Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Coeur Chronique

June 11th, 2014 · Poetry, Translation


In Paris now, on the day of the opening of the Marché de la Poésie, a great yearly 4 day event. One major pleasure will be to meet up with old friend Eric Sarner. I had been very happy to learn a couple months ago that this excellent poet, my good friend & sometime translator, was awarded the Prix Max Jacob 1914 for his latest book of poetry, Coeur Chronique published by the Castor Astral with a preface by Michel Deguy. Sarner is a true nomad who lives between Berlin, Paris & Montevideo. Besides a number of poetry collections he has also published several travel récits (most recently a superb book on Algeria (Un voyage en Algéries) and Sur la route 66 (travels in the US, of course), and has made a living via twenty plus film documentaries for television.

Here is an extract from a section called “Experience of Winter” that feels/reads like a continuous/discontinuous ribbon of writing with just momentary breathing pauses, mawaqif’s in Sufi parlance, between the perceptions:


To flee poetry
to let it flee
to let go
the brilliance
through the black groove
on the lam without reason
nothing pretty
for example
in Montaigne

to shit in a basket
and then
to put it
on one’s head

there’s need to find
for each thing its
rightful place
oh! that silent cat
over there
carefully without words
to flee poetry
leaving it the chance
to come back by the edges

Vallejo exaggerates
he who came from
the heights

3000 meters
of andean mountains

little black man
resting on his hand
his cane

while Georgette
guards his hat

triste & dulce


Vallejo saluted
this past spring
at the Montparnasse cemetery
section XII

at the end of
terraced nature
and the sparrow block

without even his shadow

This book Diary of Errors
I knew Ennio Flaiano for his complicity
with Fellini La Dolce vita & 8 1/2
but the title before all had stopped me livened
up notes, stories, parables, word sketches
the simplicity, delicateness
of Flaiano
an elderly checkout lady in a bar
sighs caressing her dog

The chestnut trees are in flower
and spring is not here.

he speaks also of feet

set firmly on the clouds

and on another day he confesses to have
told a seven year old girl

Go away! You’re old!

It made her cry all night long

Thus all that lives
has a share in
& smell
That’s Empedocles of Agrigento

the hidden breath
where then lurks
the smell of self
is what made
us recognizable
by the other
when he was
naked in the shadow
without a living body
or on the edge
of a nerve
of a doubt

No illusion on the soprano
the final accurateness
& nothing else
that’s Lacy
the grace
absolute & relative
often with no smile
on Steve’s face
so that there exploded
on it like a rage of
a flood of colors
a tornado
of heat as simple &
as each moment
so ready to live


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“Winter Music” in June

June 10th, 2014 · Art, Art Exhibition, Book Launch, Photography, Poetry

Another superb new book for this summer: winter music — Photography by Susan Quasha & poems by Robert Kelly. This is a marvelous occasion, especially as it is the first major showing of the color photography of Susan Quasha, co-founder of Station Hill Press for which she has designed a score (hundreds? I’d guess) of books. It is published by ‘T’ Space in Rhinebeck & distributed by Station Hill. below, a video of Susan talking to Robert, & a video of RK’s reading from the book, on the occasion of a ‘T’ Space event that also took in the opening of a new show by Carolee Schneemann.

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Summer Reading: New Arab Poetry Translations Online

June 9th, 2014 · Mashreq, Middle East, Poetry, Translation

via Arab Literature (in English):

Writes mlynxqualey: 

Not exactly “beach reading,” but you could peruse these on your phone as you listen to the waves.

portrait-of-badr-shakir-al-sayyab-62-cm-diameterPortrait of al-Sayyab from

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

In Jadaliyya’s summer “culture bouquet,” they feature the Iraqi poet’s “Whorehouse,” trans. Levi Thompson. (You can read the original here.)


Sargon Boulus

Also from the “culture bouquet” (a great one this season), a poem by the great Boulus trans. Suneela Mubayi

“An Attempt to Reach Beirut by Sea”

Muhammad al-Mahgut

Also in the summer “culture bouquet,” the Syrian poet’s “Roman Amphitheatres,” trans. Ahmad Diab, from the poet’s East of Aden, West of God. 

“Roman Amphitheaters”

Mohammed al-Ajami

Qatari poet, serving a 15-year sentence at Doha Central Prison for “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and “criticizing the Emir” in two of his poems, managed to record and send out a poem from prison last month. It’s been translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

“Poem from a Prison Cell”

Ahmed Matar

The new website “Political Arabic Poetry” promises that, over the course of the next few weeks, they will be releasing a collection of nine English translations of poems originally written in Arabic, featuring works by Amal Dunqul, Ahmed Fuad Negm, Ahmed Matar, Mahmoud Darwish, and Sayyid Qutb. (The last one’s a bit of a curveball, but okay.) The project begins with Matar:

People of Exile

Tareq al-Karmy

The New Statesman has published two poems by al-Karmy, trans. Liz Lochhead. They can both be found in the new collection of Palestinian poetry, A Bird is Not a StoneYou can find out more about the project on the book’s blog.

The Legend of Mythic, Proud Perfection


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Robert Kelly, Playwright

June 6th, 2014 · Playwright, Poetry, Theater

RKPlaysJust out from Dr. Cicero Press is the first collection of Robert Kelly’s plays, Oedipus after Colonus and Other Plays — a real treat from one of our best & most prolific poets and fiction writers (& wait for his Collected Essays coming out this fall from Contra Mundum Press!). The book gathers five plays, three of which, Oedipus after Colonus, Monologues for Orpheus & Orestes reach back to Greek theater & myth, to prolong, redirect, rewrite that core source of Western Kulchur’s theater. As Kelly says in his note on Orestes, locating his desire/need to write for the stage:

How late I’ve come to writing plays. If I guess why it came to that, I’d think it’s because only in plays could I hope to overcome or undo or unmake or remake, somehow process,  some unbearable experiences of reading and hearing —like the overwhelming horror of killing the mother in the Greek plays that tell of the murder of Klytaimnestra by her son.

To try to relieve my own inner hurt at that dead, to say, it isn’t so,. But it is so. And is a horror. All the more so because the killing is done to avenge the death of the father, an affront to the patriarchal order, As great as the Aeschylus Oresteia is, it is profoundly steeped in an attitude that is urgently patriarchal, embattled even. It celebrates (even if grievingly) the passing on of the patriarchate to the next generation.

So it became necessary for me to crawl like a mouse before the magnitude of Aeschylus and try to gnaw the ground around his sandals, to dig out the primal story, the scarlet nights when the mother ruled, and where Electra carrie son her mother’s work.

The two other plays, Chair and Hate Radio have more contemporary settings, even if the mythopoetic elements of both link them — the one via a celebration of Dionysus, the other via the Homeric character of Thersites — to the same universe, make all of them x-ray templates of our oldest & newest cultural characteristics in this superb “poet’s theater.”

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Summer Reading

June 5th, 2014 · Poetry, Translation, Uncategorized

We’ll be off on our yearly transhumance (I did nearly spell it “trancehumance”) this Saturday for a nomadic working summer in Alt Europa. Did already sent a list of my summer readings to Ron Slate who had asked me for one (it will appear eventually on his site). Ron asked for four to six titles, so I complied. Of course as I am packing — & despite airlines’ strict weight policies — more books get added to the summer reading pile. So here are three extra ones for today:

ArkadiArkadi Dragomoschenko.
Endarkment. Selected Poems. Edited by Eugene Ostashevsky. Wesleyan University Press 2014.   

GriffBill Griffiths. Collected Poems & Sequences (1981-91). Edited by Alan Halsey. Reality Street 2014. This is the second volume of Griffiths Collected, which should turn out to be at least 3 volumes, if not four.

HafezGeoffrey Squires. Hafez: Translations and Interpretations of the Ghazals. Miami University Press, 2014. At first quick perusal this looks like the best Hafez by far I have come across, with an excellent & most useful apparatus.

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June Paris Readings

June 4th, 2014 · Live Reading

N Peyrafitte


Cycle de lectures bilingues par des poètes internationaux

Pierre Joris, Nicole Peyrafitte, Isabelle Garron et E Tracy Grinnell

liront le 18 juin 2014 à 19h30 pour Ivy Writers Paris au CAFE DELAVILLE, 34 blvd Bonne Nouvelle, Paris 10e

IVY WRITERS PARIS vous invite à une soirée de lectures et de performances bilingues le 18 juin 2014 à 19h30 avec les participants :

Pierre Joris
(poète, traducteur, essayiste et anthologiste Luxembourgeois)

Nicole Peyrafitte
(performeuse et artiste pluridisciplinaire française)


E Tracy Grinnell (poète, éditrice et traductrice américaine)
et Isabelle Garron (poète et traductrice française) qui vont lire des traductions inédites en français du poète américain Leslie Scalapino

LE 18 JUIN 2014 à partir de 19h30
At :  Delaville Café (1er étage)
34 bvd bonne nouvelle
75010 Paris
M° Bonne nouvelle (ligne 8 ou 9)

18 June from 19h30Ivy Writers Paris closes off the Spring 2014 season with an exciting bilingual reading with Luxembourg author and translator Pierre Joris, performer, poet and visual artist Nicole Peyrafitte plus readings of new Leslie Scalapino translations by American poet and translator E Tracy Grinnell and French poet and translator Isabelle Garron!

Notre groupe FBrejoignez-nous !

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No Fire Next Time…

June 3rd, 2014 · Poem, Translation

… i.e. 25 years after the Tianammen Square Massacre:


Here a poem for the occasion, via PBS where a more detailed report on the poet & the occasion of the poem can be found.

By Liao Yiwu, Translated by Wenguang Huang

(Composed on the morning of June 4, 1989)
Dedicated to those who were killed on June 4, 1989
Dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution

Leap! Howl! Fly! Run!
Freedom feels so good!
Snuffing out freedom feels so good!
Power will be triumphant forever.
Will be passed down from generation to generation forever.
Freedom will also come back from the dead.
It will come back to life in generation after generation.
Like that dim light just before the dawn.
No. There’s no light.
At Utopia’s core there can never be light.
Our hearts are pitch black.
Black and scalding.
Like a corpse incinerator.
A trace of the phantoms of the burned dead.
We will exist.
The government that dominates us will exist.
Daylight comes quickly.
It feels so good.
The butchers are still ranting!
Children. Children, your bodies all cold.
Children, your hands grasping stones.
Let’s go home.
Brothers and sisters, your shattered bodies littering the earth.
Let’s go home.
We walk noiselessly.
Walk three feet above the ground.
All the time forward, there must be a place to rest.
There must be a place where sounds of gunfire and explosions cannot
be heard.
We so wish to hide within a stalk of grass.
A leaf.
Uncle. Auntie. Grandpa. Granny. Daddy. Mummy.
How much farther till we’re home?
We have no home.
Everyone knows.
Chinese people have no home.
Home is a comforting desire.
Let us die in this desire.
Let us die in freedom.
Righteousness. Equality. Universal love.
Peace, in these vague desires.
Stand on the horizon.
Attract more of the living to death!
It rains.
Don’t know if it is rain or transparent ashes.
Run quickly, Mummy!
Run quickly, son!
Run quickly, elder brother!
Run quickly, little brother!
The butchers will not let up.
An even more terrifying day is approaching.
GOOD! . . .
Cry cry cry crycrycrycrycrycrycry

We stand in the midst of brilliance but all people are blind.
We stand on a great road but no one is able to walk.
We stand in the midst of a cacophony but all are mute.
We stand in the midst of heat and thirst but all refuse to drink.

In this historically unprecedented massacre only the spawn of dogs
can survive.

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2014 Büchner Prize to Jürgen Becker

May 30th, 2014 · Poetry, Prose, Radio, Translation

This year’s Büchner Preis — the major poetry prize in Germany (both in prestige & money: 50.000 Euros) — went to poet,  experimental prosist, & radio-play author Jürgen Becker. Not much is available in English, though The Brooklyn Rail has some translations here. I’m reprinting their bio-note & two poems translated by Okla Elliott below.

Jürgen Becker was born in Köln, Germany, in 1932. He is the author of over thirty books–novels, story collections, poetry collections, and plays–all published by Germany’s premier publisher, Suhrkamp. He has won numerous prizes in Germany, including the Heinrich Böll Prize, the Uwe Johnson Prize, and the Hermann Lenz Prize, among others. Becker’s work often deals with his childhood experience of WWII and the political consequences of the postwar division of Germany.

A Worn-out Machine

Oil leaks, rusty sides; yet
it drives on
through each effort. The quiet
wheezing is a shared
customary ache: there’s no reason
for disturbance. It overcomes
difficulties with its routine,
and above all, experiences. It’s learned
that a machine doesn’t complain
and gives no cause for complaint.
It’s harder to come to terms with new
products; that’s when deciding what to do
gets serious. More oil drips
out, and what’s more, now
there’s an unaccustomed noise.
The machine knows it’s good,
and it knows
it can’t help itself.

Dublin in Bloomtime

These wild faces
above the still river surface.
Then the pack of dogs disappears
with the stolen hat.
Green bottles sway seaward.
At night, time comes along like photos
yellowing with Bloom.


Here is a German-language article on him from today’s Deutschlandradio Kultur, including a snippet of a reading:

JÜRGEN BECKERUnverwechselbarer Sound

Der Georg-Büchner-Preisträger 2014 im Porträt

Von Christian Linder

Jürgen Becker bei einer Lesung in Köln (picture alliance / dpa / Horst Galuschka)

“Felder”, “Ränder” und “Umgebungen” nannte Jürgen Becker drei seiner Bücher. Als experimentelle Textlandschaften sorgten sie bei ihrem Erscheinen für Aufsehen – und wurden zu Signaltexten der westdeutschen Nachkriegsliteratur.

“Dies waren die Wiesen am Fluss. So verlief der Weg über das Feld. In der Ferne glitzernd die Raffinerie. Hier stand die Bank. Es waren zwei Frauen, zwei Kinder, vorübergehend im Gespräch. Mehr war und geschah nicht. Damals, vor einer Stunde.”

“Damals, vor einer Stunde” – in der Schlusszeile des Gedichts “Zeit verging am Sonntagnachmittag” brichtJürgen Becker das kleine Stillleben auf, indem er das, was gerade passiert ist, in eine ferne Vergangenheit rückt. Diese überraschenden Überblendungen von Gegenwart und Vergangenheit, die Herstellung von Gleichzeitigkeit zwischen Erinnerungen oder Gefühlen oder Ereignissen von vor einer Stunde und von vor 20 oder 40 Jahren sind das Kennzeichen seiner Lyrik wie seiner Prosa. Solche offenen Textlandschaften hat er von Beginn an entworfen. “Felder”, “Ränder”, “Umgebungen” heißen drei von Mitte der 1960er bis Anfang der 1970er-Jahre erschienene Prosabücher, in denen Becker sein Schreiben den Zwängen einer Gattung entzogen und statt Anpassung an vorgegebene Formen den Prozess der Verschmelzung dieser Formen vollzogen hat.

“Mir kam es darauf an, Bewusstseinsbewegungen, also die Ereignisse in meinem Kopf, das Geschiebe der Assoziationen wahrzunehmen, aber ich wollte nicht den Umweg über eine Gattung nehmen, sondern diese Bewusstseinsvorgänge unmittelbar in Sprache übersetzen.”

Unvergleichlicher suchender Blick

Wenn Jürgen Becker später auch wieder zur Gedichtform oder klassischen Prosatexten wie “Erzählen bis Ostende” oder “Der fehlende Rest” zurückfand – unvergleichlich blieb sein suchender Blick nach dem Geheimnis der Details, aus denen die Erinnerungen ihre Energien holen. Solches Schreiben als eine Art, zu leben hat, auch den Roman “Aus der Geschichte der Trennungen” hervorgebracht, in dem Becker – am 10. Juli 1932 in Köln geboren – seine Kindheit in Thüringen nachzeichnet, wohin die Eltern 1939 gezogen waren. Die in dem Roman beschriebenen Spuren führen zwar mitten hinein sowohl in Beckers, als auch Deutschlands Vergangenheit, aber:

“Ich bin ja gar nicht daran interessiert, eine Autobiografie zu schreiben. Mir ging es eher darum, mit der Rückkehr in die Landschaft der Kindheit nach dem zu suchen, was zum Teil verblasst oder verschwunden ist, weshalb die Imagination hinzukommen muss. Und das wäre schon der Tod einer authentischen Autobiografie, wenn nämlich die Imagination anfängt, mitzuwirken. Und all das Fehlende, all die weißen Flecken im Kopf dann erneuert.”

1947 kehrte er nach Westdeutschland zurück, zunächst nach Waldbröl und später wieder nach Köln. Sein Studium hatte er abgebrochen, schrieb stattdessen für den Rundfunk und beteiligte sich seit Ende der 1960er-Jahre mit Hörspielen wie “Häuser”, “Bilder” und “Hausfreunde” an der Gestaltung des sogenannten “Neuen Hörspiels”. 1974 wurde er Leiter der Hörspielredaktion im Deutschlandfunk und blieb es bis 1993. In diesen Jahren entstanden vor allem zahlreiche Gedichtbände mit Titeln wie “Erzähl mir nichts vom Krieg”, “In der verbleibenden Zeit” oder “Odenthals Küste”. In der Nähe von Odenthal im Bergischen Land hat er auch ein Haus, das er oft als Ort seines Erzählens benannt hat, ein etwas verdunkelter Ort, wo aber alles Wichtige beisammen sein und sich zeigen müsste.

Poetischer Bilderrausch

Da sind zum Beispiel Gefühle, die sich immer wieder einstellen, wo immer in der Welt sich der Erzähler auch gerade aufhalten mag:

“Schulwanderungen, Familienausflüge, Spaziergänge mit Mädchen, Radtouren und Fahrten im Geländewagen, sie hatten in ihm Gefühle hinterlassen, die er noch in fernsten Gegenden, plötzlich, anfallweise, als Heimweh empfand.”

Es gebe die “Dauer eines Schmerzes, den wir nicht mehr spüren”, der sich hinziehe “im Schatten glücklicher Jahre, im Echo einer alten Musik”, heißt es in einem Gedicht Jürgen Beckers, das eine “Zukunft für Bilder” beschwört: “Wenn niemand mehr”, lautet die letzte Zeile, “die Bilder werden erzählen.” Eigentlich, hat Jürgen Becker einmal verraten, wollte er Landschaftsmaler werden, aber da ihm das Talent fehlte, habe er in seinem Bilderrausch die Landschaftsbilder in seiner Poesie erfinden müssen.

In dem unverwechselbaren Jürgen-Becker-Sound beendet er sein “Gedicht von der wiedervereinigten Landschaft” denn auch mit einem Bekenntnis zur poetischen Landschaftsmalerei:

“Es macht wenig Unterschied zwischen dieser und jener Entfernung; es kommt auf die Nähe zu unseren Landschaften an, die so wichtig für die Argumente der Bilder, für die Arbeiten im Gedächtnis sind.”

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Bernat Manciet’s “Ode to James Dean”

May 28th, 2014 · Book Launch, Occitan, Poetry, Translation

MancietBookcoverJust out from Mindmade Books. Writes Guy Bennet, the publisher:

One of the major Occitan writers of the latter half of the 20th century, Bernat Manciet (1923–2005) was the author of numerous works of poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fiction, and editor (for some thirty years) of the revue Òc. This 1958 poem, a hallucinatory verbal meditation on the death of the American actor, captures the “brutal, sharp, abrasive, wily, loutish, irascible, burning, rash, fighting, aggressive” qualities that Manciet prized in Occitan. It appears here in a bilingual edition with a translation by Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte.

Ode to James Dean is available individually, or as part of Mindmade Books’ 2014 series, which also includes work by Rocío Carlos, Portia Elan, and Ramon Gomez de la Serna (trans. Guy Bennett). The cost is $7 for the single title, $25 for all four publications. To place an order, send an email to with the title(s) you are interested, your address, and the form of payment you would prefer (check, International Money Order, or PayPal) and I will reply with details.


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See What The Tide Schlepped In

May 27th, 2014 · Whatever


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