Monday, 30 November 2009

'The Ox on the Bell-Tower' by Gerrit Komrij


LOVE

They lie atop each other, scab on rash.
Flakes are heard crackling. Dandruff makes them gag.
Their skulls both glitter with tiara-flash
She fondly strokes his swollen gizzard-bag.

His pinky’s gone - a bloody abcess snares.
She squirms. Slime from her mouth forms a balloon
That bursts. His crop grows bluer. Now he dares.
He rolls her on her back. He calls the tune.

His worn-out limbs begin to wave and thrash.
Much grinding now ensues. A pus-filled smell
Of slobber seems to well up from a gash.
She pukes. God’s miracle in a nutshell.

This is a very well-known poem from the cycle.
For a parallel text of the entire cycle go to here

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Victor Schiferli - 'Lyrisch van Rembrandt' book
















A FATHER LOOKS AT HIS SON

A father looks at his son, asks:
put on that monk’s cowl, then the light
will catch your face just right.

His face: cautious, restrained,
shielded on both sides by
old musty fabric. He sits down

in the sprightly morning sun,
against an earthen-dark wall,
in the chestnut-coloured cowl.

The son does not return the look,
fixes his eyes on the ground
as if he knows what is to come.

Still a father looks at his son,
touched up, brushed over,
fixed, the colour not yet set.




Craig Raine in Danish































Slagteren

‘Og selv St George – hvis Gibbon har ret – bar høj hat
  en gang; han var leverandør til hæren og forsynede
  den med bacon af middelmådig kvalitet’
  (E.M. FORSTER, Abinger Harvest)


Omgivet af pølser står slagteren
rygende en blyant som Isambard Kingdom Brunel . . .

Han duellerer med sig selv og bejler til sine kvindelige kunder,
tilbyder tynde, snoede koralhalsbånd af hakkekød,

laméhjerter fra køleskabet, en svinekølle
som en væmmelig buket, pundsedler trykt med blod.

Han ved alt om nøgenhed – blodets rislen og
kildren, kyllinger skrællet ned til deres aertex-undertrøjer.

Han flår gazen af døde balletsvin,
og får pålægsmaskinen til at svirpe med sine ben.

Som kunderne griner! Hans stribede forklæde
bliver lige så snavset som en bordelmadras . . .

Klokken ti drikker han sin te med skeen klemt indtil siden,
og MS Great Eastern går straks til bunds.


For another poem in parellel translation go to here

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A poem by Rozalie Hirs

MANDRAKE

In the root a spirit lives –
it runs up along the stem.
You read me with your hand
that drinks of me with its eye.

I attend your body – in its frame
the window pane leant towards
the riddle of your name.
I unfold it like a map.

The root was an engraver in shifting sand -
inscribing there the drifting land.
We dig the deadly nightshade out of
the scream in the soil.

I bear your imprint – an amulet
of skin, formed in your image.
You have stroked and scored
me with your script.

The weed is not its magic.
White wax becomes a bead
of glass – the psychotropic
root node writes the

antidote.

The Flemish poet Erik Spinoy














THE HUNTERS IN THE SNOW

[1]

Returning

from a midnight flit – stooping figures of
hunters, hounds come into the field of vision.
On their shoulders lies the endless
hammock of the light. A meagre

take, a fox – only visible to one who is
observant. Only one who truly has eyes
understands. For only with averted face
do they reveal the mask of regret. Where

they have been remains a secret, what’s seen
is inexpressible. But that they know is
plain as a pikestaff. And also, that this
is a retreat, their unforeseen

arrival in a house of
penned-in open sky.

More more translations of poems by Spinoy go to here and here.
For a translation of his long poem about Hölderlin's Susette go to here.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Dutch poet Menno Wigman



The swimming baths at the Den Dolder clinic

There are emotions of a fascist kind.
The father who hits out but can’t tell why,
the son half-choked who scratches photos through.

The loveliest idiot I ever saw
lay on his back, a total universe.
No father got to grasp this basket case

that drifted through the pool like one in space,
no mother poked his bowl of fish around.
And skewed and pale and wise he swam. Swam sound.


For a workshop discussion of the translation of this poem go to here.

This is one of five poems translated in 2008.
For all five poems go to here.
For earlier translations of Wigman poems go to here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Eva Gerlach - 'Lyrisch van Rembrandt' book





SELF-PORTRAIT AS A YOUNG MAN

There you are then. Up to what? See if I stick
to my spectre role? eyes you then recognise
squeeze into yours, so you’re alive

as under gooseflesh, ‘A Graze
of Age-Old Breath’? No sweat, jerk off
my present nature, come soft-cheek, recoil

at my oils, I can read you. Marrow
stretches in your snapping bones,
how you quiver, what overflows so, spatters

the walls with Spunks of Light, glare, flaming storms –

Make no mistake now, all in principle
is present and we live immortally
in contradiction. Life Eternal? I’m

filled with blood the instant you repeat me,
my body’ll fit me naturally like a glove –
earlobe that glistens, hair wired to scalp, world

cheek by jowl, a mask glued to my phiz
and you’ll be there. Material differences
cheerfully raised, erased. There you are then.

Georg Trakl

De profundis

It is a stubble-field where black rain falls.
It is a dark-brown tree that stands alone.
It is a soughing wind that swirls round empty huts –
How dismal this evening.

Passing the hamlet
The gentle orphan girl still gathers scanty ears of corn.
Round and golden her eyes feast on the gathering dusk,
Her lap yearning for the heavenly bridegroom.

On their way home
The shepherds found the darling body
Rotting in the briers.

I am a shadow far from desolate villages.
God’s silence
I drank from the springs of the grove.

Cold metal meets my temples.
Spiders seek out my heart.
There is a light that guts in my mouth.

At night I found myself on a heath,
Stiffening with dirt and dust from the stars.
In the thicket of hazels
Crystal angels once more sounded.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Wallace Stevens in translation

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

V
Jeg ved ikke hvad man skal foretrække,
Tonefaldenes skønhed
Eller hentydningernes skønhed,
Solsorten der fløjter
Eller lige bagefter.


Click here for the whole cycle in English or Danish.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson


KHUBLAI KHAN DEPARTS FROM XANADU


Yes every year the Khan leaves for home
from his country residence so well extolled by Coleridge,
the one in Xanadu, and more precisely
on 28 August the exodus takes place.
The Khan leaves Xanadu and milk
from white goats only
is hurled high into the air on his departure
to nourish the spirits of the air.


So says Marco Polo,
our Venetian witness.
So now it is 28 August anno 1270:
cranes in the sky and the Great Khan,
afflicted with arthritis, travels in a small house
borne on the backs of four elephants.
Clad on the outside with tiger skins
and on the inside with gilt-leather tapestries.
In this swaying room,
whose uterine movements
cannot be all that easy to imagine,
the Khan reclines stretched out on a divan.

But when cranes are within earshot,
Marco Polo relates,
the barons riding in
his retinue give a sudden warning.
The retractable roof is quickly rolled back
and the Khan’s gerfalcons
(of which he naturally always
has an abundance at the ready)
are thrown upwards and soar like arrows
into the already cooler autumn sky
out here on the northern steppes.
And the cranes do not escape them.
The Khan greatly appreciates
this kind of hunting.
Where the Khan is
it is still morning,
an autumnal morning
with cranes, but still early.

For several centuries
it is now afternoon.
Straight through
the old trees
sprung into leaf much too early
the sound of a nightingale
and the breaking of waves.
(In some other day)

Gottlob Frege dreamed a dream
of an arithmetic
where one times one made two
(so that the prime numbers no longer
were impossible to lose hold of)
and where ‘four’ was not ‘four’
four was something else than ‘four’
it was the number of horses
in the Emperor’s Quadriga
up there on the Brandenburg Gate,
and Chaplin and Einstein moved
by sheer coincidence
into the Adlon on the Pariserstrasse
in the same week
from where there is an excellent view
of the Emperor’s Quadriga.
They talked about the strange fact
that the laws of the universe
(at least superficially)
do not have much to do with each other.

Einstein spoke in favour of the unity formula,
a monotheistic equation
that would reduce
all of nature’s relations to a single one.

Chaplin suggested something else:
That many gods,
each in his own way a genius,
but also something of a bungler,
had each one of them left behind
traces of his universe.
Gravitation, old-fashioned grey
and above all else uncompromising,
was the oldest.
And the electromagnetic waves
so obviously created
by a completely different temperament
the latest to be invented.
But, Charlie added,
perhaps not the last.

Gods have to stay on the move
so as not
to lose their topicality.

An unexpected shower of
arrows fell from the darkened sky.

I sometimes dream
a strange dream
that everything is not as it should be.

I am living in a house
that is not mine.

It is much too big
and has floors
that I have never dared visit.

Something holds me back from doing so.
From the top floors

whose elegant, cushioned furniture
I only seem to glimpse

come cold gusts of air;
and from below, the cellar’s strange orangerie
come gusts far too hot.

What orchids thrive there
in the rows,

and what quick snakes does the
green shadow conceal beneath the leaves?

So I stay here
in these few rooms of a palace far too large

that I manage to keep
a reasonable room temperature in.

During the time that was my life.

And then high summer.
Not this
which you simply call such
but something stronger:
A real old-fashioned high summer
with the droning of bumblebees, the
discreet argumentation of the corncrake that
is both far away
and right inside your ear.
(There is a corncrake in the ear!)
The sharp
and slightly poisonous sting
from the pointed and red
dorsal fin of the perch.
And dead wasps
inside the window
mix their sourish scent
with that of dry
and now completely intractable
old wood.

And this fact of existence
about which the dead have completely forgotten
that it ever happened to them.
In actual fact a very strange state!
(Purely statistically
we do not exist
much longer than we exist.)
The lakes finally turn silver in hue
and it is not only the summer
that
moves towards its end
also this life.

Horizon and cranes.

Flooded land
is not the same as marshland.
In some of the pictures
of my long-since deceased
father’s photo album,
a document from 1929,
you can see how the Kolbäck river
has gone far beyond the usual limits
of its banks
and is transforming recently fertile meadows
into shallow lakes.

Marshland is designed to be
what it is, with meadow-sweet, water-lilies, cranes
but flooded land is
something else, less prepared
for what might come,
more exposed, how pathetic
when slender birches stand in mid-stream!
And many a one was surely flooded:
Gaspara Stampa says Rilke...
And all the other great lovers.
Oh silver colour of clouds and water
Oh this is still the starting time
And

Late-summer morning under a grey sky
faint scent of coffee on the stove
and the big heavy perch
already taken from the net.
And around their
gills still panting
the quietly melodic song of a wasp.
To exist
is to hear a stubborn buzzing note
that rises and falls in volume.
But this note and no other one.
And recently in this second world:
A pair of cranes flew over lake Hörende.
The mature summer’s signal
across the great bright lakes:

The cranes’ trumpets.
And if there were a falcon
one that does not murder
but observes everything
with sharp eyes.
Then I would send this my falcon
a bird of autumn and maturing
as close as the hard will
of the world allowed it
in their tracks,
non-existent in the air. 
With the cranes.


Ever farther off
in the great whiteness
which is their second country.
KHUBLAI KHAN DEPARTS FROM XANADU


Yes every year the Khan leaves for home
from his country residence so well extolled by Coleridge,
the one in Xanadu, and more precisely
on 28 August the exodus takes place.


The Khan leaves Xanadu and milk
from white goats only
is hurled high into the air on his departure
to nourish the spirits of the air.


So says Marco Polo,
our Venetian witness.
So now it is 28 August anno 1270:
cranes in the sky and the Great Khan,
afflicted with arthritis, travels in a small house
borne on the backs of four elephants.
Clad on the outside with tiger skins
and on the inside with gilt-leather tapestries.
In this swaying room,
whose uterine movements
cannot be all that easy to imagine,
the Khan reclines stretched out on a divan.


But when cranes are within earshot,
Marco Polo relates,
the barons riding in
his retinue give a sudden warning.
The retractable roof is quickly rolled back
and the Khan’s gerfalcons
(of which he naturally always
has an abundance at the ready)
are thrown upwards and soar like arrows
into the already cooler autumn sky
out here on the northern steppes.
And the cranes do not escape them.
The Khan greatly appreciates
this kind of hunting.
Where the Khan is
it is still morning,
an autumnal morning
with cranes, but still early.




For several centuries
it is now afternoon.
Straight through
the old trees
sprung into leaf much too early
the sound of a nightingale
and the breaking of waves.
(In some other day)






Gottlob Frege dreamed a dream
of an arithmetic
where one times one made two
(so that the prime numbers no longer
were impossible to lose hold of)
and where ‘four’ was not ‘four’
four was something else than ‘four’
it was the number of horses
in the Emperor’s Quadriga
up there on the Brandenburg Gate,
and Chaplin and Einstein moved
by sheer coincidence
into the Adlon on the Pariserstrasse
in the same week
from where there is an excellent view
of the Emperor’s Quadriga.
They talked about the strange fact
that the laws of the universe
(at least superficially)
do not have much to do with each other.






Einstein spoke in favour of the unity formula,
a monotheistic equation
that would reduce
all of nature’s relations to a single one.


Chaplin suggested something else:
That many gods,
each in his own way a genius,
but also something of a bungler,
had each one of them left behind
traces of his universe.
Gravitation, old-fashioned grey
and above all else uncompromising,
was the oldest.
And the electromagnetic waves
so obviously created
by a completely different temperament
the latest to be invented.
But, Charlie added,
perhaps not the last.


Gods have to stay on the move
so as not
to lose their topicality.




An unexpected shower of
arrows fell from the darkened sky.




I sometimes dream
a strange dream
that everything is not as it should be.


I am living in a house
that is not mine.


It is much too big
and has floors
that I have never dared visit.


Something holds me back from doing so.
From the top floors


whose elegant, cushioned furniture
I only seem to glimpse


come cold gusts of air;
and from below, the cellar’s strange orangerie
come gusts far too hot.


What orchids thrive there
in the rows,


and what quick snakes does the
green shadow conceal beneath the leaves?


So I stay here
in these few rooms of a palace far too large


that I manage to keep
a reasonable room temperature in.


During the time that was my life.






And then high summer.
Not this
which you simply call such
but something stronger:
A real old-fashioned high summer
with the droning of bumblebees, the
discreet argumentation of the corncrake that
is both far away
and right inside your ear.
(There is a corncrake in the ear!)
The sharp
and slightly poisonous sting
from the pointed and red
dorsal fin of the perch.
And dead wasps
inside the window
mix their sourish scent
with that of dry
and now completely intractable
old wood.




And this fact of existence
about which the dead have completely forgotten
that it ever happened to them.
In actual fact a very strange state!
(Purely statistically
we do not exist
much longer than we exist.)
The lakes finally turn silver in hue
and it is not only the summer
that
moves towards its end
also this life.


Horizon and cranes.




Flooded land
is not the same as marshland.
In some of the pictures
of my long-since deceased
father’s photo album,
a document from 1929,
you can see how the Kolbäck river
has gone far beyond the usual limits
of its banks
and is transforming recently fertile meadows
into shallow lakes.


Marshland is designed to be
what it is, with meadow-sweet, water-lilies, cranes
but flooded land is
something else, less prepared
for what might come,
more exposed, how pathetic
when slender birches stand in mid-stream!
And many a one was surely flooded:
Gaspara Stampa says Rilke...
And all the other great lovers.
Oh silver colour of clouds and water
Oh this is still the starting time
And


Late-summer morning under a grey sky
faint scent of coffee on the stove
and the big heavy perch
already taken from the net.
And around their
gills still panting
the quietly melodic song of a wasp.
To exist
is to hear a stubborn buzzing note
that rises and falls in volume.
But this note and no other one.
And recently in this second world:
A pair of cranes flew over lake Hörende.
The mature summer’s signal
across the great bright lakes:


The cranes’ trumpets.
And if there were a falcon
one that does not murder
but observes everything
with sharp eyes.
Then I would send this my falcon
a bird of autumn and maturing
as close as the hard will
of the world allowed it
in their tracks,
non-existent in the air.
With the cranes.


Ever farther off
in the great whiteness
which is their second country.