Posts filed under 'poems'

Asymptote Blog wants YOU to write on topical issues!

Asymptote blog seeks new contributions on current cultural events and political issues.

“Look at the rose through world-colored glasses,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote. In this spirit, Asymptote is now seeking (translated) poetry and nonfiction directly responding to global issues and worldwide cultural events for publication on our blog.

Subjects can vary widely: the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the Paris attacks, the work of recent prize-winning writers, anniversaries of significant cultural events, even the release of the new Star Wars film. From politics to pop culture phenomena, we are looking for new writing on the most up-to-date global events.

Like our journal, we are looking for creative, original, and highly engaging work that is translated into English, or consider how translation plays a role in these events.

The goal of this new blog series is to share responses to the most current matters from all over the world, not just its English-speaking territories, and to encourage writers of all stripes to engage with these issues and events.

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Recent highlights from the blog include:

Alberto Chimals essay on Star Wars (aka La guerra de las galaxias [War of the Galaxies]) in Mexico, translated by George Henson

Allegra Rosebaum’s “Spectacle Shopping,” her analysis of Black Friday through the lens of Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle

Say Ayotzinapa,” a special feature in which David Huerta’s poem “Ayotzinapa,” written in response to mass kidnappings and killings in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, was translated into 20 languages

Jennifer Croft’s “When an Author You Translate Gets Death Threats,” a comprehensive essay which detailed the intense online criticism of Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk and Nobel-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s defense of Tokarczuk

Ryan Mihaly’s “Translating Indigenous Mexican Writers: An Interview with Translator David Shook,” posted on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which discussed the controversial holiday 

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Non-fiction submissions should be no more than 1500 words. Translations into English are preferred over submissions originally in English. Send your submissions, pitches or queries to blog editors Ryan Mihaly and Patty Nash at blog@asymptotejournal.com. Send us your best, most critically engaged and creative writing on the important matters of the dayRolling deadline.

Translating Indigenous Mexican Writers: An Interview with Translator David Shook

"I suspect many casual bookstore readers might not know how many languages are still spoken in Mexico. The sheer diversity is astounding."

David Shook is a poet, translator, and filmmaker in Los Angeles, where he serves as Editorial Director of Phoneme Media, a non-profit publishing house that exclusively publishes literature in translation. Their newest book is Like a New Sun, a collection of contemporary indigenous Mexican poetry, which Shook co-edited along with Víctor Terán.

Seven translators in total—Shook, Adam W. Coon, Jonathan Harrington, Jerome Rothenberg, Clare Sullivan, Jacob Surpin, and Eliot Weinberger—translated poets from six different languages: Juan Gregorio Regino (from the Mazatec), Mikeas Sánchez (Zoque),  Juan Hernández Ramírez (Huasteca Nahuatl), Enriqueta Lunez (Tsotsil), Víctor Terán (Isthmus Zapotec), and Briceida Cuevas Cob (Yucatec Maya). I corresponded with Shook over gchat to speak with him about the project.

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Today is Columbus Day, a controversial holiday in the United States. Several cities have recently adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day over Columbus Day, clearly a victory for recognizing indigenous cultures in the United States. Which leaves me wondering: how are the indigenous Mexican writers recognized today in the Mexican literary landscape?

As someone who regularly visits Mexican literary festivals and also translates from the Spanish, I’ve observed the under-appreciation of indigenous writers firsthand. Mexico’s indigenous communities make up 10 to 14% of its total population, and you certainly don’t find anywhere near that percentage of literature being published in Mexico today. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Five poems by Ana Luísa Amaral

and thank you for the thread of perfume you brought me, / waxing a rough wooden floor / or the veins of a plant eager for leaves

Testament

 

I’m about to fly off somewhere

and my fear of heights plus myself

finds me resorting to tranquillisers

and having confused dreams

 

If I should die

I want my daughter always to remember me

for someone to sing to her even if they can’t hold a tune

to offer her pure dreams

rather than a fixed timetable

or a well-made bed

 

To give her love and the ability

to look inside things

to dream of blue suns and brilliant skies

instead of teaching her how to add up

and how to peel potatoes

READ MORE…

Poetry in Translation: An Internet Love Story

A fortuitous poetic encounter leads to a blog, a project, and a quest for poetry-in-translation.

One day last February, I found a few words by Gertrude Stein on the Internet, only to discover that the day happened to be the 140th anniversary of her birthday. The next morning, I reached for a collection of poems by the Czech Beat poet Vladimira Čerepková only to learn that—by chance—she would be celebrating her birthday on that day. The third day, I started to wonder if I could find a poet who was born that day, too. And I did. And only the devil knew why I decided to look for 365 poets, one for every day of the year.

This is how my blog, útržky (fragments), was born. At first, I looked only for Czech poets and/or Czech poetry translations, illustrating the poems with my photographs—most of them taken on the very day, but quite a few on my trips to (Jewish) cemeteries, Prague, Copenhagen and my walks around my city of Brno. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Multilingual Poems by Ann Cotten

In honor of our July Issue, a super-special multilingual Translation Tuesday—Ann Cotten translates Ann Cotten, and back again!

Ann Cotten is a multilingual poet based in Berlin. These poems hail from Fremdwörterbuchsonette, her first book of poems. Inextricably multilingual, maddeningly compelling, borderline cantankerous—her poems are all unique valences of self-translations that interrogate place and language in way that evokes both the familiar and the jarringly new.

Select translation:

nonesuch I (from Fremdwörterbuchsonette)

 

The ghost entered me like a kind of shirt.

It hung next to the dancefloor and was opposite

to all. That sounds a bit odd, not quite

credible, certainly I cannot say it right.

 

Something was backward in the whole construction

of what I happened to be working on.

Time seemed to have some purpose further on

with me, wrung me and couldn’t work it out.

 

And so I leant against the wall and smoked,

and watched the Russendisko on and on and smoked

too much. And I was much too bored to write.

Still not at all ill at ease, squandering my light

I thought of never going home to better-lighted dirt

and suddenly began to see the ghost in the shirt.

 

“O ghost,” spake I, “please understand my wonder!

I didn’t know that ghosts would deign to wander

casting their eyes perplexingly asunder,

in shirts, our fears and echoings to pander.”

 

The ghost just stared at me. A girl came over

and asked me for a light. My boyfriend came

and told me he was going home. It was the same

to me. I nodded, quite the midnight rover,

 

knowing myself to have become rather a dud,

my self’s long-empty shell, and how my words

rustled and shifted, like rice in gourds,

vague and conceited like smoke from a cigarette,

cold and precise like condensation.

 

And I awoke, as cold as ash, in my own tub.

***

nonesuch II (from Fremdwörterbuchsonette)

 

In my own tub I lay and dreamt of girls

who come around and ask you for a light.

Their little souls rotate inside their eyes

as my lighter renders them closer than the night

 

which is the reason why I love these rituals

in which the incomparables and I unite.

And all the while I know my cigarettes are all

exactly the same length, and they seem to invite

 

their and my own interconfoundability,

white, lightweight, full of discontent,

rattling and wheezing when they’re full of tea

and, taken, all desire just to be spent,

as air races through them, they wake the ghosts

and attract minutes, posted between the lips’ red boasts.

 

The ash upon the water forms a brittle film.

Mein Liebling, erklärst du dich zu meiner Giraffe,

verspreche ich, dass ich dich immer lachen mache.

The past has risen and is lapping at my chin.

Die Biber haben alle Bäume abgenagt, mein Lieber, sieh,

noch während wir hier stehen, beknabbern sie meine Knie.

 

The tap presses a lullaby into my nape,

the boiler hums a low and dismal tune,

I watch myself scratch myself like an ape,

and fall asleep into the arms of monster rune:

 

It isn’t realistic to be lying here.

In all the fog and damp time seems to override itself.

I cannot reach you, not with beer, nor animals, nor jokes;

everything runs out; the ghost of the night lives to side with itself, but chokes.

nonesuch I (from Fremdwörterbuchsonette)

 

Der Geist betrat mich wie eine Art Hemd.

Es hing am Rand der Tanzfläche und bildete

den Gegenpol zu allem. Das befremdet,

wirkt unerklärlich, wenn ichs schildere.

 

Es war etwas verkehrt an dem Gebilde,

an dem ich zu der Zeit gerade arbeitete;

die Zeit führte mit mir etwas im Schild,

wrang mein Gebein und kriegte es nicht raus.

 

Und so lehnte ich rauchend an der Wand,

schaute der Russendisko zu und rauchte

zu viel. Zum Schreiben war mir viel zu fad.

Ich war trotzdem nicht unzufrieden, dachte

entfernt daran, eher nicht heimzugehen,

plötzlich begann ich diesen Geist im Hemd zu sehen.

 

“O Geist,” sprach ich, “verstehe mein Befremden:

Ich wusste nicht, dass Geister auch in Hemden,

die großen Augen gegenteilig wendend,

Widerhall, Trost und Unbehagen spenden.”

 

Der Geist indessen starrte mich nur an.

Ein Mädchen kam zu mir und bat um Feuer.

Meine Begleitung kam und sagte, dass er heimgeht.

Ich nickte nur, als ging es mich nichts an:

 

Ich war schon lange nur mehr eine Panne,

die Schale meiner selbst, und ausgehöhlt

klimperten geistermäßig meine Worte,

vag und geziert wie Zigarettenrauch,

kalt und präzise wie Kondensation.

 

Ich wachte auf, wie Asche kalt, in meiner Badewanne.

***

nonesuch II (from Fremdwörterbuchsonette)

 

Ich badete und träumte von den Mädchen,

die herkommen und mich um Feuer bitten.

In ihren Augen rotiern ihre Seelchen

in meinem Feuerschein in kurzen Augenblicken.

 

Deswegen liebe ich ja diese Sitten,

in denen unvergleichlich sich vereinen

jene und ich. Und meine Zigaretten

sind glatt und alle gleich lang. Bescheinigen

 

sie ihre und meine Vertauschbarkeit,

weiß, leicht und voller Unzufriedenheit,

klappernd und rauschend, wenn sie altern,

und jung voller Verlangen, wenn der Atem

sie schnell durchzieht, so wecken sie die Geister,

binden künstelnd Minuten, an Lippen gekleistert.

 

Die Asche auf dem Wasser bildet einen Film.

My darling, if you will be my giraffe,

I’ll promise to do things to make you laugh.

Mir reicht Vergangenheit bis an mein Kinn.

The beavers, dear, have gnawed off all the trees,

and as you look at me they’re working on my knees.

 

Der Hahn drückt mir ein Schlaflied in den Nacken,

der Boiler summt den Bass betrübt und wüst,

ich schaue mir beim Dösen selbstgesprächig zu,

gleich wird das Brainmap mich mit den Tentakeln packen:

 

Es ist nicht realistisch, hier zu sitzen

im Dunst, im Nass hebt Zeit sich aus den Angeln.

Erreich dich nicht mit Tieren, nicht mit Witzen, es läuft aus und

der Geist der Nacht sitzt tief im letzten Gurgeln.

Ann Cotten, born 1982 in Iowa, U.S., grew up in Vienna, Austria and moved to Berlin in 2006. Her first book of poems—excerpted here—consisted of 78 double-sonnets and made waves in the German poetry scene. She then published her diploma thesis on concrete poetry (Nach der Welt, Klever Verlag 2008), a second book of poetry and prose ostensibly written by a palette of characters (Florida-Rooms, Suhrkamp 2010), a 1-Euro elegy (Das Pferd, SuKultur 2007), part of an underground-bibliophile "Schock" edition (Pflock in der Landschaft, 2011), and a book in English: I, Coleoptile (Broken Dimanche Press, 2011). In 2013, she published The Quivering Fan, a collection of short stories with erotic, philosophical and political content. In 2014, she started a project on mnemotechnical poetry working with Japanese Kanji. This year will see her second English-language publication, Lather in Heaven (Broken Dimanche Press).

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Ronny Someck

"In his painted eyes you can see a whole herd, / the prey in his dream’s forever-forest."

Bloody Mary 

                   

And poetry is a gun moll

in the back seat of an American car.

Her eyes pressed like triggers, her pistol hair firing blond

bullets down her neck.

Let’s say her name is Mary, Bloody Mary,

words squeeze out of her mouth like the juicy guts of a tomato

whose face was knifed just beforehand

on the salad plate.

She knows that grammar is the police force of language—

her earring transmitter

detects the siren at a distance.

The steering wheel will shift the car from question mark

to period

when she’ll open the door

and stand on the curb as a metaphor for the word

prostitute.

READ MORE…

Signes: A Review of Ciarán Carson’s “From Elsewhere”

Farisa Khalid reviews the masterful work of a translating poet

For a poet, there are easier things than translations. The translating poet inevitably has to face the gnawing burden of writing for two people. “It’s a desperate system of double-entry bookkeeping,” Howard Nemerov lamented. The spectral presence of the author is always hovering somewhere, ready to strike whenever the nuance of a word or phrase falters. Even then, the process of translation is seductive. It provides a poet with the rare opportunity to examine the art of another writer, often with intriguing results. The cryptologist’s glee at unveiling messages and new lines of thought converge into the creation of a new kind of work that is as dependent on the translator’s moment in time as much as it is to the author’s.

Many readers may be familiar with Ciarán Carson’s work as translator. His versions of seminal Irish texts Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) and Cúirt An Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court) have a robust freshness and vitality that readily appeals to contemporary audiences. Reading Carson’s Táin, one can sense the sounds, smells, and voices of that particular world of pre-Christian Ireland (now so heavily appropriated into the pop-culture fabric of Game of Thrones).

His newest work, From Elsewhere (Gallery Books, 2014), is a collection of 81 short poems by the French poet Jean Follain (1903-1971), each accompanied by a short poem of Carson’s, an original work inspired by the Follain poem, or, as Carson describes it: “a translation of the translation.” From Elsewhere is certainly not Carson’s first foray into French translation. In 1998 he translated an array of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Mallarmé in The Alexandrine Plan and in 2012 he published his translations of Rimbaud’s Illuminations, In the Light Of (both published by Wake Forest University Press). READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Boris Vian

Translated by Jeremy Page

THE SPIDERS 

To Odette Bost

 

Into the houses where children die

Go some very old people.

They sit down in the antechamber

Their sticks between their black knees.

They listen, nod their heads.

 

Every time the child coughs

Their hands clutch their hearts

And make big yellow spiders

And the cough, rising through the furnishings,

Is shredded, listless as a pale butterfly.

 

They have vague smiles

And the child’s cough stops

And the big yellow spiders

Rest, shaking,

On the polished boxwood handles

Of the sticks, between their hard knees.

 

And then, when the child is dead

They get up, and go elsewhere…

READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Anna Margolin

Translated from the Yiddish by Maia Evrona

Mother Earth

 

Mother earth, much trodden, sun-washed,

dark slave and mistress

I am, beloved.

From me, the humble and the sullen,

you burst forth—a powerful stem.

And like the eternal stars, and as the flame from the sun,

I circle in long and blind silence

through your roots, through your branches

and half in vigil, and half in slumber,

I search, through you, for the high sky. READ MORE…

In Review: Theo Dorgan’s “Nine Bright Shiners”

"Nine Bright Shiners is certainly one of the best new collections of poetry to have come out in the 2014-2015 (literary) year."

I first came across Theo Dorgan’s work in a charming anthology of art writing from the National Gallery of Ireland, Lines of Vision (Thames & Hudson, 2014). A group of acclaimed Irish novelists and poets wrote about which paintings had most affected them as artists. Dorgan chose an evocative little history painting by Ernest Messionier, Group of Cavalry in the Snow: Moreau and Dessoles before Hohenlinden (1875), depicting two of Napoleon’s generals contemplating their chances on the eve of the wintry battle of Hohenlinden in December of 1800. It’s an intimate scene, and its effect, as described in rapturous detail by Dorgan, especially its effect on the imagination of a young boy, is enchanting:

There’s a self riding down out of the picture, no two selves. One of them

stolid and wary, wondering what these damn officers are about to get

us into…my mind is full of the coming battle, my sympathies with men

breathing this cold air tonight who will not be breathing it tomorrow…

 

All this and so much more, so very much more, out of one small

painting—and I close my eyes for one brief instant, leaving the gallery,

not sure when I open them where I shall find myself, on a Dublin street,

so long familiar, or on a wooded slope with a sky fill of lead-heavy snow

above my head, hearing the creak of leather beneath me, feeling the

solid heat of the animal bearing me down off that crest towards some

tomorrow at once unknown, unknowable and absurdly unfamiliar.

Dancing with the child I was, cheating the monoworld. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Four Poems by Abraham Sutzkever

Translated from the Yiddish by Maia Evrona

An Acorn Gives Birth to a Tree, the Tree Gives Birth to a Fiddle

 

An acorn gives birth to tree, the tree gives birth to a fiddle

and you give birth to my star, so the night will be true.

You give birth to it far from here, its light belongs to me and to you,

you give birth to it where no leaf fades, nor anyone’s smile.

 

We haven’t been of this world for a score of silences now,

a heroic cosmos will not allow our joint death.

The earthly, the real, is real as earth and valid

and death no longer has any power over our breath.

 

His kingdom does not extend to the green Tree of Life,

what is past has not passed, time is not yet ripe.

Escaped from the clamor, our silence is love,

new images stream from the weeping eye of the soul.

 

The paired twitch of two silences in one

approaches perfection on a rung of its own.

This wonder-without-a-name tells of its deeds,

the language of atoms has a folksong’s simplicity.

*****

READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Pilar Fraile Amador

Translated by Elizabeth Davis

from YOUTH

 

The way the snow falls

 

and covers the plain

 

that’s how I grew up

at the hearts of your eyes.

 ***  READ MORE…

Asymptote Blog Wants YOU!

We're on the hunt for new contributors!

It’s that time of year again, dear readers—we at Asymptote blog are on the hunt for the freshest, funniest, most clever and on-the-pulse writing you’ve got, related to literature, translation, and the way words shape our world.

Like our journal, we are committed to publishing creative, original, and knife-sharp pieces in conversation with world literature, translation, and global culture—which means we love to read and publish original pieces and translations by writers, thinkers, and artists like you. So if you have something to say, read on—and get in touch!

Asymptote blog looks for voice, depth, and topicality in its postings. We welcome regular and one-time contributors, and publish essays, dispatches from literary events, interviews, book reviews, in-depth examinations of the world-at-literature and the world-at-large, as well as weekly new translations of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama!

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Highlights from the blog’s recent past include:

Nina Sparling takes an up-close look at food, translation, and literature—how do we read “terroir,” Emile Zola’s Les Halles, and Colette’s kicked fish? 

Florian Duijsens’s “Pop Around the World” column examines House of the Rising Sun,” well, around the world. 

In The Tiff, a new recurring column, leading translators debate some of the field’s most pressing current issues. 

Matthew Spencer’s on-the-edge column The Orbital Library teases out the intersections of the sci-fi genre and translation.

A conversation between two legends of Russian-to-English literary translation is uncovered—picking bones over a Russian restaurant menu, of all things.

Josh Billings discusses the often-fascinating histories behind the wheeling-and-dealing ghosts of world literature—its translators!

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If you’d like to contribute, but don’t quite know where to start, here are a few simple ways you can join the list of blog contributors:

1. We’re looking for reviewers to write about new translated or translation-related books. In your e-mail, talk about a few works you would like to review and why.

2. We’re also looking for translations, published every Tuesday in an ongoing series (predictably dubbed Translation Tuesday). In your e-mail, let us know your translation ideas, as well as your connections with authors or specific works. Permission and rights are necessary prior to publishing.

3. We’re looking for general musings related to translation, poetics, writing, the industry, current events, politics, visual arts, film—whatever fits your fancy! We’re amenable to all sorts of different writing

Variety is our bread-and-butter, so if you have something new you’re itching to say, we might just be the platform for you! Please send us a proposal with some information about you, how you’d like to contribute, and a writing or translation sample at blog@asymptotejournal.com. Rolling deadline.

Poems by Icelandic Poet Gerður Kristný

Translated by Spenser Santos

Öxnadalur

 

Fog drowns the dale

so the ridgepeaks

no longer show

 

From Hraunslake

gasps carry in

crackling silence

 *

Summereve in Gotland

 

Pier

stretches its tail

out in silvery waves

 

The sun strokes

a lightbow

over seaplain

 

Heavens

get to play

dusksong

 *

India

 

Man

goes to sleep

on a traffic island

 

Newsprint his down

 

Little room

for sleepwalking

 

in the seashallows

shines ironskin

of coldeyed sharks

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Gerður Kristný’s poetry has charmed readers the world over. They have won her, among other honors, the Icelandic Literary Prize and nominations for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Her most recent book of poetry, Drápa, tells the unsettling story of the night the mircus comes to town.

Spenser Santos is an MFA candidate in literary translation and Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Iowa. He translates from Spanish, Old English, and Icelandic. His translation thesis is a translation of the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch translation of the Book of Exodus. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Winona State University, where he majored in English, Spanish, and Writing.