Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bird Skeleton

Bronwyn Lloyd: Voodoo Bird (23/4/17)

A couple of weeks ago Bronwyn found this little chap nestled on the doorstep of her studio (which used to be my father's surgery), beside the house.

But who left it there? Was it a cat? The lawnmower man? Someone laying a hex?

Certainly it seems to be missing a head. It did remind me a bit of an old poem of mine, from my first book City of Strange Brunettes (1998):

First Love

We built a man of slates, and after years,
revisited, the rock had grown a face.

(... The lake dissects bird-craniums;
tree-roots wrestle midden-stones for space.)

We counted on the winter to preserve us.
Spring runoff leaves no craquelure to trace.

Jack Ross: City of Strange Brunettes (1998)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Palabras Prestadas / Given Words

Darrell Ward: R.I.P.

Ever since Ice Road Truckers star Darrell Ward died in a planecrash at the early age of 52 - the first casualty among their core cast of daredevils - it's been a bit difficult to keep up our enthusiasm for the TV reality series.

This morning, however, I received the exciting news that expatriate Kiwi poet Charles Olsen had completed his translation of my poem "Ice Road Trucker" into Spanish, and posted it on his "Palabras Prestadas" website.

I have to say that I'm quite thrilled to see my words transformed into another language (especially one I can read) - just as I was when Dieter Riemenschneider included a couple of my poems in his 2010 bilingual German-English anthology Wildes Licht: Gedichte aus Aotearoa Neuseeland [Wild Light: Poems from Aotearoa New Zealand].

So far as I can judge, Charles has done a bang-up job. I do wonder, though, if I can repurpose his work here as some kind of witness to the immense pleasure I've got out of watching this series over the years? In particular, as a tribute to Darrell Ward himself, who strikes me as the most man of anyone I've ever seen.

That time when he managed to drag another truck out of the ditch single-handedly, by driving them both at the same time (I know that doesn't sound physically possible, but he did somehow accomplish it) had to be seen to be believed.

Anyway, here's the poem, in translation (you can read the original English version here, if you like). And what better date to have it appear online than the Cinco de Mayo?

Jack Ross ha publicado varios libros de poesía, entre ellos City of Strange Brunettes (1998), Chantal's Book (2002), To Terezín (2007), Celanie (2012) y A Clearer View of the Hinterland (2014), además de cuatro novelas y dos libros de relatos cortos. Es director y editor de la revista Poetry NZ, y ha editado diversas revistas literarias y antologías. Tiene un doctorado en Inglés y Literatura Comparativa de la Universidad de Edimburgo y actualmente es Catedrático en Escritura Creativa en Massey University.
New Zealand Book Council – Jack Ross

Camionero sobre hielo

El motor se detuvo
a medio bajada por la rampa de salida

justo cuando cambió el semáforo a verde
para con cuidado en el arcén

y enciende
la luces de emergencia

decía Bronwyn
fuimos a buscar ayuda

me dejó en la estación de servicio
cuando llegué al coche

había un policía
un autobús había golpeado un vehículo utilitario

calle abajo
Necesitaba esto como un tiro en la cabeza

el de la grúa era un viejo fibroso

que levantó el coche
sin esfuerzo

mientras dábamos saltos
en la cabina de su camión

ya sé qué se siente

al conducir un gran camión
sobre los campos de hielo

mi álter ego
radio frequencia en mano

abierta la botella de Jim Beam
entre las piernas

el horizonte gris de peltre

(Traducción del poema Ice Road Trucker de Jack Ross – traducido por Charles Olsen)

Battle of Puebla (5 May 1862)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1913: Apollinaire

Pablo Picasso: Potrait of Guillaume Apollinaire (1913)

on 7 September 1911, Guillaume Apollinaire was arrested and imprisoned as a possible accomplice in the theft of the Mona Lisa, as well as some Egyptian statues, from the Louvre in Paris. He was released after a week, but only after implicating Pablo Picasso (also called in for questioning, but not arrested). The statues, later recovered, had actually been stolen by the poet's former secretary, Honoré Joseph Géry Pieret.

As for the Mona Lisa itself, the actual thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, was not arrested till 1913, when he tried to sell the stolen painting in Florence. He had expected to be rewarded for his patriotism in returning 'La Gioconda' to Italy, but in fact the director of the Uffizi, to whom he entrusted it for 'safekeeping,' had him arrested for theft. The painting was returned to France at the beginning of 1914.

1913 was a vital year for Apollinaire. He published his masterpiece, Alcools [Alcohol], a selection of his best poems from the past two decades. He also published his classic work Les Peintres Cubistes, one of the first systematic attempts to theorise the aesthetic practice of such painters as Picasso, Georges Braque, Marie Laurencin, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp.

Louise Faure-Favier (1870-1961)

Judging from the poem below, written as a letter to his friend and fellow-writer Louise Faure-Favier in July 1913, he was in his usual state of heart-sick turmoil at the time. It's tempting to see, in the storm with which his poem ends, some kind of presentiment of what was going to happen to Europe over the next few years.

Certainly he wouldn't have been the only one to have been troubled by strange dreams and visions in this last year of peace. Carl Jung, in his autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962) has left on record the strange dreams he was plagued with in the winter of 1913-14:
In October, while I was alone on a journey, I was suddenly seized by an overpowering vision: I saw a monstrous flood covering all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. When it came up to Switzerland I saw that the mountains grew higher and higher to protect our country. I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. This vision last about one hour. I was perplexed and nauseated, and ashamed of my weakness.
Nor was he the only one. In 1914, the painter Giorgio de Chirico painted Apollinaire in silhouette, with (as the Guardian puts it) "what looks like a target drawn on his cranium":

Giorgio de Chirico: Premonitory Portrait of Apollinaire (1914)

Apollinaire was hit in the head by shrapnel in 1916, while sitting reading in the trenches (he had enlisted in the French artillery at the outbreak of war). Despite a brain operation, he was weakened by his wounds, and died in the great Spanish 'flu epidemic at the end of the war.

As he lay dying in his hospital bed, he could hear the crowds outside chanting: "À bas Guillaume" - Down with Guillaume. They meant Kaiser Wilhelm, who was on the point of abdicating just before the German surrender, but to the poet himself, it seemed the final irony. It was 9 November, 1918. He died just two days before the Armistice was signed.

(after Apollinaire)

Sea’s edge
summer’s end
gulls fly
waves leave behind
glass blobs
of jellyfish
ships pass
on the horizon
wind dies in the pines

sun sinks
behind the islands
bruises the sand
the sea
darkens to purple
you fool
shout your fear into the storm



And here's a rather more literal version of the same poem:

Je suis au bord de l’océan sur une plage
I am at the edge of the ocean on a beach
Fin d’été : je vois fuir les oiseaux de passage.
at summer’s end: I see the birds of passage fly.
Les flots en s’en allant ont laissé des lingots :
The receding waves have left ingots:
Les méduses d’argent. Il passe des cargos
silver jellyfish. Freighters pass
Sur l’horizon lointain et je cherche ces rimes
on the far horizon and I look for rhymes
Tandis que le vent meurt dans le pins maritimes.
while the wind dies in the coastal pines.

Je pense à Villequier « arbres profonds et verts »
I think of Villequier's "deep, dark trees"
La Seine non pareille aux spectacles divers
the Seine unequal to the diverse shows
L’Eglise des tombeaux et l’hôtel des pilotes
the church of tombs and the pilots' hotel
Où flotte le parfum des brunes matelotes.
where the aroma of brown stew floats.

Les noirceurs de mon âme ont bien plus de saveur.
The blackness of my soul has far more taste.

Et le soleil décline avec un air rêveur
And the sun goes down with a dreamy air
Une vague meurtrie a pâli sur le sable
a bruised wave pales on the sand
Ainsi mon sang se brise en mon cœur misérable
while the blood breaks in my miserable heart
Y déposant auprès des souvenirs noyés
lying down next to my drowned memories
L’échouage vivant de mes amours choyés.
the living wreck of my cherished loves.

L’océan a jeté son manteau bleu de roi
The ocean has thrown off its royal blue robe
Il est sauvage et nu maintenant dans l’effroi
it's wild and bare now with the fear
De ce qui vit. Mais lui défie à la tempête
of living things. Defiance in the teeth of the storm
Qui chante et chante et chante ainsi qu’un grande poète.
which sings and sings and sings like a great poet!

[23 juillet 1913]

- Guillaume Apollinaire. 'Je suis au bord de l’océan...' Poèmes Retrouvés. Oeuvres poétiques. Ed. Marcel Adéma & Michel Décaudin. Préface d’André Billy. 1956. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 121 (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1966): 734.

Pablo Picasso: Portrait of Apollinaire (1918)