He whispered to me:
Beautiful Beaklet! Black fairy! Little one!

Three poems by Radek Fridrich translated from the Czech and with an introduction by Jonathan Bolton.

Bolton photo CircumferenceFridrich photo CircumferenceAlthough his 2011 collection Krooa krooa won the Magnesia Litera for poetry, one of the Czech Republic’s major literary prizes, Radek Fridrich stands somewhat apart from the literary culture of Prague. His hometown of Děčín, on the Czech-German border, is closer to Dresden than to Prague, and his verse draws closely on its local legends and landscape – the area is well-known for its phantasmagoric sandstone rock formations, like the ones where the narrator of “Vogelbird” wanders. Fridrich’s poetry also reflects the mixed Czech-German culture that existed there for centuries, until World War II and the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia. Fridrich covers this territory with great passion and energy, drawing on ballads, incantations, and folk legends (he has also published a book of folk tales collected in Děčín and its environs) to create a powerful voice that mixes the impish and the oracular.

A translator himself, Fridrich speaks German and his verse is sprinkled with German words, as well as with neologisms that mix Czech and German etymology. For his 2001 collection The Speech of the Dead, he first fashioned German poems drawing on the memories of German-speaking inhabitants of a village near Děčín, and then published them alongside Czech versions (which he called “textual variants” rather than literal translations.) The “ghost” of the German language haunts much of Fridrich’s Czech verse, with effects that are not always translatable. For example, the “drop of mourning” at the end “The Old Church Path” is, in the original, kapka traurigu, “a drop of traurig” – the German adjective traurig (mournful, sad) here declined as a Czech noun, with the genitive ending -u, in a multiple displacement that will nevertheless be immediately understandable to most Czech readers. I thought it would be too clumsy to recreate this in translation, since a German word in an English poem would feel far more foreign than in the Czech original; I hoped the German names in the previous stanzas would do the work of locating this poem in a Czech-German cultural landscape. Fridrich’s verse is full of such effects – another is the title “Vogelka,” adding the Czech feminine ending –ka to the masculine German noun Vogel, “bird,” in a construction that would colloquially mean “Vogel’s wife,” but here more strongly suggests simply a nickname – “Bird” or “Birdie” – that encompasses both Czech and German roots.

Another fascinating challenge in translating Fridrich was registering his sudden shifts from the mundane to the magical, from the literal to the grotesque, from impassioned intensity to playful humor – and maintaining the careful balance among these different registers. “The Old Church Path,” once we have overcome our initial confusion and delighted in the poem’s central trick, modulates skillfully from anaesthetized beauty through slapstick to the pathos of the final (and first) stanza. A mood of confused tragedy underlies the whole; as so often in Fridrich, the effect is not to undermine feeling but to strengthen it, with the reversal of stanzas reminding us of the fragility of genuine pathos.

Fridrich ranges freely over lyric, epic, and dramatic genres. He is particularly at home in the dramatic monologue, whether prose poem or verse. But many of his dramatic monologues, like the two I have translated here, have a ballad at their core. In “Snow-Covered House,” the balladic action – a violent death, whether murder or suicide – is refracted through the eyes of a schoolgirl, who seems almost abandoned in a world of absent and surrogate parents. The poem is about her loss of innocence, but at its horrifying climax, there is a moment of simultaneous distraction and intense focus – “To this day I remember every groove and knot in the wooden door.” It’s a fine instance of aesthetic displacement that takes us out of a ballad into the more “psychological” world of the monologue, without losing the force of a balladic world where violence is elemental and sudden. In “Vogelbird,” a romance with undertones of anger and violence again reminds us of the ballad, as do traces of the supernatural; but unlike the ballad with its elemental psychology and unclear motivations, we see into the mind of the heroine and her contradictory impulses. Fridrich thereby relativizes the mysterious pathos of a ballad, but still preserves a sense of wonder and passion – he helps us see the speaker in all her confusion without letting us feel superior to her.

– Jonathan Bolton

Stará kostelní cesta

by Radek Fridrich

 

V

Víko, již tak lehce uvolněné pádem na zem,

se nahnulo na levou stranu a pak se celé sesulo.

Tvář mrtvé Theresie Kleinpeter zírala

do šedomodrého zimního nebe.

 

IV

S pěnivým hřmotem padala do jejích drobných vln

a vzápětí plula po proudu,

nabrala rychlost a narazila na kámen

vypouklý v zrcadle řeky.

 

III

Rakev se dala v nejužší části rokle do pohybu,

řítila se skalnatým tobogánem,

jela po čistém a zledovatělém sněhu

přímo do srdce nezamrzlé divé řeky Kamnitz.

 

II

Snad uklouzl Anton Dinnebier,

jenž nesl rakev vpředu vlevo, snad zakopl o zmrzlou větev

Franz Hieke a Franz Kessler s Karlem Hegenbergerem

již nestačili situaci zachránit.

 

I

Zima, smuteční procesí, mráz a pláč, ženy zahaleny

do černých plédů a kabátců, muži

v kabátech havraních, schoulení, vousatí, sehnutí,

z šedých očí občas odkápne kapka traurigu.

 

from Molchloch (Newttown, 2004)

The Old Church Road

by Radek Fridrich

V

The lid, already loosened by the fall to the ground,

flopped to the left and then broke off completely.

The face of the dead Theresie Kleinpeter gazed

up into the blue-gray winter sky.

 

IV 

Into its rippling waves it fell, with a frothy rumble,

and then floated off with the current.

Picking up speed, it hit a rock

bulging from the river’s mirror.

 

III

In the narrowest part of the ravine, the coffin began to move.

It hurtled down the rocky slide, 

racing over the clean and icy snow

right into the heart of the Kamnitz, the wild, unfrozen river.

 

II

Maybe it was Anton Dinnebier who slipped

as he carried the coffin’s front left corner, maybe a frozen branch tripped up

Franz Hieke, and Franz Kessler and Karel Hegenberger

could not rescue the situation.

 

I

Winter, the funeral procession, frost and tears, the women draped

in black woolen scarves and jackets, the men

in raven coats, huddled, bearded, hunched,

a drop of mourning dropping, now and then, from their gray eyes.

 

from Molchloch (Newttown, 2004)

translated from Czech by Jonathan Bolton
more>>

Zasněžený dům: Mluví Amalia Richter

by Radek Fridrich

Otce odvedli do války a starší bratry taky. Zima byla třeskutá, nad střechami domů se vznášely rovné stuhy dýmů, do školy jsme každý nosili jedno polínko do kamen, abychom se zahřáli. Učitel byl hodný, moc nás nemlátil, ale rákosku měl po ruce pořád. Jednou padal celé dopoledne sníh a já se vracela na oběd. Cestu k našemu domu jsem poznala jen podle zpola zavátých planěk plotu, došla jsem ke dveřím, vzala za kliku a … byly na závoru. Bouchala jsem a křičela: Mami! Otevři! Mami!

        Dodnes si pamatuji všechny rýhy a suky na dřevěných dveřích, i to, jak matku vynášeli sousedi celou od krve z domu a pokládali ji na vůz. Odnesli mě v mdlobách, hladovou a zmrzlou k tetě na noc, u ní jsem pak zůstala, dokud se otec nevrátil z fronty.

 

from Nebožky / Selige (Departed Women, 2011)

Snow-covered house: Amalia Richter is speaking

by Radek Fridrich

They took my father off to the war, and my older brothers too. The winter was bitter cold, ribbons of smoke rose vertically over the roofs of the houses, each of us carried a log for the school stove to keep ourselves warm. The teacher was kind and didn’t beat us much, but he always had his cane to hand. Once it had been snowing all morning and I was coming back for lunch. I recognized the path to our house only by the rough-hewn fence posts, half covered in snow. I reached the door, pulled on the handle and … it was bolted shut. I pounded and screamed: Mama! Open up! Mama!

            To this day I remember every groove and knot in the wooden door, as well as the neighbors carrying out my mother, she was covered in blood, and placing her on the wagon. They carried me off, dazed, hungry, frozen, to spend the night at my aunt’s. I stayed with her until my father came back from the front.

 

from Nebožky / Selige (Departed Women, 2011)

translated from Czech by Jonathan Bolton
more>>

Vogelka

by Radek Fridrich

Mám orlí nos a úzký obličej

a říkají mi – Vogelka.

 

Můj manžel nic od života nechtěl,

byl hodný a němý,

ale dvě děti jsem s ním měla.

 

Courala jsem s nimi ve skalním městě.

Děti prolézaly lochy skal,

sbíraly klacíky a šnečí ulity.

Já hledala bludný koření,

avšak místo něj se zjevil on,

uhrančivý krhavec,

který zlomil mé zpustlé srdce.

 

Scházeli jsme se v noci,

když manžel spal,

a milovali se ostřicí pořezaní po celém těle.

Křičela jsem tak šíleně,

že ptáci vyplašeně poskakovali

na okolních stromech.

 

Šeptal mi:

Zobáčku! Černá vílo! Maličká!

 

Měla jsem vždy lesklou mázdru

kolem svých hnědých očí,

když jsem se s ním ráno loučila.

 

Jak to tak bývá u ohnivých znamení,

vášeň brzy vystřídala
zlost.

Jakou silou mě k sobě

připoutal?

Jakými čáry uhranul?

Jakým právem si mě

přivlastnil?

A do skal jsem už nešla.

 

Často jsem pak slyšela jeho táhlé,

kvílivé volání.

Uši si zacpávala

láskyplnou hrůzou

a ve svém těle uzamkla

zurčivý pramen,

který ve mně probudil.

 

Navěky však budu slyšet

ta šeptaná, skalnatá slova:

Zobáčku! Černá vílo! Maličká!

 

from Nebožky / Selige (Departed Women, 2011)

Vogelbird

by Radek Fridrich

I have an eagle’s nose and a narrow face

and they call me – Vogelbird.

 

My husband demanded nothing from life,

he was kind and mute,

but I had two children with him.

 

I wandered with them among the sandstone cliffs.

The children crawled through holes in the rocks,

gathering up sticks and snail shells.

I was looking for a Root of Bewilderment,

but he appeared instead.

His watery, bewitching eyes

broke my abandoned heart.

 

We would meet at night

while my husband slept,

and we made love, our bodies covered in cuts from the sharp sedge.

I cried out so madly

the frightened birds hopped about

in the surrounding trees.

 

He whispered to me:

Beautiful Beaklet! Black fairy! Little one!

 

A shiny glaze always

covered my brown eyes

when I parted with him in the morning.

 

As tends to happen with fiery signs,

passion soon gave way

to wrath.

With what force did he

bind me to him?

With what enchantments did he bewitch me?

By what right did he

take possession of me?

And I stopped walking among the rocks.

 

Often I would hear his drawn-out,

howling call.

I plugged up my ears

with a loving horror

and locked up in my body

the bubbling spring

he awakened in me.

 

Forever will I hear

those whispered words of stone:

Beautiful Beaklet! Black fairy! Little one!

 

from Nebožky / Selige (Departed Women, 2011)

 

translated from Czech by Jonathan Bolton
more>>

Outside:
The entire dead ocean, emptying itself

ZURITA-COVER-FINAL

 

Two poems from The Country of Planks / El País de Tablas by Raúl Zurita, translated by Daniel Borzutzky. Available now from Action Books. 

 

Prisión carguero Lebu

by Raúl Zurita

 

 

PRISIÓN CARGUERO LEBU

-El país de tablas-

 

 

Cristo Rey, recuerdo que era algo

así: arriba la escotilla dejaba ver

el primer morado del cielo y

alguien maldecía el ronroneo de

los generadores. Adentro, otros

cuerpos; nubes de carne tiradas

como sacos. Afuera el nombre

del barco recostado contra el alba

 

OSTENDE NOBIS DOMINE

MISERICORDIAM TUAM

 

Afuera:

Todo el océano muerto vaciándose

 

 

Y el océano se partía al medio vaciándose y los peces se 

amontonaban en la noche como cerros resecos 

 

Y el tajo del mar se hacía cada vez más hondo y la noche 

se iba pariendo para adentro como un pez que se traga a 

sí mismo   sí: como peces tragándose

 

Como marejadas tragándose   cuando arrastrados por la 

resaca vimos el país de tablas venírsenos encima   Son 

las resacas de la noche: grita mi compañero mirando las  

pesqueras como ciudades    Somos la pesca   le replican 

los prisioneros   mutilados de piernas y brazos   como 

montañas de peces contorneándose en la asfixiada noche

 

BESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswy

 

Cargo Ship Lebu Prison

by Raúl Zurita

 

 

CARGO SHIP LEBU PRISON

-The country of planks-

 

 

Christ the king, I remember it was

something like that:  the sky’s first 

purple could be seen through the  

hatchway and someone cursed

the purring of the generators. 

Inside,  other bodies; clouds of flesh

scattered like sacs.  Outside the name 

of the ship leaned against the dawn

 

OSTENDE NOBIS DOMINE

MISERICORDIAM TUAM

 

Outside:

The entire dead ocean, emptying itself 

 

 

And the ocean parted in the middle emptying itself and the fish

piled up in the night like dried up hills

 

And the open wound of the sea each moment deepened and the 

night was birthing inwards like a fish that swallows itself    yes:

like fish swallowing themselves

 

Like sea swells swallowing themselves    when we were dragged by 

the undertow we saw the country of planks come on top 

of us   They are the undertows of the night:  my compañero 

screams as he looks out at the fishing boats that are like cities      

We are the catch reply the prisoners   legs and arms mutilated   

like mountains of fish twisting in the asphyxiated night  

translated from Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky
more>>

Prisión carguero Maipo

by Raúl Zurita

 

 

PRISIÓN CARGUERO MAIPO

-Empalizados farellones-

 

 

El bramido del inmenso Pacífico

resonaba como si quisiera decir

algo mientras que más abajo,

amontonados como sacos en la

bodega del buque carguero Maipo,

yo abrazaba el dolor de un otro y

aún me parecía sentir los pájaros

sobrevolando la playa. Sí, yo oí

al otro en las rocas y la arena

muerta caía sobre ellas como

tus ojos jamás vistos cubriéndolas

 

- Bahía de Valparaíso/

  1973. Prisiones

 

 

Y así seguía el descenso   encallado entre sus muertos el 

carguero Maipo reaparecerá en el desierto 

 

Y al lado los mismos farellones rugientes del mar   uno 

frente al otro   altos   tempestuosos   mostrando arriba la 

angosta franja del cielo 

 

Cuando todo el frente de la muerte entró en el mar como 

un continente en las furiosas aguas   Son las mareas 

golpeando los empalizados farellones de Chile   repiten 

los prisioneros del Maipo mirándolas   Los cargamos 

replica la escuadra de tablas arrastrándolos entre los 

acantilados del Pacifico   nudosos   ciegos   llevándoselos

 

Maipo Cargo Ship Prison

by Raúl Zurita

 

 

MAIPO CARGO SHIP PRISON

-Palisaded crests-

 

 

The bellowing of the immense Pacific 

resonated as if it wanted to say 

something while further down we were

piled on top of each other like sacs

in the bodega of the Maipo cargo ship.

I embraced the pain of an other and

I thought I still sensed the birds flying 

over the beach.  Yes, I heard the other in 

the rocks and dead sand fell over them 

like your unseen eyes covering them  

 

Valparaiso Bay/

1973. Prisons

 

 

That’s how the descent continued    shipwrecked between  

its dead the Maipo cargo ship will reappear in the desert 

 

And next to it those same roaring crests of the sea    one

in front of the other    tall    tempestuous    revealing  

above the narrow strip of the sky

 

When all of death’s front entered the sea like a continent 

in the furious waters    They are the tides pounding the 

palisaded crests of Chile    repeat the prisoners of the

Maipo as they look at them    We carried them replied

the plank squadrons dragging them between the cliffs

of the Pacific    knotted    blind     taking them away 

BESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswyBESbswy

 

translated from Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky
more>>
 
 Cover design by Andrew Shuta.

Your breath bright with presence is origin.

Three poems by Pilar Fraile Amador, translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis. 

PilarBN 8x5_1470. pequeu00F1aldavisPilar Fraile Amador is one of the most innovative of the generation of poets to come of age in post-Franco Spain. She writes in a voice beyond the constraints of self-isolating, institutionalized Spanish poetry, creating work that is non-linear, multi-vocal, and disjunctive. Poems from her collection Larva & Hedge move with stark grace and invite the reader to enter into an imaginative coexistence, a world at once surreal and imbued with a sense of déja vu. Within this unearthly province, poet and reader alike must consider the play between the intimate and the collective, the past and the present, the human and the animal.

Larva, the section in which the following poems appear, explores an undercurrent of unnoticed correspondence that exists between human beings, a wellspring of the collective subconscious. Here, individual and communal memories intermix and alter one another, and the living are able to communicate with objects and the dead. Inherited memories both enable and limit a speaker struggling to articulate her difference.

Fraile Amador investigates the destruction of the name as one means to strip selfhood from context. Names, these poems posit, allow us to recognize and to be recognized but can just as easily function as cages: they distance us from all within us that cannot be articulated. In Larva, the name–bestowed by mother and father, a bridge between two halves–is set on fire. The first lines of the volume show that this act is simultaneously generative and destructive: “I make tinder of my name / and wait for the seed.”

–Lizzie Davis

Read full article

They knocked my teeth out.
I became a member.

Two Poems by Ma Lan translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin.

MaLanCharlesLaughlin

 

为牙齿写首情诗

by Ma Lan

1:我要打掉我的大牙。打掉牙齿有八种方法。

轻轻打。重重打。先轻后重。先重后轻。

 

2:作为新鲜出炉的2003年歪脖镇桂花诗人,我的牙医是耶鲁大学医学博士。

他坚持要我深度清洗牙齿.

他站在喜马拉牙山教尼泊尔的孩子学刷牙。

刷出阳光,刷出微笑。 现代工业社会讲究微笑。

雪山随流而下。

 

3:我参加了牙齿俱乐部。会费三百歪脖人民币。

我的介绍人姓名保密,只有二位.一位证人。

他们把我从床上拉出去,打了我一顿。我领到了申请书。再打。

把我牙齿打掉了。我入会了。

 

4:刷牙的目的。正确刷牙的方法。

 

饭后刷牙。使用电动牙刷, 。刷牙不宜用力过猛.。

美容牙齿有脱色、贴面、烤瓷三大类。

 

如果你刷牙的目的不纯洁,那你牙齿不会洁白。

如果你没有正确的刷牙方法,你的牙齿不会态度端正。

 

5:人的一生共有二副牙齿,还要进行乳、恒牙的交替过程。

 

人们应该熟知而深刻体会牙齿的先进精神,每颗恒牙的萌出有一定的时间和顺序,并且左右侧同名牙是成对 萌出的。其中,第一颗恒磨牙大约在六岁左右萌出,所称“六龄牙”。

 

6:我的右边牙齿突然掉了。

 

没有说明.我找不到说明书。

 

7:我咬牙切齿。牙齿咬人,咬狗。

 

难怪牙要落地.天地为之变色。

 

8:被调查的65名26~39岁的舌癌患者中,有56名患者皆有牙齿向舌侧倾斜.

 

这可能暗示了国际政治冲突的缘由。暗合了我们左右为难。左右逢源。

 

9:打掉的牙齿往肚里吞。牙齿就从胃里长出来。

Writing a Love Poem for a Tooth

by Ma Lan
1. I want to knock out my molars. There are eight ways to knock them out.
Knock them out lightly. Knock them out hard. First lightly then hard. First hard then lightly.
 
2. As I am the freshly minted 2003 Poet Laureate of Bent-Neck Village, my dentist is a Yale PhD.
He insisted that I do a deep cleaning.
He stands on the Himalayas teaching Nepalese children to brush their teeth.
Brushing in the sunshine and smiles—modern industrial society takes smiling seriously
The snowy mountains flow downward.
 
3. I joined a tooth club, the dues were 300 Bent-Neck dollars.
My sponsors’ names are secret, there are only two. One witness.
They pulled me off my bed and beat me up. I picked up my application. They beat me again.
They knocked my teeth out. I became a member.
 
4. The purpose of a toothbrush. The correct method of brushing your teeth.
Brush after eating. Use an electric toothbrush. Don’t use too much force as you brush.
Cosmetic dentistry has three categories: stain removal, capping, and enameling.
 
If your goal in brushing your teeth is not pure, your teeth will not get white.
If you do not have the correct toothbrush method, your teeth will not have a proper attitude.
 
5.  According to legend, there are two sets of teeth in our lives; we must make a transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth, or we become inhuman
We must familiarize ourselves with and deeply understand the progressive spirit of teeth
The emergence of each permanent tooth adheres to the time and order of its elders—in the moonlight each tooth and its comrade emerge on the left and right
The first permanent molars emerge at about age six, and so are named “six year molars”
 
6.  One of my right teeth suddenly fell out.
No explanation, and I could not find the instructions.
 
7.  I clenched my teeth. Teeth bite people, bite dogs.
No wonder the tooth wanted to fall out. Heaven and earth changed color because of it.
 
8.  “Of 65 tongue cancer victims surveyed between ages 26 and 39, 56 have teeth tilted toward their tongues.”
This could be a sign of the cause of international political conflicts: implicit agreement disturbed from left and right; advantage gained from both sides.
 
9.  The knocked-out tooth is swallowed down. Then it grows out of the stomach.

 

translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin
more>>

Read full article

Evening comes into our house –
a little bitter and very clean

 

Amanda Aizpuriete Inara 25 poems by Amanda Aizpuriete translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins.

 

[Tālu aiz pilsētas krītošu raķešu gaismā]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

Tālu aiz pilsētas krītošu raķešu gaismā

Kareivja māte izkravā manu maisu.

 

Tur purva, nakts un nāves smarža visam.

Māt, vai mēs uzvarai ticam?

 

Pulkstenis, šķiltavas, dzeltējošs meitenes smaids.

Papira driskas. Pēdējais sveiciens? Vaids?

 

Dzeja. Par nakti, purvu un nāvi.

Tālāk par naktīm, purviem un nāvēm –

 

Par pilsētu. Par pieneni. Par mums.

 

[Far beyond the city in the light of falling rockets]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

Far beyond the city in the light of falling rockets

The soldier’s mother loaded a sack with objects.

 

There was a grove, night and the smell of death on everything.

Mother, do we still believe in victory?

 

Clock, cigarette lighter, the golden smile of a girl.

Tatters of paper. A last greeting? A wail?

 

Poetry. About night, the grove and death.

Further than nights, groves and deaths –

 

About the city. About a dandelion. About us.

translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins
more>>

[Simtiem reižu sacīts: baidies miera.]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

 

Simtiem reižu sacīts: baidies miera.

Ilgi baidījusies, nu vairs nebaidos.

Attek migla – manu namu

Baltiem karodziņiem post.

Nāve papļāpāt ar mani nekautrējas.

Vienas cilts mēs esam,

Vienas dzejas,

Naktīs klausos tos, kas elpo tālu

Puķu, klusuma un drupu zemē.

[A hundred times it’s been said: fear peace.]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

A hundred times it’s been said: fear peace.

Long having feared, I no longer fear.

Fog flows in – my house

attacked by white flags.

Death is not shy of chattering to me.

We are of one tribe,

one poem.

Nightly I listen to those who breathe, distant,

in the land of flowers, silence and ruins.

translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins
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three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

Six poems by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan. 

foto (2)KI first discovered Rilke Shake while browsing the poetry section at Livraria Cultura, a large bookstore in Porto Alegre. I grabbed it because of the title; the pun on “milkshake,” which in Brazil’s vernacular means just what it does in English, made me laugh. The voice in the poems stood out to me because it was funny and female, portrayed queerness, used speech from the south of Brazil, and combined local and global perspectives to deal with questions of personal and poetic identity. I was intrigued by this voice, which grappled with the poets of the past but had a style unlike most other poetry on Brazilian bookshelves. I walked into the street with a new book to devour.

The shake is Freitas’s symbol of poetic invention; it is the delicious mess of combination that makes poetry. In Freitas’s vision, poetic formation is life formation. Life in these poems occurs in concrete scenes—a family library, a young person’s room, a city street—but the setting and its artifacts always point to the human interior. By shaking together literary classics, pop culture, pastoral fantasy, and more, the poems reflect upon and attempt to understand the self, and the poet’s art.

–Hilary Kaplan

cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

abriremos a janela mais tranquilas para ver

não esse tanto de edifícios mas

 

vacas aparando a grama

galinhas arregaladas

galos em estacatos

 

abriremos a janela toda

 

não só uma fresta para a ver a vida besta

que se desenrosca amanhecida nos metros

 

porque lá só haverá tatus

underground

 

só haverá o blues

rural

 

 

cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

tranquil we will open the window to

see not this endless mass of buildings but

 

cows clipping the grass

wide-eyed hens

roosters in staccato

 

we will open the window wide

 

not just a sliver to see brute life

untwist asleep from the metros

 

because there will only be armadillos there

underground

 

there will only be country

blues

 

 

translated from Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
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Once resuscitated, I will be a book.

A poem by Sarah Kernya translated and with an introduction by Virginia Konchan. 

Sarah Kernya author photoVK Author 2“Nothing is clear when you are perpetually ‘in search’ of something,” as Julia Kristeva says. “Elles Cherchent” (“They Are Searching”), an excerpt from a French poetry collection by Marseilles-based poet Sarah Kernya (pictured left), entitled Rappel (Bleu du ciel, 2007), creates a poetic volta—and theatrical denouement—to Kristeva’s observation. A collection of cartographic poetics set in a post-9/11 international landscape of fear, Rappel forges historic lineages and paths forward into signification out of the miasmas of global capitalism: “Elles Cherchent” interpolates the daily habitus of an individual life with the exigencies of relationship, with the ghosts and living ecrivains of French literature (Simone de Beauvoir, Pascale Roze, Elsa Triolet), as constellated in the moving epistolary fragments between the speaker and her female mentor and muse, Huguette. Restoring to contemporary poetics the Sapphic powers of granting names and social legitimacy to women outside of patrilineal structures (“Seven percent of the Goncourt prizewinners are women”), the speaker claims to “pretend to be an animal of significance,” while, through the very act of remembrance and marking (of ancestral and literary relations) in fact enacts her own, and others, right to be present, and occupy space, however futile the socio-political endeavor may seem at times (“Thirty years since Allende shot / a bullet into his head, / rather than surrendering”) in a new republic of her own making: that of poesis (specifically la langue of French letters, from the Song of Roland to Christine Pizan to Baudelaire) restored.

–Virginia Konchan

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A wild tiger’s excesses.
Or an ocelot.

Three poems by Macario Matus translated from Zapotec into Spanish by the author, with English translations and an introduction by Wendy Call.

MatusPhotoJuchitanIn Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, twenty miles north of the Pacific Ocean, the city of Juchitán has produced an enormous constellation of musicians, poets, storytellers, and painters. Juchitán’s traditional language, Isthmus Zapotec, was the first New World language to be written down, more than two thousand years ago. Over the last century, many bright lights of indigenous literature have come from Juchitán. Macario Matus was one of the most prominent; he influenced an entire generation of Zapotec storytellers and poets. One of those poets, Irma Pineda, said of Matus, one year before his death in 2009, “Macario Matus is in my life like water, like daylight. He exists, has always existed. I can’t pinpoint the date that we met; no one introduced us for the first time. And yet, every day I discover him, I recognize him, because every day he invents something new, something surges forth from that imagination—abundant, terrible, tireless, ferocious.”

Born January 2, 1943 in Juchitán, Macario Matus moved to Mexico City as a young adult to study; he continued to migrate between the two cities throughout his life. Matus published his first book at age 26, eventually producing more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories, journalism, criticism, history, and translations. He founded Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, the cultural center where multiple generations of juchiteco musicians, painters, and writers—like Irma Pineda—took their first art classes. 

Matus passed away on August 6, 2009, at the age of 66. Three months after his death, a center for Isthmus Zapotec culture opened in Mexico City—a project of Matus’s for the last six years of his life. “Centro Cultural Yo’o Za’a Macario Matus” offers workshops taught by writers and artists who were students in Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura under Matus’s leadership.

Unlike Irma Pineda, I never met Macario Matus in person. But like her, his work seems to have been around me, in the air and water, since my first visit to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in 1998. I discovered the bilingual poem “Bidóo Bacáanda / Dios del Sueño” (“God of Dreams”) in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, in June 2001. I don’t remember where I first encountered “Bidóo Gubéedxe / Dios de la Lujuria” (“God of Lust”) or “Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu / Dioses Nuestros” (“Our Gods”). All three poems appear in Matus’s 1998 collection Binni Záa (Los Zapotecas), but I’m sure that’s not the first place I read those poems. Books are still relatively rare and precious in Juchitán. By the time I borrowed a copy of Binni Záa, long since out of print, from Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, those poems were already familiar to me. In Juchitán, individual poems are passed around hand to hand, ear to ear. They flow through life like water, like daylight.  

–Wendy Call

Bidóo Gubéedxe

by Macario Matus

Guennda rigúu béedxe páa cáa guennda ranna xhíi

guláaqui cáa bée láa rigúu béedxe béedxe guíixhi.

Béedxe guíixhi, láani.

Guennda ráaca díiti máani stíi binni síica máni dúuxhu.

Xhiñée quíi gáaca núu síica béedxe guíixhi

páa láa núu gúule núu ndáani dúuxhu mée yáa.

Guennda ranna xhíi rudíi láa síica béedxe zée xpiáani.

Guennda ranna xhíi ngáa láaya béedxe náazi yanni.

Guennda béedxe ngáa ranna xhíi guiráa xhíixhe láaya binni,

guíidi láadi, bixhúuga náa máani, bixhúuga náa binni, guíicha

ruáa binni, guiée lúu béedxe ndáani yóo.

Guennda ranna xhíi née cúu béedxe ngáa ráaca binni máani née

binni guíidxi layúu.

¿Xhíi guiráa guíidxi layúu née cáa xpidóo lá?

guennda ranna xhíi née guennda rigúu béedxe zuzuhuáa cáa

huaxhíini, ridxíi.

God of Lust

by Macario Matus

Love or lust

they called a wild tiger’s excesses.

Or an ocelot.

Men shiver instinctively,

like ferocious animals.

How could we not be like ocelots

if born of their spirited viscera.

Love is mad cats in heat.

Love is eyeteeth threaded into your neck

Lust is loving with all your teeth,

skin, claws, fingernails, whiskers, cat’s eyes.

To love and be lustful is to be animal, or man.

To lust and to kiss is to be woman with sugared bile.

When the earth and its gods meet their end,

love and lust will preside over night, over day.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios de la Lujuria

by Macario Matus

La lujuria o el amor

lo llamaron excesos del tigre silvestre.

Ocelote, pues.

Estremecimientos instintivos

de los hombres como animales fieros.

Cómo no íbamos a ser como ocelotes

si nacimos de sus entrañas briosas.

El amor es entrega de felinos a lo loco.

El amor es colmillos ensartados al cuello.

Lujuria es amar con todos los dientes,

pieles, garras, uñas, bigotes, ojos de gato.

Amar y ser lujurioso es ser animal u hombre.

Lujuriar y besar es ser mujer con hiel azucarada.

Cuando se acabe la tierra y sus dioses,

el amor y la lujuria presidirán la noche, el día.

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu

by Macario Matus

Ndáani cáa guiée nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

ndáani tíi yáaga nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

xháa xcúu nabáani xpidóo dúu,

ndáani níisa dóo née níisa guíigu

nabáani cáa bidóo bizibáani láa dúu.

Níiza guiée xhúuba, béedxe, béeñe

náaca cáa xpidóo dúu, bixhóoze née bíichi cáa dúu.

Guidúubi guíidxi layúu ngáa jñáa dúu.

Our Gods

by Macario Matus

In every stone lives one of our gods,

in every tree dwells one of our gods,

our god lives under the roots,

within the water of river and sea,

dwell the gods who gave us life.

Rain, corn, jaguar, and lizard

are gods, fathers, brothers and sisters. 

All of nature is our mother.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dioses Nuestros

by Macario Matus

En cada piedra vive un dios nuestro,

en cada árbol mora un dios nuestro,

bajo las raíces vive nuestro dios,

entre las aguas del mar y del río,

moran los dioses que nos dieron vida.

La lluvia, el maíz, el tigre, el lagarto

son dioses, padres y hermanos.

La naturaleza toda es nuestra madre.

 

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Bidóo Bacáanda

by Macario Matus

 Guúzi Góope síica Moctezuma guníi xcáanda

cáadxi binni quíichi née ruáa ráaxhi

zéeda yéete cáa lúu níisa dóo tíi quíiñe ntáa láa.

Née huandi, lúu cáa baláaga quée, déeche cáa máani quée veda

ndáa cáa binni guníi xcáanda xaíique quée.

Núu ndáani layúu stíi xaíique quée záa quée bíini núu xipiáani

riníi xcáanda cáa.

Rúuya cáa síica ráaca ridxíi níi chíi guizáaca lúu.

Cáa bacáanda quée, guníi zéeda quée, náaca cáa níi huandíi

néexhe náa.

Nguée rúuni quíi nucáa lúu cáa bée, bidíi cáa bée guíiba gúuchi,

layúu, née lúuna rizáaca.

Cáa bacáanda ngáa díidxa huandíi. Tíi gúuca huandíi guennda

ruziguíi stíi cáa binni quíichi.

Yanna láaga xhuxháale lúu núu riníi xcáanda núu huandíi ngáa

huandíi.

God of Dreams

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, like Moctezuma, dreamed

that some bearded white men

would come from the sea to dethrone him.

And yes, they arrived on huge ships, riding horses,

those men who the king had dreamed.

In the Zapotec kingdom there were wise men who dreamed.

They saw, clear as day, what soon would happen.

The dreams, they foretold, are waking realities.

And so they surrendered, handing over gold, land, and kingdom.

Dreams are real. The white men’s lie was real.

Now that we have awakened, we dream that truth is real. 

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios del Sueño

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, como Moctezuma, soñó

que unos hombres blancos y barbados

bajarían de los mares para destronarlo.

Y sí, sobre unas barcazas, sobre unos caballos,

llegaron aquellos hombres que había soñado el rey.

Había en el reino zapoteca los sabios que soñaban.

Veían como si fuera de día lo que pronto sucedería.

Los sueños, predijeron, son realidades despiertas.

Por eso se entregaron, dieron el oro, su tierra, reino.

Los sueños son verdad. Fue verdad la mentira de los blancos.

Ahora que estamos despiertos, soñamos que la verdad es verdad. 

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Photo of the author courtesy of Irma Pineda.

the hurtling tornado
bears down on poplars

A poem by Pierre Chappuis translated from French by Tim Keane and Myriam Moraz.

Hommage ˆ la PoŽsie, Pierre Chappuis

Photo of Pierre Chappuis, 2010, Geneva, Switzerland, by G. Perret.

Tel un cri

by Pierre Chappuis

Tel un cri (d’où ? de qui ?), le tourbillon de la foudre s’allume. Nuit secouée, jetée à terre, reformée pour être ressaisie (étranger, hôte de passage tâtonnant entre les meubles), sauvagement prise et reprise. Dehors, champs, villages s’illuminent. Saillies, bondissements, nuit déhiscente (quel autre bruit plus lointain, plainte ou aboi ?), lueurs sur le pays déchiqueté, fractions englouties avant d’être aboutées, franchissement de l’abîme, dévalement de la tornade sur les peupliers, les jardins piétinés. Tel l’oiseau fabuleux (dormeur que le songe enveloppe de nouveau), la pluie, dans l’amorce grise du matin, ne viendra qu’une fois le calme rétabli.

Like A Cry

by Pierre Chappuis

 

Like a cry (from where? from who?), whirlwind from the lightning flash. Night is shaken, knocked to the ground, recovers to be steadied again (stranger, passing guest,  groping among the furniture), savagely seized and seized again. Outside, fields, villages, light up. Jutting, leaping, dehiscent night (which noise is further, the barking or the moaning?), glimmers over decimated earth, portions swallowed before coming to a head, clearing the chasm, the hurtling tornado bears down on poplars, trampled gardens. Like the mythical bird (sleeper wrapped in dream once more), the rain, in morning’s gray light, will only come once the calm’s restored.

translated from French by Tim Keane & Myriam Moraz
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And from the sea
the Policeman can be seen

Four poems by Dmitri Prigov translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich. 

[Глядь — уж новая лежит]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Только вымоешь посуду

Глядь — уж новая лежит

Уж какая тут свобода

Тут до старости б дожить

Правда, можно и не мыть

Да вот тут приходят разные

Говорят: посуда грязная —

Где уж тут свободе быть

[Soon as you're done with doing dishes]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Soon as you’re done with doing dishes

Look — new dishes stacking up.

May I ask, what sort of liberty is this,

If one can barely just keep up?

Sure, you could leave the dishes dirty,

But here, from God knows where, they come

Complaining the dishes haven’t been done.

So where, then, is there room for liberty?

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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Банальное рассуждение на тему разумности идеалов

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Погода в Москве к идеалу приблизилась

А раньше была ведь весьма далека

Была непонятлива и жестока

Поэтому часто мы с ней препиралися

 

А тут идеалы мои поменялися

И сразу погода приблизилась к ним

Вот так вот природу безжалостно мучим мы

И мучимся сами ужасно притом

 

A Banal Discourse On the Topic of Reasonable Ideals

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

The Moscow weather has become very near ideal

While earlier it was quite far from it

A bit slow on the uptake, and rather cruel

Which is why we wrangled, finding no agreement

 

And then, all of a sudden, my ideals were different

And straight away the weather rose to meet them

And thus we mercilessly torment nature

While we torment ourselves terribly by the same

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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[Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер

Ему до Внуково простор весь открывается

На Запад и Восток глядит Милицанер

И пустота за ними открывается

И центр, где стоит Милицанер —

Взгляд на него отвсюду открывается

Отвсюду виден Милиционер

С Востока виден Милиционер

И с моря виден Милиционер

И с неба виден Милиционер

И с-под земли…

Да он и не скрывается

[When the p'liceman stands here at his post]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

When the p’liceman stands here at his post

Expanses all the way to Vnukovo unfurl before him

The P’liceman gazes to the West and to the East

And emptiness unfurls behind them

And the center, which the P’liceman holds:

A view of him unfurls from ev’rywhere

From ev’rywhere the Policeman can be seen

From the East is seen the Policeman

And from the sea the Policeman can be seen

And from the sky is seen the Policeman

And from beneath the very earth…

Anyway, he isn’t hiding

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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[Я устал уже на первой строчке]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Я устал уже на первой строчке

Первого четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот до четвертой дотащился.

 

Вот дотащился до первой строчки,

Но уже второго четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот и до конца, Господи, дотащился.

[I'm only on the first line]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

I’m only on the first line

Of the first quatrain and I’m exhausted.

Now I’ve made it to the third line,

And now to the fourth, just barely.

 

And now I’ve made it to the first line

But this time of the second quatrain.

And now to the third line, barely,

And to the end, oh God, I’ve made it.

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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