

You ignore the prestige you airborne beings hold

and you might examine your wings and feel strange, not quite yourself,

and you may want to quit,

but no: you must go to the air and not stay with us anymore.

 

Tomorrow I’ll look over the mallows, or higher,

until I spot you,

I want to know if detaching from the soil’s too painful.

Please, let me know

if by any chance it’s best to keep the belly against the earth.

translated from Spanish by Carlos Llaza
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I opened an ossuary and saw the bones

Excerpts from The World as Presence by Cuban writer Marcelo Morales Cintero, translated and with an introductory essay by Kristin Dykstra.

El mundo como ser (The World as Presence) is Marcelo Morales Cintero’s newest work. Like his previous books it has emerged in segments. The pattern is that some are first published in freestanding chunks but are destined to become part of a larger whole. Segments 1-12 of El mundo como ser were published as a preliminary sequence in 2013 (in Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas / Nueva escritura de las Américas 16). Morales has now completed subsequent sections and is consolidating his book-length manuscript.

One of the challenges of this translation is that we began our collaboration before he completed the entire book, so the final version may change. And while Morales has won a variety of literary prizes in the past, it’s also too soon to tell what kinds of institutional and artistic validations will come for this book after its Spanish-language publication, so I can’t argue for the value of the new work on these terms. I can only say that so far the reception of our excerpts in English translation has been enthusiastic.

There are opposing truths that motivate me to take up this project despite those apparent pitfalls. First and foremost: translators need to take risks sometimes. Or what are we really doing this for?

Translators need to take risks sometimes. Or what are we really doing this for?

Next, translation has its ways of facilitating life-giving dialogues between an author and his or her colleagues out there in the world. It’s exciting to get a project out there in English while the author is still so intensely involved with it, rather than leaving his work to languish in the usual lag time (years, decades, lifetimes) before translation arrives, if it arrives at all.

Furthermore, while Morales is younger than other Cuban poets who have built a greater international reputation today, he is also a writer mature enough to know himself even while taking new turns. His first book of poetry appeared in 1997, when he was twenty years old, and he has many other collections out already. Cuba is a place where older generations have held onto their dominance in many arenas, often with great accomplishments. No matter what their significance is, it’s still a mistake to overlook the energy of writers now in their thirties and forties.

El mundo como ser explores the vast interior spaces of the self, which figure prominently in Morales’ earlier poetry. The major difference is that the new book is more overtly involved with the recent history of the nation. In the sentences and fragments comprising El mundo como ser, Morales registers shifts in Cuba’s economy and society under the island’s new presidential leadership. Raúl Castro’s gradual and highly planned openings toward small-scale capitalism have begun to alter daily life for Havana residents. It is by no means clear what this much-hyped and much-debated state of transition will become for them in the long term. This fact, more than any concrete reference flitting past that I’ve taken time to confirm while completing the translation, is central to understanding El mundo como ser.

Morales’ lines of text manifest the “stippling” of presence in society – flecks and scratches of the ser, or one’s presence, or one’s being, one’s consciousness. His poems register a constant desire to confront the most essential features of life, to trace its contours and explore the range and complexity of human possibility within everyday life in Havana today. In search of these contours the speaker tends to focus on the edgings of death. The emotional intensities of his everyday quest sometimes seem to carry him toward numbness. Perhaps that alternation of intensity and numbness is essential for survival – but the speaker seems to wage war on numbness anyway. He is absolutely determined to explore the infinitude of spaces within the self, and to make room for love, a powerful and paradoxically internal escape from isolation.

Another significant tension that flows through the fragments of the larger manuscript is the desire to locate a viable political perspective, which brings a new layer of emotional risk into El mundo como ser. These poems clearly indicate a critical view of the status quo in Cuba, expressing distance from official rhetoric in a way characteristic of many citizens confronting the uncertainties of the twenty-first century. Do known dissident organizations, like the Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White, a well-known opposition group) who appear in a few different places over the course of this book, offer a viable alternative? Might opposition cycle back into familiar (and potentially violent) polarizations between the current government and an all-too familiar version of the right wing? What sources of information are reliable on these matters? Absent greater certainty, where can hope reside?

–Kristin Dykstra

1

De El Mundo como Ser (Fragmentos)

by Marcelo Morales Cintero

Leía un poema de Gottfried Benn, hablaba de un cadáver sobre una mesa de disección, describía la manera en que tocaba el cerebro, la manera en que extraía su lengua y la ponía en un recipiente con agua “like flowers.”

Oí a una multitud gritando atrás por la ventana, una multitud gritando libertad.

Detrás iba una turba gritando cosas violentas.

Libertad, libertad.

Dejé los órganos en el búcaro, cogí mi cámara, me puse las botas sin medias y fui al edificio de prisiones.

Cuando llegué no vi ya a nadie, un guardia joven me dijo que por favor cogiera por la calle, sólo por hoy, me dijo.

Yo pensaba en los órganos de Gottfried.

Sentí emoción por la palabra libertad, creo que eran las madres, regresé a la casa, mientras subía las escaleras pensé, tu problema no es la cobardía, tu problema es

la indiferencia.

 

 

1

From The World as Presence (Excerpts)

by Marcelo Morales Cintero

I was reading a poem by Gottfried Benn, it talked about a cadaver on a dissection table, describing the way he touched its cerebellum, the way he extracted the tongue and placed it, “como flores,” into a receptacle with water.

Through the back window I heard a crowd shouting, a crowd shouting freedom. 

Behind it a mob shouting violent things.

Freedom, freedom.

I left the organs on the jar, grabbed my camera, threw on my boots without socks and went out toward the prison bureau.

When I arrived I didn’t see anyone, a young guard told me to please walk in the street, just for today, he said.

I thought about Gottfried’s organs.

I was struck by hearing the word freedom, I think it was a protest by the mothers, I

returned to my house, as I was climbing the stairs I thought, your problem isn’t

cowardice, your problem is indifference.

 

translated from Spanish by Kristin Dykstra
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4

De El Mundo como Ser (Fragmentos)

by Marcelo Morales Cintero

Ayer mientras leía un poema político me tembló la mano. Sentí la presión del poder, mi

miedo al poder. Ayer, mientras leía, temblé, como la primera vez. Cuando salí, me

encontré en un bar con mis amigos, hablé de todo sin decirles nada. Oscar gritaba

borracho, la otra pedía tequila. Aunque nos quedamos, hace tiempo que nos fuimos.

4

From The World as Presence (Excerpts)

by Marcelo Morales Cintero

Yesterday while I was reading a political poem my hand shook. I felt the weight of

power, my fear of power. Yesterday as I was reading I shook, just like the first time.

When I left I met friends in a bar, talked about everything while telling them nothing.

Oscar was drunk and shouting, someone else ordered tequila. Even though we stay

here, we left a long time ago.

translated from Spanish by Kristin Dykstra
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he relished the taste of sea-soaked hair

A poem by the Martiniquais poet Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson

De rue d’Enfer à rue Monte au Ciel

by Suzanne Dracius

Le bougre est descendu à Saint-Pierre,

Martinique, Martinique des cendres,

en février 1902,

a drivaillé en plein Mouillage,

n’y a pas trouvé de daubannes ni nulle dame-jeanne

mais des oeillades de dames Jeanne ad libitum,

s’est fait toiser par la dame

qui a la tête dans les nuages,

le ventre en feu,

le mont de Vénus pelé.

Au pied de la Montagne Pelée,

de rue d’Enfer en bordée

jusqu’à la rue Monte au Ciel

driva de biguine en bordel.

En bord d’eau au fond du Mouillage

et des abyssaux mouillages

goûta des chevelures océanes,

dégusta des rhums et des femmes de toutes couleurs,

visita des ventres de feu,

croisa deux-trois gais zombies

en folle partance

pour de créoles Saturnales,

de fantastiques et voluptueuses chevauchées,

des nuits d’orgie à Saint-Pierre.

 

A chocolaté

bon enfant,

tout excité,

un lot de diablotins

pierrotins

et de matadors mamelues,

chatouillé des chabines fessues,

une calazaza biscornue,

prodigué suçons et caresses à une capresse à demi nue

au callipyge bonda maté

sans démâter de son côté

jusqu’à ce que sa queue se dévisse,

honoré masques et bergamasques,

masques-la-mort en émoi,

cheval trois-pattes en grand rut,

Marianne la peau-figue alanguie,

vieux-corps vifs à califourchon

en partance pour un Carnaval

de morituri bons vivants,

l’ultime,

le sublime

qui jamais

ne renaîtrait de ses cendres

en telle splendeur bacchanale.

 

En ce petit temps

court et lourd,

en ce laps d’antan,

en un rien de temps,

à peine à peine

eût-il exonéré ses graines,

songeant à sa légitime

qui l’espérait à Fort-de-France

— poteau mitan

au beau mitan

de l’austérité conjugale —

retira ses pieds juste à temps

pour éviter la Catastrophe.

 

From Hell's Road to Rise-to-Heaven Street

by Suzanne Dracius

The fellow went down to Saint-Pierre,

Martinique, Martinique of cinders and ash,

in February 1902,

drifted along for somewhere to moor,

found no Johnny cakes nor demijohns,

only winks from ladies named Jeanne ad libitum,

was ogled from head to toe

by the lady lost in the clouds

with fire in her womb,

Venus’ bald mount.

At the foot of Mount Pelée,

from the rim of Hell’s road

as far as Rise-to-Heaven street,

he was lured by the brothels’ beguines.

From the water’s shores to the heart

of Le Mouillage and its harbor’s abyssal depths,

he relished the taste of sea-soaked hair,

feasted on rums and women in all shades and hues,

toured fire-filled wombs,

passed two or three zombies with grins

crazily bound

for Creole Saturnalia,

sultry, fantastic rides,

nights of orgy in Saint-Pierre.

 

With good will,

aroused,

he groped with chocolate-smeared hands

a crowd of little devils from Saint-Pierre

bedecked with red

and big-breasted matadors, stiletto-heeled,

tickled chabines with derrières high and round,

a calazaza adorned with a pair of fanciful horns,

lavished caresses and hickeys on a half-naked capresse,

a callipyge with buttocks jutting out like masts on a ship,

without cause, for his part, to dismast

until his tail should come undone,

saluted masks and bergamasks,

spirited skeleton brides raised from the dead,

a three-legged horse, crazed in heat,

languid women disguised as Marianne,

men disguised as old bodies astride one another’s backs

bound for Carnival

where the morituri live well,

the supreme,

the sublime

which never will rise

from cinders and ash

with bacchanal splendor restored.

 

In this short span of time,

intense and compressed,

in this lapse of bygone days,

a mere nothing of time,

barely, hardly

had he dispersed his seed,

remembering his wife

who was waiting for him in Fort-de-France—

a domestic pillar of strength

in the midst

of wedded restraint—

he retraced his steps just in time

to avoid the Disaster.

 

translated from French by Nancy Naomi Carlson
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Podcast #7: Jennifer Hayashida

by: Montana Ray

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In this episode Montana Ray interviews Jennifer Hayashida, poet-translator and Director of Asian American Studies at Hunter College. Hayashida, who translates from Swedish, discusses her relationship to the Swedish language and culture, specifically her fascination with “global perceptions and misperceptions of Sweden, elided histories of colonialism, the prehistory of neoliberalism, and … the dismantling of the social welfare system.” (See: No More Strike Anywhere) She describes her evolution as a translator from her earliest translation projects (A Different Practice by Fredrik Nyberg and Inner China by Eva Sjödin) and explores how a consideration of class, race, and gender can’t be set aside in the practice of translation. She also reads from her forthcoming translations of two young Swedish writers Athena Farrokhzad & Karl Larsson and explains some ways in which their work intersects as cultural critics who broaden understandings (domestic and international) of Swedish literature and Swedishness, and describes Sweden’s evolving debate around identity politics, including the contributions of writers and translators.

With poems and music by: First Aid Kit, Fredrik Nyberg, Eva Sjödin, Athena Farrokhzad, Karl Larsson, & Säkert!

I was holding the light
on either side of me

A selection of Pierre Peuchmaurd poems translated by E.C. Belli—four poems from The Nothing Bird and “Bull,” a Circumference exclusive.

Taureau

by Pierre Peuchmaurd

Le vent est long
le vent court
le vent hurle
Le vent hurle, pas le taureau
le monde tourne, pas le taureau
il pleut, pas le taureau
la pluie est rouge, pas le taureau
tu mets ton chapeau, pas le taureau
tu enfiles tes gants, pas le taureau
la pluie rouge, l’herbe grise
les mains qui glissent sur l’arc-en-ciel
les freux les fraises les demoiselles,
pas le taureau
l’escarcelle, pas le taureau
le taureau est un sac
le héron vole, pas le taureau
le jour du mois, pas du taureau
la bave des filles, pas du taureau
je est un autre, pas un taureau
un souffle, pas un taureau
la neige aux doigts, pas un taureau
je
mets la littérature dans une corne,
pas le taureau
dans l’ombre, pas le taureau
le taureau est noir, il est blanc
le taureau est un frac
le soir tombe, pas le taureau
l’amour tangue, pas le taureau
tu touches ta peau, pas le taureau
tu noies tes yeux
tu fouilles ton sexe, pas le taureau
le vent hurle, pas le taureau
le vent flambe
le taureau est un rire un ange un tréteau d’or
l’amour tangue, pas le taureau
l’amour remonte les allées de sa mort,
pas le taureau
l’amour meurt, pas le taureau
il surgit du taureau
l’amour meugle, pas le taureau
le taureau est un chant d’oiseau
le héron vole la main passe,
pas le taureau
qui chante ailes arrachées
qui chante le ventre ouvert
le taureau pèse cent ans de corde,
pas la corde
la corde pèse le pendu, pas le taureau
les ailes, pas le taureau
arrachées, le taureau
le taureau est une jambe
le taureau est l’aubier sous l’écorce du taureau
tu est toi, pas le taureau
tu es là, pas le taureau
les chiens dansent, pas le taureau
les nains dansent sur les chiens, pas le taureau
j’ouvre la fenêtre, pas le taureau
le vent est long le vent court
la nuit aboie au ciel, pas le taureau
le taureau est le jour planté au cœur du jour

Bull

by Pierre Peuchmaurd

The wind is long

the wind runs

the wind screams

The wind screams, not the bull

the world turns, not the bull

the rain falls, not the bull

the rain is red, not the bull

you put on your hat, not the bull

you slide on your gloves, not the bull

red rain, grey grass

those hands slipping along the rainbow

those rooks those strawberries those damsels,

not the bull

the leather pouch, not the bull

the bull is a bag

the heron flies, not the bull

your day of the month, not the bull’s

the drool of girls, not the bull’s

I am another, not a bull

a breath, not a bull

that snow along our fingers, not a bull

I

pour writings into a horn

not the bull

in the shade, not the bull

the bull is black, he is white

the bull is a tailcoat

evening falls, not the bull

love reels, not the bull

you stroke your skin, not the bull

you drown your eyes

you burrow in your cunt, not the bull

the wind screams, not the bull

the wind’s ablaze

the bull is a chuckle an angel a gold trestle

love reels, not the bull

love sails up death’s alleyways,

not the bull

love dies, not the bull

it springs from the bull

love moos, not the bull

the bull is a birdsong

the heron flies the hand passes,

not the bull

that sings wings ripped

that sings with intestines showing

the bull weighs a hundred years of rope

not the rope,

the rope weighs the hanging, not the bull

the wings, not the bull

ripped, the bull

the bull is a leg

the bull is sapwood under the bark of the bull

you are you, not the bull

you are here, not the bull

the dogs are dancing, not the bull

the dwarves are dancing on the dogs, not the bull

I crack the window, not the bull

the wind is long the wind runs

the night barks at the sky, not the bull

the bull is the day planted into the heart of the day

 

translated from French by E.C. Belli
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Surreal & Elemental:
An Interview with E.C. Belli

by: Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Editor Elizabeth Clark Wessel talks with emerging translator E.C. Belli.

I was lucky enough to study translation with E.C. Belli at Columbia University, and I’ve been fascinated since then by her translation process, her fierce advocacy for the little known (in the U.S) French poet Pierre Peuchmaurd, and the work that has resulted from it. She has rendered the elemental, late surrealistic poetry of Peuchmaurd in an evocative, emotional English, and the collection she translated and edited is now available from Oberlin College Press. You can read more of Belli’s translations here.

How did you first become interested in translation and in the translation of poetry? And can you describe some of your first experiences with translation?

I suppose I’ve never experienced life without translation. I grew up speaking French with my Swiss father and my sister (in school as well) and English with my British mother. My mother was very firm about not letting us speak anything else than English with her as she wanted us to be bilingual. After living a day in French, I’d come home and attempt to recapitulate it all in English. It was constant and exhausting. 

As for the translation of poetry and literature, I first became interested in it when I started reading poetry as a preteen. Three authors in particular: Edmond Rostand, Alphonse de Lamartine, and Victor Hugo. But really I think it began with Edmond Rostand (best known for Cyrano de Bergerac): a teacher in junior high school, Madame Vera, gave me his out-of-print book Les Musardises. His poem “Le Petit Chat” had charmed me and I kept going on about it in class. She just pulled out this old book for me one day and sent me home with it. It was my first treasure.

I then discovered Rostand’s play, L’Aiglon, based on the life of Napoleon II (later called the Duke of Reichstadt). Specifically, an unfinished poem from 1894 that was featured in the supplementary materials. It’s called “Un Rêve” (a few lines actually made it into the fifth act of the play): the Duke and Seraphin Flambeau, an old soldier from Napoleon 1st’s Army, stand in a field after Flambeau has struck himself with a sword to avoid being taken alive by the police. In his dying haze, Flambeau imagines he is back at the Battle of Wagram and is dying an honorable death from battle-related wounds. The Duke joins him in his reverie and sees the field fill with dead and dying men, and finds himself helpless amid this widespread suffering. It’s so beautiful and dark and tragic.

I remember wanting, very badly, to translate “Un Rêve” for my British relatives, in particular my grandmother, who is a poet. I’d go at it line by line, on the fly, doing the best I could. Sometimes something magic happened and a line came to life, but more often than not it fell completely flat. It was very frustrating. Two years ago, I wrote an “adult” translation of the poem during a class. It has a lot of problems, but I love it and keep going back to it to make changes. It’s my secret project. I suppose that was my first experience with ‘real’ translation.

What attracts you to a certain project? And specifically, how did you come across the work of Pierre Peuchmaurd?

Oh, I’m hopeless. Love, death, and the carnal! I end up with terrible crushes on projects. And writers. They are often formally innovative and always very charming. I think I literally fell in love with Peuchmaurd when I first read him. I discovered his poem “It Will Come in My Left Lung,” shortly after his death, on the French poetry blog Poezibao. I just wept and wept, even though I didn’t know him. I then went on a rampage and devoured “A Treatise on Wolves” after which I bought all of his books. They were very hard to find. A lot are out of print. But his son, Antoine, has a bookstore in Montréal, Librairie Le port de tête, where he keeps a lot of his father’s works. Check them out on Facebook.

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