Monday, July 13, 2009
Poem I also meant to post a while ago. Written for my mother, but I haven't given it to her, because I am a silly goose.
when i was just a whisper,
on the tip of the tongue,
she read to me. stories
all night in her sleeplessness,
sunday mornings spent in song.
she called out to me
& so i grew, morpheme
by morpheme, words
spoken & sung, vitamins
to nourish the spark of a
cell, a neuron, an eyelash, a lung
that would one day force the air
out through my small shocked larynx
& i would cry out, born –
all that water rushes through
the space between us, snipping
of a taproot, blood becoming my own.
& we are separate, so we speak:
a mother long long before us
gathered berries. cradled
her clinging baby, placed her
in the whispering grasses, first
hummed to calm her, sang to link them,
stop her crying:
the very first syllables signs
of comfort, soft fur of the belly, low thrum
of blood in the neck, messy kiss.
& words became the inchoate strings,
chords echoing umbilical &
made us language, let us love
that distance between us –
whispering aspen with its
round rippling tongues, buds
alight in us, axons blossom.
these words grow
us bundles of connective tissue,
regenerate heart to bones to sinew --
there will be words for when i
cannot hold you, to
connect and make anew:
mama, i may never make
out of my body
but i can make words
they are nesting nascent
inside of me
waiting to unfurl
their green candles,
like gravel footfalls
on a path by that river,
their long arms
reaching like willow
in stanzas like
swift-blossoming seeds --
mama, these poems
i made for you,
your words are their
they are your
they love you well.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I've been meaning to write about how much I am loving Erin Mouré's poetry since I saw her speak in the middle of May... She spoke at the Poetics of Numerousness conference and had many things to say about the practice of translation (she is a renowned translator of French, Portuguese, Galician and Spanish) that resonated with me.
She described translation as another part of her own reading practice, and her belief that all poetry consists of multiple languages. She described her work as a 'poetics of hospitality', an idea that I find particularly beautiful. In this approach, writing multilingually/ translating are her way of 'opening the door without expectation'; it is opening oneself to being changed, and letting language happen and alter you. I've been quite inspired by this and have been applying this to the way I plan to present Ukrainian language excerpts in a chapbook I am currently working on.
In her work, I am always fascinated by what she translates and what she does not -- and how well the languages meld and blend together. To me, they feel like some sort of masterfully unified polyphony, as if the different languages are not alternatives to each other, but essentially important voices in themselves while at the same time being part of the whole. The choice of using one language or another is crucial; what is being expressed in one could not have been expressed in the other. Interestingly, some people are annoyed & confused by this -- but to me, it never feels foreign or strange, even when I have only superficial knowledge of one of the languages she uses.
I love her early poems in Wanted Alive (1983), as well as Little Theatres (2005), as the latter was my first introduction to her. However, right now, I highly recommend O Cadoiro (2007) -- poems inspired by medieval Galician cantigas. Of them she writes in the postface:
"They are a fount [...] which are but small plaints, rustlings, a ruxarruxe, an altermundismo or 'otherworld-wantingness' where habitation is possible but tenuous, for though poems recuperate, they do not solve".
I appreciate the longing in her poems, as well as how open they feel. They do indeed recuperate, they heal like little fingerprints of smeared balm, but they don't solve anything, they question & ruminate. They are humble songs, & pretend no authority, offer no answers, only the experience.
Here is one of my favourites from O Cadoiro (Erin Mouré, 2007):
Were it in my power to love such world
In my honesty, and curve
of my ribs around such heart I have
or lung for breath, and alive
here, wanting world as she
to be in me
A creased grave-shroud is my foreboding
A careen or fall, and would you want me ever
world, for it is world I feel such weight for
forlorn or moving forth, though such a world
be questionable, warring, some
privileges at odds with their own mastery
and mastery of me
and yet kindness is ever all I dreamed of, from
you world. Vast vagueries.
I love you still.
Poisoned, delicate world. I love you still.