Saturday, January 21, 2006

Looking for Home

Liam Carney as Gerry Newman in Homeland

Maybe because the country is small Irish writers very often have a highly self-conscious relationship with it. They feel intimately bound up with the life of the state and feel it incumbent upon them to record its psycho-geography, its socio-economic shifts, its daily preoccupations – almost, at times, as if the imagination were an extension of the chat show, capable of absorbing and rapidly processing the urgent issues of the day and relating these to to how the nation sees itself, how its perception of itself might have altered, how far the nation has fallen from idealised visions of itself. . .Writers everywhere take their subjects where they find them, but somehow it works differently here; writers sometimes seem to be writing to an expectation that they be in some way representative, that their work should be a kind of ongoing Prime Time earnestly investigating the eternal state of chassis of the national soul. I was thinking this the other night as I watched Paul Mercier’s new play, Homeland, in the Abbey.

The play is advertised as a play about money, the search for home,‘a fable of modern times . . . a sweeping tale of wheeling, dealing and urban mythmaking based on the legend of Oisín and Tír na nÓg’. Everything is there: crooked property deals, drugs, immigration, prostitution, abuse, religion, the subjects seeming to multiply exponentially as the play continues. And everything happens in a hurry; the play is a fast car driven through contemporary Ireland, or Irish Times-land, Joe Duffy-land, Marian-Finucane land. The play is a succession of rapidly shifting scenes, all of them acted at the speed limit, new characters introduced and dismissed as the large cast multi-tasks, the situations and events piling up until we struggle to remember what’s at issue in this particular scene. And underneath it all, like a spluttery engine, runs the compulsory Irish myth: in this case Oisín and Tír na nÓg. In case we miss any of the parallels, or in case we haven’t looked into Agallamh na Seanórach recently, the programme serves us an eloquent essay on the subject by Irish scholar Angela Bourke.

Oisín’s father was Fionn Mac Cumhaill, and a persistent tradition. . . says that his mother was a deer. . .Outside culture from birth, but immersed in nature; partaking in animal life yet all, or almost all, human, Oisín has much in common with the heroes of other traditions: Romulus and Remus, for instance, or Oedipus. But the stories of the Fianna are unique to Gaelic tradition, and Oisín himself has been involved again and again by artists contemplating change in these regions on the edge of Europe.

So as the economy loses the run of itself, as the pockets of the venal bulge, as the service sector offers the skinny embrace of the minimum wage to the Gastarbeiter of the Tiger, as the drugs flow and the litanies of the evils prosperity are composed by the tabloid thinkers of the day, we reach for the bony hands of the Fianna, that we may know ourselves. And Oisín in 2006 is Gerry Newman, communications whizz-kid, greaser of developer’s palms, now disgraced. He’s back in Dublin for a mysterious crucial meeting in the airport, but things go wrong and he’s propelled into the under life of the city where he meets various dubious characters and is robbed by junkie prostitute Niamh in her blonde wig (Niamh Chinn Óir, Niamh of the Golden Hair). He sees the bleak housing estates for which he was partly responsible, witnesses poverty, lives ruined by drugs, murder and other mayhem in a ‘thrilling white-knuckle ride into a world forged but forgotten by the Celtic Tiger.’

The language in which all this takes place is a mix of cod myth-speak, cod communicationese, cod evangelical salvationese, and the style of the production is broadly comic, a hectic ensemble grand guignol romp. It would be daft to look for any conclusions from what is a satire of the broadest stroke, but the problem with this style of theatre is that it, for all the rich theatricality, it can seem somewhat content-poor. Stuff happens, then more stuff happens. The variety of linguistic registers, the speed of the playing, the constant multiplication of the targets, means that nothing much really can be resolved: this style doesn’t do resolution. Or engagement, beyond a kind of distanced, amused engagement as the audience marvels at the technical slickness, the timing and so on. After ninety minutes without an interval, there’s a conclusion of kinds, but by that time Oisín/Newman has begun to outstay his welcome and in spite of all the transformations he undergoes is exactly the same character (and, miraculously, not a day older) in the last minute as he was in the first. What worked for, say, Native City, doesn’t work here because the subject, if you take it on – if you first of all distil a subject from the pile of preoccupations – demands some kind of polemical engagement.

In a sense the style insulates the production from the kind of impatience I seem to be showing here. But if you take on the foibles of the Celtic Tiger (I promise never to utter this wretched phrase again), you pretty much have to end up saying something about it. Otherwise you’re left with a set of theatrical snatches, play-bites, a kind of turbo charged David McWilliams (who, indeed, features in a talk ‘about The Grown Ups and the new Irish middle class.’ in the Peacock in February). And maybe this is the intention, a quick take on the obvious manifestations of the new economy (there’s a running gag about immigrants in the workforce complete with funny voices which was getting to be a serious annoyance), a theatrical addition to the running commentary on ourselves that fills the airwaves and the papers. Maybe that's why, next Thursday (26 January, 6.30pm – 7.15pm) broadcaster and journalist Damien Kiberd responds to Homeland. You can go to that, or avoid the economics and go to the post show discussion on Wednesday 1 February.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Henry Snodden and the Coastguard Station

Below is a poem by Eugenio Montale followed by three translations. The first version is less a translation than an extended riff on a vague notion of the original, and is taken from Tom Paulin's The Road to Inver, which came out last year. Billed as presenting four decades of the poet's translations, the book does nothing of the sort. Instead, it presents a series of loose takes on original poems identified only by the appearance of the poet's name in brackets underneath the titles. Thus

Who can say to the birds
shut the fuck up
or tell the sheep in the yow trummle
not to struggle and leap?

turns out, after a deal of searching, to be Goethe's 'Unvermeidlich':

Wer kann gebieten den Vögeln
Still zu sein auf der Flur?
Und wer verbieten zu zappeln
Den Schafen unter der Schur?

Is there anything wrong with this? It's a pretty common procedure, after all, translation as 'imitation', a kind of intertextual frolic à la Pound or Lowell. What's interesting about this particular example is the lengths Paulin goes to to domesticate Montale's poem into a Northern Irish context. You won't find Henry Snodden in 'La casa dei doganieri', nor any references to the Black and Tan war, nor to Teelin, Carrick and or 'Tim Ring's hill above the harbour'. Part of Paulin's fun here is this kind of radical domestication and transformation of Montale, as if he fell asleep in Liguria and woke up in Portnoo sounding very much like, well, Tom Paulin.

The other two are close, faithful translations, the first by Jonathan Galassi and the second by William Arrowsmith. Both have a lot to recommend them, both work as poems in English and catch the dark urgent discords of the original at the same time. As always in this kind of exercise, it's fascinating to see how two versions of the same text differ; how different translation decisions get made. For instance, the phrase 'Tu non ricordi' occurs three times in the Montale poem; it's the very first element of the poem and its repetition in the third and in the final stanza hammers home the haunting absence of the addressee. Galassi translates this phrase differently on each of the three occasions:

You won’t recall the house of the customs men...

You don’t remember...


You don’t recall the house of this, my evening.

This seems to me less urgent than the original; it loses the force of the repetition. Arrowsmith sticks to the simple 'I don't remember'. His is maybe the nervier of the two translations, tauter, less conversational.

The Arrowsmith version is taken from The Occasions (Norton and Company, 1987), one of the best Montale translations, and Galassi's is from his monumental Collected Poems 1920-1954 (Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 1998). Both are excellent examples of the translator's art.

In his Translator's Preface Arrowsmith sets out the principles behind his translation of Montale:

In general I have tried to translate according to a few rule-of-thumb derived from my sense of what accurate rendering of meaning and tone requires. I have therefore avoided prettification, embellishment, and traditional concinnities like the plague. [five euros for the first accurate definition of 'concinnity']...I have conscientiously resisted the translator's to fill in or otherwise modify Montale's constant ellipses, to accommodate my reader by providing smoother transitions. And I have done my best to honor Montale's reticence, his ironic qualifications, and evaded cadences....'

Here are the texts; you can judge for yourselves the success of the various versions.

La casa dei doganieri
/ Eugenio Montale

Tu non ricordi la casa dei doganieri
sul rialzo a strapiombo sulla scogliera:
desolata t’attende dalla sera
in cui v’entrò lo sciame dei tuoi pensieri
e vi sostò irrequieto.

Libeccio sferza da anni le vecchie mura
e il suono del tuo riso non è più lieto:
la bussola va impazzita all’avventura
e il calcolo dei dadi più non torna.
Tu non ricordi; altro tempo frastorna
la tua memoria; un filo s’addipana.

Ne tengo ancora un capo; ma s’allontana
la casa e in cima al tetto la banderuola
affumicata gira senza pietà.
Ne tengo un capo; ma tu resti sola
né qui respiri nell’oscurità.

Oh l’orizzonte in fuga, dove s’accende
rara la luce della petroliera!
Il varco è qui? (Ripullula il frangente
ancora sulla balza che scoscende...)
Tu non ricordi la casa di questa
mia sera. Ed io non so chi va e chi resta.

The Coastguard Station

Henry Snodden and me we’ve nearly forgotten
that scraggy coastguard station –
a ruin from the Black and Tan war
it stood on Tim Ring’s hill above the harbour
like an empty a crude roofless barracks
-- same as the station in Teelin or Carrick
with the usual concrete harbour
like a berm built the century before last
to make a new fishing village with a slightly daft
name – in this case Portnoo – below the head

one August we came back and instead
of that ruin there was only the grassy track
on the grassy hill and so the field’s stayed
year after year though we’re both afraid
that one day very soon that unused field
‘ll be sold as sites – then we’ll watch
as a new colony of thatched
breezeblock cottages – Irish Holiday Homes –
with green plastic oilgas tanks at the back –
as a new colony starts up all owned
by people like us from Belfast
who’ve at last laid that claggy building’s ghost
-- well I wouldn’t go as far as that

[Tom Paulin]

The House of the Customs Men

You won’t recall the house of the customs men
on the bluff that overhangs the reef:
It’s been waiting, empty, since the evening
your thoughts swarmed in
and hung there, nervously.

Sou’westers have lashed the old walls for years
and your laugh’s not careless anymore:
the compass needle wanders crazily
and the dice no longer tell the score.
You don’t remember: other times
assail your memory; a thread gets wound.

I hold one end still; but the house recedes
and the smoke-stained weathervane
spins pitiless up on the roof.
I hold on to an end; but you’re alone,
not here, not breathing in the dark.

Oh the vanishing horizon line,
where the tanker’s lights flash now and then!
Is the channel here? (The breakers
still seethe against the cliff that drops away…)
You don’t recall the house of this, my evening.
And I don’t know who’s going or who’ll stay.

(Jonathan Galassi)

The Coastguard Station

You don’t remember the coastguard house
perched at the top of the jutting height,
awaiting you still, abandoned since that night
when your thoughts came swarming in
and paused there, hovering.

Southwesters have lashed the old walls for years,
the gaiety has vanished from your laugh:
the compass swings at random, crazy,
odds can no longer be laid on the dice.
You don’t remember: a thread pays out.

I hold one end still; but the house
keeps receding, above the roof the soot-
blackened weathervane whirls, pitiless.
I hold one end: but you stay on, alone, not
here, breathing in my darkness.

Oh, the horizon keeps on receding, there, far out
where a rare tanker’s light blinks in the blackness!
Is the crossing here? (The furious breakers
climb the cliff that falls off, sheer…)
You don’t remember the house of this, my evening.
And I don’t know who’s staying, who’s leaving.

[William Arrowsmith]

See also Arrowsmith’s Translator’s Preface to The Occasions, p xxi.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Poetry Ireland Review 85

Just putting the latest Poetry Ireland Review (no 85) to bed. I’m reasonably pleased with it – there’s a good mix of stuff: poems in translation including Piotr Sommer, Adam Zagajewski, Yang Lian and some of the poets in the Cork 2005 series. Adam Zagajewski, Yang Lian and Robin Robertson, who also has a poem in the issue, will all feature in Poetry Now 06 in Dún Laoghaire. David Butler looks at Michael Schmidt’s translations of Vallejo, and we publish a slew of them; James Harpur writes on Boethius and contributes new poems. There are also poems by, among others, Eamonn Grennan, Arlene Ang, Peter Robinson, Michael Coady, Hary Clifton, Biddy Jenkisnson and Michael O'Loughlin. Michael Cronin reviews Ciaran Carson’s version of Cúirt an Mheán Oíche and Alan Gillis’s first collection; Peter Denman looks at Pat Boran, Joseph Woods and Thomas McCarthy ; Siobhán Campbell considers Sara Berkeley, Carol Ann Duffy and Mark Roper ; Peter Robinsonreviews Jean Valentine ; Fred Johnston on William Wall, Gerard Fanning , and Jean O’Brien . And Dennis O'Driscoll contributes his usual series of pickings from the words of poets. Here are the opening two:

‘Poetry mistrusts language: song cosies up to it.’
– George Szirtes online, 27 September 2005

‘A relatively small number of educated people read poetry, and written poetry affects songwriting, and songwriting affects masses of people. Poetry becomes an expression that filters into the world slowly.’
– Robert Hass, Grist, 13 October 2005

The issue should be out in early February. Copies available from Poetry Ireland

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Messages for Moore

Fans of haiku and of Paul Muldoon will be pleased to know the poet has followed up his ‘Hopewell Haiku’ with Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore. The Flap is grateful to David Burleigh, whose review of the pamphlet in Modern Haiku (Summer 2005) alerted him to this work. The IM’s record a trip to Bermuda, where Moore was appointed Registrar to the Admiralty Prize Court in Bermuda in 1803, though he wasn’t long there before he appointed a deputy and returned to London. You can read Moore’s account of his time there, and of his travels in the United States, in Epistles, Odes, and Other Poems (1806). Here’s a taster to whet the appetite:

    Hamilton. Tweeds? Tux?
    Baloney? Abalone?
    Flux, Tom. Constant flux.

    The Big House, you see,
    still stands, though now the tenants
    are the absentees.

    Orange overshoes
    make the puffin less nimble
    on dry land, it’s true.

    Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore , by Paul Muldoon (Lincoln, Ill.: Modern Haiku Press, 2005). ISBN 0-9741894-1-3. 32 pages. Hand set and bound by Swamp Press. 5½ x 8½, colored inks & paper, hand tied. $20.00 postpaid from Modern Haiku, PO Box 68, Lincoln, IL 60656.4342

Head down in Dublin

The poems that I like best are the poems in which something happens. You go through to the end and you ask what was that about, and then you go back over it and have another look at it. There has to be enough stuff on the surface to hold your attention, and you can do that with lots of different things, with imagery, or sound, or whatever you want. But then there has to be an element of worrying at the poem until you get something from it. Something draws clear, something very small perhaps is clarified in it. That’s how the best poetry works, I think….there are some poems that I thought I knew well which are still coming clear to me now. There are lots of different things going on in good poems, and you can live with a poem for years and then suddenly think, ah, that’s what that’s about. I think that’s a good thing. If you instantly think you’ve got all that a poem offers, either it’s not a very good poem or you’ve made a mistake.

The above is from an interview with Nick Laird which will appear in the spring issue of The Stinging Fly.

The issue will also have new poems from Laird and from Eamon Grennan, Paula Meehan, Christine Broe, Mary O'Donnell, Mark Roper, Ron Houchin, Billy Ramsell, Alan Jude Moore and Oliver Dunne, and features translations of Mexican poet Pura Lopez Colome by Lorna Shaughnessy. There are also stories by Colm Liddy, Gillman Noonan, Ross O'Connor, Kusi Okamura and Aiden O'Reilly.

The Cat Flap always knew Dublin was a dangerous class of a place where a smack in the gob or a knife in the back were among the rewards of art, and he’s glad to have this confirmed by Nick Laird. The poet recently reviewed the collected Kavanagh in the London Review of Books and was less than whelmed: ‘He’s an incredibly important poet. But I also think if you had to sit down and read through that Collected Poems, you would be irritated and bored by a lot of it.’ After the review appeared ‘Brendan Barrington [editor, The Dublin Review] e-mailed me to say that he agreed with me but that he didn’t think I should come to Dublin for a while.’ Oh, a dangerous place indeed. The Cat Flap has long since taken to wearing dark glasses as he prowls the town.

The Stinging Fly
PO Box 6016, Dublin 8, Ireland

For news updates about our submission deadlines, publications and events see:

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Translation Muscle

Take a number of Cork poets and pair them with poets from the then ‘accession’ states of Europe and countries beginning their negotiations with the EU like Bulgaria and Romania, and publish the results of the encounter – this was the ambitious project which the Munster Literature Centre set itself as part of the Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture.

Poetry translation into English can often be a fairly loosely defined affair and in truth we probably need a more extensive vocabulary to describe the range of practice from close linguistic encounter to the working of translations provided by others which, with one exception, is what happens here. The fact that the poets don’t speak the languages they are translating caused a small splash of controversy. Can a poet who does not speak a source language be said to ‘translate’ a poem from that language? If not, how should that encounter be described? The poets, apart from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, worked from cribs provided by intermediate translators. The exact role they played is unclear, and the books don’t have an agreed protocol for acknowledging this somewhat mysterious assistance, the intermediate translator sometimes acknowledged on the flyleaf, sometimes credited as the author of distinct ‘versions’, sometimes relegated to a note inside.

In one sense this kind of translation encounter is a reflection of the power of English. In other languages translation invariably means a linguistic encounter. No French, German, Bulgarian or Romanian translator would translate from a language they didn’t know; knowledge of the source language would be a given. The context in which translation happens is very often an interest in the source literature. In poetry translation it has become very common for translators into English even from such widely known languages as French, German or Spanish not to speak those langauges. To an extent this reflects the lack of interest within English-speaking cultures in other languages. Each year university language departments dolefully announce that fewer students are studying foreign languages, as a variety of English becomes the universal lingua franca. But it’s also a reflection of the fact that poetry pretty much always gets translated by poets, just as it’s poets who form the bulk of the consumers for the product. English language poets are not often linguists, but their appetite for translation, or however we choose to define the encounter, is often considerable.

It’s true that the act of translation is always a literary event rather than a purely linguistic event, an act of creative interpretation whose end result is a new production in the poet-translator’s language, but if the linguistic encounter is removed completely from the equation, what’s left is inevitably a secondary interpretation, a response to a response, a working up of a literal supplied by someone else. Should this bother us? Isn’t it the Poundian paradigm? Isn’t this how most translations from the classics work, with poets sifting through the existing translations and scholarship to sharpen their own work? That in itself is a process of engagement and will usually have been triggered by an affinity with the work, however encountered. The Cork project is just that: a project. And affinities will have had to have been orchestrated to an extent. A friendly academic, an interested ambassador...How do poets who don’t speak the language encounter poetry in that language in the first instance? How is one Lithuanian poet chosen above another? Do already existing translations play a role? Do they encounter each other at international conferences and jamborees?

Few of the books in the series have introductory material, but a bit of googling produces the following account by Kristin Dimotrova: ‘I received a letter from Gregory [O’Donoghue] saying that he’d read a lot of Bulgarian poetry, but that he’d really liked my poetry and that he wanted to work with me on the project. It was out of this world! I still have the letter’, says Kristin. ‘He came to Bulgaria to discuss the project. When I saw him I said: Gregory, you look like Obi Wan Kanobi. He laughed. Working with him was a great experience.’ ( How did Gregory O’Donoghue encounter Bulgarian poetry? Was it in the original or through translation? How did Maurice Riordan come across Immanuel Mifsud or Robert Welch happen on Dana Podracká? The blurbs on the back of the books give us some context, but these can be somewhat cryptic:

    A generous streak of dark wit is evident in the least likely of places. After all, anyone who edited a magazine entitled “Temperance and Hard Work” has to have a healthy sense of the absurd, at least I hope so. (Gerry Murphy on Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska)

    Sigitas Parulskis is the voice of a new Lithuania unshackled and demuzzled from unrealistic, official, Soviet optimism. His voice has such authority it guarantees him not only a place as Lithuania’s leading young poet but also fiction writer. Liz O’Donoghue’s experience as one of the generation of Irish who matured into the despairing 1980’s of the green Banana Republic qualifies her perfectly for transferring Parulskis’ vision into a cutting, sardonic Hiberno-English.

    What gives these poems their lift and savour, however, is not so easily named. Korun is both blunt and subtle, at once fantastically delicate and brutally direct as she confronts the terror and mystery and rough joys of being a mind incarnate – or, if you prefer, a thinking animal.

In one of the few volumes with an introductory note, Theo Dorgan explain how he came to work on Barbara Korun. It began with a decision to translate a woman ‘because I had learned that, as with Ireland in the 80s, poetry in Slovenia was not what you might call actively receptive to women’s voices, so there was a small opportunity to make a political point, and partly because I thought that the final texts might be more readily seen as versions of the author’s originals if it was clear that the speaking voice was not mine as man.’ The Slovenian ambassador to Ireland provided Dorgan ‘with as wide a range of texts in translation as it was possible to obtain, and gave generously of her time in helping me find my way, at last, to the work I have chosen to translate’. Dorgan also clarifies the role of his intermediate translator, Ana Jelnikar, ‘who supplied me with meticulous line-by-line literal versions of these poems, and with minutely detailed, illuminating scholarly notes – I was able to cross over into the territory of Barbara Korun’s poems by means of a strong, well-engineered bridge.’ He also worked closely with the poet herself to make the poems ‘as faithful as could be to the originals.’

A project, then, determined on the one hand by ideological decision followed by research and selection of the poet to be translated, and on the other by fidelity to a distant original. Many of the translations in the series read precisely as if they were labouring under the influence of the literal versions, preserve syntactic awkwardness and odd line breaks, and end up in the realm of translationese, where they could have done with cutting loose sufficiently to carve out a real poem in English. Some make a particular effort to domesticate the originals into a recognisable local idiom. This is true for instance of Greg Delanty’s versions of Kyriakos Charalambides, which make for lively reading, though sometimes domestication can go too far: ‘whose dantá (sic) are they in your laimheen (sic)?’ (‘In Aramaic’). Some improve on versions of poems that I’ve seen published elsewhere (Gerry Murphy’s versions of Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska or Gregory O’Donoghue’s of Kristin Dimitrova). And many have succeeded in crafting memorable English poems from their material.

The fact that the she learned Romanian undoubtedly deepened Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s engagement with Ileana Malancioiu’s work. The resulting translations certainly make a strong impression, particularly the series of poems written in memory of the poet’s sister. The versions have a strength of line and image and work convincingly in English. The edition also has the benefit of a useful introductory essay on the poet’s work. The essay pursues her career through its various phases as well as giving us a sense of where it fits in the tradition of Romanian poetry. This gives us a context to read her in and this seems to me me a useful model for presenting poetry from a culture likely to be unfamiliar to most readers.
Lack of context can make it difficult to respond to poems which depend on awareness of specific events or circumstances. The concluding poem in Dana Podracká’s book is ‘The Place of Execution of the First President’:

    Thank you, Lord, for the gift of sadness
    that brought me even past the metal door
    into the cell where they hanged our president
    and where they now kennel dogs in cages...

There are no explanatory notes, but would our response to this be affected by knowing that that the president in question is the Catholic priest Monsignor Tiso, president of the collaborationist ‘independent’ Slovakia from 1939-1945, from which 60,000 Jews were deported to the death camps? How much context does a translation require? Or does translation function for us as an ahistorical, asymmetrical zone, a wash of words and images at a tangent to the real? Do we, as readers, prefer a certain socio-political vagueness, a blurrily delineated psycho-geography of otherness, to the kind of anxious explaining of the dedicatee at the foot of Zbynek Hejda’s poem ‘Variations on Gelner III’ (see below): ‘Sergej was a friend of Hejda’s who used to be pro-communist but became disillusioned’ ? One of the peculiar by-products of translation is that can feed a notion of universalist poetry, cleanly purged of the laboriousness of the particular, but it’s a dubious notion, and one of the useful functions of this series is to remind us that poems do come from particular places, out of particular circumstances and historical pressures. The fact that we don’t necessarily understand these at our first encounter should provoke us to explore further, and if these books work as initial provisional reports on a single voice from each of the countries selected, they’ll have served us very well.
This particular selection of voices wouldn’t have reached us without the paraphernalia of the City of Culture, but wouldn’t it be interesting if translation of poetry was integrated into the fabric of Irish publication, so that publishers’ lists might carry news of poetic close encounters on some kind of regular basis? And poets might get a chance to flex the useful translation muscle, and fork out on dictionaries, grammars, and language lessons. . .
Here, in the meantime, with thanks to Cork 2005/Southword, are a few sample poems from the series.

Book issued at the time of writing in the Cork 2005/Southword series:

Ileana Malancioiu, After the Raising of Lazarus, translated from the Romanian by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Kristin Dimitrova, A Visit to the Clockmaker. Translated from the Bulgarian by Greogory O’Donoghue.
Barbara Korun, Songs of Earth and Light. Translated from the Slovene by Theo Dorgan.
Kyriakos Charalambides, Selected Poems. Translated from the Greek by Greg Delanty.
Immanuel Mifsud, Confidential Reports. Translated from the Maltese by Maurice Riordan.
Dana Podracká, Forty Four. Translated from the Slovak by Robert Welch.
Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska. Translated from the Polish by Gerry Murphy.
Zbynek Hejda, A Stay in a Sanatorium, translated from the Czech by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Guntars Godins, Flying Blind, translated from the Latvian by Eugene O’Connell.
Sigitas Parulskis, The Towers Turn Red, translated from the Lithuanian by Liz O’Donoghue.

Ileana Malancioiu

The Doctor on Duty

Go away quickly, she said to me, I’m afraid,
you see that Doctor X is on duty
he surely knows what to give me to help me to breathe,
he told me nobody dies while he’s on the ward.

And indeed, that very young doctor
who was not as famous as his heart was good
came in te middle of the night and gave her
something that kept her breathing until the next day.

Afterwards she understood
that his shift was finished and we had started
that terrible day about which already
she had begun to say it would never be over.

The one who was on duty looked down
on us without interfering:
I never said that nobody dies
while I am on duty, I am not at fault.
From After the Raising of Lazarus, translated from the Romanian by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska

City Poets

It would be easier for us
if we stopped saying it straight,
if we his our meaning in metaphor,
if we dealt solely in obscurity.
The city sells itself over and over
for false friendships, for temporary gain.
Look at the previous dwellers
abandoned outside its gates,
dumped in its overflowing cemeteries.
We are no different,
our home is a dark stain
on a tablecloth,
a heart fashioned inexpertly
on a sewing machine.
We are foundlings
left in boxes outside orphanages,
squirming and wailing without end.

From Pocket Apocalypse, translated from the Polish by Gerry Murphy, intermediate translation by Karolina Barski

Immanuel Mifsud

The Mad People

In the electronic age every nutcase
with a laptop is writing a masterpiece.
They spend the night locked up in chat rooms
and emerge with red eyes and love poems.

From Confidential Reports, translated from the Maltese by Maurice Riordan, assisted by Adrian Grima.

Kristin Dimitrova


Uneven lines of lamps –
some bright, others smashed.
Silent wake
of a Mercedes
sweeps across my face,
cigarette smoke
of a bully.
Asphalt mimics the sky
for colour and firmness.
The bingo hall is open,
the church is under repairs,
Coca-Cola wishes us
Merry Christmas.
In my empty pockets
I keep my fingers crossed
for the oboist
with his hat at his feet.

From A Visit to the Clockmaker, translated from the Bulgarian by Gregory O’Donoghue assisted by Kristin Dimitrova.

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