The OF Blog: Seeking new poems/poets to discover

Monday, July 02, 2012

Seeking new poems/poets to discover

Lately, my thoughts have returned to one of my first literary loves, poetry.  Spent part of the night reading and re-reading poems by Ernesto Cardenal and Antonio Machado and I seem to have an insatiable appetite for more poetry, especially that which expresses doubts, fears, and frustrations, such as this little poem from Machado:

Señor, ya me arrancaste lo que yo más quería.
Oye otra vez, Dios mío, mi corazón clamar.
Tu voluntad se hizo, Señor, contra la mía.
Señor, ya estamos solos mi corazón y el mar.

Lord, already you have torn me away from what I most loved.
Listen again, my God, my heart cries out.
Your will is done, Lord, against my own.
Lord, now my heart and the sea are alone.

This will do for a rough translation (the original contains some nuances that I am not yet willing to torture English syntax to approximate), but when reading poetry, I am of the opinion that I would much rather read it in the original and struggle toward my own interpretation than to read a rendering in another.  So here's what I'm asking of my readers (knowing that a sizable percentage read more than just English):

I would like to see some of your favorite poems/poets quoted here, in English if that's the language of composition, in another tongue if composed elsewhere.  I don't have to have a translation, as I would like to work out the rhythms and flows of metre and metaphor for myself.  Hopefully, there will be new poems/poets introduced here for me and for others.  So if you're up to it, please share in the comments.


Ian Sales said...

One of my favourites is the WWII poet John Jarmain:

Larry said...

Thanks. I wasn't familiar at all with Jarmain or with that poem, but that was a good, sobering one to read.

Radu Romaniuc said...

You have to try Nichita Stănescu.


Se ia o bucată de piatră
se ciopleste cu o daltă de sânge,
se lustruieste cu ochiul lui Homer,
se răzuieste cu raze
până cubul iese perfect.
După aceea se sărută de nenumărate ori cubul
cu gura ta, cu gura altora
si mai ales cu gura infantei.
După aceea se ia un ciocan
si brusc se fărâmă un colt de-al cubului.
Toti, dar absolut toti zice-vor :
-Ce cub perfect ar fi fost acesta
de n-ar fi avut un colt sfărâmat!

This is my un-nuanced translation

The lesson about the cube by Nichita Stanescu

One takes a piece of stone
one carves it with a chisel of blood,
one polishes it with the eye of Homer,
one abrades it with sun rays
until the cube is made perfect.
After that the cube is countlessly kissed
with your mouth, with others' mouth
and especially with the mouth of the infanta.
After that one takes a hammer
and suddenly smashes a corner of the cube.
Everybody, but absolutely everybody will say:
"What a perfect cube this would have been
without that broken corner!"

And more importantly, here you can hear the poet reciting it himself

He has too many beautiful poems, including this Poem which was a hit with countless generations of enamored teenagers

Tell me, if I caught you one day
and kissed the sole of your foot,
wouldn't you limp a little then,
afraid to crush my kiss?…

Anyway, here's a link to some of his poems in Romanian, and then a link with translated poems. I canțt vouch for the translations, but you can get an idea.

Larry said...

Perfect! I understand just enough Romanian (well, via Latin, Spanish, and the other western Romance languages) to get the gist of that before the translation, but it's alien enough that I have to focus much harder on each word that it makes the poem even more effective (especially after I read your translation afterward).

I will certainly be investigating this after I sleep shortly!

Matthew Cheney said...

über der grauschwarzen Ödnis.
Ein baum-
hoher Gedanke
greift sich den Lichtton: es sind
noch Lieder zu singen jenseits
der Menschen.

--Paul Celan

Heloise said...

h.c. artmann

ich bin der tiefdunkle krug : ein sonnennachmittag ist das blatt
meiner eigenen daemmerseele : perlenungeziert dufte ich auch
voller ahnung die augen : bluetenwurzelig im nachtmoos
ein licht nach dem andern : raschelnde mondseide
verrinnt in meinem laecheln : die spinnen atmen

Hélène said...

Here's a short poem from "Le forçat innocent" by Jules Supervielle :

Ne tourne pas la tête, un miracle est derrière
Qui guette et te voudrait de lui-même altéré :
Cette douleur pourrait outrepasser la Terre
Mais préfère être là, comme un rêve en arrêt.

Reste immobile, et sache attendre que ton coeur
Se détache de toi comme une lourde pierre.

barathron said...

Gerard Manley Hopkins:


I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, ' in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe ' of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, ' lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, ' of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, ' entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, ' unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, ' eyelid and eyelid of slumber.

Carrion Comfort

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

The Sea and the Skylark

On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

Spelt From Sibyl's Leaves

Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable, ' vaulty, voluminous, … stupendous
Evening strains to be tíme’s vást, ' womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
Her fond yellow hornlight wound to the west, ' her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
Waste; her earliest stars, earl-stars, ' stárs principal, overbend us,
Fíre-féaturing heaven. For earth ' her being has unbound, her dapple is at an end, as-
tray or aswarm, all throughther, in throngs; ' self ín self steedèd and páshed—qúite
Disremembering, dísmémbering ' áll now. Heart, you round me right
With: Óur évening is over us; óur night ' whélms, whélms, ánd will end us.
Only the beak-leaved boughs dragonish ' damask the tool-smooth bleak light; black,
Ever so black on it. Óur tale, O óur oracle! ' Lét life, wáned, ah lét life wind
Off hér once skéined stained véined variety ' upon, áll on twó spools; párt, pen, páck
Now her áll in twó flocks, twó folds—black, white; ' right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind
But thése two; wáre of a wórld where bút these ' twó tell, each off the óther; of a rack
Where, selfwrung, selfstrung, sheathe- and shelterless, ' thóughts agaínst thoughts ín groans grínd.

barathron said...


Robert Desnos:

J’ai Tant Rêvé de Toi

J’ai tant rêvé de toi que tu perds ta réalité.
Est-il encore temps d’atteindre ce corps vivant et de baiser sur cette bouche la naissance de la voix qui m’est chère?
J’ai tant rêvé de toi que mes bras habitués, en étreignant ton ombre, à se croiser sur ma poitrine ne se plieraient pas au contour de ton corps, peut-être.
Et que, devant l’apparence réelle de ce qui me hante et me gouverne depuis des jours et des années, je deviendrais une ombre sans doute.
O balances sentimentales.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi qu’il n’est plus temps sans doute que je m’éveille. Je dors debout, le corps exposé à toutes les apparences de la vie et de l’amour et toi, la seule qui compte aujourd’hui pour moi, je pourrais moins toucher ton front et tes lèvres que les premières lèvres et le premier front venus.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi, tant marché, parlé, couché avec ton fantôme qu’il ne me reste plus peut-être, et pourtant, qu’à être fantôme parmi les fantômes et plus ombre cent fois que l’ombre qui se promène et se promènera allègrement sur le cadran solaire de ta vie.

Larry said...

I check out for much of the day/evening and I return to some jems. I see I need to brush up on my German, as I understand over half of what I read, but piecing it all together for images to flash through my mind is just not happening now.

Keep on sending these in, as I am a greedy SOB tonight, it seems :D

Gerard said...

Gerard Reve:

Eigenlijk geloof ik niets,
en twijfel ik aan alles, zelfs aan U.
Maar soms, wanneer ik denk dat Gij waarachtig leeft,
dan denk ik, dat Gij Liefde zijt, en eenzaam,
en dat, in dezelfde wanhoop, Gij mij zoekt
zoals ik U.

Rough Translation

Actually I don't believe in anything
and doubt everything, even You
but sometimes, when I think You really live
then I think, You are love and lonely,
and that, in the same desperation, You search for me
as I for You

and another one:

Nu weet ik, wie gij zijt,
de Jongen die ik eenzaam zag te Woudsend en daarna,
nog op dezelfde dag, in een kafee te Heeg.
Ik hoor mijn Moeders stem.
O Dood, die Waarheid zijt: nader tot U.

marco said...

(Links go to my tumblr)

Paul Celan, Schneebett

Mina Loy, Human Cylinders

Gerard Manley Hopkins - That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

Aliette de Bodard said...

I don't claim to understand all the nuances in Vietnamese, but I love this poem by Xuân Diệu:

Tác giả: Xuân Diệu

Yêu là chết ở trong lòng một ít
Vì mấy khi yêu mà chắc được yêu.
Cho rất nhiều song nhận chẳng bao nhiêu;
Người ta phụ, hoặc thờ ơ, chẳng biết...
Phút gần gũi cũng như giờ chia biệt.
Tưởng trăng tàn, hoa tạ với hồn tiêu,
Vì mấy khi yêu mà chắc được yêu!
- Yêu, là chết ở trong lòng một ít.
Họ lạc lối giữa u sầu mù mịt,
Những người ai theo dõi dấu chân yêu;
Và cảnh đời là sa mạc cô liêu.
Và tình ái là sợi dây vấn vít.
Yêu, là chết ở trong lòng một ít.

Rough translation (not my own)
( Xuan Dieu )

To love is to die a little in the heart,
for when you love, can you be sure you're loved?
You give so much, so little you get back --
the other lets you down or looks away.
Together or apart, it's still the same.
The moon turns pale, blooms fade, the soul's bereaved,
for when you love, can you be sure you're loved?
To love is to die a little in the heart.
They'll lose their way within dark sorrow land,
those passionate fouls who go in search of love.
And life will be a desert stripped of joy,
and love will tie the knot that binds to grief.
To love is to die a little in the heart.

Larry said...

Lovely poem :D I posted an excerpt from a Serbian poet, Branko Miljković, over on Gogol's Overcoat that may be of interest to those reading this.

I think I'm going to have a lot of wonderful poets/poems to discover based on those shared here :D

Aliette de Bodard said...

Oooh, fascinating, thanks for the link! I love bilingual editions (and translators' notes. the whole process is fascinating). It's nice to see how poetry varies in different languages.

(at least when my Mom reads it aloud, you can hear the breath and rhythm of Vietnamese poetry in a way that's hard to convey on the page--a combination of vowel sounds and tones that, even to my untrained ear, sounds deliberate and beautiful)

Larry said...

I love bilingual editions as well, for the reasons you note. Earlier this year, I bought a couple of bilingual Persian poetry collections and another bilingual Arabic collection, just to see how different they were (I know just enough to read the letters; my knowledge of either can be numbered in a few dozen words combined :P). The use of repetition, which English usually frowns upon, was one interesting difference.

Now if only I were lucky to have these poems read aloud by a native speaker. I think that would add even more to the experience (I know it did when I listened to a recording of Ernesto Cardenal's Oración por Marilyn Monroe that is touching (there are subtitles in English).

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