What is the cost of poetry? Or rather, what is the cost to oneself and others of a life of dedication to a lonely art? Which perfection, in the Yeatsian formula, do you choose, the life or the work? The title of Richard Murphy’s new book suggests a reflection on the art of poetry from a master practitioner now approaching his 90th birthday, but the book is much more personal and intimate than that. Part journal, part working diary, part memoir, all from the early 1980s, it charts the initiation and development of the sonnet sequence that would make up The Price of Stone, the poet’s much praised 1985 collection. Each poem in what became a 50 sonnet sequence ventriloquises a building that has a resonance for the poet. This in turn means that the poet becomes the addressee, the biographical subject matter displaced into the consciousness of a roof-tree, restaurant, industrial school or ancestral home. They are free to address and accuse the poet so that the sequence also functions as an …
This quiet morning light
reflected, how many times
from grass and trees and clouds
enters my north room
touching the walls with
grass and clouds and trees.
trees and grass and clouds.
Why did you follow
that beloved body
with your ships at Actium?
I hope it was because
you knew her inch by inch
from slanting feet upward
to the roots of her hair
and down again and that
you saw her
above the battle's fury--
clouds and trees and grass--
I couldn't resist this one, by the brilliant poet, essayist and translator of Borges, Neruda, José Emilio Pacheco, Herberto Padillo, Eugenio Montejo and others.
Alastair Reid What Gets Lost
I keep translating traduzco continuamenteentre palabras words que no son las mías
into other words which are mine de palabras a mis palabras. Y, finalmente, de quién es el texto? Who has written it? Del escritor o del traductor writer, translator o de los idiomas or language itself? Somos fantasmas, nosotros traductores, que vivenentre aquel mundo y el nuestro
between that world and our own. Pero poco a poco me ocurreque el problema the problem no es cuestiónde lo que se pierde en traducción
is not a question
of what gets lost in translation sino but rather lo que se pierde
what gets lost entre la ocurrencia -sea de amor o de desesperación
between love or desperation- y el hecho de que llega a existir en palabras
and its coming into words. Para nosotros todos, amantes, habladores
as lovers or users of…