I was perfectly calm before sinking

Two poems by Max Jacob translated by Sophia Lecker


Les Régates de Concarneau

by Max Jacob


Les noyés ne coulent pas toujours au fond. Il suffit même à un troublé dans l’eau de se souvenir qu’il a su nager et il voit son pantalon s’agiter comme les jambes d’un pantin. Aux régates de Concarneau, c’est ce qui m’arriva. J’étais parfaitement tranquille avant de couler, ou bien ces élégants des yoles qui passent remarqueront mes efforts ou bien…bref, un certain optimisme. La rive toute proche! Avec personnages israélites grandeur nature et des plus gracieux. Ce qui me surprit au sortir de l’eau, c’est d’avoir été si peu mouillé et d’être regardé non comme un caniche, mais comme un homme.

The Concarneau Regattas

by Max Jacob

Drowning people don’t always sink to the bottom. It is even enough for someone struggling in the water to remember that he knew how to swim and then he sees his trousers flap around like the legs of a jumping jack. That’s what happened to me at the Concarneau regattas. I was perfectly calm before sinking, or well those elegant people in their skiffs passing by will notice my efforts or well…in short, a certain optimism. The shore so close! With life-sized Israelite individuals of the most gracious sort. What surprised me in getting out of the water was that I was hardly damp, and that people looked at me not as a poodle, but as a man.

translated from French by Sophia Lecker

Le Fond Du Tableau

by Max Jacob


C’est une petite partie de campagne! une petite partie autour d’un puits. La pauvre enfant est seule sur la plage, sur les rochers en pente de la dune et on dirait qu’il y une auréole autour de sa tête. Oh! je saurai bien la sauver! moi, le gros boursouflé je cours, j’accours. Là-bas autour du puits on joue la Marseillaise et moi j’accours pour la sauver. Je n’ai pas encore parlé de la couleur du ciel parce que je n’étais pas sûr que ce ne fût avec la mer un seul tableau lisse couleur des tableaux d’école en ardoise souillée de craie, oui, avec une trainée de craie en diagonale, comme le couteau de la guillotine.

The Depths of the Painting

by Max Jacob

It’s a little party in the countryside! A little party near a well. The poor little girl is alone on the beach, on the steep rocky slope of the dune, and you might say there is a halo around her head. Oh, I’ll know how to save her! Me, the fat puffy one, I rush I run. Down there near the well they are playing the Marseillaise and I’m rushing to save her. I haven’t mentioned yet the color of the sky because I wasn’t sure that with the sea it doesn’t make a smooth painting the color of a blackboard smeared with chalk, yes, with a diagonal trail of chalk like the blade of a guillotine.

translated from French by Sophia Lecker

but in the morning they soberly sweep their naked rooms

Two poems by Olja Savičević Ivančević translated by Andrea Jurjević 

olja       andrea


by Olja Savičević Ivančević

toliko svile se odmotava


pod mojom kožom neprekidno


da su me staratelji morali skloniti


u hram


među krčmarsko svećenstvo


tu ćeš, rekli su, mala


učiti pisati nogom po vjetru


i vjetrom po gradskim morima


izučit ćeš vještinu


bacanja letećih olovčica


(da zatvorenih očiju razvežeš pupak


i rasiječeš bradavicu)




vidjela sam kako pjevaju i ljube ludi učitelji


kako preskaču lipu i vodotoranj


ponekad pripiti trče uz zidove kuća


ali ujutro trijezno pometu svoje gole sobe


nježno obuku svoje gole žene i mladiće


povežu ono što je ostalo od kose


u perčin rečenica


i lebde iznad svetih tastatura




prvu sam lekciju svladala iz domaćinstva


složila sam svu silu u bale


kao u malom dućanu metraže


trebalo mi je trideset godina


još toliko će mi trebati


da razvrstam dugmad riječi


i sve te aplikacije




bojim se, u međuvremenu,


ostarit će učitelji, popušit će svoje lule vjere


a s njima i hrabrost i mudrost


brine me što će se dogoditi s njihovim kostima po čitankama


tu nitko živ više neće moći


sastaviti pjesnika

An Apprentice

by Olja Savičević Ivančević

so much silk unrolls


continually under my skin


that the guardians had to move me


to the temple


among the clergy of the tavern


they said, here, little one,


you’ll learn how to write by throwing a leg over the wind


and with the wind over the city seas


you’ll learn the trade


of flinging flying pencils


(so with eyes closed you unknot the navel


and cut the nipple)




I saw how crazy teachers sing and kiss


how they jump over the linden and the water tower


sometimes tipsy they run along the walls of houses


but in the morning they soberly sweep their naked rooms


gently dress their naked women and young men


and bind what’s left of their hair


into bundled sentences


hover over holy keyboards



I first mastered homemaking


I folded all the silk into bales


like in a little fabric shop


it took me thirty years


and I’ll need that many more


to sort the word buttons


and all of their use




meanwhile, I’m afraid,


the teachers will get old, finish smoking their pipes of hope


and with them both courage and wisdom


I worry about what will happen to their bones in the books


not a living soul will be able


to assemble a poet

translated from Croatian by Andrea Jurjević


by Olja Savičević Ivančević

Prošlo je i više vremena od onog koje je trebalo


Da može sjesti do tebe i potapšati ti glavu


S obje ruke sretna, kao bongo. Moj oče, stari ljubavniče.


Počinje period u kojem se u mislima spušta u luku


Uz bedem, ali zavoj je oštar, trga se koža sa lijeve plećke i puca karoserija


Ti svakih nekoliko ljeta tražiš ime za svoj brod


Nazoveš je i pitaš za mišljenje, govorite o roditeljima i djeci, o brakovima


Koji su uglavnom sretni i zdravlju, poslovima


Kaže ti: bio si u pravu, zaboravila sam te kao i svoje grudi prije četrnaeste


Na tebe pomisli kad vidi konduktera: bijele hlače, nikad suviše čiste


I češće se vezano uz tebe sjeti tvog malog psa koji je po dugom hodniku


Kuće kotrljao kosti. I vodoskoka.


Ali otkad se dogodila nesreća iz njenih su snova kao miševi pobjegli svi—osim tebe.


I eto te gdje se pokrećeš po čudnom nalogu, njenom


Pušiš i povlačiš klompe na krivim dlakavim nogama


A ona ide pored tebe u košuljici bez rukava


Prekratkoj da joj se ne bi vidjela stražnjica pička bedra


Uzalud je navlači i ti iako ravnodušan uviđaš njen problem


To su samo njeni snovi, ali i na javi bi joj rekao:


Ne brini, normalno hodaj, pa ja idem ispred tebe,


Uostalom, moja stara kćeri, moja mlada ljubavnice,


Sami smo na cesti, uostalom.  


by Olja Savičević Ivančević

More time passed than was necessary


For her to sit beside you and happily with both hands


tap your head like a bongo. My father, old lover.


That time starts when she imagines going down to the harbor


By the rampart, but the turn is sharp, the skin from her left shoulder tears and the chassis breaks


Every few summers you seek names for your boat


You call and ask her opinion, talk about parents and kids, about marriages


That are mostly happy and about health, work


She says: you were right, I forgot you like I forgot my fourteen-year-old breasts


She thinks of you when she sees a bus conductor: white pants, never too clean


And more often she remembers your little dog that rolled bones down the long hallway


Of the house. And the waterfalls.


But since the accident everyone ran out of her dreams like mice—except you.


And look, you now march under a strange order, hers


You smoke and drag clogs on crooked hairy legs


And she walks beside you in a sleeveless shirt


Too short to cover her ass snatch thighs


Hopelessly she pulls it down, and you, even though indifferent, see her problem


These are just her dreams, but even in reality you’d say to her:


Don’t worry, walk naturally, I’m next to you,


After all, my old daughter, my young lover,


We’re alone on the road, after all.  

translated from Croatian by Andrea Jurjević

I want to be awakened from our love

Two poems by Gili Haimovich translated by Dara Barnat

 Gili Haimovich      DaraB

These translations from Hebrew of “The Perfect Set” and “Too Easy” are part of an ongoing collaboration between Gili Haimovich and myself. My translations of Gili’s poetry can be found in journals including Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, International Poetry Review, Poetry International, and Blue Lyra. Gili’s translations of my poetry to Hebrew appear in Shvo, Makaf, and other Hebrew-language publications. 

“Too Easy” is from Gili’s last book Baby Girl, Emda Publishers, 2014, and “The Perfect Set” is from Lint Season, Pardes Publishers, 2011.

—Dara Barnat


הַסֵּט הַמֻּשְׁלָם

by Gili Haimovich

.הָאַהֲבָה שֶׁלָּנוּ יוֹתֵר מִדַּי מַתְאִימָה לָרִהוּט


.וְהִיא נִשְׁמַעַת בְּאֵיכוּת סְרָאוּנְד עַל רֶקַע גֵּ ‘אז מָהָגוֹנִי


הָאַהֲבָה שֶׁלָּנוּ לֹא קוֹרַעַת


,הִיא תּוֹפֶרֶת



.וְגַם בָּזֶה יֵשׁ מִנְּעִיצוֹת הַמַּחַט בַּבָּשָׂר הַחַי


.מְדַמָּה אוֹתָן לַצְּבִיטוֹת שֶׁמּוֹכִיחוֹת שֶׁזֶּה לֹא חֲלוֹם


.חֲבָל שֶׁאֲנִי לֹא יְכוֹלָה לְהָקִיץ מֵאַהֲבָתֵנוּ



הָאַהֲבָה שֶׁלָּנוּ יוֹתֵר מִדַּי מַתְאִימָה לַצַּלָּחוֹת


.שֶׁקָּנְתָה לָנוּ אִשְׁתּוֹ הַשְּׁלִישִׁית שֶׁל אָבִיךָ


אֲבָל הִיא לֹא טְעִימָה עִם מָה


.שֶׁמִּתְבַּשֵּׁל עַל הַכִּירַיִם



הָאַהֲבָה הַזּאֹת מַתְאִימָה לָאַגָּדָה שֶׁבְּסוֹפָהּ הָיִיתִי הַכַּלָּה הֲכִי יָפָה


.אֲבָל אֲנִי נְמוּכָה, כְּבֵדָה וְנַשְׁכָנִית מִדַּי

The Perfect Set

by Gili Haimovich

Our love fits the furniture too much.


And it’s heard in surround sound jazz that circles the mahogany.


Our love doesn’t rip,


it sews.



And in this there’s also the sense of a needle going into flesh.


The punctures are like pinches that prove it’s not a dream.


I want to be awakened from our love.



Our love fits the plates too much,


the ones that your father’s third wife bought us.


But it doesn’t taste good with what’s


cooking on the stove.



This love fits the end of a fairy tale in which I’m the most beautiful bride,


but I’m too short, heavy, and sharp.

translated from Hebrew by Dara Barnat

קלה מידיי

by Gili Haimovich

הַלַּילְָה נוֹשֵׂא אוֹתִי

,אֲבָל לֹא כְּהַבְטָחָה

,לֹא כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאֲנִי נָשָׂאתִי אוֹתָךְ


,עַל הֶחָזֶה



,עַל ראֹשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי

,עַל צַוַּאר דַּאֲגָתִי

.בְּשֶׁלֶג סוֹחֵף

הַשִּׁירִים בָּאִים

.כְּמוֹ קַלִּים מִדַּי


,כִּמְעַט קַל מִדַּי

,מוּבָן מִדַּי מֵאֵלָיו

,לִהְיוֹת אִמָּא שֶׁלָּךְ

.לִהְיוֹת שַׁיּכֶֶת לָךְ

Too Easy

by Gili Haimovich

The night carries me

but not like a promise,

not like how I carried you,

in the stomach,

on the chest,

the back,

the neck,

on the head of my joy,

on the shoulders of my concern.

through swirling snow.


The poems come

almost too easily,

it’s almost too easy,

too obvious,

being your mother,

belonging to you.

translated from Hebrew by Dara Barnat

for me who asked but did not receive forgiveness

Two poems by Kim Yi-deum translated by Jake Levine and Soeun Seo

아우라보다 아오리

by Kim Yi-deum

벚꽃나무 아래 사과 파는 노파

조시나 죽으셨나

엉덩이가 바닥에 닿을락말락

덧없는 간극

덤불 부스러기 줄 하나

사도 그만 안 사도 그만


갈 데가 없어

타는 버스

한내 1 길발 110 번

한 노선밖에

타도 그만이고 안 타도 그만


맨 뒷자리 창에 기대어 비스듬히

바라보는 오래된 취미

어쩐지 나는 무호흡의 깊은 잠을


내린 곳은 북한 신의주 시내

수영복이 든 비닐가방을 들고 누군가를 기다리는 나

손 흔들며 오는 남자

희미한 얼굴 번져나가는 살결, 햇살이 혀끝으로 그를 핥고


아마 우리는 아주 평범한 연인 사이

수줍고 어색하게

풀장도 가고 포옹도 하는


눈을 뜨네 나는

아우라가 사라지네

운전기사 쪽으로 굴러가는 푸른

아오리 가망 없는 도망

깨어난 나는 데스데모나 팥쥐 애너벨 리 살아난 바리데기

현실은 꿈 없는 예외적 시간

사라진 방앗간에서 불어오는 고추 마르는 냄새





More Than Aura, Aori

by Kim Yi-deum

Selling Aori apples under a cherry blossom tree, that granny

Has either dozed off or she is dead.

Ass almost to grass

And the gap between, fleeting

A vein inside the leaf of a crumbled bush

Is about the same whether you buy it or not.


With nowhere to go

I ride the bus.

The 110 to Hannae Street

Has just one route

Whether you ride it or not.


I have this old hobby of staring sideways

Leaning askew against the window of the back seat of the bus and

In the deep sleep of breathlessness, somehow, I exist.


In downtown Sinuiju, North Korea, I get off.

Holding a vinyl bag with a bathing suit inside, I wait.

A man approaches, waving.

A faint face spreading out its skin, the sun licks him with the tip of its tongue.


I guess we are a pretty mundane couple.

Bashful, awkwardly

We hug each other and go to public pools.


Whenever I open my eyes

The ambience disappears.

An escape attempt without hope, the green

Aori rolls toward the driver of the bus.

Awake, I am Desdemona, Patzzi, Annabelle Lee, the Barideki

Living reality in an exceptional time without dreams—

The drying smell of peppers

Blowing out a mill that disappeared.





translated from Korean by Soeun Seo & Jake Levine

사과 없어요

by Kim Yi-deum


아 어쩐다, 다른 게 나왔으니, 주문한 음식보다 비싼 게 나왔으니, 아 어쩐다, 짜장면 시켰는데 삼선짜장면이 나왔으니, 이봐요, 그냥 짜장면 시켰는데요, 아뇨, 손님이 삼선짜장면이라고 말했잖아요, 아 어쩐다, 주인을 불러 바꿔달라고 할까, 아 어쩐다, 그러면 이 종업원이 꾸지람 듣겠지, 어쩌면 급료에서 삼선짜장면 값만큼 깎이겠지, 급기야 쫓겨날지도 몰라, 아아 어쩐다, 미안하다고 하면 이대로 먹을 텐데, 단무지도 갖다 주지 않고, 아아 사과하면 괜찮다고 할 텐데, 아아 미안하다 말해서 용서 받기는커녕 몽땅 뒤집어쓴 적 있는 나로서는, 아아, 아아, 싸우기 귀찮아서 잘못했다고 말한 후 제거되고 추방된 나로서는, 아아 어쩐다, 쟤 입장을 모르는 바 아니고, 그래 내가 잘못 발음했을지 몰라, 아아 어쩐다, 전복도 다진 야채도 싫은데





No Apology

by Kim Yi-deum

what to do, something else was delivered, something more expensive than the food I ordered, what to do, I didn’t ask for seafood, look here, I ordered regular jajangmyeon, no, you ordered seafood jajangmyeon, should I call the owner and tell him to change it, what to do, if I call, the employee will get chewed out or he will have the seafood rate deducted from his pay or, at the worst, he’ll get fired, oh hell, if he says sorry I’ll eat it, but he didn’t even give me pickled radish, he didn’t even apologize, if only he said sorry, for me who asked but did not receive forgiveness, for me who received all the blame, for me, my expulsion, my deletion, after not putting forth the effort to fight, apologizing, mercy me, it’s not like I don’t know his position, maybe I mispronounced it, in any case, I don’t like abalone, I hate chopped vegetables




translated from Korean by Jake Levine & Soeun Seo

Burn. Know. Surrender.

A translation from the Patanjala Yoga Sutrani by Kanya Kanchana

Kanya Kanchana_HeadshotSadhana Pada: The Chapter of Doing It is an excerpt from my experimental translation of a Sanskrit text called Patanjala Yoga Sutrani (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).

Estimated to be around 2,400 years old and attributed to the eponymous Indian sage, it is a braid that weaves together 196 sutras or aphoristic verses on yoga. It has four chapters: Samadhi Pada (51 verses),Sadhana Pada (55 verses), Vibhuti Pada (56 verses), and Kaivalya Pada (34 verses). Each verse is subsequent and consequent to the one before.

This taut, vital text has its lovers and its dissenters. It begins with the assumption that you have already done everything necessary to practice yoga. Cryptic yet bright, exacting yet liberal, it endures as a technical manual for the mind.

Its translations and commentaries, however, are prosaic and verbose, scholarship notwithstanding (or perhaps as a result thereof). In my translation, I want to come back full circle to the original text, regaining some of the terse, textured quality of these multilayered sutras in a modern idiom.

This text is also called Yoga Darshan. Darshan means vision, a higher form of seeing beyond the senses and the mind. In Sanskrit, one word can have many layers of meaning, yet convey a precise idea in context. I choose my words carefully—simple, strong, capable of deeper meaning. I cut everything superfluous and keep the tone light. I pay attention to the sonics of the chant, with emphasis on certain elements. Mostly, I just have fun.

—Kanya Kanchana

साधना पाद

by Patanjali

तपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि क्रियायोगः॥१॥


समाधिभावनार्थः क्लेशतनूकरणार्थश्च॥२॥


अविद्यास्मितारागद्वेषाभिनिवेशाः क्लेशाः॥३॥


अविद्याक्षेत्रमुत्तरेषां प्रसुप्ततनुविच्छिन्नोदाराणाम्॥४॥


अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या॥५॥




सुखानुशयी रागः॥७॥


दुःखानुशयी द्वेषः॥८॥


स्वरसवाही विदुषोऽपि तथारूढोऽभिनिवेशः॥९॥


ते प्रतिप्रसवहेयाः सूक्ष्माः॥१०॥




क्लेशमूलः कर्माशयो दृष्टादृष्टजन्मवेदनीयः॥१२॥


सति मूले तद्विपाको जात्यायुर्भोगाः॥१३॥


ते ह्लादपरितापफलाः पुण्यापुण्यहेतुत्वात्॥१४॥


परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेवसर्वं विवेकिनः॥१५॥


हेयं दुःखमनागतम्॥१६॥


द्रष्टृदृश्ययोः संयोगो हेयहेतुः॥१७॥


प्रकाशक्रियास्थितिशीलं भूतेन्द्रियात्मकं भोगापवर्गार्थं दृश्यम्॥१८॥


विशेषाविशेषलिङ्गमात्रालिङ्गानि गुणपर्वाणि॥१९॥


द्रष्टादृशिमात्रः शुद्धोऽपि प्रत्ययानुपश्यः॥२०॥


तदर्थ एव दृश्यस्यात्मा॥२१॥


कृतार्थं प्रति नष्टमप्यनष्टं तदन्यसाधारणत्वात्॥२२॥


स्वस्वामिशक्त्योः स्वरूपोपलब्धिहेतुः संयोगः॥२३॥


तस्य हेतुरविद्या॥२४॥


तदभावात्संयोगाभावो हानं तद्दृशेः कैवल्यम्॥२५॥


विवेकख्यातिरविप्लवा हानोपायः॥२६॥


तस्य सप्तधा प्रान्तभूमिः प्रज्ञा॥२७॥


योगाङ्गाऽनुष्ठानादशुद्धिक्षये ज्ञानदीप्तिराविवेकख्यातेः॥२८॥




अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः॥३०॥


जातिदेशकालसमयानवच्छिन्नाः सार्वभौमा महाव्रतम्॥३१॥


शौचसंतोषतपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः॥३२॥


वितर्कबाधने प्रतिपक्षभावनम्॥३३॥


वितर्का हिंसादयः कृतकारितानुमोदिता लोभक्रोधमोहपूर्वका मृदुमध्याधिमात्रा दुःखाज्ञानानन्तफला इति प्रतिपक्षभावनम्॥३४॥


अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥


सत्यप्रतिष्ठायां क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम्॥३६॥


अस्तेयप्रतिष्ठायां सर्वरत्नोपस्थानम्॥३७॥


ब्रह्मचर्यप्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभः॥३८॥


अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंतासंबोधः॥३९॥


शौचात्स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः॥४०॥


सत्त्वशुद्धिसौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शनयोग्यत्वानि च॥४१॥














ततो द्वन्द्वानभिघातः॥४८॥


तस्मिन्सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः॥४९॥


बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्तम्भवृत्तिर्देशकालसंख्याभिः परिदृष्टो दीर्घसूक्ष्मः॥५०॥


बाह्याभ्यन्तरविषयाक्षेपी चतुर्थः॥५१॥


ततः क्षीयते प्रकाशावरणम्॥५२॥


धारणासु च योग्यता मनसः॥५३॥


स्वविषयासंप्रयोगे चित्तस्य स्वरूपानुकार इवेन्द्रियाणां प्रत्याहारः॥५४॥


ततः परमा वश्यतेन्द्रियाणाम्॥५५॥

Sadhana Pada

The Chapter of Doing It

by Patanjali

        Burn. Know. Surrender.


Clean up. Hurt less.

Know not—suffering.


Much I—suffering.

Like much—suffering, dis-


like much—suffering.

And death—oh, suffering.


All four—suffering.

Know what’s what.


What’s real. What’s pure.




What’s what. This I.

That I. See clear.


Good stuff, like it.

Bad stuff, dislike it.


Dying, fear it.

All right.   


                   Stop it.


Draw in. Go in.

Feel it. Cut down.


Store it. No way.

Feel it. Go through.


Born how. Born where.

How long. Get what.


Good stuff/ bad stuff.

Sow seed. Reap fruit.







See it.

                   Hurt less.


All done. Close it.

Mix up. See how.


Doer. Done to.

Seer. One seen.


One seen. Light up.

Move it. Steady now.


Mental. Astral.

Causal. No mark.


See clear, colour.

Unveil. Know it.


See how. For what.

See link. Free up.


This one, goes out.

That one, goes on.


See Self. Unfold.

Inside, outside.


Know not. Tie up.

Know it. Free up.


See through. Know it.

All seven. Go through.


Go on. Clean up.

Rise up. See through.


Eight limbs, five out,

three in. Do it.


Hurt none. Hold true.

Hold clear. Hold back.


Hold loose. That’s one.

Hold all. For all.


Clean up. Just right.

Burn up. Know Self.


Surrender. That’s two.

See across. Calm down.


See through. See true.

Clear heart. Stay down.


Hold true. Take fruit.

Hold clear. Take gems.


Hold back. Stay brave.

Hold loose. Know how.


Clean up. Cut loose.

Focus. Take reins.


Just right. Take joy.

Burn up.




Know self. Meld with.

Surrender. Merge in.


Sit still. Solid.

Sit still. Feel good.


Loosen. Lighten.

Focus. Easy.


Opposites. No worries.

Inhale. Exhale.


Stop it. Stay still.

Outside, inside.


See where. See when.

See how. See fine.


Inside, outside.

Go up. Over.


Unveil. See light.

Clear mind. Focus.


Turn in. Master.

Turn in. Master.


Turn in. Master.

Higher. Highest.



translated from Sanskrit by Kanya Kanchana

to condense the world into a single cry

Two poems by Florbela Espanca translated by Kay Cosgrove

Florbela Espanca                 Kay Cosgrove

Ser Poeta

by Florbela Espanca

Ser poeta é ser mais alto, é ser maior

Do que os homens! Morder como quem beija!

É ser mendigo e dar como quem seja

Rei do Reino de Aquém e de Além Dor!


É ter de mil desejos o esplendor

E não saber sequer que se deseja!

É ter cá dentro um astro que flameja,

É ter garras e asas de condor!


É ter fome, é ter sede de Infinito!

Por elmo, as manhãs de oiro e cetim…

É condensar o mundo num só grito!


E é amar-te, assim, perdidamente…

É seres alma e sangue e vida em mim

E dizê-lo cantando a toda a gente!

To Be a Poet

by Florbela Espanca

To be a poet is to be taller, to be larger 

Than men. To bite like others kiss. 

It is to be a beggar and to give like you are king

of the kingdom of brief and ever-lasting pain. 


It is to have a thousand wishes, splendor

And not even know what you desire.

It is to have here inside a star, a flame.

It is to have the condor’s talons and wings.


It is to be hungry, to thirst for the infinite.

The gold and satin mornings like an antique helmet;

It is to condense the world into a single cry,


And it is to love you, even so, desperately.

You are the soul, the blood, and the life in me

And I tell it to everyone through my song. 

translated from Portuguese by Kay Cosgrove

Verses de Orgulho

by Florbela Espanca

O mundo quer-me mal porque ninguém

Tem asas como eu tenho! Porque Deus

Me fez nascer Princesa entre plebeus

Numa torre de orgulho e de desdém.


Porque o meu Reino fica para além …

Porque trago no olhar os vastos céus

E os oiros e clarões são todos meus!

Porque eu sou Eu e porque Eu sou Alguém!


O mundo ? O que é o mundo, ó meu Amor ?

—O jardim dos meus versos todo em flor…

A seara dos teus beijos, pão bendito…


Meus êxtases, meus sonhos, meus cansaços…

—São os teus braços dentro dos meus braços,

Via Láctea fechando o Infinito.

Verses of Pride

by Florbela Espanca

The world distains me because nobody

Has wings like mine. Because God

Begot me princess among the people

In a tower of pride and disgust.


Because my Reign goes beyond here.

Because I bring in my look the vast skies

And the gold and lightening are all mine.

Because I am who I am and because I am somebody.


The world? What is the world, oh my Love?

—The garden of my verses all in bloom,

The wheat field of your kisses like blessed bread.


My ecstasy, my dreams, my fatigue,

—They are your arms inside my arms,

the Milky Way closing the Infinite. 

translated from Portuguese by Kay Cosgrove

…they move like snowstorms or squalls

A poem by Maxim Amelin translated by Derek Mong and Anne O. Fisher

Катавасия на Фоминой неделе

by Maxim Amelin

Gratia cum Nymphis geminisque sororibus audet

      ducere nuda choros.

Immortalia ne speres, monet annus et almum

      quae rapit hora diem.

                    Q. Horatius Flaccus, Od., IV, 7.


Но нет! — он может пробудиться,

Из гроба света луч пролить.

                    Граф Д. И. Хвостов.

                    К Дарье Алексеевне Державиной

                    на Паше, 1816 года Июля 16 дня



Подражание Хвостову

сочинить ко дню Христову

не случилось, — на Страстной

строчки — чаяния паче —

для решения задачи

сей не влезло ни одной


в голову. — Привычка к лаврам

быстро делает кентавром,

грозным с виду, косным в шаг, —

к вящей славе Их Сиятельств

в нарушенье обязательств

не стоится на ушах,


на потеху следопытам

не летается, копытом

стройным в воздухе маша:

раз-два-три, два-три-четыре. —

Неприкаянная в мире

дольнем странствует душа,


тяжкий груз таская тела,

от известного предела

неизведанного до, —

с миром выспренним в разлуке

не сидит, поджавши руки,

в ожидании Го — —.


В ожидании чего-то

эдакого: поворота,

перемены невзначай, —

изменив порядок строчек,

память вырвала листочек

с приглашением на чай.


Старое стихотворенье,

что прокисшее варенье,

крытый плесенью пирог. —

Не для всех своих исчадий

остаётся добрым дядей

вдохновений светлый бог.


Страх и ужас: вот бы если

все умершие воскресли

без разбору, — что тогда? —

Понесутся целым скопом

по америкам, европам

в залу Страшного суда,


друг отталкивая друга,

точно вихорь или вьюга,

всё сметая на пути,

необузданны и дики,

оглушительные крики

сея: «Не развоплоти!» —


«Пощади меня, Всевышний!» —

«И меня!» — «И я не лишний!» —

взвоют все до одного. —

Милосерд Господь и правед, —

только избранных восставит

или — лучше — никого.


Никого. — Какая демо-

кратия! — Моя поэма,

совершая трудный путь,

чертит странные зигзаги. —

Хорошо б у тихой влаги

на припёке отдохнуть:


«Мне ли, жителю вселенной,

внятен будет современный

шёпот, ропот или вой?» —

Ясные бросая взгляды,

плотоядные Наяды

плещут вешнею водой. —


Всяк родженный не однажды

глада не страшится, жажды,

обстоятельств или нужд,

хоть в казарме, хоть на зоне

размышляет о Назоне,

человеческого чужд. —


То, что свойственно природе,

тще не тщись в угоду моде

изменить, — со что и как,

как ни силься, что ни делай:

день взлетел, как ангел белый,

пал, что чёрный демон, мрак. —


Сутки — прочь, вторые сутки

помрачение в рассудке. —

Кто мне толком объяснит? —

Чёткий на вопрос вопросов

даст ответ? — Какой философ? —

Но молчат и Фет, и Ф. И. Т.


(псевдоним, инициалы). —

Геркулес у ног Омфалы,

весь в оборках кружевных,

северянинскому пажу

подражая, сучит пряжу,

упорядочен и тих.


Он, от жизни голубиной

отмахнувшийся дубиной,

облачится в шкуру льва

и взойдёт на склоны неба

убеждаться в том, что Геба

девственная, чем вдова


безутешная, не хуже, — 

тоже думает о муже:

«Я  невеста, ты  жених,

ты  жених, а я — невеста».

Нет ни времени, ни места

на подробности про них.


Так болтать шутливым слогом

можно долго и о многом:
то Ерема, то Фома, —
слов — полно, да толку мало, —
мысль, увы, не ночевала
в недрах некошна ума. —

«Кто герой моей поэмы? —
Я ль один? — А может, все мы,
кто не низок, не высок,
у кого, хотя негромкий,
свой, отдельный — там потомки
разберутся — голосок?» —

В гневе огненной геенны,
ненависть! не лезь на стены,
укроти свой, зависть! пыл,
не скрипи зубами, злоба! —
Да, Державин встал из гроба
и меня благословил. —

Смерти нет — одна морока:
классицизм или барокко? —
Зримый мир и мир иной
связаны, перетекая, —
катавасия такая
на неделе Фоминой.



Katabasia for St. Thomas Week

by Maxim Amelin

The Graces and their twins the nymphs will dare

      to dance undressed.

Don’t hope for immortality. The year gives warning,

      each hour steals the day’s sweet life.

—Horace, Odes IV.7


But no! He may awaken

and send a ray of light from out his coffin.

—Count D. I. Khvostov, to Darya Alekseyevna Derzhavina, the 16th of July, 1816


I couldn’t quite compose an homage

to Count Khvostov in time for Christmas,

not as I’d meant to, not a line—

despite my hopes for Holy Week.

I’ve yet to solve this simple problem,

and no solution comes to mind.


The moment you take praise for granted

is the moment you become a centaur:

crooked of gait, a grim demeanor.

But I’ll not tie myself in knots,

neglecting my own obligations,

just to win Their Lordships more honor.


Nor shall I fly to tease my trackers,

my slender hoof held up to mark

the time I’ve spent in graceful flight:

one-two-three, two-three-four.

My restless soul still wanders across

the earthly world’s endless sights;


it drags my body’s heavy load,

testing the limits of where we go

into the known and unexplored.

My soul won’t sit on its hands and wait—

off by itself in its lofty world—

for the Second Coming of the Lord.


For that certain something I’d heard,

I wait; for a turn of fate that’s better,

a sea change or serendipity…

my memory has switched some lines

and found, stuck between the mind’s

pages, an invitation out to tea.


A poem that’s old is like a pie

encrusted with mold, a sour jam

that sports a furry rind.

Likewise the god of inspiration,

who’ll only shine on his chosen brood.

To others he’s wholly unkind.


Fear and horror: what if the dead

were reincarnated, willy-nilly?

Could we handle them all?

I see the herds stampede across

the Europes and the Americas—

they enter the Day of Judgment’s halls.


Jostling each other out of the way,

they move like snowstorms or squalls

that clear all paths of debris—

they’re wild and unrestrained, their screams

can scatter us all with this deafening plea:

“Don’t unembody me!”


“Have pity on me, Almighty! Spare me!”

“And me!” “And me! I matter too!”

they wail in unison.

The Lord is merciful and just:

he’ll only raise a chosen few,

or—even better—none.


None. Now that’s a shit-

ocracy. My own epic poem

traces out its funny zig-zags

as it travels its difficult path.

How nice it’d be to laze near water,

soak up the rays and just relax.


“Will this newfangled whispering, grumbling,

and howling ever make sense to me:

the Universe’s denizen?”

The flesh-eating Naiads shoot me glances—

they splash their vernal water coyly

and flirt in my direction.


Whoever’s been born has felt the pangs

of thirst or hunger more than once.

He’s been resigned to poverty.

Even in barracks or labor camps,

where all that is human is foreign,

he ponder Ovid’s poetry.


So don’t exert yourself to change

the native and natural order of things,

to fit today’s modish fashion.

Your like and as are wholly futile:

the dawn rose like a white angel,

the darkness fell, black as a demon.


I’ve lost one day and then a second

to this growing eclipse of my reason.

Where’s the answer coming from

to this question of questions?

Which thinker’s got a clear solution?

Both Fet and F. I. T. are mum.


(Of course: a pseudonym, initials.)

Here’s Hercules in flounces lacey—

he sits at fierce Omphale’s feet.

He’s just like Severyanin’s page-boy.

The hero spins his yarn effetely,

so dutiful, mute, and meek.


But with a swing of oaken club

our Hercules undoes his dovecote.

Again arrayed in lion skin,

he soon ascends the vault of heaven

to locate Hebe virginal.

Zeus’s daughter is akin


to widows inconsolable:

like them, she wants a husband too.

“I’m the bride, you’re my bridegroom.

You’re the bridegroom; I’m your bride.”

Further details, though, are moot.

I’ve no more time to talk, nor room.


We joke like this in endless cycles

but to what end? Take Jeremiah,

Thomas, or any of their kind:

they’re rich in words, but what’s their use

if thought, alas, won’t tread a path

through a reader’s unmown mind?


“Who is the hero of this poem?

Just me alone? Or all of us?

Whoever’s neither prince nor lout?

Whoever’s got a singular voice,

however hushed? Let generations

to follow figure it out.”


O Hate! Don’t climb the walls inside

fiery Gehenna’s hellish wrath!

And calm your ardor, Envy!

Spite, you shouldn’t grind your teeth.

Yes, Derzhavin has finally risen

from his grave to bless me.


There is no death, but there is this mess:

is it Classical or just Baroque?

The world we see and the world we seek

are linked and bound to intermingle.

Behold: my katabasia

in honor of St. Thomas Week.



translated from Russian by Derek Mong & Anne O. Fisher

what they call me

A poem by Shrawan Mukarung translated by Haris Adhikari

Shrawan-Mukarung      Haris Adhikari (2)

जङ्गली फूल

by Shrawan Mukarung




या नगरतिर


जङ्गली फूल भन्छन्

तर जङ्गलमै त

मेरो नाम अर्कै छ ।

Wild Flower

by Shrawan Mukarung

In villages,
or towns,
what they call me is—
wild flower;
but I
do have a different name
in the jungle. 

translated from Nepali by Haris Adhikari

the audible threshold of happiness

 Four poems by Gemma Gorga translated by Sharon Dolin

  Gemma Gorga      Sharon Dolin

In place of a book of hours, Gemma Gorga has composed something much more modest: a Book of Minutes. Though these prose poems do retain the meditative quality of prayer, they also share with aphorism the urge to delimit by compression: how much density can be packed into a small space. Here’s what drew me to translate them: Each time I read these diminutive poems, they open up a world for me. In that sense, they are inexhaustible as all poems and prayers should be. 

— Sharon Dolin


[Les flors del jardí parlen]

by Gemma Gorga

Les flors del jardí parlen en veu tan baixa que es fa difícil endevinar què diuen. ¿Seran tal vegada diàlegs d’amor, diàlegs socràtics que mantenen amb els insectes de llargues barbes, pesants i taciturns damunt l’elasticitat dels pètals? S’ondulen les cordes vocals de la llum, els rínxols sonors de l’aigua. Però arriba la ronda del record i trepitja les flors amb rudes bótes de sentinella. I em deixa asseguda —trista venedora de mistos— fora del llindar auditiu de la felicitat.

[Garden flowers speak]

by Gemma Gorga

Garden flowers speak in such hushed tones that it’s difficult to parse what they’re saying. Could they be dialogues of love, perhaps, Socratic dialogues they hold with long-bearded insects, heavy and reserved, resting on swaying petals? Light’s vocal cords undulate, as do the sonorous curls of water. But the memory patrol turns up and treads on the flowers with its rough sentry boots. And I am left seated—sad little match girl—outside the audible threshold of happiness.

translated from Catalan by Sharon Dolin

[Sostens un bocí de vidre trencat]

by Gemma Gorga

Sostens un bocí de vidre trencat entre l’índex i el polze. A l’ànima estan tocant les dotze del migdia i algú mormola és l’hora de l’àngelus. El sostens amb paciència, fins que la llum, les campanes i les ales convergeixen en un únic punt sensible al dolor. I en l’aire s’incendia un ocell.

[You hold up a piece of broken glass]

by Gemma Gorga

You hold up a piece of broken glass between your index finger and thumb. It is chiming twelve-noon in your soul and someone murmurs, “It’s the hour for reciting the Angelus prayer.” You hold up the glass sliver patiently until the light, bells, and wings converge in one uniquely sensitive point of pain. And in the air a bird blazes up.

translated from Catalan by Sharon Dolin

[Té sis punxes, com una estrella]

by Gemma Gorga


Té sis punxes, com una estrella, però no és una estrella. La cullo i la deso a la bossa, al costat del pot de neules, vigilant que no prengui mal amb el groc lacerant de la pinya. Un cop a casa, trio un enlloc preferent on col·locar-la, que estigui ben invisible als ulls de tothom. De vegades, amb el silenci de la nit, se sent passar la llarga caravana de la set: palmeres mil·lenàries, camells foscos com dàtils, vells astròlegs de barbes enfarinades. I és que la realitat és així, o aixà, i no s’hi pot fer més, malcriada i enganyosa. Per aquest motiu hi ha qui ja no la busca, per aquest motiu hi ha qui encara la troba. Vet aquí un nadal incomprensible com la vida mateixa, explicat en sis ratlles, com si fos un poema, però no és un poema.

[It has six points, like a star]

by Gemma Gorga

It has six points, like a star, but it’s not a star. I pick it up and put it in the bag, next to the can of wafers, taking care it remains unharmed by the lacerating, yellow pineapple. Once home, I choose some preferred who-knows-where to keep it that’s practically invisible to all eyes. Sometimes, in the night’s stillness, you can hear the long caravan of thirst pass by: thousand-year-old palm trees, camels dark as dates, ancient astrologers with flour in their beards. Because reality is like this, or like that (what can you do), spoiled and misleading. For this reason, there are those who no longer look for it; for this reason, there are those who still find it. Here is an incomprehensible nativity like life itself, explained in six lines, as if it were a poem, but it’s not a poem.

translated from Catalan by Sharon Dolin

[El vent aixeca la faldilla a les margarides]

by Gemma Gorga

El vent aixeca la faldilla a les margarides i el món comença a rodolar cap per avall. És evident que les fades són totes rosses i viuen amagades a la punta del tacte —les margarides, que ho saben, han esclafit el riure—. Per què tanta resistència a la felicitat? D’acord. La llum, el gir, el vol: vet aquí els tres desitjos.

[The wind lifts the daisies' skirt]

by Gemma Gorga

The wind lifts the daisies’ skirt and the world begins to tumble upside down. Apparently, fairies are all blonde and live hidden at the touch of your fingertips—the daisies, knowing all about it, have broken into laughter. Why so much resistance to happiness? All right. Here are my three wishes: Light. Spin. Flight.

translated from Catalan by Sharon Dolin




root-orgies, parasites, moldering clouds

Two poems by N. B. Minkov translated by Jordan Finkin

אין אונדזערע טעג

by N. B. Minkov

.אַ בלויער וואַלד. אַ שטומער. שטומער נאָך פון אַלע הימלען

.גערוך פון וואָרצל-אָרגיעס, שימלענדיקע כמאַרעס, פּאַראַזיטן

.ביים ראַנד — אַן איינזאַם ביידל. בלינד און טויטלעך ווייס

.גרינע בליצן שטאַרבן אין פאַרפּרעסטע בליטן


אַ טיר אן אויפגעריסענע. אַ וועווריק גילדענער שפּרינגט אומשולדיק פאַרביי.

.בלייבט שטיין דערשראָקן. האָרכט דעם שטומען וואַנזין פונעם וואַלד

.די קילקייט איז א שאַרפע און אַ קראַנקע

.ליכט פון שכינה אויף דער שוועל. איבער אים אַ טיפער זקן אויפגעהאַנגען







In Our Days

by N. B. Minkov

A blue forest. Silent. More silent than the heavens.

The odor of root-orgies, parasites, moldering clouds.

On the edge, a lonely hut. Blind and deathly white.

Green lightning withers in blighted blossoms.


A door torn open. A gilded squirrel jumps innocently by.

Stands frozen with fear. Listens to the silent madness of the forest.

The coolness is acrid and sick.

God’s Presence lights the doorway.

Above it a deep old man, hanged.




translated from Yiddish by Jordan Finkin

דער לעצטער קנויט

by N. B. Minkov

וועט אויפגיין דיין פּנים? צווישן ריזיקע וואָרצלען

.זיץ איך — געהיט פון דער שלאַנג — און וואַרט

,דאָס טייכל גליווערט אין שוואַרצן דעמער

.און איך — ניט פאַרבלענדט — דאָך גענאַרט


.ניטאָ גאָר דיין פּנים? די שלאַנג דרעמלט רואיק

.איך ווער שוואַרצער. נט איך טראַכט. ניט איך רעד

.די נאַכט סמ’עט דעם וואַלד. דער וואַלד וואַקסט אָן אָטעם

.איך הער קלאָר, וואָס אומקלאָר געשעט


ביסט אַפילו קיין טרוים ניט געווען? און אַ נאָמען

.האָסטו. און כוהנים — און טעמפּלען געהאַט

.מיין שטרייט מיט דער שלאַנג — צוליב דיר דאָך געווען

?און געזיגט האָבן ביידע: איז דאָס ניט פאַרראַט


די נאַכט בלייבט שוין אייביק דאָ נאַכט. איך וואַרט שוין

.אויף קיינעם ניט מער. די שלאַנג לעבן מיר איז שוין טויט

.דאָס טייכל, וואָס אָטעמט נאָך, זע איך ניט מער

.פאַרזונקען אין חשכות פון בלוטן, לעשט זיך דער לעצטער קנויט 




The Last Wick

by N. B. Minkov

Will your face rise? The snake stands guard

As I sit among the giant roots, and wait.

The brook freezes in the black twilight,

And I, undeluded, am still deceived.


Is your face really gone? The snake’s napping restfully.

I grow darker. Neither thinking nor speaking.

The night poisons the forest. The forest swells without breath.

I hear clearly what unclearly happens.


Weren’t you even a dream? But you have

A name. And priests you had, temples.

My clash with the snake, it was for your sake.

And both were victorious. Is that not betrayal?


The night remains night here for good. I’m done waiting

For anyone. See how this snake is now dead.

The still breathing brook I can no longer see.

The last wick is quenched in the darkness of bloodshed.




translated from Yiddish by Jordan Finkin