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>>

Podcast #6: Jennifer Scappettone

by: Montana Ray

Play

In this interview Montana Ray talks with poet, translator, and scholar Jennifer Scappettone about her translations and research on the Italian poet Amelia Rosselli. Among other things, Scappettone discusses how translation ocurrs not only between languages,  but between historical periods, and how translation can be a conduit of history. Ray and Scappettone discuss the difference between the cosmopolitan and refugee experience of language aquisition, and Scappettone explains the political difference between polylingualism and the “macaronic” work of the tri-lingual Rosselli. Scappettone discusses Rosselli’s choice to write in her “father tongue,” a few of the ways Rosselli subverts the gender rules of the Italian language, and how she rendered Rosselli’s “transgendering” into English. Ray asks Scappettone about the relationship between beauty and war in Scappettone’s own poetry, and how this relationship was influenced by Rosselli’s poetics.

With poems and music by: John Cage, Sun Ra Arkestra (live in Rome 1980), Amelia Rosselli, and Jennifer Scappettone.

Susanna Nied on Translating alphabet
by Inger Christensen (Part Two)

by: Iris Cushing

Part two of Iris Cushing’s interview of Inger Christensen’s translator. Read part one and an excerpt from alphabet.

Susanna Nied

Iris Cushing: What has it been like to live with alphabet for over 30 years?

Susanna Nied: Not a day goes by without something from alphabet coming into my mind: a poem, a phrase, an image, an arc; sometimes in Danish, sometimes in English, sometimes beyond language. Of course this is partly because Inger Christensen’s poetry is phenomenal— but also because alphabet‘s themes, its focus on the natural world, and even many of its specific images, were already there at my core from the time I was quite young. Judging by the response alphabet has received, I suspect that many people, disparities aside, connect with it in that way. Part of Inger’s gift is this uncanny ability to be simultaneously specific and universal. It marks all six of her poetry volumes, despite their significant differences.

In my own case, I’m the kind of person who has to stick her nose into every flower; stare and stare at every plant, bug, bird, animal; know the names, relationships, interconnections. So alphabet had me hooked with that first apricot tree. I share Inger’s fascination, though not her depth of expertise, with theories of language history and language development, and with the way that words carry traces wider ranging and older than we know. Though at some level, I think, we do know. And of course, Inger and I were both part of the first generation to grow up under the threat of nuclear war: she from the time she was ten years old, I from birth. The Cold War years were, as Inger once said, “very cold indeed.” There was not only a sense of impending nuclear holocaust, but also this inexorable proliferation of nuclear pollution and other lethal pollution. I grieved for the inevitable losses. I still grieve for them. Against the backdrop of all that, alphabet spoke directly to me from the moment I opened it, and it continues to speak to me.

One reader wrote, ‘thank you for giving the world back to me.’

IC: Can you say something about alphabet’s impact on you as a translator?

SN: Translating alphabet was an early peak experience, one of the great pleasures of my life. It certainly clinched what would become my lifelong addiction to translation.

It was a little strange to feel this strong personal satisfaction with the translation, and yet to have the manuscript rejected by publisher after publisher. Twenty years went by between translation and publication. I got pretty discouraged. I knew nothing in those days about the financial realities that U.S. publishers live with. Now that I do know, I’m grateful beyond words to New Directions for bringing out not only alphabet, but all five of Inger’s other volumes of poetry as well. Publishers do not make profits from poetry. They especially do not make profits from poetry in translation. I thank my stars for this gutsy, small, independent house, New Directions, and for the dedicated people at its helm.

The fact that alphabet worked out well in English, in terms of form, was partly luck. English and Danish are both Germanic languages, and the family relationships in their vocabularies made it possible for me to approximate alphabet‘s original patterns of alliteration, internal half-rhymes, and unusual on-again, off-again meters. Read full article

Just like the old clown
Who crawls across the movie screen

Five poems by Arseny Tarkovsky with translations and an introduction by Philip Metres & Dimitri Psurtsev

Photos: Arseny Tarkovsky, Philip Metres, & Dimitri Psurtsev

Arseny Tarkovsky’s work emerges from a visionary sensibility—like Akhmatova and Mandelstam—that became his way of forging a Russian art outside of Soviet realism. Of course, it’s the music of the poems that guaranteed his reputation, as much as the vision. The following offers a range of his styles and approaches—from the free verse (a rarity in Russian poetry of the period) of Hail and The Hunt, to the more classical metrical and rhymed poems of the rest of the selection.

Dima and I considered various, sometimes radical, options. One option, briefly considered and then tossed, was the following: if, in American poetry, the “normative” mode is intonational free verse, then why not make all the “normative” Russian poems with rhyme and meter into that intonational free verse, and all the experimental (free verse or unrhymed poems) into poems with meter and rhyme? Another, more rigidly systematic one, would be simply to translate all the dactylic poems as dactylic poems, the iambics as iambic, and so on. This, frankly, seemed more possible but also literalist, since a poem in dactylic in Russian will mean something different than it will in American poetry. We decided against this rigid and misplaced conservatism, encouraged by the notion of the “semantic aura of meter.” Kirill Taranovski (and later Mikhail Gasparov) argue that each meter in Russian poetry carries with it the themes and associations of previous poets’ employment of those meters; the very idea that a poem’s meters are embedded in a larger discourse of form complicates any simplistic application of meter from poetic tradition to poetic tradition.

Our resolution of this interminable impasse between Russian metric and American poetry has been at once less systematic and more organic. Since Tarkovsky’s poetry is driven by its music, propelled by rhythm and rhyme, then our translation should make every reasonable attempt to make a similar music.

For a free verse poem like such as Hail on Petit-Bourgeois Street, we opted to remove all punctuation and create greater disjunction on the level of the line (even though normative punctuation exists in the original), in order to reproduce the astonishing effect of free verse to the Russian ear.

–Philip Metres

 

ГРАД НА ПЕРВОЙ МЕЩАНСКОЙ

by Arseny Tarkovsky

Бьют часы на башне,

Подымается ветер,

Прохожие – в парадные,

Хлопают двери,

По тротуару бегут босоножки,

Дождь за ними гонится,

Бьется сердце,

Мешает платье,

И розы намокли.

 

Град

расшибается вдребезги

над самой липой…

 

Все же

Понемногу отворяются окна,

В серебряной чешуе мостовые,

Дети грызут ледяные орехи.

Hail on First Petit-Bourgeois Street

by Arseny Tarkovsky

tongues in the tower

pound the bells to sound

wind lifts         everyone

rushes into entrances   doors

slam     along the sidewalk sandals

patter   rain chasing behind

her heart pounds

her wet dress itches

& the roses are soaked

 

hail

shatters

above the very linden

still

little by little    windows open—

cobblestones slick in silver scales

& children gobble up the nuts of ice

translated from Russian by Philip Metres & Dmitri Psurtsev
more>>

ОХОТА

by Arseny Tarkovsky

Охота кончается.

Меня затравили.

Борзая висит у меня на бедре.

Закинул я голову так, что рога уперлись в лопатки.

Трублю.

Подрезают мне сухожилья.

В ухо тычут ружейным стволом.

Падает на бок, цепляясь рогами за мокрые прутья.

Вижу я тусклое око с какой-то налипшей травинкой.

Черное, окостеневшее яблоко без отражений.

 

Ноги свяжут и шест проденут, вскинут на плечи…

The Hunt

by Arseny Tarkovsky

 

is done

I’m trapped

a hound hanging on my thigh

I throw my head back until my horns rest on my shoulders

and I trumpet

they slash my tendons

and jab a rifle in my ear…

 

He falls on his side, clinging to the wet twigs with his horns.

I can see his dim eye, a blade   of grass stuck on it.

A black stiffened apple, reflecting nothing.

 

They’ll bind the legs together, pass a pole through, and toss it on their shoulders.

translated from by Philip Metres & Dmitri Psurtsev
more>>
Read full article

every theater is an anatomical theater

 

Seven poems by Edoardo Sanguineti, with translations and an introduction by Will Schutt

Edoardo Sanguineti (left) & Will Schutt

Translator’s Note


What are we to make of Edoardo Sanguineti’s nearly sixty-year career as a poet, critic, librettist, novelist, playwright, political figure, and translator? Which Sanguineti are we to favor? “Sanguineti the Last Marxist,” who nods wistfully toward the German philosopher in his poems, and who served as an independent MP on the Italian Communist Party ticket? Or “Sanguineti the Academic,” who spent decades teaching literature at the University of Genoa and authored several books of literary criticism? What about “Sanguineti the Avant-Gardist,” whose very first, difficult poems – written in the early 1950s, when the poet was in his early twenties – helped spawn the experimental literature that would typify Italian letters a decade later? Couldn’t we think of Sanguineti as a late Romantic whose occasionally downhearted, often scathing vision undercuts the wit and wordtrickery of “Sanguineti the Rapper” (a late, self-appointed nickname)?

Above all else, perhaps, Sanguineti is a poet of speed, a sort of short-distance runner across the white page. His poems are restless, frantic, often brief, propelled by colons and qualified by parentheses. Maybe Sanguineti was recreating in writing what he could not create on stage; his childhood dreams of becoming a dancer were dashed when he was wrongly diagnosed with a heart condition.

To convey the fleet-footed quality of Sanguineti’s poems, a translator must keep pace. And I have allowed myself, in several instances visible here, to play fast and loose. My ambition has been to match Sanguineti’s speed, by ear and instinct, as much as to render an accurate, line-by-line translation. One example of the kind of liberties I’ve taken can be found in the poem “Da che cosa (mi chiedo).” Sanguineti writes “scappo…(dal mio essere morto): (un molle morto): (scappo da una mia mala morte).” How is one supposed to relay at once the opposite meaning and phonetic proximity of the words “molle” (feeble, soft) and “mala” (evil, bad)? A literal translation is too ponderous for a poem about galloping away from the endgame: “I escape…(from being dead): (a feeble/soft dead): (I escape from an evil death).”

My translation reads: “I run…(from my death): (a sweet death): (I run from a sleep-with-the-fishes death).”

While betraying the letter, I still hope that Sanguineti would appreciate the combination, a la Sanguineti, of poetic and popular diction, and I justify the betrayal by telling myself that, apart from the sonic equivalent of “sweet” and “sleep,” my translation also retains the original poem’s out-of-breath quality.

Pattern may be the source of pleasure in literature, but there is such an abundance of associative pattern in Sanguineti that the system is driven to the brink of disorder. Like the paranoid son in Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols,” Sanguineti seems to read – or, rather, write – all experience as a puzzle. And because the elements in his poems are so close fitting, the translator’s task is fraught; misplace a single piece and the picture falls apart. Such resistance to translation may be the mark of Sanguineti’s singularity.

 

—Will Schutt

La Triste, L’Incostante

by Edoardo Sanguineti

la triste, l’incostante, l’aggressiva, la morta: (quella che fu il mio tropico

di Cancro: e l’altra, che fu il mio anello di Saturno): la contegnosa,

la spaiata, la matta:

me le voglio qui tutte, adesso, insieme, a mangiarmi:

i miei polsi aperti, la mia lurida lingua, le mie docili dita, il mio fegato

fragile: (e il mio cuore, è l’usanza, fatto a pezzi): (e il mio cervello

già raggrinzito, e il mio ormai tenero sesso):

tutto il resto è per te,

se resta un resto, dopo tanto succhiare, e se resisti, lí a sparecchiarmi,

l’ultima, in cucina:

l’affaticata, la nervosa, la superstiziosa, la morbida:

The Sad One, The Inconstant One

from Scartabello, 1980

by Edoardo Sanguineti

the sad one, the inconstant one, the aggressive one, the one who died:

(my Tropic of Cancer and my Ring of Saturn): the polite one,

the funny one, the nutcase:

  I want all of them here, now, together, to eat me:

my slit wrists, my lurid tongue, my frail fingers, my ailing

liver: (and my heart, as per usual, in shards): (and my brain

already shriveled, and my dick long limp):

all the rest is yours

if a rest remains after so much sucking, and if you linger in the kitchen,

the last one, to clear me away:

the weary one, the nervous one, the superstitious one, the tender:

 

translated from Italian by Will Schutt
more>>

“Alle 18.15 Mi Telefona Vasko”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

alle 18.15 mi telefona Vasko: sei sveglio? mi dice: certo, gli dico: e

ho già parlato con mia moglie: (così il telegramma è stato tutto inutile):

(ma non importa, è chiaro):

e ho già scritto la seconda poesia della giornata

(di oggi, 3 giugno):

bene, dice Vasko, ma è proprio la settimana

santa, allora, per te: (questa: della Knaak-Poetry):

“At 6:15 P.M. Vasko Phones”

from Reisebilder, 1971

by Edoardo Sanguineti

at 6:15 p.m. Vasko phones: you awake? he says: sure, I say: and

I’ve already talked to my wife: (so the telegram was a total waste):

(but it’s no matter, not to worry):

and I’ve already penned the second poem of the day

(today, June 3rd):

well, says Vasko, this really is a lucky

week, then, for you: (this week: of Knaak-Poetry):

translated from Italian by Will Schutt
more>>

“La Voce Di Mio Padre”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

la voce di mio padre è registrata in un nastro rubricato “Venezia ‘66”:

(l’altra pista è occupata da una sinfonia di Mozart):

si tratta di una serie

di telefonate d’epoca: davanti a quel microfono intercettato, sfilano i miei tre

maschi bambini, mia moglie, vari parenti di mia moglie, un paio di sue amiche

(e c’è anche mia suocera, che parla con la salumiera di Torino, un’emiliana,

suppongo, e ordina bottiglie di Lurisia):

il passaggio fulminante (e che mi ha fulminato

lí, martedí, nel pieno della mia infelicità): (e che fu un tratto tipico, certo, per lui):

(e che ha deciso molte cose, cosí, per me e per la mia vita): (cito a memoria, adesso)

è quando dice, dunque, a Federico:

quando gli altri sono contenti, anche io sono contento:

“My Father's Voice”

from Postkarten, 1972-77

by Edoardo Sanguineti

my father’s voice is recorded on a tape labeled “Venice ’66”:

(the flipside features a Mozart symphony):

the tape contains a series

of phone calls from that time: my three boys, my wife, various relatives

of my wife, and a couple of her friends got reeled in by that wiretap

(there’s even my mother-in-law ordering bottles of Lurisia from a woman

with a deli in Turin, an Emilian is my guess):

the electrifying clip (which electrified me

on Tuesday in a fit of unhappiness): (and was a typical trait of his):

(which determined many things for me and my life): (I’m quoting from memory)

is when he says, then, to my son:

when others are happy, I’m happy too:

translated from Italian by Will Schutt
more>>
Read full article

Podcast #5: Odi Gonzales

by: Montana Ray

Play

In this episode, Montana Ray speaks with poet-translator-scholar Odi Gonzales about growing up in Peru with two mother tongues and the ways in which the Quechua oral tradition of his childhood has shaped a life-long academic and artistic interest in Pre-Hispanic literatures. Gonzales discusses the contradictions inherent in the life of the white landowner and influential Quechua poet, Kilku Warak’a, and Gonzales reads from his book of Spanish translations of Warak’a's work,Taki parwa/22 poemas quechuas de Kilku Warak’a. Gonzales also reads from his own bilingual (Quechua/Spanish) collection, Tunupa/el libro de las sirenas, which interpolates an ancient Andean myth of the generative relationship between the god Tunupa and two sirens with Gonzales’ own experiences living again in two worlds as a scholar of Andean literature at the University of Maryland. Gonzales and Ray discuss the lack of publishing opportunities for Amerindian writers and the gatherings/cities which act as points of intersection between writers working in various native languages. Odi also shares poetry from his collaboration with the Peruvian photographer Ana de Orbegoso and talks about his research into the escuela cuzqueña de pintura, an influential movement by anonymous indigenous painters of the 17th century and Gonzales’ inspiration for the book of poetry: La escuela de Cusco. Finally, Gonzales reads from this book and discusses the process of working with his English translator Lynn Levin on the bilingual version of La escuela de Cusco, Birds on a Kiswar Tree, forthcoming from Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press.  

“Matrimonio de Don Martín de Loyola y Doña Beatriz Ñusta,” Ánonimo

With poems, translations, and songs by: Enrique Delgado y Los Destellos, Juaneco Y Su Combo, Kilku Warak’a, Odi Gonzales, Lynn Levin, and Los Teddy’s.
Lynn Levin’s audio clip is included with the permission of PennSound.

blessed by vagabond hands
with a box of wine

Four poems from the Chilean poet Enrique Winter, translated by Mary Ellen Stitt

 

El piso sucio y la luz prendida

by Enrique Winter

Ningún servicio es tan básico, ni la luz ni el agua

y si de noche la ciudad pestañea sus brillos

tanto mejor se ve a oscuras. El ojo se acostumbra a todo.

El viaje en bus durará algunos meses

se habituará a dormir sentado, al pan con jamón y al café,

a ser discreto como un lago

y no como esta lluvia sobre el techo de cinc.

Un poco de baba sobre la almohada

que diga “aquí durmió”

repetirá temas siempre variables

como el clima y su opinión del país extranjero,

porque usted está en contra de la belleza que se note

―que parezca agarrable como un plato:

Andrés lava su auto en un pasaje

de Lima, Monterrey o de Santiago,

su esposa es güera o rubia como un sable.―

El bus, en cambio, es un país donde están de paso todos,

un poco trasnochados y malolientes

donde nadie hace el amor ni en los asientos ni en los baños.

Dirty Floor and the Light Stays On

by Enrique Winter

No utility is that basic, not power and not water

and if the nighttime city blinks out its glow

we see so much the better in the dark. The eye can get used to anything.

The bus ride will go on for months

you’ll grow accustomed to sleeping in a seat, to bread and ham, to coffee,

to being discreet like a lake

not like the rain on this metal roof.

A little drool on the pillow

announcing “—slept here”

you’ll repeat constantly variable topics

like the weather and your opinion of this foreign country,

because you are against conspicuous beauty

—which looks there for the taking, like a dish:

Andrés washes his car on a private street

in Lima, Monterrey, or Santiago,

his wife is fair, blonde as a saber.—

The bus, on the other hand, is a country where everyone is passing through

a little sleep-deprived and beginning to smell

where no one makes love: not in the seats, not in the bathroom.

translated from Spanish by Mary Ellen Stitt
more>>

Ritos de paso

by Enrique Winter

Andrés repasa mentalmente lo que Miguel recién le dijo:

―Cuatro son las amigas de tu novia

en su primer trabajo. De veintiséis son justo esas cuatro

las que tienen jardín.―

Brillante como escupo sobre escarcha.

Miguel dice que todo lo que soy es anterior a que naciera,

que con saber el sueldo de mi padre, podría haber predicho

los invitados a este cumpleaños.

Nada me constituye, y si lo hay, no cambia a los presentes

que visitaron Cusco y Memphis con sus papás, pero encontraron

a su mujer en el colegio.

Yo no la conseguí allí, sino como gerente

y por eso llevamos cinco años y no diez en el cine.

Agrega que a mi matrimonio no irá ninguno de los pobres que ayudo,

ni los que ordeno como cartas de bridge o futbolistas de consola.

Ni yo, ni nadie que frecuente, ha decidido algo alguna vez.

La crueldad con que me juzga no tiene nombre

y por eso la olvido. Siempre fui igual y preferible

al severo Miguel que un día

dirá―fui todo, nada vale

la pena.

Rites of Passage

by Enrique Winter

Andrés turns over in his mind something Miguel recently said:

―Your girlfriend has four friends

from her first job. Out of twenty-six it’s exactly those four

who have lawns.―

Brilliant like spit on frost.

Miguel says everything I am is prior to my birth,

that given my father’s salary, he could have predicted

all of the guests at this birthday party.

I stand on nothing, and even if I did, that wouldn’t change the people present here

who have been to Cuzco and Memphis with their parents but met

their wives in high school.

I didn’t find mine there but later, as a manager

so we’ve spent five years and not ten together at the movies.

He adds that none of the poor people I help will come to my wedding,

nor will those I arrange like bridge cards or sports figures.

Neither I nor anyone here has ever decided anything.

The cruelty with which he judges me is nameless

so I forget it. I have always been the same and preferable

to severe Miguel, who someday

will say―I’ve been everything, nothing

is worth it.

translated from Spanish by Mary Ellen Stitt
more>>

Mantra

by Enrique Winter

Con las heridas de los dedos pinto

unos cuadros que compran a buen precio

quienes me las hicieron.

Mantra

by Enrique Winter

With the wounds of my fingers I paint

works that are bought at a good price

by those who left me bleeding.

translated from Spanish by Mary Ellen Stitt
more>>

Tres cajas vacías

by Enrique Winter

Filipino, bigote blanco y largo

Ya nadie viene al cementerio, Marco,

a excepción de ti, que hace cinco años

jubilaste y perdiste a un hijo sano.

Hoy barres tumbas como voluntario.

 

Tres meses sin la regla como los tres semáforos en rojo

Espera un hijo como quien espera el bus

a las cinco de la mañana. Un hijo

que morirá atropellado como Marco Antonio Vidal Parraguez,

muerte de la cual nos enteraremos quince días tarde.

El cuerpo un recipiente de pisco y líquido amniótico,

porque le parece obvio no haberse embarazado:

tres meses sin la regla como los tres semáforos en rojo

que Marco cruzó antes que tumbaran su cara de NN

viviendo mientras tanto.

Cuarenta y cinco años, calvo: treinta y cinco atendiendo

a esta familia que vota por el enemigo y cría

a quien quiere encamarse con la futura madre,

que de las drogas duras va y vuelve al alcohol

como un columpio con un niño.

Tu tenías uno, Marco, pero de eso nunca hablaste.

 

Dos bajo el par

Se suicida un amigo allá en Colombia

y en la noche de plaza a mi pareja

la bendicen las manos vagabundas

con la caja de vino. Flota mares,

como muerte navega acompañada,

llegó a esta pieza y no se irá tan fácil.

No puedo hacer el amor entre muertos:

Patricio Hernández, profesor de nado,

más Alejandro Galvis, el poeta,

son desde hoy puñado de cenizas,

como las del cigarro que ella apaga

conmigo en los moteles de Santiago.

 

Three Empty Boxes

by Enrique Winter

Filipino, long white mustache

No one comes to the cemetery anymore, Marco

but you, who five years ago  

retired and lost a healthy son.

Now you sweep graves as a volunteer.

 

Three months without a period like three red traffic lights

She’s expecting a child like someone waiting for a bus

 

at five o’clock in the morning. A child

who will be trampled to death like Marco Antonio Vidal Parraguez,

a death we’ll learn of fifteen days too late.

Her body a receptacle for liquor and amniotic fluid,

because she’s sure she couldn’t be pregnant:

three months without a period like the three red traffic lights

that Marco ran before they struck down his anonymous face

living while life passed him by.

Forty-five years old, bald: thirty-five serving

this family that votes for the enemy and brings up                             

a son who wants to lay this future mother

who goes from alcohol to hard drugs and back

like a child on a swing.                                                                       

You had one, Marco, but you never spoke of that.

 

Two under par

A friend commits suicide back in Colombia

and in the plaza’s night my lover

is blessed by vagabond hands

with a box of wine. It floats across seas,

as death sails accompanied,

arrives in this room and won’t leave so easily.

I can’t make love among dead bodies:

Patricio Hernández, swimming teacher,

and Alejandro Galvis, the poet,                                               

are now a fistful of ashes,

like those from the cigarette she puts out

with me in the motels of Santiago.

translated from Spanish by Mary Ellen Stitt
more>>

dreaming of three scrambled eggs

Five poems from Izet Sarajlić’s 1993 collection Sarajevska Ratna Zbirka (Sarajevo War Journal), translated by Sara Nović

 

Ratovi U Našim Životima

by Izet Sarajlić

Marko Bašić je preturio preko glave

dva balkanska i dva svjetska rata.

Ovo mu je peti.

 

Meni i mom pokoljenju—drugi.

 

A za Vladimira

s njegovih osamnaest mjeseci

u ovom trenutku mogli bi se reći

da je čak polovicu svog života

proveo u ratu.

by Izet Sarajlić

Marko Bašić is in over his head

with two Balkan and two World wars.

This is his fifth.

 

Me and my generation—the second.

 

Even for Vladimir,

at eighteen months old,

in this moment one can say

half his life

has been carried out in war.

translated from Bosnian by Sara Nović
more>>

Uz (Ako Je Izašla) Moju Čileansku Knjigu

by Izet Sarajlić

Početkom proljeća,

kako su me,

dok je Sarajevo još preko pošte

komuniciralo sa svijetom,

obavijestili njen prevodilac pjesnik Huan Oktavio Prenz

i njen izdavač, također pjesnik, Omar Lara

u čileu je trebalo da izađe

moja knjiga na španskom jeziku.

 

Ako je izašla

sada se možda neki čileanski čitalac pita:

Šta je s njenim autorom?

 

Šta je?

 

Sjedi u podrumu,

skuplja drva,

loži na balkonu vratu,

vodi ratni dnevnik

 

i sanja o kajgani s tri jaja.

An Addition (If It's Been Released) To My Chilean Book

by Izet Sarajlić

In early spring

I was—

when Sarajevo was still communicating via mail

with the rest of the world—

informed by the translator poet Juan Octavia Prenz,

and his publisher Omar Lara, also a poet,

that the Spanish edition of my book

was going to be released in Chile.

 

If it was

some Chilean reader might now be asking:

What about the author?

 

What’s become of him?

 

He’s sitting in a cellar,

gathering wood,

setting fire to the balcony,

starting a war journal

 

and dreaming of three scrambled eggs.

translated from Bosnian by Sara Nović
more>>

U Predvečerje

by Izet Sarajlić

Na igralištu

jedan mladić

svira na gitari

a iznad njega

prolijeće granata s Poljina.

 

Budući sarajevski Bulat Okudžava?

 

Mladiću,

samo mi ostaj živ,

a umjetnost,

koja je meni bila sve,

umjetnost je,

vjeruj mi,

sasvim nevažna!

At Dusk

by Izet Sarajlić

On the soccer pitch

a boy

strums his guitar;

overhead

a grenade flies in from Poljina.

 

Could he become Sarajevo’s own Bulat Okudžava?

 

 

Young man,

just focus on staying alive.

Art,

which for me was everything once,

art is,

trust me,

totally unimportant.

translated from Bosnian by Sara Nović
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Podcast #4: Goutam Datta, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Subodh Sarkar

by: Montana Ray

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In this episode Montana Ray speaks with Yusef Komunyakaa, Goutam Datta, and Subodh Sarkar about exchanges between US and Bengali poets, including the anthology  (edited by Datta) of African American poets translated into Bengali, “Ami Amar Mritur Por Sadhinota Chai Na” (I Do Not Want My Freedom When I Am Dead) and the Kolkata Book Fair. The writers also discuss the relationship between poetry and theater in both New York and Kolkata. And Komunyakaa discusses the praxis of stage-to-page translation of the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh. Finally, the poets discuss the Bengali language as coexisting with other languages within the context of multilingual societies, both in India and internationally.

With poetry and music by Goutam Datta, Yusef Komunyakaa, Subodh Sarkar, Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate, Paul Robeson, and Toots & The Maytals. Plus Goutam Datta’s Bengali translations of Langston Hughes’ poem “Juke Box Love Song” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Crazy Woman.” And an excerpt from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Gilgamesh: A Verse Play performed by Actors Scene Unseen (available for purchase here).

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