Wading through obstruse lines of words, I went in search of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I went in search of Sylvia Plath’s poetry, only to discover how incomprehensible a number of her poems are. True, some phrases, even a complete stanza here and there, had me quietly appreciating these creations; had me even thinking up variations to them. But really, if I need to go to http://www.sylviaplathforum.com/analysis.html to understand what she was saying, then I might as well have attended a lecture on string theory. Should I conclude therefore that I’m not deserving of the works of “… one of the most original and gifted poets of the twentieth century …”?
Translating a literary work is not a precise science, less so when the translator is working on a collection of poems, and even less so again if it involves a non-mainstream language. Jonathan Dunne might have done an excellent job (who am I to judge?) but the poems themselves were often-times too abstract for my liking. However, there were still a few within the pages of this slim volume which I found deserving enough to be bookmarked. Here is one of them.
Dialogue With The Eastern Trees
I also spoke to the eastern trees,
perfumed in a fervent breeze,
scattering down in secret
gardens: I shan’t see you until, far away,
after many years, the nostalgia
of having been abundant for someone
who under you greedily held
onto me, but putting limits
on the night’s caresses, gives me back
the caterpillars crossing tracks,
the cheeks stolen from a pool
crammed full of fish, sinuous
colours which even then referred me
to a more ancient, dazzling time
I had to forget: I shan’t see you
tremble until the immature days
of the agony of mists, ardent
friends who may still breathe
seeing the sea defiled by the opaque
eyes of those who are adrift.
They haven’t stopped replying.
Xavier Rodríguez Baixeras Tarragona, 1945
Click here for a complete PDF of: Contemporary Galician Poets
A slim volume which can easily be read in a day but which, for no particular reason, took me three. James Fenton’s “Out of Danger” has, as with most poetry collections, a few poems which are in the read, reread, and will read again category, such as “Jerusalem”, “Hinterhof” and “Tiananmen”. Others, however, just left me wondering what he was going on about. If I were to shovel beneath the superficial layer of (to me) meaningless lines, I’d possibly discover a rich vein of meaningful thoughts; an effort I’m not ready to expend because there are more interesting things waiting to be read on the bookshelves. Meanwhile, enjoy the poet himself with a reading of Jerusalem.
“When you see someone with a cane / That person’s probably in pain.”
These lines are clearly verse, and the proposition they assert is true. But they are not in the least poetry, for they are totally literal: there is nothing of fiction in them. Even the one possible trace of the nonliteral that might lurk therein – that pain and cane appropriately rhyme because feeling the first might lead one to use the second – is totally glossed into triviality by the simple literal truth of the statement.
Rhyme’s Reason – John Hollander