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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Lost Place: Reading Yves Bonnefoy's 'La Maison Natale'


What are we concerned with? What are we really attached to? Are we entitled to reject the contamination of the impermanent and to withdraw into the stronghold of speech, like the king in Poe’s tale, far from the plague-stricken land? Or did we love the lost object for its own sake, and do we want at all costs to recover it? (Bonnefoy, The act and the place of poetry. 102)
There is something interesting and powerful about an orchestrated series of poems – the kind of sequence or grouping that sets up conversations between the constituent parts, and where a common stock of images and verbal effects complement and reinforce each other. The frame of a sequence is really a loose kind of house, a dramatic space and a series of interconnected rooms, and those connections are important. It means the different parts can speak to each other and it also means there can be an accumulation of image and mood over the duration of the series.

For some poets, this working by accumulation and accretion is their default mode. These are poets of the architectonic imagination, the great organisers, deployers, orchestrators whose works have strong conceptual frameworks and who think very much in terms of the suite, the sequence, the series, the book.

   Yves Bonnefoy has always been this kind of poet, as I was reminded when I found myself reading ‘La maison natale’ from his 2001 collection Les planches courbes. The book is available in a dual language edition (Bonnefoy, The Curved Planks ) with translations by Hoyt Rogers, but the English translations I first read were John Naughton’s, which are available on the Poetry International website. Both are fine translations. I have been reading Bonnefoy on and off for many years, and again, as often happens when I encounter the work, I was immediately gripped by the force of the poems, and by the way they deploy an obsessive imagery of memory and loss where the real and the dreamed are fused to disturbing effect. What follows is an attempt to report on this particular encounter with Bonnefoy, and to try to register, however inadequately, some of his characteristic concerns and effects, something of what makes him one our of era’s unforgettable poets.

  Read more on Graph Magazine's new website.