Sunday, 17 December 2017
As I may have mentioned in past years, I'm not much for end-of-the-year lists: other people do them better, my mind doesn't really work that way, I spent much of 2017 reading spy novels (all actual excuses for me this year.)
However, I thought I'd share some of my go-to poetry and poetry in translation websites, where you can find the finest and most varied poetry and work around poetry. Many of these are probably obvious already if you read my blog, they're also probably obvious even if you don't read my blog, and I've left out a lot (call this a small sampling rather than a list). But anyway, all of these come highly recommended and if you don't already know them, they will expand your poetry world.
As further proof of my laziness, I won't recommend blogs specifically, but will instead point out to Matthew Stewart's list at the Rogue Strands blog: http://roguestrands.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/the-best-uk-poetry-blogs-of-2017.html
Forward Arts Foundation
And Other Poems
Ink Sweat & Tears
Poetry in translation websites
Modern Poetry in Translation
Poetry Translation Centre
Poems Found In Translation
Words Without Borders
Thursday, 14 December 2017
I recently went to my first Poetry Translation Centre workshop in a while, where we translated a couple of poems by the Persian poet Iraj Ziayi (using a literal translation by Alireza Abiz, who was also present, as a starting point). He is known as "the poet of objects", often imbuing inanimate things with an unusual charge of meaning in his poems.
One of the poems in particular, 'Tehran letter', affected me deeply. It accomplished what honestly I'd probably like to do in all of my own poems: in a brief format (14 lines) it evokes the emotions and memories that cling to a place, and a non-linear sense of time. The intimacy of translation - and in a Poetry Translation Centre workshop every line is carefully debated, discussed and decided on, with an expert in the original language present - immersed us in the poem and its mysterious approach to time.
By the end of the poem, I realised that it reminded me of TS Eliot's Four Quartets, perhaps 'Burnt Norton' in particular. "If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable": in 'Tehran letter', "they came and killed and burnt" is a reference, well-known to Iranian readers, to the 13th-century Mongol invasion. To me, there was a kind of agitation in the postman's repeated return to number 49, even if it's to seek birdsong (also reminiscent of 'Burnt Norton': "Quick, said the bird, find them, find them/ Round the corner..."), a sad sense of a broken automaton. The poem is beautifully constructed and deeply poignant, but the way the central image of a letter exists and un-exists, writes and unwrites itself, is also disturbing. It seems to spool in a motion that suggests both the "river-that-isn't", and a kind of eternal Mobius strip (as another workshop member said), even a trap.
As well as the final translation of 'Tehran letter', do read the 'About this poem' section, describing the meanings that we explored - some of them nearly impossible to translate without a considerable loss of the original meaning. Translation, especially of poetry, really is a joy and a sadness.
Photo: Glassware and Ceramics Museum by reibai. Used under Creative Commons license
Monday, 11 December 2017
snow in london by myrealnameispete. Used under Creative Commons license
When cold weather comes, I often think of Robert Bridges's 'London Snow'. The fact is, though, that recent London winters have been mild (I think the last really cold and fairly snowy one was 2012-2013) and this poem just hasn't seemed as appropriate. But today (yesterday? and maybe again today) it did snow, substantially. I was out and about in it for a while, but didn't get a chance to visit a park, which would have been a good idea; it usually sticks for longer there. We had big fat flake snow, wet snow, rain, more big fat flakes... When I walked down the road later to my favourite local coffee shop, the large, airy flakes fell and I had a moment of...whatever snow conjures. Motion, stillness in motion, nostalgia (something I indulge in far too much these days).
The languid movement of the poem is exceptional in conveying the coming of snow, the gentle swing through the poem's lines of the present participles - "flying", "settling", "lying", "hushing". After the snowfall, the language becomes brisker and more descriptive, but still conveying the transformative nature of snow ("the solemn air," "crystal manna".) I also like how the poem describes the conflict between fallen snow's stillness and beauty, and the struggle of human beings in a big city who need to clear the snow away and get on with their lives.
LONDON SNOW (Robert Bridges)
Saturday, 9 December 2017
On his blog Rogue Strands, Matthew Stewart's list of Best UK Poetry Blogs of each year is definitely one of the most interesting end-of-year lists to look forward to in the poetry world.
Matthew was kind enough to once again include The Stone and the Star on his recently published Best UK Poetry Blogs of 2017 list. (I was also pleased by his comment that my blog is "international in scope and range".) His blog, and all of those included, are musts for regular blog reading or at least for occasional browsing.
In other news, the Poetry Translation Centre published my recent tribute to their founder Sarah Maguire on their website, and you can read it here.