POETRY IS LIKE TAKING A DEEP BREATH

Thursday, 30 June 2011

THE JOY OF WRITING





Where is a written deer running through a written forest?
Whether to drink from written water
which will reflect its mouth like a carbon?
Why is it raising its head, does it hear something?
Propped on four legs borrowed from the truth
it pricks up its ears from under my fingers.
Silence  -  that word, too, is rustling on paper
and parts the branches caused by the word 'forest'.

Over a white page letters are ready to jump
and they may take a bad turn.
Sentences capable of bringing to bay,
and against which there is no help.
In a drop of ink there are quite a few
hunters squinting one eye,
ready to rush down a vertical pen,
to encircle the deer, to take aim.

They forget that this is not life here.
Other laws rule here, in black and white.
An instant will last as long as I desire.
It will allow a division into small eternities
each full of buckshot stopped in its flight.
If I command, nothing here will happen ever.
Not even a leaf will fall without my accord,
or a blade of grass bend under a dot of a hoof.

And so there is such a world
on which I impose my autonomous Fate?
A time which I bind with fetters of signs?
A life that at my command is perpetual?

The joy of writing.
A chance to make things stay.
A revenge of a mortal hand.



Wislawa Szymborska
1923

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996

translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

REMBRANDT'S LATE SELF-PORTRAITS


Rembrandt
Dutch Painter
1606-1669

You are confronted with yourself. Each year
The pouches fill, the skin is uglier.
You give it all unflinchingly. You stare
Into yourself, beyond. Your brush's care
Runs with self-knowledge. Here

Is a humility at one with craft.
There is no arrogance. Pride is apart
From this self-scrutiny. You make light drift
The way you want. Your face is bruised and hurt
But there is still love left.

Love of the art and others. To the last
Experiment went on. You stared beyond 
your age, the times. You also plucked the past
And tempered it. Self-portraits understand,
And old age can divest,

With truthful changes, us of fear of death.
Look, a new anguish. There, the bloated nose,
The sadness and the joy. To paint's to breathe,
And all the darknesses are dared. You chose
What each must reckon with.



Elizabeth Jennings
1926-2001


Friday, 24 June 2011

THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US




The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. - Great God I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.


William Wordsworth
1770-1850



Saturday, 18 June 2011

BRIEF REFLECTION ON ACCURACY



Fish
always accurately know where to move and when,
and likewise
birds have an accurate built-in time sense
and orientation.

Humanity, however,
lacking such instincts resorts to scientific
research. Its nature is illustrated by the following
occurrence.

A certain soldier
had to fire a cannon at six o'clock sharp every evening.
Being a soldier, he did so. when his accuracy was 
investigated he explained:

I go by
the absolutely accurate chronometer in the window
of the clockmaker down in the city. Every day at seventeen
forty-five I set my watch by it and
climb the hill where my cannon stands ready.
At seventeen-fifty-nine precisely I step up to the cannon
and at eighteen hours sharp I fire.

And it was clear
that this method of firing was absolutely accurate.
All that was left was to check that chronometer. So
the clockmaker down in the city was questioned about
his instrument's accuracy.

Oh, said the clockmaker,
this is one of the most accurate instruments ever. Just imagine,
for many years now a cannon has been fired at six o'clock sharp.
And every day I look at this chronometer
and always it shows exactly six.

So much for accuracy.
And fish move in the water, and from the skies
comes a rushing of wings while

Chronometers tick and cannon boom.



Miroslav Holub
1923-98

translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers






Saturday, 11 June 2011

FORGETFULNESS

Auguste Rodin  -  The Thinker


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of.

It is as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorise the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion, where you will join those
who have even forgotten to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.



Billy Collins
b. New York 1941




Sunday, 5 June 2011

FROM JOY'S LOVELIEST OCEAN

Foto Konrad Hartter


From joy's loveliest ocean
there's a flood springing.
Embark all, and set to -
to the oar your strength bringing.
No matter its burden,
our boat sorrow-laden
(if death comes, so let it)
moves through the waves winging.
From joy's loveliest ocean
there's a flood springing.

Who cries from behind us
of doubt or of danger?
Who harps on their fear now,
where fear is no stranger?
What curse, or star's showing
has frowned on our going?
Hoist a sail to the wind now
and we'll move on singing.
From joy's loveliest ocean
there's a flood springing.


Rabindranath Tagore
1861-1941

translated by Joe Winter



This is song 9 from Tagore's Gitanjali (Song offerings), a collection first published in England in 1912, with Tagore's own English translations.
Tagore later said that his poems came to him like wild swans "with a rush of sound and a flutter of wings".