Friday, July 26, 2013

Calvino's letters





The letters of Italo Calvino? Surely not, we might think, given this writer’s famous guardedness and privacy, his distrust of the biographical, of the cult of the individual writer as opposed to the collective enterprise. As he says in a 1968 letter to a correspondent suggesting a monograph: “I’m afraid I don’t think I really have a life on which something can be written. All I have is a series of works that form part of a general context of literary works . . .”. Asked in another letter whether he thinks that writers should be interviewed, he answers unhesitatingly: “No, I believe that there must be no interview.” To focus on the physical being who happened to be the writer would be “the death knell for literature as a relationship between a written text and its reader”.

The rest of the review is on the Irish Times site

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Astonished at everything

Homesick for the Earth, poems by Jules Supervielle with versions by Moniza Alvi, Bloodaxe, 112 pp, £9.95, ISBN: 978-1852249205

Jules Supervielle is in heaven; or, at least, in the heavens, sprawled in the depths of space, alone with his bones, when out of the blue a familiar street appears with all its earthly accoutrements:

Boulevard Lannes, que fais-tu si haut dans l’espace
Et les tombereaux que tirent des percherons l’un derrière l’autre,
Les naseaux dans l’éternité
Et la queue balayant l’aurore?
(“47 Boulevard Lannes”)

Boulevard Lannes, what are you doing so high up in space
with your horse-drawn dustcarts,
nostrils in eternity,
tails brushing against the dawn?
(Translated by Moniza Alvi)

The vast spaces, the realisation of the earthly, the sense of a world apprehended through a prism of nostalgia, the loose but restless prosody are all typical. Those spaces are often lonely, occupied by a solitary consciousness human or divine. God considers his creation from the vastness of a great inner silence; a voice cries from the depths of the ocean; the intense affection for the things and places of the world is expanded out from the reach of the particular.


See more at The Dublin Review of Books

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The pleasure of small streets




The drawings show, in great detail, the junction of Goldsmith Street and Geraldine Street. They are architectural drawings, designed to pull us in to observe the specific details of the chosen scene. In the first we see a recessed doorway with a generous fanlight and the brickwork of the narrow porch ranged fan-like on the arch. There is a narrow garden outside and spiked, wrought-iron railings in front. Across the junction a row of similar red-bricked houses continues, a terrace made up of symmetrical pairs of houses, each with its elaborate door and single large front window. The houses are low, with a double pitched roof like two pleats of an accordion, each with its own chimney stack. The spiked railings continue around the end terrace, enclosing an area no more than a step wide. If you jumped up in the air a little you could see over the roof, or at least it feels like that. The tower of St Joseph’s Church on Berkeley Road with its four turrets completes the view of the terrace.
Read more on Graph Magazine’s site 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A new Cavafy




'It was Cavafy's habit to set down a few lines on a sheet of paper and then place the sheet in an envelope for future inspection. He stored these envelopes in his cluttered apartment, opening them when he felt capable of bringing the half-poems they contained to a satisfactory end. This was his lifelong method. Whenever a poem was finished, he showed it to a discerning friend, not an editor or a publisher. What seems so spontaneous, on the page is the result of years of rewriting and rethinking.'

– Paul Bailey in today's Guardian on a new translation of Cavafy

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

National Gallery reading















Am reading tomorrow (29 May) at 1.05 pm in the Lecture Room of the National Gallery as part of a series of readings organised by Poetry Ireland and the Gallery. The series marks the Irish presidency of the EU which will be an excuse to include a lot of translations. Here's the latest, this time a poem I couldn't resist by André Frénaud (1907-1993).


House for sale
(André Frénaud)

So many have lived here, who loved
to love, to wake, dust, sweep the floor.
The moon’s in the well and can’t be seen,
the previous owners have disappeared,
taking nothing with them.
The ivy swells in yesterday’s sun,
the coffee stains and soot are staying put.
I fasten myself to mouldy dreams
and embrace the grime of others' souls,
that mix of lace and plans gone wrong.
Concierge of failure, I’ll buy the dump –
if it poisons me so be it, but never fear:
open the windows, put the sign on the lawn,
someone else will come in, sniff the air, begin again.

Here's the original:


Maison à vendre

Tant de gens ont vécu là, qui aimaient
l'amour, le réveil et enlever la poussière.
Le puits est sans fond et sans lune,
les anciens sont partis et n'ont rien emporté.
Bouffe le lierre sous le soleil d'hier,
reste la suie, leur marc de café.
Je m'attelle aux rêves éraillés.
J'aime la crasse de l’âme des autres,
mêlée à ces franges de grenat,
le suint des entreprises manquées.
Concierge, j'achète, j'achète la baraque.
Si elle m'empoisonne, je m'y flambe.
On ouvrira les fenêtres... Remets la plaque.
Un homme entre, il flaire, il recommence.



André Frénaud, Les Rois Mages, Poésie/Gallimard 1987, p.60.

Monday, May 27, 2013

From the Fortress of Upper Bergamo

















Had a go at this today. You can find the original, Dalla rocca di Bergamo alta, here

From the Fortress of Upper Bergamo 
(Salvatore Quasimodo)

You heard the cock crowing
from the other side of the walls, beyond the towers
chilled with a light alien to you –
lightning bolt, primal cry, the murmuring
of voices from the cells and the call
of the bird patrolling the dawn.
In a circle of briefest sun
you uttered no words for yourself.
Talismans of a new born world,
lost in malignant smoke,
the antelope and the heron held their tongues.
The February moon passed over 
a remembered earth, lit
in its own silence.  And you too
move among the cypresses of the fortress
without a sound, where anger
founders on the green of the young dead
and pity once distant is almost joy.

(Giorno dopo giorno, 1947)

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Monster's Breast: Journeying Through Dublin



One by one they dissolve. Calatrava’s Samuel Beckett is tugged back to Rotterdam; off go the O’Casey, the Talbot Memorial, the Loopline, Butt Bridge, O’Connell Bridge, The Ha’penny Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, Grattan Bridge, O’Donovan Rossa Bridge, Fr Mathew Bridge, the first of them all, great bridge, bridge of the Osmen, Dublin bridge; then Mellows Bridge, the slippery James Joyce Bridge, not to be crossed on a wet day, also by Calatrava, through whose steel wings you can see the house of ‘The Dead’, 15 Usher’s Island; the blue bridge that came from St Helen’s Foundry in Lancashire, Frank Sherwin Bridge, Heuston Bridge and so on down past Chapelizod to Lucan Bridge. The quay walls have melted away, the reclaimed land to the east has emptied itself back, and the river, the Ruirthech, ro-ritheach, the strong-running, flexes its muscles and rushes eastward to the nearer sea. And now that the bridges are gone, there is the serious problem of getting across.
Read More on Graph Magazine's site