Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life be not proud

[Just following up on yesterday's post, and with apologies to John Donne]:

Life be not proud, though some have called thee
Precious and beautiful, for thou art no gift,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost uplift
Live not poor life, nor yet can'st thou thrill me.
From play and love, which but thy pictures be,
Much sorrow: then from thee much more must shift,
And soonest our best men do bear thy shrift,
Ache of the flesh and soul's injury.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, midwives and fond women,
And doth with nursing, care and physic last,
And coffee, or drugs, make the heart beat as fast
And wilder than thy pulse, why swellest thou then?
One short thrill past we sleep unrevived
And Life shall be no more, Life shall take its life.


If reincarnation exists, do the dead who remain mourn the loss of the newly living?

[Inspired by watching a performance of this]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


A tree he cannot name in a stranger's yard.

His happiness in leaf at last, boughs that dance seasonal and spontaneous, the tree shaking light like a drenched dog.

He has just time to pluck a sprig from the lowest branch before the bus arrives.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You, Tube

a man
of the
of the tube.

He dreams of his childhood.

Minimal Poems

from Aram Saroyan's Complete Minimal Poems (see also):


P.S. I tried posting a bunch of other poems from the book here, but blogger really screws up the typography. You can see a bunch of poems from the book (including this one) here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Constructing the Sky

[Was reading Walcott's Haitian Trilogy over the weekend, and sat down to write a post about it, but ended up with this instead. I'm not going to review the plays, except to say that reading them made me think of Shakespeare. I can think of no higher praise than that.]

This is how it began: not the stars ascending
to their orderly places but an explosion
of pregnant matter, glory's starburst, bang of revolt.
The white fist opened. Galaxies scattered like grain
from fingers of chaos, and the sky was a field
sown with flame. Who knew the stars would prove
so toothed? Would remember the dragon's hunger,
his meteor pride? Open mouthed and dumb,
we watched the armed constellations fly
North and South, watched them divide the sky
between them, dispute the unborn map of the night.
Anger released us, then tore us apart.
We fled in the centrifugal dark, defined our freedom
by the distance between us, bathed in the shifting
red of revenge. Dreaming of heaven,
we created the void. Nothing remains of those days
but this rubbish of burnt-out suns, embers
of a world ambushed and factioned, a history
of darkness wherein we sign imagined fates
to the black page of death. How to revive
the ancient gravities, convene the stars legislature?
How to arraign the galaxies in their opposed stances,
still the rippling rumors of these old injuries,
and construct, from these uneasy pinpricks,
something we could all believe in, look up to, use,
in a confusion of currents, to find our way forward.

Monday, April 21, 2008


"He was evidently a young man of considerable taste in reading, though principally in poetry; and besides the persuasion of giving him at least an evening's indulgence in the discussion of subjects, which his usual companions had probably no concern in, she had the hope of being of real use to him in some suggestions as to the duty and benefit of struggling against affliction, which had naturally grown out of their conversation. For, though shy, he did not seem reserved; it had rather the appearance of feelings glad to burst their usual restraints; and having talked of poetry, the richness of the present age, and gone through a brief comparison of opinion as to the first-rate poets, trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos; and moreover, how the Giaour was to be pronounced, he shewed himself so intimately acquainted with all the tenderest songs of the one poet, and all the impassioned descriptions of hopeless agony of the other; he repeated, with such tremulous feeling, the various lines which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness, and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood, that she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry; and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry, to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it too completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly, were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly."

- Jane Austen, Persuasion.

There's something so comforting about reading Austen, isn't there? The lilt and balance, the sharpness and felicity. How can anyone write prose that is at once so scrupulously exact and so perfectly fluid? I know of few delights superior.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Verona. The house of Capulet. Young Juliet is in love with Paris. Paris is in love with her. They are to be married - Paris has asked for and received her father's consent.

But Juliet has a secret - a dark, terrible secret. Ever since she was a child her cousin Tybalt has been sexually molesting her. She tries speaking of this to her mother but her mother loves Tybalt and will not hear a word against him. She tells her nurse about it and is advised to say nothing, for she will only bring shame upon herself. Yet Juliet cannot bear the idea of letting Tybalt go unpunished, cannot stand the thought of him leering at her across the family table for the rest of her life. She must have revenge.

But how is this to be accomplished? She considers confessing all to Paris, but what if he doesn't understand? What if he blames her? Besides everyone knows that Paris is no good with a sword and Tybalt is a master-duelist. Even if Paris did take her side she would only succeed in getting him killed. What is she to do?

She is still thinking about it at the ball when she sees young Romeo gawking at her. She has heard about this Romeo from her friend Rosalind. He is an awkward, immature boy, given to writing bad poetry and making obscene puns with his good for nothing companions. But they say he is a good swordsman. And besides, he is a Montague, and the Duke has decreed that any further fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets will be punished by death. All she has to do is lead this silly boy on a little, then sic him onto Tybalt. A fight between them will end in death for both. It means killing the boy as well as Tybalt, but he's a Montague and probably deserves it.

But can she make the boy fall in love with her? It can't be that hard. She's beautiful, she knows, and with a face like that the boy can't have much luck with women. Rosalind, she knows, won't give him the time of day. A little encouragement should do the trick.

So she smiles at him, looks repeatedly in his direction, pretends to be drawn to him. It works. He comes up to her, strikes up a conversation. Thinks he's being witty. Very well. She can keep up this kind of badinage easily enough. When Paris is not looking she allows him to kiss her. She can see Tybalt has spotted them. He's furious. Any moment now he and Romeo will come to blows. No, her father is stopping Tybalt, sending him away. Damn.

No matter. She'll just have to string this boy along a little more. He seems pretty far gone already. And to think that a few hours ago he was telling Rosalind how crazy he was about her. Men.

He turns up in her garden a little later, huffing and grunting like a pig. She pretends she hasn't seen him and proceeds to declare her love for him. He laps it up. He makes further protestations. What is she to do? She tries to lead him on a bit more, then realizes she mustn't overdo it - he mustn't think her too easily won, more than anything else he must respect her. She mentions marriage. He seems keen on the idea. Is she going too far? She retreats into her room, pretending that the nurse is calling her. But what's the harm? Why not marry the fool? It's not like she'll have to consummate the marriage. All she has to do is go through with the ceremony then tell him about Tybalt afterwards. If she's his wife he can't possibly refuse to fight for her. And then he'll either kill Tybalt and be executed or be killed by Tybalt and cause his execution. In either case, she'll be rid of them both. She goes back to the balcony, whispers a few more sweet nothings, tells him she'll send word to him the next day.

After that, it all goes swimmingly. He arranges the wedding. She goes through with it. Then tells him her secret. He swears vengeance, pulls on a sword, goes charging off to find Tybalt. It is done.

Only it doesn't quite work out the way she expects. Romeo realizes he can't just fight a duel with Tybalt - the Duke will have him executed if he does. So when Tybalt tries to pick a fight with him he backs off, thinking he'll arrange to meet with Tybalt in private later. Then Mercutio intervenes. Romeo sees his chance. If Tybalt kills Mercutio, who is the Duke's kinsman, surely then the Duke will not have Romeo punished for killing Tybalt? At a critical moment Romeo distracts Mercutio, blocks his arm. Mercutio is killed. Tybalt is wounded, frightened to have killed a kinsman of the Duke. Romeo fights with him, purportedly to avenge Mercutio's death, and slays him. The Duke, as expected, does not sentence Romeo to death for this, but, moved by Lady Capulet's tears, exiles him.

When Juliet hears of this she is distraught. Tybalt is dead at last, but Romeo is only banished, and banished is not good enough. How can she marry Paris with Romeo still alive? The friar is sure to object. To make things worse Romeo shows up in her chamber. He wants to consummate their marriage. She has no choice. She goes through with it, then considers keeping him there with her till he is discovered and put to death. Then she thinks the better of it. How will she explain what he was doing there? Her reputation will be ruined. Paris will never marry her then.

Meanwhile her father is trying to force her to marry Paris, little suspecting that it's what she wants most of all. But how to square the friar? She goes to him, feeds him some story about how she would rather kill herself than marry Paris. The friar's suspicions of her are allayed. He suggests a desperate stratagem. It sounds dangerous but she can see no other way. She figures if she can get Romeo to come to her in the crypt she can kill him there and afterwards convince the friar that now that he's dead there's no point in making their marriage public and that he should just keep it a secret and let her marry Paris.

Of course this doesn't work out either. She wakes from the friar's potion to find Romeo bragging to her of having killed Paris. She is enraged. This stupid boy has destroyed all her hopes. She still has some of the potion the friar gave her. She gives it to him, tells him it's a special love charm. The silly ass is just sentimental enough to believe it. He drinks it, then falls down in the semblance of death. She presses the cup into his hand.

It's only after she's put him to sleep that she considers her own position. What is she to do now? Her beloved Paris is dead. Any moment now the friar will arrive and then there will be all the tedious explanations to go through, at the end of which she will end up having to live with the hateful Montagues. If she's lucky. It hardly seems worth it. The friar arrives. He tells her he plans to have her put in a nunnery. No, no, that would be too terrible. She shoos him away. Why did Paris have to die? There is no future for her anymore. In despair, she takes up a dagger, kills herself. Her last thought is that by the time Romeo wakes from the potion she has given him, they will have buried him alive. It is a small satisfaction.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Stefan Ruzowitzky's Die Falscher

[warning: Some Spoilers]

There is a scene in Imre Kertesz's Liquidation where a group of people at a party play a game of Lager poker - each person names which camp they were in and the chips are awarded based on how bad the camp was. B. the novel's central character, withdraws from the game, because he was at Auschwitz, and Auschwitz in untrumpable.

The ghost of Auschwitz, and the heirarchy of suffering it implies haunts Stefan Ruzowitzky's Academy Award Winning film - Die Falscher - about a group of Jewish counterfeiters who are given special treatment in exchange for their services in producing fake foreign currency to fund the German war effort. For the central characters of the film, the problem is not simply of how far to collaborate, or how to balance the exigencies of survival against the principle of resistance; the existential crisis of conscience they face is how to define themselves in a world where they are privileged non-entities. Forced by circumstances to play the double role of being both the victims and the elite, both the blessed and the damned, the counterfeiters struggle to cope with both the fear, suffering and helplessness that is an integral part of camp life, as well as the guilt of knowing, even as they suffer, that everyone else has it much worse. What they are trying to forge (in both senses of the word) is a currency of action that their conscience will accept, and the strain of doing so lies at the heart of the tension in the film - a tension that could come straight out of Sartre.

But the characters are not the only ones faced with a dilemma. Their director, Stefan Ruzowitzky has his own challenge - how to bring moral weight to characters who are not only, by the well-documented standards of concentration camp inmates, extremely fortunate, but also collaborators, however unwilling, in the Nazi enterprise? Had Ruzowitzky tried to downplay these aspects of his characters lives - the privileges, the uneasy relationship with the Nazis - this would have been an ordinary, even bathetic film. What makes Die Falscher work (despite an overplotted script, a deeply flawed ending, and a little too much melodrama for my taste) is that Ruzowitzky is clever enough to focus on the privileges rather than deny them.

Indeed, as the film opens, it almost seems as though Ruzowitzky is trying to emphasize the advantages his main character - a master forger called Salomon Sorowitsch ('Sally' for short) - enjoys. The film opens with a depiction of Sally after the war, living the high life in Monte Carlo, then switches back to show us Sally's devil may care ways in pre-war Berlin. When Sally is finally sent to a concentration camp, his stay there is hastily rushed through, and in hardly any time at all we find him being recruited into the counterfeiting ring, where he is allowed to wear civilian clothes, housed in a comfortable dormitory and given weekends off. If all this wasn't enough, Sally himself is depicted as being the consummate scoundrel - sly, self-centered, manipulative. It's almost as though Ruzowitzky was making every effort to make Sally (and by extension the rest of the counterfeiters) as unsympathetic as possible.

What Ruzowitzky is really doing, I think, is setting up a study in implied contrast, inverting the normal rules of portraying suffering by showing us not the worst but the best, leaving us to imagine what the worst was like. As the film progresses we come to see how thin the shiny surface of privilege these counterfeiters skate on truly is, how easily it could shatter and plunge them into the dark depths that are always just inches under their feet, and how nimbly they must constantly maneuver to keep from meeting that end. The point is not simply that the life of the counterfeiters - for all its relative comfort - is fraught with peril and suffering; the point is precisely that the comfort is relative. Not to be shot or beaten on the passing whim of any passing soldier is a real privilege in this camp, but the fact that so basic a freedom as the right to life is a hard won reward speaks volumes for the horror of the concentration camps.

What Ruzowitzky achieves, then - and it is a considerable achievement - is a shifting of perspective that sets up a contrast between the absolute standards we are used to and the relative standards of the concentration camp, using that contrast to highlight how terrible the camps really were. In one powerful scene, for instance, Sally carries a dead coworker out of the area reserved for the counterfeiters and into the main camp and asks, "Where should I take him? He's dead." It seems like a perfectly reasonable question, until the camera draws back and shows you the emaciated bodies of the regular inmates who lie dead or dying by the dozens around him - a scene that makes Sally's concern for the death of his coworker seem ridiculous by comparison.

Sally's own transformation into a sympathetic, almost heroic character (which owes a great deal to a fascinating performance by Karl Markovics) is also part of this alchemy. The point is not that the experience of the concentration camp has somehow turned Sally into a saint or a humanitarian. The point is that even a selfish, hardened criminal like Sally has standards that are considerably higher than those of the genocidal murderers around him. Sally's code has not changed, it is just that in the hell he is consigned to his actions, driven by a notion of honor that is as unwavering as it is obscure, seem almost inspirational.

In the end, perhaps the finest and most insightful moment in Die Falscher comes towards the end, when the counterfeiters, coming face to face with the other inmates of the camp, are forced to confront their shame at having received special treatment, at not being able to match the suffering of the others. Desperately, the counterfeiters point to the one man among them who dared sabotage the counterfeiting operation, thus seriously hindering the German war effort. "He's a hero", they announce, but their voices as they say it lack conviction. And yet it is true that the man is a hero - he did take terrible risks, he did cause the Nazis a serious setback. Why then are those celebrating him so apologetic? Perhaps because they realize that in a world where devoid of all humanity even heroism is a privilege. To be a hero, to show courage in adversity, requires that one have some control over one's destiny; for the millions imprisoned in the Nazi death camps History offered no such control, provided no such choices. In the world of the concentration camp, even the ability to risk your life for your ideals is a privilege, and Die Falscher is a fitting testament to that terrible truth.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The sound of a woman crying in the next apartment tells him that the windows are open, that spring is here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Poetry in the Machine

In case you've missed it, there's a fascinating conversation about poetry going on over at Space Bar's blog, building off an experiment by Vivek which you can read about on his blog.

You'd think that having left two llooonnnggg comments on that post I'd have exhausted all I had to say on the subject (well, at least you'd think that if you were new to this blog and knew absolutely nothing about me), but obviously that isn't true.

In particular, I want to focus on Vivek's claim that he's looking to humanize mechanical processes, in partial response to the work of poets like Christian Bok who are interested in a more 'machinic' view of poetry. While I think that's interesting, I think there's a middle ground of human-machine interaction that's being ignored. I too have issues with the idea of replacing the "lyric voice of a human agent" with the "actions of a machine" but I think there's an exciting set of intermediate possibilities, through which machines (or more correctly, mechanical processes) could be set up in dialog with human agency to accentuate the lyric voice. In particular, I think greater attention to mechanical processes opens up the possibility of a whole range of new 'formal' challenges, based on outsourcing parts of the poetic process to mechanical operation in order to focus on the rest (you can tell I used to be a consultant, can't you?).

The way I see it is this: the essence of formalism is constraint - the poet voluntarily relinquishes certain choices that should, by rights, be available to him or her, both so as to make writing the poem a greater challenge and in the hope that the adoption of these limiting parameters will help to sharpen what lies within them, making for a better poem, or at the very least, a better poet. Rather than make those choices himself / herself, the poet allows them to be predetermined by invoking some established rule or template, thus eliminating human agency from parts of the poetic process.

But what if, instead of invoking some preset rule or condition, we were to randomize some of the choices behind the poem by entrusting them to a machine? We could then imagine a whole set of 'new' constraints that we could attempt to write poems within.

Consider two examples, off the top of my head. Suppose you were told that you had to write a poem but would have no control over line order. That after you wrote the poem a computer (or some other randomizing device - technology is not important here) would rearrange your lines in a completely random way. The challenge would then become to come up with a poem (presumably a short one) that would work in every possible permutation. Of course, no computer would actually be needed to rearrange your lines once you were done - the point is that the idea of mechanizing part of the poetic process (line arrangement) introduces a new kind of constraint that makes the task of writing the poem more challenging.

Or, to take a second example - imagine that you took the database of lines that Vivek currently has (or any other set of lines) and used a random number generator to assign a number to each one of them. You then took the lines corresponding to numbers in the top 5 percentiles (say) and tried to write a poem using them. Let's say (to make things more challenging) you forced yourself to follow the rank order of the lines - i.e. you started with the line that corresponded to the highest number, then got to the second highest and so forth. You'd be free to insert lines in between, of course - the challenge would be to create a credible poem that incorporated a randomly generated sequence of lines (okay, okay, so I know it's a bit like the 'Whose Line' game on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but then I've always maintained that Whose Line is a rich source of poetic ideas; it's also - to give it a more respectable lineage - very much like what Calvino does in Castle of Crossed Destinies with Tarot cards).

The point is not that these exercises are particularly brilliant (they're not - it's one in the morning and I'm exhausted) but that what the mechanization of parts of the poetic process makes possible is the creation of a virtually infinite set of constraint conditions that poets can use to challenge themselves if they're so inclined.

Personally, I remain unconvinced that all this desperate search for constraints is worth it. Oh, I think it's fun to do and entertaining to read, and I see how it helps to hone one's skills as a poet. I'm just not convinced that what comes out of it is particularly good poetry. But that's a whole other discussion. The point of this post is only to suggest that we may not want to dismiss machinic processes so easily, but may want to embrace them and subvert them to our own uses. And to propose that we try and think up new and interesting ways of doing that.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Her Demon Lover

[Space Bar points me to a Ramanujan essay about the different 'tellings' of the Ram story, which has become the latest excuse to rabble rouse - based, apparently, on Ramanujan's passing reference to a Santal version of the story where Sita is seduced by both Ravan and Lakshman [1]. I'm going to resist making the obvious jokes about Sita and the oral tradition, except to point out that if you're with a man who has ten heads it does seem a shame not to put them to use. Instead, I give you this.]

In the days that followed, she often found herself thinking of Ravan. Of the way he would come to her in those final weeks, wearing resignation like armor; coming to see her not because there was anything left to say between them, but as an act of propriety, a routine, content to sit unspeaking in a corner of her presence, as the sun sank and the world darkened around him. The walls of his city were on fire, his kinsmen were dying, his people were in revolt, and every day Death, like a jealous wife, drew him deeper into her clutches. Yet he never spoke to her of these things, asked her only if she was well, if there was anything she needed. If there was a question that lurked beneath these courtesies - and there was, they could both feel it - it was left unspoken. He was never rough with her, never demanding, even when the price he was paying was visible for all to see. Rather, it was as though the destruction of Lanka made words unnecessary, as though the carnage around them expressed the turmoil in his heart better than any speech he could make.

He never spoke to her of these things, and sometimes she wished he would. It would have eased her conscience to be accused, to be blamed. For she did feel guilt - it frightened her to see what she had done to him, what he had, for her sake, done to himself. It made her feel selfish by comparison. "You must hate me for what I'm doing to you" she said to him once, when it became clear that Lanka would not survive. He said nothing to that, only looked at her with the bewilderment of one who is asked a question in a language he does not speak. There was a dignity to his disappointment, and a sense, not of forgiveness, but of understanding. Like the feelings of a man who sees his starving dog turn to bite.

He never spoke to her of these things, and she wished now that he had. Thinking back, she can see how the catastrophe of those last days brought them closer than they had been before. She had denied him every intimacy, but she could not deny the bond that hopelessness forged between them; the constant distance that became, in time, a kind of connection; the ancient sympathy between victim and murderer, kidnapper and hostage.

But which of them was the hostage? It was a question she could not bring herself to ask. She remembered the way he had looked at her, even there, right at the end, when even the idea of love making would have seemed a sacrilege against the sacrifice being made. A look of bottomless yearning, like the ache of embers in a fire that waits to be fed. No, even the ash of defeat had not destroyed his longing for her, even the insults she had raked him with, even the cold water of her husband's triumph thrown in his face. Was it that he understood what she did not: that release, when it came, would prove hollow; that in allowing her escape (for who protected her from him if not he himself?) he was becoming part of it, ensuring that she would take him with her? Or was it just that he loved her with a constancy that not even the certainty of defeat could erase?

For he did love her - more than Ram, perhaps; yes, certainly more than Ram. But then, had Ram really loved her at all? Oh, he had been proud of her, anxious to protect her, solicitous of her wishes in his prim, husbandly way. But there was always, with him, the sense of a life lived by the rules, of a concern with what was right that overwhelmed anything so irrelevantly human as appetite or desire. If he loved her at all, it was because that was the proper thing to do, what was expected of him, what he expected of himself. While Ravan had loved her (she sees this now) for who she really was, despite the impropriety of it, perhaps even because it was improper.

She dare not say this to anyone, of course. Not even to her own children. No, especially not to them. They would think her ungrateful, accuse her of cheapening their father's heroism, his bravery in coming to her rescue. Yet rescue from what? And for what? This hut in the woods? What had Ram really done - except fight a war with a stranger, defeat him in battle, win glory for himself? Wasn't that what the war was really about - not her, but the insult to him?

When they speak of his heroism she thinks of the day, early in the siege, when a mob of the townspeople had come to her quarters, demanding that she be killed or handed over to the enemy, so that Lanka could be saved. How Ravan had stood up to them then - his own people - some of them related to him by blood. How he had reminded them of the wars he had fought in their name, of the glory he had brought to their land, of the riches he had won for the state, keeping nothing back for himself, of his years of selfless and exacting service. Would they turn against him now? Would they not trust him to lead them into this final battle, the greatest and most glorious of them all, victory in which would make Lanka the mightiest land in all the world? What a fine figure of a man he made, standing before them, one man against a mob, one lighthouse against a snarling sea. And how the mob first soothed, then shamed, then inspired, had responded to his words, had dispersed back to their homes to prepare for the fight.

Had he really believed that he could win? Or had he simply known that her return would achieve nothing, that what Ram wanted back was not his wife but his honor, and that he would keep fighting until he had extracted his compensation in blood? Or was it simply that he could not bear to part with her, was willing to give up everything - his own people, his own life - for the sake of keeping her by him, aloof and distant as she was, for a few more weeks?

No, she cannot bring herself to believe that.

But why had she been so aloof, so distant? Why had she not given this man, who had loved her more purely and more desperately than any other, what he so clearly desired? It had seemed, at the time, a matter of principle, but she cannot remember, now, what the principle was, or why it had seemed important. Thinking back to that time, she realizes that what she regrets most is not the loss of Ayodhya, but those sunset visits, the two of them standing alone in the Lankan garden, saying nothing. Even now, long after the war that destroyed him and set her free, there is an absence in her evenings that she cannot fill, the weight of it growing inside her like a sorrow ten years in the making, waiting to be born.

When she thinks of him now - and increasingly she thinks only of him - it is with a sense of missed opportunity, of a chance offered but not taken. Like the fire she could have given herself to, that day of the test, if only she had been brave enough.

[1] The sentence reads: "The Santals, a tribe known for their extensive oral traditions, even conceive of Sita as unfaithful—to the shock and horror of any Hindu bred on Valmiki or Kampan, she is seduced both by Ravana and by Laksmana." Emphasis mine.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Invisible Ink

It's been two days since he realized the bottle of disappearing ink was empty. He must have spilled it and not noticed. It was probably at night, during one of his panic attacks, the ink spreading in the darkness, then disappearing with the dawn. He wonders where the stain is, waits for it to appear.

[55 words]


Over at the Philadelphia Orchestra this evening, de Burgos conducting Wagner: ah! the horns! ah! the trombones!


I know I've already linked to the Translation issue of Poetry a couple of days back, but as I read through it I discover new treasures. Including this glorious Bonnefoy sonnet and this translation of Olav Hauge (who, truth to tell, I've never heard of before) which is remarkable less for the poem itself and more for Robert Bly's lovely translator's note that provides so compelling a portrait of the man that I have the urge to go running to the library to try and find some of his work.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Forever Young

To take a (first) page out of Amit's book (would those be uncut pages?), it's hard to put down a poem that begins like this:

"I was having sex with a stranger
when I realized this was no stranger,
this was Eleanor Roosevelt,
wife of the 32nd president of the United States."

- Dean Young, 'Sex with a Stranger'

(you can read the full thing here - just scroll down a bit)

It isn't bad enough that this man makes it all look so easy, he has to go write a book a year (this poem's from his 2008 collection Primitive Mentor, not to be confused with his 2007 collection Embroyoyo) to make it look even easier. Aaargghh!

P.S. In other news, I just got my hands on the new Winterson. Gloating about which is, of course, the point of this post.