Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Richard Lopez dropped by a few days ago and left interesting comments about translation and internationalism.

Like him, my translation projects aren't necessarily in languages I know well, or at all. I only really know English but rely on other versions, transliterations, dictionaries and other aids. Yet I also feel that much of the poetry that interest me is in languages other than English. One of the first books of poetry I ever ever bought was a selection of Montale's poems in English - one of those Penguin Modern European Poets series.

For instance, at the moment I am reading translations of the Cuban exile poet José Kozer, a volume entitled Stet: Selected Poems of José Kozer, translated by Mark Weiss and available through Mark's Junction Press. I had heard of Kozer, specifically but not only from from Mark, but had never read much in translation. Now I can and am loving what I am reading so far.

And, like Richard, I get something from the old Chinese poets, I have turned back to the Tang dynasty poets when I have had need of being refreshed. I don't think it is a kind of exoticism or appropriation but it is certainly another way of seeing/hearing/reading. Something necessary, to get out of your own mind set.

Richard also notes that to some extent we are all becoming internationalists due to the ubiquity of the internet and the contacts and networks it creates as well as greater access to all kinds of works. I think this could be especially the case for those of us who essentially come from migrant and/or invader cultures (ie my forebears came to Australia from England, Scotland and Ireland starting around 150 years ago as well as much less, depending of which side of the family you look at).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

ebb and flow

Reading Jen at blue acres and also thinking of the times when the words don't come and when they do.

I was doing one of the regular(ish) DiVerse readings today - we're the ekphrasis team, writing in reference to artworks, this time prints at the S.H. Ervin Gallery - and one of the other poets said an interesting thing - that she tried to write a poem in response to a print of a cat. She's a cat person, so it should have been a shoe-in, she and we all thought. But, nope, the poem wouldn't 'go'. Whereas another print 'insisted' she write about it.

Of course, this is all speaking in metaphors about process, which is fine. I'm not scared or worried by metaphors. Jen says: "when I'm stuck it seems poems are like equations with one or two possible but elusive solutions, both requiring a good ten or twenty more IQ points than I have spare to find." I understand that as well, though it's not how I would have put it. I think in terms of flows and resistances. It seems as if it's a bodily process. Well, gosh, hey, it is. And if I thought of poems as equations, I never woulda written one. I'm a maths phobic, sadly.

But Jen then says, about the times writing is working: "like dreams just come when you forget that you can't sleep and instead start noticing those weird little images and words that are flicking through your mind all the time regardless." And I can go with that.

I'm not normally good at sleep but I do get those times in early morning when my wakeful body finds sleep quickly, suddenly, and I have the more vivid (and weird - as in sci fi, fantastical) dreams. I'm sure some bloke or gal has run around with some kind of machine measuring brain states during (hate this word) 'creativity'.

So the idea of flow works there, not just the river idea, but of body systems. As we all know, you can't step into the same river twice, so you lose things as you go along (well, I do as my memory is a bit dicky) but in the body stuff goes around, and in my puir wee body there's a bit too much pooling and eddying (congenital lymphatic hiccup thingie). But when it's working, it's working. Which it was through these three days of non-office time. Now, is the hour of the potential impasse. Hoping to keep the systems from glueing up. I have somewhere I am heading on a deadline.


By the way the two ekphrastic poems I read at the exhibition today were ones I've published lately on da blog.

This one I retitled Side by side. It's after a print called Osmosis by Susan Rushforth. And this one as titled is after a series called Lightpool by Salvatore Gerardi, part of which is on the SH Ervin site, the red circle on blue.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I was re-reading some of Yves Bonnefoy's poems, for other reasons, and came upon this interesting essay by Hoyt Rogers on Bonnefoy and translation. The problem discussed begins with the translation of 'boat' as one of Bonnefoy's fundamental metaphors. For he uses barque not bateau, and that makes all the difference.

Bonnefoy says: "The more a translation interprets a poem by making it explicit, the more it reflects the translator, with all his or her differences from the author. But to be truly faithful, we have to be free. And do we have any freedom if we are not entitled, every now and then, to leap ahead of ourselves as we read? To translate does not mean to repeat: it means to be won over; and that only happens when we put our own thoughts to the test as we proceed."

I put all the above on my translation blog latitudes but thought it may be of interest here. I would like to know what it is to be free.

Friday, September 15, 2006

just chatting

I've got a day off work today. That's something hard to come by. All thanks to powers that be. I'm pretty pooped, I can tell you.

I saw the first blossom on our cherry tree this morning. It's coming out real slow. The Japanese maple is already spreading outside the front door but the cherry is always slow.

It's that spring weather that messes your head. There's still a chill in the breeze but the heat tricks you into thinking it's really warm. And it isn't, strictly.

I've neglected the Bobster in recent years but I got a copy of Modern Times. Happy with it on first play through - all sorts of high and low registers in the words and full of the Dylan trademark steals from folk and blues and old timey American music. But, please, everyone knows he didn't write Rollin' and Tumblin'. That's just silly and disrespectful. Sure, the original author may be lost to us, though McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) often gets the cred. At least Bob lets the band stay in tune these days. I've got the 'special' edition with a DVD which I haven't played yet. I normally don't buy 'specials' because they're not so (there are exceptions) but this was 'on special' anyway. And then I noted that in the US it cost more dollars than their regular CD. Here, it's the normal (albeit always inflated) Australian price. So why wouldn't you? The packaging is cool - supposed to remind you of old 78s. Which I'm - just - old enough to remember. My father had a collection of them. Don't know where they got to.

A curious thing. A poem of mine just got accepted for an anthology. No complaints there. But, why that poem, I arks meself? Don't you sometimes wonder why one certain poem gets picked and not the one/s you think ought to be? I don't think my judgement is that 'off' but maybe it's so. I once co-edited an anthology and probably puzzled folks like that as well. Hmm. Just curious, not complaining.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Babylon Burning: 9/11 Five Years On

Nearly 90 poets from around the world have contributed to Babylon Burning: 9/11 five years on, an anthology of poems on the Twin Towers atrocity and its consequences. But they aim for more than pious hand-wringing: the anthology will be free, but readers are asked to donate to the Red Cross.

nthposition, the site behind the anthology, wants to maximise the money raised by listing it on iTunes as a PDF. (Only a handful of publishers are putting PDFs on iTunes, and they tend to be techie rather than literary.) Fourteen per cent of internet users visit iTunes. Though sales of poetry books are flat, online poetry is booming, poetry downloads rose by 40% last year and DEF Poetry Jam on HBO introduced a vast new – and young – audience to poetry, which nthposition wants to reach. Critic Marjorie Perloff recently remarked that the internet is "more fluid, flexible, and much more accommodating" than print for poetry.

Todd Swift, nthposition poetry editor, agrees: "Auden said that 'poetry makes nothing happen', but we think it can, and we'd like to prove it." Babylon Burning will rely on readers to spread the word – the site is completely unfunded. A print-on-demand paperback of the anthology will also be available from, with all profits going to the Red Cross.

Contributors to Babylon Burning are: Ros Barber, Jim Bennett, Rachel Bentham, Charles Bernstein, bill bissett, Yvonne Blomer, Stephanie Bolster, Jenna Butler, Jason Camlot, J R Carpenter, Jared Carter, Patrick Chapman, Sampurna Chattarji, Maxine Chernoff, Tom Chivers, Alfred Corn, Tim Cumming, Margot Douaihy, Ken Edwards, Adam Elgar, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Philip Fried, Leah Fritz, Richard Garcia, Sandra M Gilbert, Nathan Hamilton, Richard Harrison, Kevin Higgins, Will Holloway, Bob Holman, Paul Hoover, Ray Hsu, Halvard Johnson, Chris Jones, Jill Jones, Kavita Joshi, Jonathan Kaplansky, Wednesday Kennedy, Sonnet L’Abbé, Kasandra Larsen, Tony Lewis-Jones, Dave Lordan, Alexis Lykiard, Jeffrey Mackie, Mike Marqusee, Chris McCabe, Nigel McLoughlin, Pauline Michel, Peter Middleton, Adrian Mitchell, John Mole, David Morley, George Murray, Alistair Noon, D Nurkse, John Oughton, Ruth Padel, Richard Peabody, Tom Phillips, David Prater, Lisa Pasold, Victoria Ramsay, Harold Rhenisch, Noel Rooney, Joe Ross, Myra Schneider, Robert Sheppard, Zaid Shlah, Henry Shukman, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Goran Simic, Hal Sirowitz, Heather Grace Stewart, Andrew Steinmetz, John Stiles, William E Stobb, jordan stone, Sean Street, Todd Swift, Joel Tan, Nathaniel Tarn, Mark Terrill, Helên Thomas, Vincent Tinguely, Rodrigo Toscano, John Tranter and John Welch.

All gave their work for free.