Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Rilke's French Rose Poems In Translation: XII

John William Waterhouse, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 1909.

It is once again ages since I posted any translations of Rilke's Roses poems from the French, but I do mean to get back to them now. I have every intention of translating the whole cycle (please remind me that I said this.)

That said, I found XII particularly challenging. I really messed around with the line breaks and the number of lines - the latter, at least, is something I try not to do much. But this was the only way I could get it to work, somehow. This poem seems to contrast with many of the other poems in the cycle - it has a rather harsh and blunt tone, and sprawls down the page awkwardly (though probably deliberately). So I hope I haven't wreaked too much havoc.

As usual, I have included the French original after the English translation. And I'm very open to comments and suggestions. Part of the master plan is to revise these all at some point.

THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Clarissa Aykroyd)


Rose, who are you fighting
with those thorns?
Did your fragile joy force
this change to a hostile thing?

Against whom does this weapon guard you?
How many enemies have I warned away
who feared it not at all?
Instead, through summer and autumn days,
you harm the hand that helps you.

LES ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke)


Contre qui, rose,
avez-vous adopté
ces épines?
Votre joie trop fine
vous a-t-elle forcée
de devenir cette chose

Mais de qui vous protège
cette arme exagérée?
Combien d'ennemis vous ai-je
qui ne la craignaient point.
Au contraire, d'été en automne,
vous blessez les soins
qu'on vous donne.

Translation © Clarissa Aykroyd, 2014.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Mixed Bag: A Bunch of Poems Unlinked By Theme (I Think)

I really wanted to post something tonight, and then found myself at an excruciating loss as to what to post. It's almost as though the poem I wanted to post does not exist, but I still have it in mind. This is probably an indication that I should write it myself. So far, this has actually been a reasonably productive year poetry-wise. But the "poem lurking around the corner of my brain, and I'm not sure if it's my own or someone else's" feeling is always an odd one.

Anyway, I finally decided that I should just post links to a few poems which I have recently enjoyed, discovered, re-read, been thinking about, etc lately, so that you have a few to choose from. There will be no commentary - although I think that at some point I would like to write at least a little bit about some of these fine poets. It may not be The Rattle Bag, but hopefully it's an interesting mixed bag. I am nothing if not random.



'A furnace in my father's voice; I prayed for the coal stove's' (Ishion Hutchinson)

THE TRULY GREAT (Stephen Spender)



Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Christopher Marlowe and The School of Night

Anonymous portrait believed to be of Christopher Marlowe, 1585. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Last week I went to a LAMDA student production of The School of Night by Peter Whelan, an edgy, dark play about Christopher Marlowe and his rivalry with William Shakespeare. The play was full of fascinating character studies and the acting was excellent, even remarkable, which I've come to expect from LAMDA student productions (and not just because I work there.)

"There are two realms we can live of power, the other of poetry. You can't live in both! The poets must always stand against the powerful...otherwise truth would die!" exclaims Marlowe in The School of Night. At a later point Marlowe says that he wants to achieve a republic of poetry and power, but he never seems quite clear whether he wants to do this by means scientific, occult, or literary. I felt the play did capture something of Marlowe's complex nature and of the intense, violent atmosphere of the times. When I studied Shakespeare and Marlowe in school, I remember feeling that reading or seeing Shakespeare was like watching the most powerful, immersive cinema imaginable - a three-dimensional cinema of all five senses, of the intellect and the spirit. Marlowe, by contrast, had a kind of hard, incandescent brilliance.

Here you can read an excerpt from Hero and Leander: "It lies not in our power to love or hate". Hero and Leander makes an appearance in The School of Night.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

'Elegy' by Sidney Keyes: "April Again..."

Photo of Queens College, Oxford by Tejvan Pettinger

While I love the poetry of Sidney Keyes quite desperately, I find it hard to say a great deal about Keyes or indeed about the poems (although it is just possible that I have already written myself out about him here.) Given that he was only 20 when he died in World War II, the poems should probably just speak for themselves.

This poem, 'Elegy', is an April poem which is why I am posting it now. It is worth noting that it was written for his grandfather and that he was 16 when he wrote the poem.

Carol Rumens wrote about it here last year and there is much to appreciate in her analysis and the comments.

ELEGY (Sidney Keyes)

(In memoriam S.K.K.)

April again, and it is a year again
Since you walked out and slammed the door
Leaving us tangled in your words. Your brain
Lives in the bank-book, and your eyes look up
Laughing from the carpet on the floor:
And we still drink from your silver cup.

It is a year again since they poured
The dumb ground into your mouth:
And yet we know, by some recurring word
Or look caught unawares, that you still drive
Our thoughts like the smart cobs of your youth -
When you and the world were alive.

A year again, and we have fallen on bad times
Since they gave you to the worms.
I am ashamed to take delight in these rhymes
Without grief; but you need no tears.
We shall never forget nor escape you, nor make terms
With your enemies, the swift departing years.

                                                                              July 1938.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Big Poetry Giveaway 2014!

It's National Poetry Month in April. Technically, NPM is a US/Canada thing, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be worldwide.

Kelli Russell Agodon's Book of Kells blog has been running a Big Poetry Giveaway for a few years now and I've decided to take part this year by giving away 4 books of poetry. You can find more details here, including how to participate yourself, but I should warn  you that I am getting in under the wire - the deadline for joining is April 5.

Until 30 April, you can post below in the comments field with your name and email address (or your blog, if that is an easy way to get in touch) and I will choose 4 different names at random to receive the books at no charge. I can post them out to anywhere in the world (and you don't even have to pay for postage). Please specify if you would prefer to receive one of the books in particular.

The poetry books are:

1. POEMS by Shakila Azizzada. This substantial dual-language poetry pamphlet (produced by the Poetry Translation Centre) introduces the sensual, painful poetry of the Afghani poet Shakila Azizzada. I have heard her read and she was brilliant. Her poems are translated by the incredibly talented Iranian-British poet Mimi Khalvati, along with Zuzanna Olszewska.

2. FULL VOLUME by Robert Crawford: wry, pointed poems of nature and technology from a gifted Scottish poet.

3. GILGAMESH by Derrek Hines: a modern and astonishing version of the ancient epic, juxtaposing the poet's own contemporary concerns with the intensity of the original.

4. PESSIMISM FOR BEGINNERS by Sophie Hannah: extremely funny tales of relationship woes and everyday headaches. I have heard her read these poems and the audience was practically crying with laughter.

As for "a little about me", which I'm supposed to include: if you read this blog, you will find out quite a lot. But it's probably enough to say here that I live in London and work as a publisher, and poetry is a big part of my life.

I look forward to your entries. Happy reading!