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Showing posts from January, 2006

Looking for Home

Liam Carney as Gerry Newman in Homeland

Maybe because the country is small Irish writers very often have a highly self-conscious relationship with it. They feel intimately bound up with the life of the state and feel it incumbent upon them to record its psycho-geography, its socio-economic shifts, its daily preoccupations – almost, at times, as if the imagination were an extension of the chat show, capable of absorbing and rapidly processing the urgent issues of the day and relating these to to how the nation sees itself, how its perception of itself might have altered, how far the nation has fallen from idealised visions of itself. . .Writers everywhere take their subjects where they find them, but somehow it works differently here; writers sometimes seem to be writing to an expectation that they be in some way representative, that their work should be a kind of ongoing Prime Time earnestly investigating the eternal state of chassis of the national soul. I was thinking this the other…

Henry Snodden and the Coastguard Station

Below is a poem by Eugenio Montale followed by three translations. The first version is less a translation than an extended riff on a vague notion of the original, and is taken from Tom Paulin's The Road to Inver, which came out last year. Billed as presenting four decades of the poet's translations, the book does nothing of the sort. Instead, it presents a series of loose takes on original poems identified only by the appearance of the poet's name in brackets underneath the titles. Thus

Who can say to the birds
shut the fuck up
or tell the sheep in the yow trummle
not to struggle and leap?

turns out, after a deal of searching, to be Goethe's 'Unvermeidlich':


Wer kann gebieten den Vögeln
Still zu sein auf der Flur?
Und wer verbieten zu zappeln
Den Schafen unter der Schur?

Is there anything wrong with this? It's a pretty common procedure, after all, translation as 'imitation', a kind of intertextual frolic à la Pound or Lowell. What's interesting…

Poetry Ireland Review 85

Just putting the latest Poetry Ireland Review (no 85) to bed. I’m reasonably pleased with it – there’s a good mix of stuff: poems in translation including Piotr Sommer, Adam Zagajewski, Yang Lian and some of the poets in the Cork 2005 series. Adam Zagajewski, Yang Lian and Robin Robertson, who also has a poem in the issue, will all feature in Poetry Now 06 in Dún Laoghaire. David Butler looks at Michael Schmidt’s translations of Vallejo, and we publish a slew of them; James Harpur writes on Boethius and contributes new poems. There are also poems by, among others, Eamonn Grennan, Arlene Ang, Peter Robinson, Michael Coady, Hary Clifton, Biddy Jenkisnson and Michael O'Loughlin. Michael Cronin reviews Ciaran Carson’s version of Cúirt an Mheán Oíche and Alan Gillis’s first collection; Peter Denman looks at Pat Boran, Joseph Woods and Thomas McCarthy ; Siobhán Campbell considers Sara Berkeley, Carol Ann Duffy and Mark Roper ; Peter Robinsonreviews Jean Valentine ; Fred Johnston on W…

Messages for Moore

Fans of haiku and of Paul Muldoon will be pleased to know the poet has followed up his ‘Hopewell Haiku’ with Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore. The Flap is grateful to David Burleigh, whose review of the pamphlet in Modern Haiku (Summer 2005) alerted him to this work. The IM’s record a trip to Bermuda, where Moore was appointed Registrar to the Admiralty Prize Court in Bermuda in 1803, though he wasn’t long there before he appointed a deputy and returned to London. You can read Moore’s account of his time there, and of his travels in the United States, in Epistles, Odes, and Other Poems (1806). Here’s a taster to whet the appetite:

Hamilton. Tweeds? Tux?
Baloney? Abalone?
Flux, Tom. Constant flux.


The Big House, you see,
still stands, though now the tenants
are the absentees.

Orange overshoes
make the puffin less nimble
on dry land, it’s true.

Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore , by Paul Muldoon (Lincoln, Ill.: Modern Haiku Press, 2005). ISBN 0-9741894-1-3. 32 pages. Hand set and bound by S…

Head down in Dublin

The poems that I like best are the poems in which something happens. You go through to the end and you ask what was that about, and then you go back over it and have another look at it. There has to be enough stuff on the surface to hold your attention, and you can do that with lots of different things, with imagery, or sound, or whatever you want. But then there has to be an element of worrying at the poem until you get something from it. Something draws clear, something very small perhaps is clarified in it. That’s how the best poetry works, I think….there are some poems that I thought I knew well which are still coming clear to me now. There are lots of different things going on in good poems, and you can live with a poem for years and then suddenly think, ah, that’s what that’s about. I think that’s a good thing. If you instantly think you’ve got all that a poem offers, either it’s not a very good poem or you’ve made a mistake.


The above is from an interview with Nick Laird which…

The Translation Muscle

Take a number of Cork poets and pair them with poets from the then ‘accession’ states of Europe and countries beginning their negotiations with the EU like Bulgaria and Romania, and publish the results of the encounter – this was the ambitious project which the Munster Literature Centre set itself as part of the Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture.

Poetry translation into English can often be a fairly loosely defined affair and in truth we probably need a more extensive vocabulary to describe the range of practice from close linguistic encounter to the working of translations provided by others which, with one exception, is what happens here. The fact that the poets don’t speak the languages they are translating caused a small splash of controversy. Can a poet who does not speak a source language be said to ‘translate’ a poem from that language? If not, how should that encounter be described? The poets, apart from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, worked from cribs provided by intermediate tr…