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In Search of Poetry: Richard Murphy

What is the cost of poetry? Or rather, what is the cost to oneself and others of a life of dedication to a lonely art? Which perfection, in the Yeatsian formula, do you choose, the life or the work? The title of Richard Murphy’s new book suggests a reflection on the art of poetry from a master practitioner now approaching his 90th birthday, but the book is much more personal and intimate than that. Part journal, part working diary, part memoir, all from the early 1980s, it charts the initiation and development of the sonnet sequence that would make up The Price of Stone, the poet’s much praised 1985 collection. Each poem in what became a 50 sonnet sequence ventriloquises a building that has a resonance for the poet. This in turn means that the poet becomes the addressee, the biographical subject matter displaced into the consciousness of a roof-tree, restaurant, industrial school or ancestral home. They are free to address and accuse the poet so that the sequence also functions as an …

To Mark Anthony in Heaven

Another I couldn't resist


William Carlos Williams

To Mark Anthony in Heaven

This quiet morning light
reflected, how many times
from grass and trees and clouds
enters my north room
touching the walls with
grass and clouds and trees.
Anthony,
trees and grass and clouds.
Why did you follow
that beloved body
with your ships at Actium?
I hope it was because
you knew her inch by inch
from slanting feet upward
to the roots of her hair
and down again and that
you saw her
above the battle's fury--
clouds and trees and grass--

For then you are
listening in heaven.

What Gets Lost

I couldn't resist this one, by the brilliant poet, essayist and translator of Borges, Neruda, José Emilio Pacheco, Herberto Padillo, Eugenio Montejo and others.


Alastair Reid
What Gets Lost

I keep translating traduzco continuamente entre palabras words que no son las mías into other words which are mine de palabras a mis palabras.

Y, finalmente, de quién es el texto? Who has written it? Del escritor o del traductor writer, translator o de los idiomas or language itself? Somos fantasmas, nosotros traductores, que viven entre aquel mundo y el nuestro between that world and our own. Pero poco a poco me ocurre que el problema the problem no es cuestión de lo que se pierde en traducción is not a question  of what gets lost in translation sino but rather lo que se pierde what gets lost entre la ocurrencia -sea de amor o de desesperación between love or desperation- y el hecho de que llega a existir en palabras  and its coming into words. Para nosotros todos, amantes, habladores as lovers or users of…

Fictions of otherness

(An essay on poetry translation, from the Dublin Review of Books, December, 2016

We carry poems around with us in our heads, part of the internal tradition we create for ourselves. Often these are translations, although that fact may not necessarily register. When something causes us to dwell on the poem as translation, the result can be troubling. To give just one example, Czesław Miłosz’s “Encounter” has been part of my own personal anthology for many years. Recently I had cause to dig it out again. Here, first of all, is the poem in the English version I remembered:

    Encounter

    We drove before dawn through frozen fields,
    The red wing was rising, yet still the night.

    And suddenly a hare shot across our path.
    One of us pointed to it with his hand.

    That was long ago and both are dead:
    The hare and the man who stretched his arm.

    O my love, where are they, where do they lead,
    The flash of a hand, the line of movement, the swishing icy ground?

    I as…

The lure of the troubadours

David Cooke has published a selection from Sway in his online poetry magazine The High Window.

The book will be out later this year, I'll post details later.

The High Window is full of all sorts of goodies -- well worth checking out.

Sway

My new book, Sway, Versions of Poems from the Troubadour Tradition, will be published by Gallery Press in October. This one is a riff rather than a version, taking as its starting point a line by the 12th century trobairitz, Beatriz, Countess of Dia.


Riff for Beatriz
Ab joi et ab joven m’apais

I feed on joy and youth    the rest
forget    all texts
abandoned     I feed
with joy     I feed on you or would
were you here    were I there
by the lake    in the wood    where the
nightingales are    I hear them
the buds along the branches roar
the frost withdraw    I feast on the season
that you may come to me
like light to the trees    I set
my pilgrim heart to roam
I am here   your loosened armour  your
Saracen hands   I feed
on spices and desert air
the rest is argument    discourse
the lines unwinding
the lines bound like the twigs of a broom
to sweep you away and pull you back
my dust is yours together we blow through the meadows
I was here but now
a stir of language in the trees     bird…

A Shared Wonder of Light

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I'm launching A Shared Wonder Of Light, Poems & Photographs From West Cork & Kerry", poems by John Kinsella, photographs by John D'Alton on Sunday 12 June at 3pm in Arthur Mayne's, Donnybrook, in case anyone is free. It's brilliant collaboration ...