kaberett: Photo of a pile of old leather-bound books. (books)
[personal profile] kaberett
I'm bilingual in German and English, and I'm terrible at translation, and still I look at Der Vorleser being translated into English as The Reader and I cringe, because there probably isn't a way to do it better, but you're still losing important information: the German actually means The Reader-Out-Loud, and if you're familiar with the book or the film, well...

... and that's a two-word prose title. I also happen to live 30 minutes away from the Saison Poetry Library, and am working my way slowly through a subset of its contents. Most recently I acquired a volume of the selected works of Neruda, with choices and translations by Robert Bly, and I am now pretty certain I am never going to pick up anything he's translated ever again.

On the one hand is that he decided to make a selection of Neruda's early work that demonstrates that during his early twenties, the poet went through a phase of thinking that imagery like waterfalls of sperm and anemones were a good idea (from the complete absence of raining spermatozoa in his later output I deduce that he changed his mind on this subject).

On the other, which I consider far more damning, is the quality of translation. I don't speak Spanish; I have an A-level in Latin (with significant Latin-to-English poetry translation component), and I've just about got enough French to navigate public transport and buy vegetarian food. And yet.

There is the simple, the potentially arguable, as from Ode to Salt:

Y luego en cada mesa
de este mundo,
tu substancia
la luz vital
los alimentos.


Polvo del mar, la lengua
de ti recibe un beso
de la noche marina...
And then on every table
on this earth,
your nimble
pouring out
the vigorous light
our foods.


Dust of the sea, the tongue
receives a kiss
of the night sea from you...

"Polvo" I would be inclined to translate as "powder" rather than "dust"; it's the same root found in a wide variety of Indo-European languages (e.g. German Pulver), and "powder" for me keeps more of the mouth-shape, the taste, of the word than "dust"; and I prefer the connotations and nuance suggested by powder. But, hey, this I recognise as personal preference, rather than technique.

But to render sal,/tu substancia/ágil as salt,/your nimble/body? No. I'd argue very strongly that Neruda chose to place ágil (nimble, agile) on a line of its own, separate from and following "your body", for reasons to do with poetry; I don't see any reason that Bly couldn't have rendered the English salt,/your body--/nimble-- or similar: preservation (... ha) of both the poetic and the literal.

That's a long-standing argument, of course -- whether translations should be faithful to the letter or the spirit. This is some of why Simon Armitage's parallel translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (which he writes about in the Guardian; excerpts of praise are available on his website) is so highly regarded: he has attempted to preserve both in a new piece of poetry, recognising that poetry resides in alliteration and meter as much as in imagery.

I submit that Bly fails at both.

Read more... )

In sum: I have been reminded once again that I adore parallel translations for all sorts of reasons, even when I don't speak the source language; and I have convinced myself that Robert Bly is someone whose work I wish to actively avoid. And: for all the somewhat woeful and strident tone of this post, I would love for us to talk more about priorities in poetry translation - how we prioritise for ourselves, and how that shifts with context - and about favourite translators. Thoughts decidedly welcome!
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
Michelle found this poem, too, something from her own heritage.

Love Poem
Audre Lorde

Speak earth and bless me with what is richest )

Audre Lorde self-described as a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," and was the New York State Poet Laureate at her death.

Bless me with what is richest, Lorde wrote. Love is sweet as honey. Lien said, yes.

Source: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
The next poem Michelle found.

Janice Gould

What can I say about someone who )

Janice Gould is a Koyangk'auwi Maidu poet and an assistant professor in Women's and Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

What can I say about someone who performs interesting magic, Gould wrote. Someone like you, Michelle said. A force of nature. And Lien smiled.

Source: Doubters and Dreamers, Janice Gould
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
Lien found the next poem, too.

Just once before I die I want someone to make love to me in Cantonese
Indigo Chih-Lien Som

my mother )

Indigo Chih-Lien Som is an American-born Chinese woman describing herself as "garlic-throwing, book-binding, shuttle-throwing cancer and fire horse".

Just once I want to remember, Som wrote. Just once I want. I want with you, said Lien; do you want with me?

Michelle bought a learn-to-speak-Cantonese set.

Source: The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writing by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian and Bisexual Women, edited by Sharon Lim-Hing
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
Lien found the next poem, after Michelle said she was afraid to introduce Lien to her family.

Loving In The War Years
Cherríe Moraga

Loving you is like living )

Cherríe Moraga describes herself as a 'Xicanadyke'. "I am ever-grateful to feminism for teaching me this," she writes, "that political oppression is always experienced personally by someone."

Love is living dangerously, Moraga wrote. I've got to take you as you come to me. I refuse, said Michelle, to be afraid.

Source: Loving in the War Years, Cherríe L. Moraga
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
Michelle couldn't let Lien's invitation pass, of course. She tracked down and gave to Lien a poem expressing exactly how she'd felt the moment she met Lien.

Vanessa Marzan Deza

oh excuse me i'm sorry )

Vanessa Marzan Deza is Pinay—Filipina—and writes, according to her bio, "grounded in her particular context as colored and female. It is a conscious act of resistance and creative envisioning."

Let me look away, Deza wrote. I didn't mean to stare, and there is work to do. But I don't want, Michelle told Lien, to look away.

Source: The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writing by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian and Bisexual Women, edited by Sharon Lim-Hing
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
Once there was a girl; once there was a girl. Women, both, really. Her name was Lien; her name was Michelle. After Lien met Michelle, she copied out this poem and gave it to Michelle.

Fragment 31
Sappho tr. Anne Carson

He seems to me equal to gods that man )

Sappho. The most readily recognized queer female poet in the world. Not, probably, the first—that honor may go to Enheduanna, the first poet whose name we know. But the most recognizable name among queer female poets, and Sappho 31 may be her best-known poem.

All is to be dared, Sappho wrote. So Lien dared. But the rest of the poem, unless the last stanza of Catullus 51 is an accurate translation (unlikely), is lost.

Source: If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Anne Carson
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the January 8, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] rix_scaedu and [personal profile] primeideal. It was inspired by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "time travel" square on my 1-2-13 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. You can find other poems in the series Tripping into the Future via my Serial Poetry page.

Read more... )
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
[personal profile] jjhunter
when they unlocked my teeth of braces
I was handcuffed with time instead
clock on my wrist fastened
over (overwriting) the vulnerable pulse
of my body's time keeping heart beating
and I worried it
at night not falling to sleep
because it wasn't time to sleep
it was hour o' clock
I worried it

as I got older time became
an ally or at least required
the games we played of shifting time
made LATE now seven minutes past
and I in wisdom set my watch
to physical five minutes faster
but sometimes my math wasn't so good
and I was late or my heart was
beating time dizzy
with its pulsing

these days my phone talks
to the internet
and the internet talks
to sensors circling the earth
and who cares about what the sun
that lets us down is doing now
when that first alarm rings
I turn on my SAD light
to bathe my eyes my brain my body clock
into thinking of five o'clock
as time
           to wake up
kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
It will probably come as no surprise to you that, being me, the thing I want to talk about is literally the body politic, and the body as political: the ways in which we have meanings ascribed to our existence.

Half-Caste, by John Agard. )

Words have cadence, assonance, resonance. Devices used in rhetoric are used in poetry, and vice versa; we construct our realities out of words; and labels, even when they're incorrect, are stars to steer by. Cicero wasn't a poet, but he talked like one; oral histories take, often, the form of epic poems or of songs; musical and linguistic memory interact in strange ways. Poetry has power.

Half-Caste is a poem I was introduced to during GCSE English Literature. Like a lot of them, it's stuck with me

Last week, I finished reading Derek Walcott's Omeros - and oh, but in addition to its lyricism and beauty, its portrait of life, it is bitingly political: from the slave trade, via nineteenth-century wars over the island and a retired British Major in the twentieth, to the ways in which tourism can act as colonialism; through its exploration of Walcott's complicated relationship and personal resonance with Homer; set against the resonances of history, and the claims that the Odyssey is a universal story.

There is Bao Phi's Yellow-Brown Babies For The Revolution. There are slogans to chant: nothing about us without us; we're here, we're queer, get over it. There is every punk song ever (and there's a reason we call them rock anthems).

Poetry has power.

This is in part because we let it. I am increasingly convinced that in poetry - and not quite, in any other medium, at least not to the same extent - it is permitted to be angry, to express hard emotions explicitly. Poems get described as evocative and, yes, powerful - rather than histrionic or overwrought.

So many of us are used to having meanings ascribed to us in ways that align neatly with censorship/dismissal: too loud, too angry, too emotional, too irrational; we take up too much space, we're inconvenient; or we're erased wholesale, because others' perceptions of us is given primacy over our own realities, and over listening to us.

Poetry isn't a simple way to take power back - because after all it's art, and that is oh-so-readily reframed as frivolous; because in so many ways it's very much part of the Academy - but nonetheless it's a way we can tell our own stories.
this is the last song on earth,
this is the last song on earth
there is nothing else,
there is nothing else
so fill your lungs
and sing

-- Bao Phi

Listen & read
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Apologies for the delay on this last post — I've quite been under the weather the last few days.

Engineering "time & occasion to read, write, discuss, ferment poetry and poetic play into one's everyday life" doesn't have to take the form of a series of large and intimidating commitments. Ambitious projects can be useful to push oneself past plateaus, but unless you are making a living out of poetry, there will be times where periodic opportunities for poetry feel more sustaining & engaging than additional commitments to writing poetry.

One of the ways I engineer such opportunities for myself is through hosting 'How Are You? (in Haiku)' days, Read more... )

More generally, I make time for poetry in my life even when I'm feeling busy bee busy by questioning prose as my automatic default. There are times when poetry is not appropriate — certain types of professional correspondence spring to mind, etc. — but poetry as a way to communicate emotion, insight, a sense of playful purpose or perspective can be not only appropriate in place of prose but fun more often than you might think.

I've written personal emails as poems ("I chose to write this email to you as a poem, just because"), fannish comments as poems ("Oh this is delight and sorrow keen-woven /with eye for Thorin's subtleties"), even science commentary as poems (see below). I don't have to, but sometimes I choose to — and there is much joy to be found in that, and sharing that with others.

I love spot-the-affected-tissues, here:
Read more... )
to happiness (warmth from head to hands to toes
the person entire full like embers
of a campfire rippling heat and contentment
out into the night, face a beacon of yes)

— re: graphic featured in 'People worldwide may feel mind-body connections in same way' @ medical xpress

As always, I welcome all and any thoughts you have to share, in whatever form you are moved to share them.
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
[personal profile] jjhunter
I'm a mockingbird poet. That is to say, I have my own style, but I also have a lot of fun imitating the styles of other poets, or combining elements of several styles into something new.

Why imitate? )

Today's featured project is a game that takes imitation one step further into remix, i.e. imitating some elements and transforming others of one or more pieces to create a new work. 'One Poem, Two Poem, Old Poem, New Poem':
Let's play an informal game today. Comment on this post with a favorite line or stanza [without telling me the source], and I will write you a minute remix poem or poem fragment in return. If you or someone else replies to that with another favorite line from a different source, I'll elaborate on the initial fill to incorporate the new reference, and so on and so forth.
And here's one of my favorite resulting poems:

they say your heart went fey to faeryland
where none can touch
or wound it wakeful

and down you went to goblintown... )
'Far and Fey' drew inspiration from five different sources — can you guess any of them off the bat? Try to work out what elements were imitated or transformed from each of the source prompts as the poem evolved, and then read the poem in its entirety again. Has your reading of the poem changed? Did any of the source prompts surprise you?

Bonus: I would be remiss if I failed to mention [personal profile] luzula set 'Far and Fey' to music and recorded it. Listen to luzula's fantastic performance here.
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Some background reflections on what inspired this project )

'Poem For Your Thoughts?' Day has a simple premise: "Leave me a prompt or prompts of any kind today, [date], and I'll write you a free poem."

No promises of quality, or format, or time of arrival — I wrote a lot of haiku and haikai for this project! — but for several iterations, I opened up my inbox to seeds of possibility on a given day, and committed myself to writing a poem for every. single. one. as soon as I could.

As you might imagine, this is the kind of project where it helps to set limits time- and/or number-wise on just how many prompts you need to fill, and the kind of exercise too where because you are doing so many, because you're doing them all for free, eventually you learn as I learned to stop worrying quite so much about the quality of any one particular fill, and to embrace the opportunity to try new things with language and format just to vary up writing in such quantity.

On average, every time I offered some variation on 'Poem For Your Thoughts?', I wrote one or two poems I considered especially memorable within a day. The following, written for [personal profile] raze's prompt 'Muddy hooves', is one of them.


the matter of transportation
was solved by judicious application of coconuts

Read more... )

In honor of this post's subject, should you choose to comment here in any fashion (and I welcome your thoughts, reflections, associations, whatever you're move to share), I will — eventually — respond to your comment in poem form. (No promise of more than haiku, though!)
kaberett: Photo of a pile of old leather-bound books. (books)
[personal profile] kaberett
[personal profile] jjhunter and I both deal with ghosts at this time of year, I think; certainly I do. We've been sharing some of them with each other, and this is what emerged.

a curious thing, this—
a seed that does not drop until
fire hath eaten up the underbrush of certainties

There is no hopelessnessin loving you.
Precision, yes, and care, delicacy.
Awareness of your absence, bittersweet, and yet:

you don't trail lonely echoes in your wake
or scatter ghosts of leaves, however crisp

your absence cuts rather like vinegar
and pickled thus everything is flavor
almost too intense to bear

your shadow stretches out before me:
still your light casts my life into relief
bookblather: A picture of Laura Roslin looking up. Text is "still standing." (still standing)
[personal profile] bookblather
I've heard it said that funerals, and the rites of death, are more for the living than for the dead. The dead don't care. They aren't present here anymore, no matter where we think they've gone in the end. The structured rituals of mourning--like wakes and funerals, obituaries and memorials-- are for the living to enact their grief.

That's what I find in these poems: the enactment of grief and the attempt to process it. It's not at all easy to deal with grief, whether for a child, a parent, a friend, a lover, distant family, a pet, someone you never met but felt deeply about. In some cases we grieve people who never existed, as in On The Death of Beth Meacham's Father. However, I think the poem most evocative of grief is Journey.

Journey reposted with permission )

The entire sonnet cycle can be found here. I highly recommend it.

Poll #14571 Kudos?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5

I would like to leave kudos on this post

View Answers

5 (100.0%)

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
The following poem goes with my meta post about "Veterans and War Memorials." It also fills the "war" square on my 10-6-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It belongs to the series Diminished Expectations, which is dystopic science fiction about the aftermath of war.

Read more... )

On hope

Oct. 6th, 2013 05:20 pm
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
[Content notes for Sweetness: cancer, mass murder, car accidents.]

Sweetness. )

Prayer. )

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow. )

Yellow-Brown Babies for the Revolution. )

Thank you, so much, for having me this week: it has been an absolute pleaure. Most of the poems I've shared with you I first came across in the trilogy of anthologies by Bloodaxe Books, Being Alive, Staying Alive, Being Human. I wish I'd had more energy to write you better posts, but I hope that what I've done has sufficed. <3

On motion

Oct. 3rd, 2013 08:28 pm
kaberett: Toph making a rock angel (toph-rockangel)
[personal profile] kaberett

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

-- Michael Donaghy

I used to be a pianist and a hiker, and these days I typically use a wheelchair when I leave the house, and my RSI means the most music I usually do is singing. It's been an... interesting transition to make, to say the least; and speaking of interesting transitions, to this day if I am walking late at night I will shift my gait from masculine-typical to feminine-typical and back again depending on what I think's warranted by my surroundings.

This all ties in with bodies, of course: the body as vehicle; motion between places, between states. Here is a thing I love: the way that we can suggest motion through structure, through rhythm, through assonance and onomatopoeia.

And we can also suggest stillness or constraint: I mentioned, yesterday, the strictures of poetry and how they relate to bodies; but I will also never forget the unseen poem in my GCSE English Literature exam, which was about being imprisoned - and was in sonnet form.

Robert Frost, of course, manages motion and stillness all at once.

And so: this is a way for us to talk about tension, about change of state, about - again - loss, but also about not having to be good, and it's not in the words, or at least not quite or not only in them.

Let's be clear: the poems I link to are not required reading for engaging in comments. They're just things I think you might be interested in, at least some of them.

And so, predictably, I am going to ask you to add to my own hoard of poems: what are your favourite examples of poetry in motion?

I apologise that I have not, anywhere in this post, included any trains - but what I will leave you with (and oh, but this leads in to my next post for you) is a tightrope.


This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don't you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.

-- Carol Ann Duffy

On bodies

Oct. 3rd, 2013 12:17 am
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
The Cinnamon Peeler, Michael Ondaatje )

In much of my own work this year (seek & ye shall find; [a scribble]; writing my wrongs) I play with the idea of the body as palimpsest: of our histories being written on our skins, metaphorically but also literally (laughter and frown lines, and of course scars, for those of us who have laid our bodies on altars of surgical steel). But it's not just that: it's about struggling with being queer, and genderqueer, and making that legible: the idea of "legible" identities, of being correctly "read". And it's the assumptions that other people make about my queer disabled body (and my queer disabled self) and my capabilities, and how oppressive that can be and can feel.

But more than that, for me it is about coming to terms and, yes, my word for the year, reclamation. Through the constraints of poetical forms I explore (at least in theory!) the constraints of my body: I've not yet written the sonnet about the pillars of my ribcage, but it is mulling, gently.

But it's not just about constraint, about strictures: my words have also been about body-as-poetry, poetry-as-body, encircling and enfolding and making safe. Among others, I think that I am here drawing on Ani DiFranco: your bones will be my bedframe and your flesh will be my pillow. And then, of course, there is Neruda, who is close to my heart because he makes bodies into the Earth into poems.

So: one of the things that poetry helps me with, helps me relate to, is my changing body and my changing relationship to it and why scent is so important to me; and poetry helps me better understand the bodies of others, and the embodiment of others.

And it all circles back, over and over, to my feeling that our histories are (being) written on our bodies, and simultaneously we write them in poetry, and both are cryptic and both are layered, and there is the tension between the action of the world on our selves and of our selves on the world; of the concept of the death of the author and how it applies to spinning our own lives into narratives, and weaving ourselves into the stories of others, and how we are seen by others. (And the shifts of perspective, of course: in Ovid's Heroides, in Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife, who take people whose value was in part determined by their bodies and give them voice, make them into something else.)

As you've probably gathered by now, one of my absolute favourite things about poetry is resonance - how we can communicate via the echoes of poems we love in poems that are new to us (and this is going to be the subject of my next post for you). It makes space for us to talk: and so. If you are comfortable, I would love for you to tell me about your experiences and your favourites, and -- in advance, I thank you, because I am keenly aware of how intimate a request this is.
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
I owe [personal profile] jjhunter a lot for how this poem turned out in the end. My initial idea for remixing Sappho Fragment 16 was to translate (more in the sense of 'moving sideways' than in the sense involving multiple languages) the concepts into a poetic form to which English is better suited. In a way, that's what I did in the end. The images of armies and Helen are Sappho's, but Sappho was writing about her conception of beauty, speaking as a queer woman of Lesbos millennia ago, and I am here writing of mine, speaking as a queer woman of today's USA.

The meter is not Sapphic, more's the pity, but, uh, Wiki 'Sapphic stanza' and scroll down to the poems by Lee and Tranter. Someday I'll write a true Sapphic poem in English; this is not that day. Anyway, English iambic pentameter is eminently suited to describing beauty, as any student of Shakespeare knows.

I present:

Anaktoria )


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