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

Play

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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cows with one horn, one tail,
one leg, one eye, one teat.

Two poems by the Ukrainian poet Vasyl Holoborodko, translated by Svetlana Lavochkina

Vasyl Holoborodko

Svetlana Lavochkina

Translator’s note: 

Ukrainian poetry is often a riddle to foreign readers. It has a strong insider appeal, full of obscure heroes, historical, cultural, and political allusions. Two years ago, I was asked to prepare a selection of Ukrainian poetry for a generational anthology featuring authors born after World War II. For weeks, I tried to find poems that might speak to an international audience, but what I found seemed too dependent on allusion and rhyme until I came across Vasyl Holoborodko’s magical blank verse. An apartment in need of tidying up, a broken motor bike, first love, a conversation with a village neighbor – universal topics, unpretentious diction – yet each of the poems is deeply rooted in Ukrainian ethos.

In 1999, Holoborodko became Laureate of the National Shevchenko Award, the highest Ukrainian literary distinction, and his poems are taught in schools. Still, he leads a hermit’s life in provincial Luhansk. It was impossible to find any personal contact info; he’s notorious for his “complexity of character” and his “reticence.” So how then was I supposed to contact this poet to secure his permission to translate?

I devised an ingenious trick. I called the Mayor of Luhansk’s office. “I’m the Editor in Chief of the American anthology Such and Such,” I lied to his secretary in a solemn voice. My introduction sounded impressive enough for her to put me through to the Mayor, who then gave me Vasyl’s address and telephone number. I called the poet after an hour’s hesitation.

We had a long, cordial conversation. I experienced nothing of the reticence I was warned about and which, taking his dramatic biography into account, Vasyl has every reason for. “I love words,” he told me, “and mine are not fiery – they teem with bees and butterflies.”

Later Vasyl sent me his newest work, which were a pleasure to translate. Some of those poems are presented. In the unglamorous rural setting of his poems everyday things are distilled into their divine essences.

–Svetlana Lavochkina

Хатка на одну людину

by Vasyl Holoborodko

У цьому селі

у кожній хатці – невеличкій хаті –

– готельному номері на одну особу –

– шпаківні на одного шпака –

– вулику на одну бджолу –

живуть по одному:

не тільки старі, родичі яких давно повмирали,

або з’їхали кудись у світи із села,

а й молоді – різного віку –

жінки й чоловіки, дівчата й парубки та й діти.

 

У цьому селі

вранці – від кожної хатки –

виганяють на пасовище корову

з одним рогом,

з одним хвостом,

з однією ногою,

з одним оком,

з однією дійкою.

 

У цьому селі

виходить – із невеликої хатки –

самотній чоловік,

іде по сусідах,

щоб скластися з кимось по гривні

та хоч пляшку купити,

та розпити разом,

але він ніколи нікого не знаходить,

тому наодинці повертається

до своєї хатки – невеликої хати,

а через деякий час із іншої хатки

виходить інший самотній чоловік

з тією ж метою – зустрітися з кимось –

але й цей чоловік нікого не знаходить:

ніколи ніде нікого не зустрічає.

 

(Епіфанія: не знайти з ким випити –

символ за ознакою: залишитися в самоті,

і далі перебувати самому, ірреальна можливість

спілкування, проблематична для мешканців

маленьких хаток і реальна можливість,

яку усвідомлює автор).

A Hut For One

by Vasyl Holoborodko

In this village

In every hut – a small hut –

– a single hotel room –

– a nesting box for one starling –

– a hive for one bee –

there live, one of each:

not only the old people whose families died long ago

or moved away into the wide world,

but also young ones – of different ages –

men and women, lassies and lads, and children.

 

In this village

in the morning – from every hut –

they drive out cows to graze –

cows with one horn,

one tail,

one leg,

one eye,

one teat.

 

In this village

a lonely man

comes out of a little hut –

knocking at his neighbors’ doors

to stack up a grivnya with someone

and buy one bottle of liquor

to drink together;

but he finds no one,

and returns home alone

to his hut –

a small hut,

and a little later another lonely man

leaves another hut

with the same purpose –

to meet someone –

but this man finds no one:

never, nowhere, no one does he ever meet.

(Epiphany: to find no one to drink with

is a symbol, by definition, of being lonely

and remaining lonely; unreal opportunity

of communication, problematic

for the dwellers of small huts – and a real opportunity

of which the author himself is aware.)

translated from Ukrainian by Svetlana Lavochkina
more>>

Поштовий голуб

by Vasyl Holoborodko

Кучанин, після багатьох років,

під час випадкової зустрічі зі мною,

став розповідати про своїх голубів

(став жаліти своїх голубів)

(Епіфанія: голуб – символ за ознакою

“бути тим, що знаходиться посередині”):

“Пам’ятаєш, у мене колись були голуби,

так мої дівки просто замучили одного голуба –

заманулося їм вивчити його на поштового голуба:

то було прив’яжуть йому до ніжки квітку

якусь із городчика перед хатою,

а як відійдуть квіти,

то ложку, то виделку прив’яжуть,

а як і їх уже не ставало,

прив’яжуть гайку чи гвинтик,

які завжди валялися на подвір’ї

(хіба один раз лагодив свого мотоцикла!) –

та все пускали того голуба летіти

(Епіфанія: квітка – символ за ознакою

“бути тим, що найкрасивіше за все на світі”,

ложка чи виделка, гайка чи гвинтик –

символи за ознакою “бути тим, що мале”).

А голуб із таким листом саме стільки міг летіти,

аби тільки через яр

до стежки на протилежному боці міг долетіти,

а там на стежці завжди сідав.

Чи ти не бачив коли того голуба,

адже ти часто ходив саме тією стежкою за яром?”

“Ні, жодного разу не бачив, мабуть,

він устигав злетіти,

якось відв’язавши дзьобом

свого кожного разу нового листа,

до того часу,

коли я з’являвся на стежці,

хоча інколи мені й кидалися у вічі

то квітка якась із городчика,

то ложка чи виделка,

то гайка чи гвинтик,

але ж я жодного разу не пов’язував

ці знахідки із вашим двором,

із вашими голубами,

із городчиком коло вашої хати,

із вашим вічно ремонтованим мотоциклом”.

“Це тривало того літа,

коли моя менша стала дівкою,

і щойно звернула на тебе увагу

та й думала вже тільки про тебе,

про тебе,

як ти проходиш стежкою за яром”.

Pigeon Post

by Vasyl Holoborodko

I ran into an old village neighbor

who told me about his pigeons

(he empathized with his pigeons).

(Epiphany:

a pigeon, by definition, is

“something which is in the middle”).

“Remember, I used to have a pigeonry,

and my girls wouldn’t let one of the pigeons alone –

they got it into their heads

to teach it homing.

To its leg, they would tie a flower

from the garden by the house,

and when the flowers wilted,

a spoon or a fork;

when they ran out of spoons or forks,

they would tie a nut or a screw

that were always scattered about in the yard

(my motor bike always needed repair!) -

and they would let the pigeon fly.

(Epiphany:

a flower, by definition,

is something “which is the most beautiful thing in the world”;

a spoon or a fork,

a nut or a screw is “something small”).

But the pigeon could not fly far with such a letter:

just over the valley

to the path on the opposite side,

and there on the path it would always sit down.

Did you, perchance, see that pigeon -

you often walked that path beyond the valley?”

“No, not once. Maybe

it managed to fly away,

having somehow undone

every new letter with its beak

before I appeared on the path –

although sometimes

a garden flower,

a spoon or a fork,

a screw or a nut

would catch my eye,

but not once did I connect these

to your orchard,

your pigeons,

your motor bike in eternal need of repair.”

“It all happened in the summer

when my younger girl came of age

and fancied you at once –

she would only think

of you,

of your walking the path beyond the valley.”

translated from Ukrainian by Svetlana Lavochkina
more>>

 

little white powders that don’t fill
the urns they were poured into

Two poems by the Swedish poet Håkan Sandell, translated by Bill Coyle

Till en väninna på resa i Thailand

by Håkan Sandell

Snart, när din fot på nytt rör europeisk jord

och det fem veckors eländighet sedan du for,
så går det underjordjskt genom vår union
elektriska stötar helt upp till förvisningens Oslo,
där jord och hjärtan skakar till för eruptionen
som bryter upp skorpan och smälter likt blod
allt motstånd mot de ringvis spridda blommor
som höjer sig från marken upp kring fågelbon
fruktträden väntande hållit tomma av trohet,
trofast som bara det gamla hopplösa Europa.
Om kvällarna bärs svart, speglarna fått sorgflor
i sovrummen och folket här tycks grovare.
Sedan du for ligger de sjuka obotbara,
de unga kriminella går än mer oförsonliga,
poeterna vänt ryggen åt sin inspiration
och hänger sig åt det tillbakahållet oinfriade.
Men säg mig du, fann du själens djupa ro
där under vattenblåa skyars guldtillrande sol
med händer sammanfällda i en öppen lotus,
förtonade jaget i en högre dimension
i ett land som hyllar koncentration och jämnmod,
eller mottog du droppande från världens klo
vilt blod längs kinderna på unga män, från kvinnors
försålda attraktioner, från tupp och orm,
det blod som brinner genom alltings illusion?
Fast kanske du i famnen på ditt resesällskap
har sluppit välja, bronsgyllene och oljeglänsande
med bara navelns insida snövit i din solbränna,
med svala drycker framburna och läskande
tills vi där hemma tycks dig alltmer främmande,
så overkliga som vaga rörelser på risfälten?
Du ska ivartfall veta att också han är älskad,
jag säger det så du kan veta med bestämdhet
att jag är en totalt förlorad människa.
Långt framför Buddhas lugn väljer jag korsfästelsen,
kärleken långt hellre än begärets utsläckelse,
förälskelsen i alla dess plågsamma förväntningar
helt upp från gravarnas resterande efterlämningar
av ungdomsvännerna—små vita pulver nedhällda
som inte fyller ut i urnorna. De fällde man
men än är vi här.

Åh du, snart återvänder du,

det samlas pilgrimer vid Santiago de Compostela
på knä, som jag för att du snart äntligen …
Jag väntar dig som langaren sin stora sändning
från drömlandet, från heroinets rena källa.
Det finns inget annat som kan frälsa mig
än en beröring, att landningshjulen fälls ner,
sen landningsstället, och så dina lätta steg
på Schönefeld eller Charles de Gaulle, kanhända
att allt som verkade slut kan börja om igen,
att kontinenten går att rädda och jag med den;
istället för att sakta tyna bort, förgängelsen
få vända om i upprinnelsens omloppskrets
så än en gång hemliga flöden kommer vällande
inunder bark och tunn blek hud och fjäderdräkt.
Går inte det, så om det bara kan fortsätta
som förr, med samma hänsynslösa längtan
som aldrig kom till rätta, fram genom åraräckor
av skapande och kärlek och av självödeläggelse.
Europa är i dina händer, vänd hemåt.

To a Female Friend Traveling in Thailand

by Håkan Sandell

Soon, when your foot treads European soil once more,

and this five weeks since your departure, weeks of sheer torture,
then subterranean electric shocks will go
throughout our Union, on up to my exile’s Oslo,
where heart and soil will shake with a volcanic explosion
that breaks the crust and melts like blood all that opposes
the scattered flowers that resurrect themselves and grow
up suddenly among the bird’s nests, fruit trees holding
their branches empty from sheer faithfulness, devoted
as no place can be save our hopeless old Europa.
Evenings we put on black, mirrors wear veils of mourning
in bedrooms, and the people here seem gauche and gross.
Since you’ve been gone, the sick have lain past hope of cure
the juvenile delinquents go more antisocial,
and, backs turned on their inspiration, most of the poets
incline to striking noncommittal, modest poses.
But tell me, did you find the deep peace of the soul
there beneath aqua skies the sun had edged with gold
with your hands clasped together in an open lotus,
did your “I” wink out there in that country that extols
the qualities of concentration and composure,
or did you take from the world’s dripping claw the flow
of wild blood down the cheeks of young men, from the sold-off
attractions of the women, from game cocks and cobras,
that blood that burns through the illusory world we know?
Or maybe, in the arms of the one you’re travelling with,
you’ve put off choosing either, gold-bronze, oiled up, glistening,
with just the inside of your navel showing snow-white still,
and chilled, refreshing drinks borne out to you, until
those of us here at home seem less and less familiar,
unreal as movements in those rice fields in the distance.
In any case, know that he, too, is loved. And this
I say by way of vindicating your suspicion
that I am an entirely lost individual.
Rather than Buddha’s calm, I choose the Crucifixion,
choose love, its fires, rather than desire extinguished,
falling in love, with all its painful probabilities
all the way up from graves’ remaining residuum
of friends from youth, little white powders that don’t fill
the urns they were poured into. They were killed,
but we’re here still.

 

When you return, as soon you will,

oh then at Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims
will gather, on their knees, like me, because you are immanent….
I await you like the dealer waits for his big shipment
of “snow” from dreamland, from the drug’s pure spring. Listen,
a touch is the one thing that can deliver me,
the landing gear being lowered, then the landing strip,
you disembarking, then the soft click of your flip flops
through Schönefeld or Charles de Gaule, and my one wish is
that everything might start again from the beginning,
the continent be salvageable and I with it;
decay, instead of disappearing bit by bit,
reverse and circle back into its genesis,
so that again there comes the swell of hidden rivers
beneath tree bark and feathers and the thin, pale skin.
And if that fails, well, then, if things could just continue
the way they were before, go on with the same pitiless
longing that through ranged years of creativity,
love, self-destruction, neither failed nor found fulfillment.
Europe is in your hands, come home, grant my petition.

translated from Swedish by Bill Coyle
more>>

Sophögen

by Håkan Sandell

När du berättar för mig om åren i Alaska,

om tiden hos en indianstam som du hade,

så känner jag ett spår av den gamla entusiasmen

inför världens ursprung och begynnelse.

Man hade “allt” vad tänkas kan av senaste

modellen platteve och hushållsapparater.

Men när det kom till sanitet, gick hela stammen

med sitt tarv till kökkenmöddingen mitt ibland

byns ringanlagda hus; man stack rumpan fram

mot sopbergets runda brant. Det gick väl an

om höst och vår men om vintrarna så stank

en arktisk köld i skinnet, och somrarna de stank

på ljusa kvällar som lockat all traktens population

azurblå och grönt metallfärgade flugor

till ljuset av din mjukt utputande vita lampa.

Förlåt mig, kära, det är bara det att jag ser

det framför mig, din röda mun och naglarna

som elva färgpunkter i ljushavets abstraktion.

I motljus, sophögen glittrande av flaskglas,

med utstickande ben som inte klarats losslitas

av hundarna, likt harnesk-hornen på en drake

som slumrat under de avverkade skogarna.

Den skälver, suckar till av utandning och afton.

En orm, en varelse, som drömmer halvvaken,

de gröna ögonen av flaskbottnarnas glas

och kropp av plast och bildelar och djurkadaver.

Här strandar laxskörden, och kanske musselskal,

om inte bara kyckling nuggets från guldgruvan

av det allenarådande systemets globala

koncernföretag, här som de sista indianerna

såg kabelteve och drack öl, men vad vet jag.

Bara sophögen har jag egen erfaring av,

och inte av kanoter längs med Stilla Havet

som uppdragna har fyllts av sommardagens

knappt märkbart avtagande ljus som kvällsglittrar.

Den upptornade sophögen i det platta landskapet,

som rundas, välvs, längs med ett kupat kustavsnitt.

Det tycks mig spännas ut, med meredianerna

från pol till antipod; på toppen av världen

från vit kalott till mörkblå kust, under luftig sfär.

Ditt skimrande klot, Världsherre, nu lyser jorden

och sophögen, hör hur den vinliknande jäser

i härlighet, ett välstånd med kurs mot himlaporten.

Den glänser: skrot, metall, och ben med muskelvävnad

av mikrochipsens ådernät längs kretsplattor.

Vår världs rika sopor, Herre, här till din ära.

Med kärnans industriskrot och mjukdelarna över,

organiskt komposterade med rök och utdunstning

från sophögen som välver sig likt globen kröker

längs med ett rundat Stilla Havets kant och tunga.

De skuggningar som böljar över bergssluttningar

i eftermiddagssol passerar havet och högen

med färg- och formväxlingar som om lovsjungna.

En sophög i en ödemark, som skimrar än

av barrskogs fosforsgröna tak och havets chromblå,

en trakt där skymningsljuset förfinat nerslungats

med ängelns fall till skarpt markerad avstjälpning.

Ett Sion av förruttnelse och av myllrande liv,

en brokig mångfald men tilldömd sitt förtvinande.

En plats där man ser hela himlen, kant till kant,

friskt kylig, och vidsträckt uppfattar var diamantslipad

detalj av klotets dygn som skyndar vidare.

Vad kan jag kalla dig, dystra hög, som tindrar när

en stråle faller där du framvisar dig så nersölad

som här i frän odör, med vår bestämmelse förfelad.

Du drömmer förgäves om kokongens frigörelse,

för vilket högre syfte och mening fortlevande,

med bara spasmerna i bestånd av uppståndelsen

i innandömets jäsning, och endast seende

med dessa insektsvärmarnas facettögon

på mygg och spyflugor i molnform, cirklande

omkring dig i solnedgång som varar hela dygnet.

Snart midsommar, högst upp på blå meredianer

vill även så en tarvlig sophög bli välsignad.

Från lägsta nivå sträcker den sig uppåt, Herre,

till sista andetag lovprisande Din skapelse.

The Trash Pile

by Håkan Sandell

When you tell stories from the years spent in Alaska,

about that sojourn with an Indian tribe you had,

I feel a fraction of my old enthusiasm

for the aboriginal and primeval coming back.

It seems that they had everything a man could ask for:

the most advanced appliances, the latest flat screens.

but as for sanitation…The whole tribe would track

out to the midden situated out in back,

the houses round it in a ring, and stick their asses

out at the pile’s round slope; it wasn’t all that bad

in fall and spring, but the cold stung you like small daggers

in winter and in summer the stench made you gag,

on bright nights that lured the whole local population

of beryl-blue and beer-bottle-glass green metallic

flies to the light of your softly bulbous white lamp.

Forgive me, love, it’s just that I can actually see it

before me, your red lips and nails eleven fast points

of color in that oceanic light’s abstraction.

Backlit, the trash heap glittering with its bottle glass,

with bones the dogs as yet can’t wrench loose sticking out

as if they were the armored horns of a great dragon

that has been slumbering beneath the logged-out forests.

It sighs with exhalations and evening, spasms passing

through it. A wyrm, a tragic creature dreaming half

awake, its green eyes made of bottle-bottoms’ glass,

its body of plastic, car parts, animal cadavers.

The salmon harvest strands here, and mussel shells, perhaps,

if not just chicken nuggets from a gold mine run

by our all-powerful, global conglomerate or one

of its subsidiaries—as here the last Indians

watched cable and drank beer. Though when it comes to that,

all I have actual experience of is the trash pile,

not the canoes by the Pacific Ocean, dragged

up at day’s end and filled with summer daylight practically

undiminished when as evening light it gleams.

The trash pile towers over the surrounding flatlands

following a curved stretch of coastline, and it seems

to me to stretch along with the meridians

from Pole to antipode, at the world’s top from white

calotte to dark blue coast, under an airy sphere.

Your shimmering orb, Lord of this world: Now the earth shines,

and the trash pile, listen how it ferments like wine,

in glory, welfare bound for the celestial port.

It shines: scrap, metal, and bones with muscle fibers

of microchips’ spider veins along the circuit boards.

Our world’s luxurious trash, Lord, to your honor here:

the core industrial waste, soft parts on the outside,

organically composted, smoke and vapors hung

above the trash pile, arching like the planet curves

along the bends of the Pacific’s edge and tongue.

The shadings billowing across the mountain slopes

in late light pass the ocean and the pile, shifting

form and color as if their praises were being sung.

A trash heap in a wasteland, shimmering still

with the pine forests’ phosphor green and sea’s chrome blue,

a tract where evening light is delicately flung

down with the angel to this demarcated dump.

A Zion both of swarming life and of decay,

a motley multiplicity doomed to waste away.

A place where you can see the whole sky at one time,

briskly chill, and widely eye each diamond cut

detail of the globe’s day that hurries on its way.

What can I call you, dismal pile, who sparkle when

a ray of light falls where you show yourself as soiled

as here, in this stench, all our expectations spoiled.

You dream in vain of the cocoon’s emancipation,

for what higher purpose and meaning continuing to live,

with only spasms standing in for the resurrection

deep in the interior’s seething fermentation,

and seeing only with swarms of compound insect eyes

mosquitos and bluebottles in cloud formation circling

around you in a dusk that lasts the whole night through.

Midsummer soon and far up in the blue meridians

A sordid trash pile craves a benediction, too.

Up from the lowest level it perpetually stretches,

Lord, and it lauds unto its last breath your creation.

translated from Swedish by Bill Coyle
more>>