Thursday, 28 July 2011


Pharos - Salvador Dali
(The Lighthouse of Alexandria)

Waking up in the same skin isn't enough.
You need more and more evidence
of who it is that
wakes up in the same skin.

But what evidence?
Reality is unreliable: a whirlwind
of dust that appears
and disappears every day.

Your thirst stretches out its white dunes.

Every day in the dust
you distinguish

not islands but their darkness
heaped on the polished mirror of a sea.

Not doors but their shadows
slammed in the house of wind.

Not lighthouses but their half-second SOS
in red, green and yellow.

Not language but languages.

Not a hand closing a curtain
but a hand.

And the day is over,
not wiser than the night in which
you waited for someone
who came and wasn't what you waited for.

Kapka Kassabova
born Sofia, Bulgaria, 1973
(now New Zealand)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear,
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady, I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke

Thursday, 21 July 2011


Picasso - Guernica

How magnificent the war is!
How eager and efficient!
Early in the morning,
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances 
to various places, 
swings corpses through the air,
rolls stretchers to the wounded,
summons rain from the eyes of mothers,
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins...
Some are lifeless and glistening,
others are pale and still throbbing...
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children,
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky,
sows mines in the fields,
and reaps punctures and blisters,
urges families to emigrate,
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire)...
The war continues working, day and night,.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.
It contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs,
provides food for flies,
adds pages to the history books,
achieves equality
between killer and killed,
teaches lovers to write letters,
accustoms young women to waiting,
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures,
builds new houses for the orphans,
invigorates the coffin makers,
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader's face.
The war works with unparalleled diligence.
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.

Dunja Mikhail
b. Baghdad 1965
translated from the Arabic by Elizabeth Winslow

Monday, 18 July 2011


(broadcast from Voyager-II to the universe)

First, the most popular sound:
we call it talking - it s also known fondly as
shooting one's mouth off, discussing,
chewing the fat, yammering, blabbing,
conversing, confiding, debating, blabbing,
gossiping, hollering, and yakking.
So, here's a whole bunch of jaw creakers.
How come none of you guys out there
don't yap at us - we'd sure like to hear
what you have to say
on the subject of where the hell you are.

For our second selection,
we will now play a medley of music
which you may or may not care for
since as I know myself
music is a very personal thing.
Why not aim a little musical extravaganza earthward ?
As I say, we're waiting.

Now for our something-for-everyone finale.
Here's a rush hour traffic jam,
brakes are screeching - horns are blasting.
This is a phone ringing, a keyboard tapping,
and a printer whirring in the background.
I'm very partial to this next example of earth sounds:
a rocking chair creaking back and forth on a porch
accompanied by birds and crickets chirping.

To finish up, we've got a lawn mower,
knitting needles, a hammer, a saw,
a football stadium after a score,
a door shutting, a baby crying
and the ever-popular drone of television
blaring across the airways.

We're equal opportunity down here
so if you're a blob or have three heads
or look like something the cat dragged in -
we won't bat an eyelid.

Julie O'Callaghan

Friday, 15 July 2011


Albrecht Durer
The Horsemen Of The Apocalypse

The year began with baleful auguries;
comets, eclipses, tremors, forest fires,
the waves lethargic under a coat of pitch,
the length of the coastline. And a cow spoke,
which happened last year too, although last year
no one believed cows spoke. Worse was to come.
There was a bloody rain of lumps of meat
which flocks of gulls snatched in mid-air
while what they missed fell to the ground
where it lay for days without festering.
Then a wind tore up a forest of holm-oaks
and jackdaws pecked the eyes from sheep.
Officials construing the Sybilline books
told of helmeted aliens occupying
the crossroads, and high places of the city.
Blood might be shed. Avoid, they warned,
factions and in-fights. The tribunes claimed
this was the usual con-trick
trumped up to stonewall the new law
about to be passed. Violence was only curbed
by belief in a rumour that the tribes
to the east had joined forces and forged
weapons deadlier than the world has seen
and that even then the hooves of their scouts
had been heard in the southern hills.
The year ended fraught with the fear of war.
Next year began with baleful auguries.

Jamie McKendrick

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Elina Brotherus
Der Wanderer  III -  2004

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz
Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress in 1974 and 2000

Saturday, 9 July 2011


David Tennant as Hamlet

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! -- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

Act Three Scene 1

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Pieter Bruegel
The Corn Harvest -  1565

The man who lies on his back under huge trees
is also up in them. He branches out into thousands of tiny branches.
He sways back and forth,
he sits in a catapult that hurtles forward in slow motion.

The man who stands down at the dock screw up his eyes against the water.
Ocean docks get older faster than men.
They have silver-grey posts and boulders in their gut.
The dazzling light drives straight in.

The man who spends the whole day in an open boat
moving over the luminous bays
will fall asleep at last inside the shade of his blue lamp
as the islands crawl like huge moths over the globe.

Tomas Transtromer
translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly