We would like to thank Anna Crowe for editing and commissioning the work that has been featured in this issue.
Joan Margarit • Maria Mercè Marçal • Francesc Parcerisas • Anna Aguilar-Amat • Manuel Forcano • Josep Lluís Aguiló • Víctor Sunyol • Teresa Colom • Sonia Moll
Anna Crowe • Allison Funk • Nela Bureu Ramos
THW 10: May 21, 2018 THW 9: March 7, 2018
THW 8: December 6, 2017 THW 7: September 10, 2017
THW6: June 3, 2017 THW5: March 7, 2017
THW4: December 6, 2016 THW3: September 1, 2016
THW2: June 1, 2016 THW1: March 1, 2016
Joan Margarit: Six Poems Translated by Anna Crowe
AN AMAZING WINTER
The poppies are disappearing,
wiped out like the weeds.
Very soon, the wind’s red brushstrokes
will no longer blow through fields of wheat.
Who will be able to make sense, one day,
of Van Gogh’s paintings?
The world I live in is still familiar,
though subtle changes already make me uneasy:
it won’t go back to being mine.
It’s not about it being a hell: it can be understood.
Oblivion comes, reassuring us.
And happiness, happiness always returns.
We pass. The two of them going up:
the wheelchair in which, huddled
and moaning, a young man sits,
and the father, who is pushing him.
To gain more power, he throws his feet backwards
and stretches out arms and legs as far as he can.
And so, bent double and tense,
he can barely manage the climb.
I know what he feels: that he is getting old.
For one accursed moment, in pitying this father,
I am mistaken: he still has his child.
Now that they have passed,
I smile at them as they move into the distance.
A woman glares at me from her doorway.
She doesn’t know what love-scene she is witnessing.
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Arriving there, in adolescence,
I found it a kindly, utterly beautiful place.
And it was my home.
Speaking Castilian, I did my best
to speak it with the same melodiousness.
I lived in a city where women, opening
their windows, would place cushions on the sills
to rest their arms on. The streets
with houses of pink stucco dropped down to the port.
One day I went back to my harsh country,
but the island is close, in my memory.
I will never be able to disembark there again.
Tenerife, the fifties:
a place and a time. The only ones
I would like to return to. Through its warm sea
a shark was already swimming: my future.
WORKS OF LOVE
The motive doesn’t matter.
You have to search among the remains for what has survived.
Might we not feel ourselves insecure
if our feelings
were frontier lands
lost, regained, lost once more?
For loving is not falling in love.
It is going on building, time and again,
the same courtyard in which to listen to the blackbirds
when it’s still dark in springtime.
It is the only birdsong that could be Schubert.
You and I as in our twenties, alone in the kitchen,
we grow strong listening to that melody.
We have never had so much light as now.
WOMAN WASHING HER HANDS
She puts her fingers into the water
and thinks of the caresses they have made.
But the water slowly cools,
as do the words
that sheltered her and have left her on her own.
Interest in life ends much sooner
than the young suppose.
Everything cools, and we need
the weariness of having loved.
In order to desire what is approaching.
BUILDING A DESTINY
In the woods at night,
around the camp-fire, we boys used to sing
The wind will bring our cry to where you are.
Afterwards we would fall sleep in the tent,
under the white canvas, while gazing at the shadows
that the branches of the pines were drawing there.
It took me a few more years
to discover the ancient Taoist poets,
those who would teach me the meaning
of silence and the moon.
Now solitude is laying itself down
over the words.
The wind will bring our cry to where you are.
You will hear it. And there will be no one.
Joan Margarit i Consarnau was born in 1938 in Sanaüja Segarra, Catalonia, Spain. He is a poet and architect of structural engineering who, since 1968 has been a professor at the Barcelona School of Architecture. One of the most internationally renowned Catalan poets, he has been the recipient of numerous both at home and abroad. Tugs in the fog, the first selection of his poems to appear in English, was translated by Anna Crowe and published by Bloodaxe Books. It was the PBS Translation choice in 2006. Bloodaxe have since published two further volumes of his work: Strangely happy (2016), and Love is a place (2016) . A distinguished translator of Anglophone poetry, Margarit has translated the works of Elizabeth Bishop and Thomas Hardy into Castilian, and RS Thomas into Catalan,
Maria Mercè Marçal: Three Poems translated by Allison Funk and Nela Bureu
I BROODED ON THE EGG OF WHITE DEATH
I brooded on the egg of white death
under my armpit, close to my breast
and blindly nursed
the shadow of night’s wing.
Don’t cry for me, Mother, at the break of dawn.
Don’t cry for me, Mother, cry with me.
The monstrous rose burst
where the scream is born.
Mother, don’t cry for me, my Mother.
Don’t cry for me, Mother, cry with me.
Let your crying weave with mine the net
under my unsteady feet
on the trapeze
where I contort myself
grasping the hand of the shadow’s fright.
Like the voice of the castrato
that soars above the wound.
From the loss that bleeds
in the clear singing like a spring.
The first spring, Mother.
WITH OBLIVION’S THREAD
With oblivion’s thread
she threads the needle.
Fixing the scar she sees,
letting go of what she finds.
wind, living flesh:
she sews up memory,
the blind mender.
THE SCAR DIVIDES
The scar divides
in two parts.
as a decree
in an imperial
that exiles me
to the frozen
of the faceless,
Maria Mercè Marçal i Serra (November 13, 1952 – July 5, 1998) was a Catalan poet, professor, writer and translator. She spent her childhood in Ivars d’Urgell and studied Literature at the University of Barcelona. In 1972 she was driven by circumstances to marry the poet Ramon Pinyol Balsch. They separated some time afterwards. She translated into Catalan books by Colette, Marguewrite Yourcenar, Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Many of her poems have been set to music. She died of Cancer aged forty five.
Francesc Parcerisas: Six Poems translated by Anna Crowe
Once finished planting, she has tied a strip of cardboard
to the trunk of each tree. And she shows them to you:
a tree for every grandchild, and great-grandchild,
a meadow so that one day they may come here,
a vegetable memory that will see you grow.
So that they will be nourished by the remembering
hidden under stones or, if it’s been a good year,
they may stretch out a hand to the sky or hurry
to pick the forbidden fruit that experience
has not yet had time to harm.
But maybe, more simply, what she wants
is for her to emerge, the one who makes you plant trees,
from those deep ashes and, up above the roots,
to sit down at each mouth – sweet apple,
green, sour walnut – and gaze at the high meadow
and the slow back and forth of tides that rock,
in all their beauty, like a dream’s slow breath,
to make us understand that the brownish mud
of deceits and faults is also the happy, ancient
forgiveness planted here in us for ever.
I don’t know much about it, about how a being
finds speech. Is it a common well
to which the lads come to draw water?
Today I was folding your clothes:
they’re old and worn, comfortable,
good for wearing at home. And, in every fold,
there you are. I see your eyes
in the holes, I see the seam the spine makes,
sleeves the colour of your hair,
the button I’ll undo for you with pleasure,
and the crease where my fingers will be your hands –
reddened, worn, like an old gold mancus.
Do we understand each other as well in this way,
like an arrears that time brings
to the wells of truth? At what point
does the patch begin to chafe us?
Let the bucket fall to the bottom and hear
how it fills and how the concealed weight
of water grows heavy in your hand.
I make another fold
in the empty drawer of your things,
as though the chain had never
burned my fingers.
FARRERA, SEPTEMBER 2003
for Ewa Lipska and Maciej Niemiec
Orion and the Southern Cross hide from us
like a round chestnut rolling away.
The mild rain waits for signs of autumn.
The living poets return and, in a small zinc pipe,
wash the remains of dead words.
There in what’s called «the still non-existent place»
you have to read a body between sheets
and a warm hand that suppresses the delirium of fear
or offers us pale passion in morning’s open palm.
There in what’s called «disillusion of last words»
you have to search for the colours of this white mist
that twines like a linen shroud around the mountains.
Give us more of them, of these small stones
made rusty by the neglect of the path. We’re not afraid
whether they prove to be tombs or feast-day signs.
They’re the old letters that we’re not meant to read
or the music that the rain will dissolve:
always under the cushion, always dangling
between your T-shirt and the sweat of your chest,
always there where we think the blackness of time
won’t seize them from us, because they’re words,
and words are our solitude.
THE BLUE COFFIN
The coffin is smothered in blue flowers
and the snow comes up to our knees:
the path of the faraway and of knowledge
is full of questions.
We ask ourselves about the rose garden
and about the meaning of love or betrayal,
about the meaning of indifference.
Now clowns are going by beneath snowflakes
with a heart of multicoloured confetti,
and we are snipers who attempt
to aim at the heart of a simple soul,
of a woman or child on their way to market.
Nobody knows how he died,
or who knows someone who may have known him,
we only know what they say,
what they have told us
or what he says they say.
Empty streets of the big city,
abandoned schools, wire netting
and cars full of lice-infested chickens.
It all seems an enormous accident
and the accident a meticulously arranged trap:
here too it has rained huge black frogs all day.
We shall be the children of our time,
the children of Buddha, of Christ,
of the empty beach that abandons us
while a little girl jumps on the sand
and makes out, surprised, the face of the seal
that, it too, is not where it ought to be,
AND HERE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT LANGUAGE
And here we’re talking about language,
about whether we say what we think
or whether thought makes us do the saying.
There was the bramble bush and the discussion with the elders
in the temple; and divinity grows stubborn
(‘I am what I am’ and so on and so forth).
But the nursery class were playing in the playground
and we were munching rolls
and the drops of mercury were running down the tiles
as though time needed always to exist.
‘Ugly mug’ still seems to me to express
a major insult. We haven’t seen order brought
to our lands, and we’ve seen how the language
was being lost. You ask me about it,
you that have one, and you that don’t,
two women united because you wanted it that way,
asking for nothing, to be able to look inside,
where the darkness maybe becomes more tender
and the words are now nothing but disorder.
You said that you would show me the woods,
and you the beaches and wild countryside of the north;
but now we cannot meet.
Now we want only to be: for the bramble bush
not to twist our language,
not to have to weep with Sweeney and Agamemnon,
not to have to think how tiring it is
to know, to want, to speak the language
they were holding out to you like a gift,
the most sublime one, those Kings from the East.
THE BATTLE OF THE EBRO
Dirty red, frankincense red,
the red of gold and of rubies.
He sticks his hand in as far as the placenta
and turns her calf. He bites his nails,
exhausted, reckless, the snow stops falling
suddenly on the mountain’s arête,
or in this spoonful where he dissolves
the white powder that has to be injected.
Men in leather jackets,
women with shoulder straps over their breasts,
books with delicate endpapers,
the child’s wail from inside the hut…
these too were the years
of his will. We know their flames.
And the waiting at the mouth of the cave
and the gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
He is a professional critic, or a believer;
a man in a blue shirt,
or the cynic who only wants 80 million:
«I’m selling you the country, the souls,
the corrupt working-class,
I’m selling you the blood of the saints,
the tomb of the whores, the fatherland».
And you, searching for your father’s face
among those soldiers crossing the Ebro,
or among those fleeing, their cape
over their shoulder, among carts and mules
all disembowelled, on the old Ginestar road.
They don’t know the cost and are homeless,
and what they will build is our gaze,
a gaze that has no happiness in it,
but only oblivion’s pride, and the strong wine
of justice.There will be nothing now.
They kneel in front of the cave, or in the sand
on the beach, facing the firing-squad.
The muddy water drags into the soft shadow
beneath the boat the corpses of those
even younger than you, my readers.
Readers who know the fighting and the heart of it,
and who have seen them kneeling with offerings,
and who still know how it all was,
in the happy time of innocence,
how it was unknown and everlasting,
the nocturnal justice of the Three Kings.
Francesc Parcerisas (1944), has published poetry, prose, essays and numerous translations. His first book, Vint poemes civils (Twenty civilian poems), appeared in 1966, his latest, Seixanta-un poemes (Sixty-one poems), in 2014. Triomf del present (Triumph of the present) gathers his poetry until 1983. His diary Un estiu (One summer) has just been issued (2018). Parcerisas was director de la Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (1998-2003) and Dean of the same institution until 2016. Translated into several languages, he has received a number of awards (in 2015 the Cultural Award from the Generalitat de Catalunya and in 2018 the Catalan Writers Association Prize). He has been visiting professor at Beijing and Chicago.
Anna Aguilar-Amat: Five Poems translated by Anna Crow
The first thing I write in the notebook
you gave me as a present:
that there are ice-crystals on the window
of the plane.
Earlier I slept for a while and woke up
over the Corsican coast.
It’s not even three hours
from end to end
I suppress as far as I can,
my longing to tell you
that I love you, to the nth degree.
That you are in every mountain
and in the sea and also in the thick
mist and the not-seeing.
All the beautiful names
(Black Sea, Sea of Marmara,
Smyrna – Izmin – Ankara)
I’m trying to retain them
so I can recite them again to you.
In the magazine on the plane
all the lovely houses
are those we’ll one day own
and all destinations
places that speak to us.
For hope has returned.
We come out of the cloud that
resembled the smoke from a burning
Library, and we are close to landing and
already it’s almost night-time in Istanbul
and already it’s almost life itself
returning from the future which
tugs at the plane like this thread
that gets tangled up in your hair,
my sultan, just as in the minarets
of the Blue Mosque.
Mon Dieu! It’s enormous!
I can see 7 Parises and 3000 Alicantes,
snakes of cars, their eyes
blazing, that could devour us
like a butterfly if they raised
their torso. Asia is is a pretty name
for a little girl, but
ladies and gentlemen, my time
for writing has run out:
we have just landed!
ISTANBUL TAKING OFF!
Predictions and expectations
have been no use to you.
There in your front the city in front of you
and you, woman and pirate, with nothing but four
maps of geometric designs
that decorate the harem of your heart.
The world’s logic
superimposes itself and gets mixed up.
A thousand lives drop down
from the highest limits like
the strings of lights
on the mosque, to offer you
a ceiling of light-bulbs:
the prayers of the men
curl and rise
in a long metany
between heaven and earth.
Your head is covered and
you are praying as well in your pew,
with the rest of the women
(protecting yourself from men
takes up half your life, and here,
they make it easy for you).
The children on their rug,
like beads released
from a tasbih,
run through the rosary which,
rolled through their fingers,
calms the hours.
For each new thing you have a
memory which unites with it or
perhaps grows drunk on it.
Luckily there are museums, and
also forgetting, for you’d never
be able to go on living with all
The city is like you:
something that has survived.
The remains of empires
present in gestures and eyes
like a whiff of spice.
In the Egyptian market you buy
a good handful of blue glass eyes
to protect you from the devil,
and some pistachio Turkish-delight
which, when you get home,
your adolescent son will devour
with mathematical eagerness,
in an instant of greed
of Medusa dreadlocks
of the sins turned out into snakes. of sins turned into
THE OLD PEOPLE’S HOME
The difference between understanding something and not understanding it is
what enthrals you.
The instant of difference lies, not in a thought, but in a feeling, yet
that’s not quite right either.
Because you can’t explain emotions using the laws of physics,
and it’s not because they can’t be understood, but because they need
You cook speckled lentils in the pressure-cooker and you eat them
straight from the pan while you watch Dynamo Magician and the smiling faces
of South African children who applaud his tricks.
(Some emotions need more time than others because of being compressed).
You go to the old people’s home and sing the Xorei, the canticle
for consoling the spirit, softly to your father, and he settles down
with bowed head. The background music of dominoes, Rosita’s cries,
calling for her mother, Julian who wanted to escape, now snoozing
under the effect of tranquilizers; the carers lay the table
and the plates make orchestrated sounds, clattering one against another
as though they were Christmas bells.
And it’s like the secret life that all words share, you realise,
you’ll have to live with all of them from now on,
you’ll have to make a place for them in your present and in your memories,
since not one of them enters your heart in order to vanish,
but remain, through presence or absence, until
the end of days, until the end of nights.
That is not a poem, exactly. But the difference between
a poem and prose also
Note: Xorei: a Japanese chant from the practice of Sukyo Mahikari
(memoir of 1492)
Perhaps we seem strange to them because we have made
a far more arduous choice. And it’s because they gaped at us
with such amazement that the hardships now appear
more grievous to us, as something we might have avoided.
We eat stale ship’s biscuit, and meat from which we have to pick
the maggots of moments of loathing in the port that now
seem like treasure, maggots of the memory of those whose
eyes stared their question, why, how could it be
that we dreamed such a prodigy: that the sea did not
fall from the horizon in a huge cataract. They were the ones
astray and wandering: behind the eyes is where the sea falls,
or in your guts like a river of rats, and in your mouth
this is a smarting sharper than salt. To live the idea is hard;
where the cutting edge means slices of lemon laid on the wound,
on the bleeding gums, and at night you need to pray
that you’ll not die on the morrow, you or your brother.
Pray that you’ll not murder that man who cried, “Land ahoy!”, and
was raving. In spite of it, and because of the pain’s knife, you feel
how remote they are, those who thought you strange. Now
there is no more future. A gull’s mewing, and that dusky
line you have glimpsed on the horizon. You hold
IN COMMEMORATION OF 25 YEARS OF THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION FACULTY
‘Success puts you in the line of fire,’ said the actor.
If you take nice pictures, they’ll take your camera away.
You’ll be separated from your children because
they love you deeply,
you’ll be accused of being a cheater or a thief if you
find something that’s useful in their rubbish.
But language will remain.
They will subtract your goodwill and they will
leave in its place ulterior motives, which are
their profit motives.
Those things they cannot understand, will be
your fault, and they will reject you until
you yourself turn down the party.
They will eat all the food left in your fridge and later
they’ll mock your hunger.
But not language.
You can be stripped of everything except language,
and from your language they cannot take
the ideas, so the ideas will remain,
running as ground-water,
deeper than other languages.
If they did want to steal your ideas, the theft
would be yours: you’d rob their brain,
the oppressor’s thoughts would replicate your
thoughts and will return to you the whole force,
all its force,
and yet enhanced,
by that which
was one day taken from you.
Anna Aguilar-Amat (born 1962 in Barcelona) is a poet, translator,researcher and university professor in Terminology and Computational Linguistics.She writes primarily in Catalan (as a poet, she writes exclusively in Catalan, a language which she also uses for some of her essays, a but has some work in Spanish (primarily essays and studies). She published five collections of poems and was awarded several awards for Catalan poetry. Her poems have also been translated into Spanish, English, French, Italian, Sardinian, Macedonian, Finnish, Arabian, Turkish, Greek, German and Slovenian.
Manuel Forcano: Five Poems translated by Anna Crow
IT ISN’T YOU
Don’t labour to understand
all the things rumbling away
distant cities, summer light,
jungles which, from one day to the next,
have become wilderness, names
and bodies with whom you’ve quarrelled,
desires that still smoulder,
dreams to be fulfilled,
in the dark.
Let none of this disturb you.
It’s like the clothing you wear every day:
it has your shape
but it isn’t you.
I’M NOT MAKING IT UP
I’m not making it up when I say
I fixed my eyes on you
the way, on a ship,
the passengers stare at the coast.
I spoke to you
as though banging with my knuckles
on a door. Or with the flat of my hand.
Until you let me in.
There are places where, even in the daytime,
you can see the stars.
And what more do you want me to add
when it was impossible for us to keep everything
Your day would come to an end
long before the poem did.
I SPEND MY TIME
I spend my time searching for words
and waste it among silences.
But they’re there, between the fear of speaking
and the pain of staying silent,
stones that try to float
in a muddy swamp.
Any simpleton faced with this sight
my ears are deafened
by the blank page in front of me.
Let’s at least admit it:
We are by nature changeable,
we make promises
we don’t keep.
Desire is sometimes a bloody battle
between unequal forces.
I could say a lot more
about our days together.
But what sense would there be
in making my cries and howls ring out
and dragging from their resting place
black beetles and snakes?
The past is an empty tomb
As twilight slowly
clothed our nakedness, this
is what you told me:
that you were from a village
in the Punjab, land of the five rivers,
all tributaries of the mighty Indus.
That on their banks
men and gods had fought.
That the brownness of your skin
was from the mix of Indian
and Persian. That your ancestors
went back as well
to the Greek soldiers of Alexander.
That your contry had been ruled
by generations of gurus
and soothsayers. That the countryside
was made of vast meadows all the way to the Himalayas.
That on the summits the snows were everlasting.
That in summer they were mirrors.
That the light,
– and I saw it flashing in your eyes,
In the days’ bright sun
I remember that night.
Manuel Forcano (Barcelona, 1968) is a poet and Hebrew scholar with a Ph.D. in Semitic Philology, he has translated into Catalan the work of modern Israeli writers such as Pinhas Sadeh, Ronny Someck, Yehuda Amichai and Amos Oz, as well as the legend of The Golem of Prague and the short cabalistic Book of Creation. Of his many collections of poetry Corint (Corinth) won the Jocs Florals de Barcelona prize in 2000, El Tren de Bagdad (The Baghdad Train) was awarded the Carles Riba Poetry Prize in 2003, and Ciència Exacta (Exact Knowledge) the Miquel de Palol Prize in 2014. A collection of his poems in English translation is forthcoming from Arc Publications.
Josep Lluís Aguiló: Four Poems translated by Anna Crowe
Tread softly, for here you stand
on miracle ground, boy.
They led us to believe that the journey to Ithaca
was straightforward. We thought we were experts
in the old Ithaca’s department.
It was simple: just keep going along the road,
always longing for it, never giving up hope;
Ithaca was not the destination, it was the journey.
An incidental destination, subject
to the apprenticeship of ageing as you go.
We had it set out so clear. I believed it myself.
Until I discovered the truth.
The secret is not to keep going, patiently,
until you come, by now old and very wise,
to an island where old age may rest.
Rather, at night, instead of sleeping,
resigned to homesickness, weary of the day,
after having, as they used to say to us,
enjoyed the journey, we’re not to stop until
we’ve succeeded, in case by chance we die
in our sleep, in making of this place
we have reached today, another Ithaca.
THE ISLANDERS’ DIET
They ferment wine and press oil.
They keep a watch on the sky, waiting
for the flocks of migratory birds.
Waiting for thrushes,
they spread the fine aerial webs
of an ancestral spider, hunger.
They grind flour and bake bread.
They keep a watch on the sea, waiting
for the birth of squid,
the migration of tuna,
the arrival of the sea bream.
They mark with a protein cross
A pig is worshipped at every hearth.
HERE BE DRAGONS
Yes. There are dragons. Be warned.
Here, assuredly, in the unmarked places
in the margins of your map, there are lions too
and valleys full of snakes, and the earthquakes
which enrage the dragons, and the cannibal tribes,
the basilisk’s nest, quicksands,
chasms into which the seas pour themselves, howling,
and carnivorous plants, the most dangerous snares of all,
volcanic eruptions and labyrinths and caves.
I won’t conceal it from you, but maybe also
there are perfume, petals, naturally, thorns too,
the colour of the rose, the one we have missed of hers,
and very possibly, at the end of the path,
at the very furthermost distant bit, finally in one piece,
whetted by waiting, like a brand-new knife,
and hungry for you, you will find me.
The day after tomorrow I will see you and I thought
I would talk to you about summer, about billowing sails,
about harnessing ourselves to the dizzying list of the boat,
about the sun on our skin, the sea on our lips;
about abandoning ourselves to an oceanic desire.
Talk to you about waves that rock you to sleep,
on nights when you find, and anchor there,
any benevolent inlet; about bathing,
far out at sea, during calms;
about the slow water that sleeps on beds of seaweed.
Talk to you of stars and tides
that carry you to secret bays
where the sand is whiter than snow
and where it is always the season of lovers.
Today I know I shall see you and I want
to talk about the luminous summer that you are,
and how I would like to live in the summer
of your arms, sail across your summer
and to be your ship and to be the pencil
with which you draw some new charts.
I will talk to you about everything and I shall hope
that you may also use me to confront
Begging you that, rescued from my reefs,
I may be allowed to drift with the currents
of the dark chestnut sea you carry in your eyes.
Josep Lluís Aguiló (born Manacor, Mallorca, 1967), is a poet and businessman, works as a marketing and advertising director. In 1986 he published his first collection of poems, Cants d’Arjau (Songs from the Helm), which he wrote when he was between sixteen and eighteen years of age. After an interval of eighteen years, he published two further collections, La biblioteca secreta (The Secret Library) and L’estación de les ombres (Season of Shadows), both in 2004. His collection Monstres (Monsters, 2005) was awarded the Premi Ciutat de Palma Joan Alcocer Poetry Prize in 2005 and, in 2006, the National Critics’ Prize for the best book of poems written in Catalan. In 2008, Josep Lluís Aguiló was the winner of the literary competition Jocs Florals de Barcelona with his work Llunari (Calendar).
Víctor Sunyol: Six Poems translated by Anna Crow
‘To build the fire oneself’
– after a raging sea –
And build it (flames/waves) with the driftwood and sticks the sea has left on the beach.
From the waves to the flames. From the sea to the fire. From the fire to the sea to the waves in flame.
Left on the sand by the waves, the branches remember them all, and gather up all the sun. And they return it to flame – waves of light –
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxFrom those ancient seas
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxlights and waves are returning:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxa hearth on the beach.
FOR SPEECH, THE GAZE FIRST POURS OUT APPEARANCES
– AND KEEPS THEM IN WORDS INSIDE BOXES OF IMAGES –
Walter Benjamin at Port Bou
To see the sea-spray
between words you were speaking
engraved on the air.
At the very heart of stone
to be water, fire and air.
Wherever I look
my gaze crosses, cuts across
your words, words you wrote.
It’s as though every word
reaches me via your eyes.
A gaze that’s brimful:
among the words that say it
to see the object itself.
And to see in each object
every word that’s spoken.
From Harbour note-book, 1999
To open up speech
to reach what wound –
in the text, in the soul?
To reach the root of the wound
(to reach the bread).
at the very heart of silence.
At the very heart of the text,
in the body of the heart.
at the very heart of silence.
The deepest root.
At the very heart of the wound,
at the heart of speech.
Where are you, here before me, given to the air,
given to the void, melted in the gaze?
So much light darkens the hour
and makes space eternal;
question from the abyss –
time plunges headlong in the unblinking eye –
where are you, where to be found?
Where are you, here before me, given to the air,
given to the void, melted in the gaze?
the exultation of the water, in the sand
the celebration of the wind, inside the stone
the salt river –
from the very heart of dumbness.
in sorrow out of death itself.
‘asif imerghen’ is the name, in the amazing dialect of the zone of the
river of the town where I wrote the book Tamdaght, in the north of
Ouarzazate, in Morocco. It means literally ‘river of salt’. xxxx
On the white wall, the shadow of a eucalyptus tree fading as the sun goes down
by no means
Víctor Sunyol was born in1955. Together with Antoni Clapés he managed and co-ordinated the activities and publications of Cafè Central. He has published around twenty books of poetry, as well as prose and essays. He regularly collaborates with visual artists and musicians. His poetics, apart from mistrust of language, are an always fruitless search for the possibility of speech; of building strategies that will have to be pulled down with the next step. His work has been translated into various languages (English, French, German, Slovenian, Castilian).
Teresa Colom: Four Poems translated by Anna Crowe
My father found a canary in the snow.
We put it into a cage.
One of its legs, instead of claws, had only a stump.
In fine weather, my mother would give it
a dish of water and the canary would bathe.
I used to lift it out and trim its claws.
One summer I decided to let it fly now and then.
It kept bumping into the window-panes.
It would recover on top of the curtains.
It flew from one to the other
and it was hard to catch it again.
I fastened a length of wool to one of its legs.
Each time I remembered which leg I had tied it to
so as not to be always pulling on the same one.
The canary sang. It pecked at the lettuce and bread
that my mother wedged between the bars.
We, her sons and daughters, went from being children
to leaving home behind us.
Our father had already done the same.
The canary stayed in the flat with her.
Now that I think of it, we were never afraid
that it might escape from us.
There came a time when even the curtains
were too far away for it.
My mother didn’t want to keep it
nor was she able to rid herself of it.
She and the creature had grown old together.
One morning she found it lying stiff.
She has a phobia of things with feathers.
She threw it away, cage and all
The child wants more milk
– I’m coming –
The time it takes to go to the kitchen
fill the baby’s bottle, go back,
he’s already asleep:
they’re not empty words
when the one who utters them loves you.
A window painted on the wall
by one who wants you to be free.
They were moving about on the crushed ice
in the fish-shop, right beside dead fish,
and dying shell-fish.
I watched them while we were in the queue.
Sometimes my mother would give in
and buy me one of them.
If I had persuaded her, I would point out
the one I wanted to the fish-shop woman.
– Is it fresh today? – I asked her.
The fish-shop woman wrapped it up in grey paper.
I worried that she would cover it up too much.
When we arrived home
I’d take it out of the bag at once.
They wouldn’t let me have a dog.
I tied a length of wool to one of its legs
and would take it for walks round the flat.
At the cathedral market we bought two chicks.
One was dyed orange, the other blue.
Mine was the orange one.
My brother’s chick died the following day.
It was stiff with outstretched wings.
I called the orange chick Charlie.
It ran about on the terrace.
It slept in the central-heating lobby,
beneath a vent, on the back balcony.
It was summer. As soon as I got up
I’d lift it out of its box.
It followed me around the flat. If it couldn’t see me
it would stretch out its neck and emit shrill peepings.
While I had lunch it stayed beside me.
It liked spaghetti
and for me to lift the flower-pots
so it could gobble up the ants.
The orange down gave way
to white feathers and an incipient crest.
It was a cock.
It went on growing.
The holidays were coming to an end.
My mother gave it away to a woman
who kept hens but who was not to eat it.
In the autumn we met her at Serafí’s bakery.
en I knew who she was I interrupted the conversation
and she remembered.
‘The turkeys started pecking him right away.
He didn’t last long.’
Serafí’s bakery had a delicious smell
Teresa Colom, born inLa Seu d’Urgell, 1973, is a p poet and writer from Andorra with a degree in Economics, she was awarded the Miquel Martí i Pol Prize by the Andorran government in 2000, and went on to write the poem sequence Com mesos de juny (Like months of June). In 2004 she abandoned her job in the financial sector to dedicate herself to literature, and in 2010 her poem-drama 32 Vidres (32 Panes of glass) was performed. She won the 2009 Talento FNAC and became the artistic director of Barcelona Poesia. Her collection La senyoreta Keaton i altres bèsties (Empúries, 2015) won the 2016 Maria Àngels Anglada prizeXXXXX
Sonia Moll: Five Poems translated by Anna Crowe
You would throw wide open
the wooden shutters of the house in the village
and you’d call us to the table.
You were strong and lovely as a tree
and the kids in the neighbourhood would blush
if you stroked their cheek with one finger
and you’d give them peppermint sweeties
– you smelled of lavender
and used to wear summer dresses
dotted with scarlet flowers.
Right, then, time to go home.
I go on stringing white lies together
―Tomorrow, Mama, tomorrow―
while you button and unbutton
the same buttonhole in your blouse
over and over
without looking at me.
And you forget the white aluminium
window-frames of today,
which only open inwards.
And today when you’ve now died
maybe a hundred thousand times,
I meet you in the street
and you still smell of that hand soap,
of just-baked bread,
of Sombra cigarettes
smoked in secret on the balcony at home.
I meet you and you smile at me
and I don’t want to know
the colour of the death I have to weep today ―
what tiny scrap of reason
has been taken from you at night while you slept.
I meet you and your voice sounds
like those old songs,
that take care, little half-pint,
wrap up warm, it’s cold.
And although you’ve died
a hundred thousand times
I meet you in the street
and I know that you’re still you
behind the high walls of another cul-de-sac
in your labyrinth with no Ariadne’s thread.
AND NOTHING OF ME WAS LEFT
I look at you today and this is what makes me dizzy:
that everything you once were
should have crumbled, those days on water’s paths.
That on arrival at the port of Barcelona
there was now nothing left of you ―
of your beauty, your green eyes and freckled skin,
that indigenous blood of yours-and-ours.
And nothing of me was left.
What still remains of you, mother,
after the ocean?
Are you there?
I lean towards you
and it’s all deep water,
I hate and love in my rage
the inclement Hades that swallowed you and does not give you up.
I love and hate the ocean
that cut your life in two.
And I draw near and draw back,
absurd, eternal seiche in the harbour,
in the childish hope
of giving back to you what you are ―
your life on the point of unfolding
like a butterfly.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YOU
He closes the door of the consulting-room
and speaks to me of death
while my mother waits for me in the small waiting-room.
Three years, ten years, I don’t know what to to tell you.
He speaks to me of death and it comes to me
that I’ll sit and wait for it beside the road
from where you can see a tree standing all alone
against a sky darkened by clouds.
That I’ll go looking for poppies along the old paths
and fill my mouth with red cherries.
That I’ll have eaten strawberries, earlier,
with lots of cream,
and will have danced all night to celebrate my fortieth.
He speaks to me of death and it comes to me
that I’ll make love once more, another evening
as though my life depended on it. That I’ll swim naked in the sea
and lose myself riding on my bike along the island’s roads.
Three years, ten years, I don’t know what to tell you.
My mother laughing,
my mother calling,
my mother planting tomatoes in the vegetable garden
and painting the walls of the wash-house white.
– And me laughing,
me furiously painting my eyes with eyeliner
and wanting to sleep with someone again.
Three years, ten years, I don’t know what to tell you.
I don’t know what to tell you.
DEATH HAS CROSSED THE THRESHOLD OF THE HOUSE
Death has crossed the threshold of the house, and the flowers haven’t withered.
Nor was the washing-machine damaged, or the light-bulbs fused, or the glasses on the shelf set ringing. Death introduced itself and there remained no dangling ropes or footsteps tottering with panic at the abyss. Death entered slipping through the half-open window, heralded by the thunder and unwonted storm of a July morning, and I took cover in life’s shade and and have cherished forever your bewildered gaze, your skin’s extreme pallor, your exhausted hands lying beneath aseptic sheets. Death presented itself without knocking at the door and I was able to make a space for it amid my ribs, not very far from my heart, where there is still the echo of her voice singing the song, Qué grande que viene el río, qué grande se va a la mar, while my blood beats impatiently, furiously, with an unshakable longing for life.
Sònia Moll Gamboa (Barcelona, 1974) is a A philologist who has worked as proof-reader, editor, linguist and teacher, she has published two collections of poems, Non si male nunc (Viena Edicions, 2008), which was awarded the Premi Sant Celoni de Poesia, and I Déu en algun lloc (And God somewhere or other) (Eumo Editorial 2014), as well as a poetic narrative, Creixen malgrat tot les tulipes (The tulips grow in spite of everything), (Viena Edicions, 2012) which was awarded the Narrativa curta “25 April” prize from the town of Benissa. With the pianist, Clara Peya, she created Carta Blanca (Carte Blanche), a recital they performed at various theatres in Catalonia in 2013. She works as a columnist for La Directa and since 2008 has written a regular blog called La vida té vida pròpia (Life has a life of its own).
Anna Crowe is co-founder and former Artistic Director of StAnza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival. Her work has been translated into several languages, and includes two Peterloo collections and three Mariscat chapbooks. Awards: Peterloo Poetry Prize; Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors; Callum Macdonald Memorial Award; two PBS Choices. Translations: Six Catalan Poets; Peatlands, by Mexican poet, Pedro Serrano; Lunarium, by Mallorcan poet, Josep Lluís Aguiló (all Arc); Tugs in the fog; Strangely happy; Love is a Place: poems by Catalan poet, Joan Margarit (all Bloodaxe).
Allison Funk is the author of five books of poems, including her most recent, Wonder Rooms (Free Verse Editions of Parlor Press, 2015). The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S. and awards from the Poetry Foundation (Chicago) and the Poetry Society of America, she is Professor Emerita at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she edited the journal of the Department of English, Sou’wester.
Nela Bureu Ramos was, until her recent retirement, Associate Professor of English in the Department of English and Linguistics at the University of Lleida in Catalonia, Spain. She has published in Catalan, Spanish, French, and English. She is co-editor of Voices of Ireland (1992)and is also the author of several volumes of poetry, including Dolor bilingüe—Bilingual grief (2000), La otra voz (2008), En clave de otoño: pensamientos y poemas (2009).and Sur le fil du désir (2016)