Fri 18 Apr 2014
Fri 18 Apr 2014
Mon 14 Apr 2014
[Here's another translation I did a long time ago of a poem by Italian "crepuscular" poet Guido Gozzano (1883-1916). I discovered it in a volume called The Poem Itself edited by Stanley Burnshaw that contained several non-English poems along with detailed glosses and some words translated. Another little homage to the decadence of the fin-de-siècle European male.]
from Guido Gozzano
With its rambling gardens, vast rooms, and its
seventeenth century balconies overrun with verdure,
this villa seems like something from my verses,
yes, the typical villa from a Book of Letters.
The villa thinks, sadly, of better times. It thinks
of gay parties beneath century old trees, of
illustrious banquets in immense dining rooms,
the festive salons raped for their antiques.
But where, in olden times, came the House of Onsaldo,
House of Ratazzi, House of Azeglio, House of Odone, now stops
a sputtering automobile, trembling, twitching,
and some hairy stranger walks to knock the Gorgon.
A barking is heard, a passing… cautiously the door
opens… in this cloistral and barrackish silence
Toto Merumeni lives with his “convalescent” mother,
his schizophrenic uncle, his gray-haired great aunt.
Toto is twenty-five years old, melancholic,
quite cultured, with a taste in the inkwell works;
slight in brains, slight in morals, and scary
in his hunches… he is a true child of our times.
Not rich, one day he decided to “peddle my wordlings”
(there’s his Petrarch!), an embezzler, a gazetteer…
He chose exile. Liberated, he reflects presently
on his follies. We’re safer not to print them here.
Oh, he’s not bad. To the poor, he sends money
to keep them going… to his friends, a basket of fruit.
He’s not bad. Students come to him for a topic;
for connections… he’s a service to most emigrants.
Cold, conscious of his self, his faults,
oh, he’s not bad. He’s the Good Man sketched by Nietzsche:
“…in truth, I must the deride that fawning creature
called good… simply because he lacks claws…”
After draining studies, he runs to his garden, plays
with his sweet friends, the earth inviting…
His sweet friends are: a caterwauling blue jay,
a pussy cat… and Makakita his little monkey.
Life had taken from him all his early promise.
For years he dreamed of loves that would not call.
Despairing, he conjured a princess, an actress;
today he loves the cook… she is eighteen years old.
When the house sleeps, this girl, barefoot,
a fresh chill plum in the day’s first light,
comes to his room, with lips to his bounces
onto him… he possesses her blesséd and supine.
Toto cannot feel. Some latent, untamed illness
dried up the prime founts of his sentiments;
analysis and sophistry have made of this man
what flames make of a house in healthy winds.
As that ruin, however, that has seen fire
produces gladiolas with colorform flowers,
his parched soul loosens, oh little by little,
a scattered efflorescence of consolatory verses.
So Toto Merumeni, after sad events,
is near grace. He alternates research and rhyme.
He is locked in, meditates, expands, explores, understands
the Life of the Spirit which he never understood.
For the voice is small, and his treasured art
immense… and because Time (even as I write!) flies…
Toto writes apart, he smiles, sees a future.
He lives. One day he was born. One day he dies.
Tue 8 Apr 2014
[Here's a very old translation, now heavily revised, I first did when I was 21 at Bard that I'm posting just because David Lehman just published a new translation of this very amazing poem. I took a dig at Lehman's translation on FB for which I must apologize, but I think mine's fun, flows pretty well, preserves some of the rhyme scheme and gets at some of the wavering between ecstasy and abjection that is in the original. Basically, the more translations of this poem, the better.]
You tire in the end of this ancient world
Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower your flocks your bridges bleat on this morning
You have had it with the antique living of the Greek and Roman
Even the cars here have an air of the ancient
Religion alone has remained new religion
Has remained simple like the hangers at Port Aviation
You alone Christianity in Europe have avoided becoming ancient
Most modern European it is you Pope Pius the Tenth
And you whom the windows watch whom shame makes reticent
You do not enter the church this morning you will not be confessing
You read the posters the catalogues and the pamphlets that loudly sing
Here there is poetry this morning
For prose the journals and magazines
You read the nickel installments of the Adventures of the Crime Police
The portraits of famous men in a thousand diverse titles
This morning I see a pretty street whose name I forget
Fresh and proper the sun is its dawn trumpet
The workers the directors the beautiful stenographers
From Monday morning to Friday four times a day they must pass here
In morning the sirens cry three times
A raging clock barks around noontime
The murals the lettering of the signs
The plaques the notices like a parrot squawking
This industrial street how I love its returns
Situated as it is in Paris between the Rue Thieville and the Avenue des Ternes
There is the young street you are nothing but a child
Your mother dresses you in her blue and white style
You are very pious and with your best friend René Dalize
You love nothing more than the ecclesiastic pomposities
It is nine o’clock the gas burns low
And blue you leave the dormitory by a way that you only know
You pray all night in the chapel of the school
For there lies the amethyst adorable and eternal
Turning forever the flaming glory of Jesus Christ It is
The lily we all cultivate
It is the torch of light red hair that is never laid out by a wind
It is the son pale and flush of the sad mother
It is the tree always blooming in all your prayers
It is the twin dooms of integrity and eternity
It is the star of six branchings
It is the God who dies on Friday God resuscitated on Saturday
It is Christ who climbs the sky higher than all the aviators
He holds the world altitude record
Pupil Christ of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries it knows why
Becoming a bird this century like Jesus climbing the air
The devils down in the pit are raising their heads to see what is there
They say he imitates Simon Magus of Judea
They say that he is a flier but he is hardly a frequent flier
The angels hover around this pretty hoverer
Icarus Enoch Elie Appolonius of Tyana
Float around this primitive plane
They swerve to let pass sometimes the transports of the Eucharist of Saints
The priests who climb eternally are raising the host
Without even folding its wings the plane comes down
The atmosphere is buzzing with the flight of a million swallows
Streaming in from the side are the falcons ravens owls
From Africa the flaming marabous and flamingos
The Roc bird celebrated by storyteller and poet
Soars by and holding in its talons the skull of Adam le premiere tête
The eagle sinks with a shriek from the horizon
The small hummingbird from America is sent
From China come the pihis long and supple
Who have but one wing each who fly in couples
Then there comes the dove immaculate soul
They escort the bird-lyre they lead the ocellate peacock
The phoenix the funeral pyre which it bore from a self-same wedlock
In an instant spreads its burning ash
The sirens leave behind their infamous canals
All three arrive and all three singing beautifully
And all the eagles phoenixes and the pihis of the Chinese
Convene around the flying machine
Now you are in Paris in the crowds all alone
The herd of buses low at you around they roll
Anguish and love press at your throat
As though never again could you be loved
Were you to be living in ancient times you would probably enter a cloister
You frighten yourself quickly you find you’re whispering a pater noster
You scold yourself your laughter rings like a fire from hell
The flickers of your laugh illume the base of your life’s well
It is a painting hung in a somber museum
Sometimes you look at it closely that you may see clearer
Today you walk in Paris the women have all been bloodied
It was and could I forget I would it was the decline of beauty
Surrounded by high flames Our Lady ogled me at Chartre
The blood of your Sacred Heart devoured me at Montmartre
I am sick of having to hear the blessed words
The malady I suffer is a syphilis of flayed nerves
The image that possesses you that you survive insomnia and anguish
It is always near you that imagery that passes
You are on board ship now on the Mediterranean Sea
There are flowers the entire year in every lemon tree
With your friends you make a journey in a barque
One is from Nice one from Menton and two are Turbiasque
You examine with fear the octopi in deep waters
Through the algae swim the fish the emblems of our Savior
You’re in the garden of an inn on the outskirts of Prague
You sense a great happiness a rose is on the table
So you observe instead of writing your prosy fables
The rose chafer asleep in the heart of that rose
Horrified you see yourself depicted in the Saint Vitus agates
You were sad enough the day you saw them to maybe take your own life
You resembled Lazarus maddened by the light of day
The hands of the clocks in the Jewish Quarter are going the other way
Slowly you retreat back into your life
To climb up the steps of the Hradcany to hear the night
In the taverns they sing Czech songs
You are now in Marseilles amongst a milieu of melons
You are now in Coblence at the Hotel du Geant
You are now in Rome in a medlar tree from Japan
You are in Amsterdam with a young girl you find pretty she is ugly
She wants to marry her lover now a student in Leyden
One can rent rooms in Latin cubicula locanda I remember
I was there for three days already and spent just as many in Gouda
You are in Paris with the examining judge
Like a criminal he hands you an arresting sentence
You have made the sad and joyous voyages
Before you were familiar with falsehood and the age
You suffered love in your twentieth and thirtieth years
I have lived like a fool and squandered my days
You dare not look at your hands and I always feel like crying
For you for her that I love for all you find terrifying
You look your eyes full of tears at the poor emigrants
They believe in a God they pray the women nurse their infants
They fill the halls of the Gare Saint-Lazare with a horrible stench
They have faith in their star the Sage Kings
They hope to earn argent in Argentina
To return to their home country to live there like kings
A family drags a red eiderdown quilt like you carry your heart
The eiderdown and our dreams seem like irreal arts
Some of these immigrants remain here and abide
In the Rue de Rosiers or the Rue des Ecouffe in a pig sty
I often see them stealing night air from the streets
They move themselves but only rarely like chess pieces
Most of all there are the Jews their women wigged
They rest in chairs deep in the bowels of their boutiques
You are standing at the counter in a skeevy bar
Drinking cheap coffee surrounded by the down-and-out
The night you spend in a spacious restaurant
These women are not wretched they have their cares
Even and the ugliest one makes her lover suffer
That one is the daughter of a constable from the town of Jersey
Her hands which I don’t see are chapped and gritty
I cannot evade the sadness of her scarred womb
I humble my mouth at the laughter of another girl entombed
You are alone the morning has come
Milkmen clink their bottles on the road
Night departs like a beautiful Métive
It is Ferdine the false or Lea “the attentive”
And you drink the alcohol boiling like a life
You drink the eau-de-vie that is your life
You are walking to Auteuil you want to go on foot
To sleep among your fetishes from Guinea and the Ocean
Another form of Christ they are an entire other credence
It is the Christ inferior Christ of obscure expectations
Sun neck sliced
Fri 28 Mar 2014
The following is an experiment in publishing original, not to mention very long, material on M/ELT.
“A Poetics of Virtuosity” is an essay I wrote a long time ago which I never published except in a little-read collection, Before Starting Over. The basic concepts here are 1) a contrast between what I would call now a “cybernetic” poesis—poetry written in a feedback loop with what appears on the typewritten page—and formal poetry, 2) a poetry of “becoming” or radical immanence versus a poetry of “being” or thing poetry and 3) a poetry that is “virtuosic” and conforms to society’s expectations of what poetry could or should be versus a poetry of “stuttering” which is a writing into “life,” not “literature,” and hence prone to anxieties and, in the best sense, ill-formed.
I didn’t use most of this language in this essay, though. I’m not sure I knew what cybernetics or immanence was when I wrote it (in my mid-20s, before I was interested in digital technology), but that’s what it appears to be about to me now. I thought I was being provocative by starting off with a comparison of the poetics of A.R. Ammons and Arthur Rimbaud—never thought that twain could meet, did you?—but I actually always liked Ammons’ poetry, openly wondering why he wasn’t considered “avant-garde,” and he still doesn’t seem to get much attention these days. I was also deep into Hopkins and the John Hollander anthologies of 19th century poetry, as you will soon see. Sorry this essay is such a men’s game—not too many women mentioned here but I guess I was deep into my Oedipal phase back then.
(Photograph of William Carlos Williams: Lisa Larsen/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image.)
Wed 26 Mar 2014
I found these poems (or lines of poems) in my papers, typed on index cards. I don’t know what I was planning to do with them or when I wrote them. Probably at least ten years ago. I recycled a few lines for “Provincial Hack” which appeared in What is Said to the Poet Concerning Flowers (2006). So it has to be earlier than that, Sherlock.
One set has something to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The others are little Raworth-style Language -centered ditties. None of this is genius but kind of fun to look at these years later. Surprisingly, no typos!
Tue 18 Mar 2014
Below are all the links to the various texts that were written by poets and writers giving close(ish) readings of Kristen Stewart’s poem published last month in Marie Claire. If there are others out there, let me know!
Kismetly I Rear and Wonder
UCLA Prof Blames “Beatniks” for Kristen Stewart’s Poetry
“My Heart is a Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole” (annotations)
25 Points: Kristen Stewart’s “My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole”
Kristen Stewart’s heart is a wiffle ball/freedom pole, according to ‘embarrassing’ poem she wrote
Kristen Stewart, Secret Poet, Shares Her Art With ‘Marie Claire’
The The Kristen Stewart Debates: Poetry, Taste and Mass Culture!
Open Letter to Kristen Stewart
Brian Kim Stefans
Sat 15 Mar 2014
Here’s a paper I wrote at Bard in 1990 or so for no reason at all concerning artificial intelligence. Surprisingly, it’s not entirely wrong, just not very scientific. Lots of spelling errors, too, but as you can see, it was written on a primitive, by our standards, computer.
Sun 9 Mar 2014
How many people out there have the special, limited “Broken Glass Edition” of the iPhone?
Celebrating the ephemerality of the material and the translucency of the medium, this limited edition — a literal “delay in space” — is being specially authorized by the late Marcel Duchamp, an important French artist, while supplies last. Each phone is individually smashed by one of Duchamp’s spectral henchman doubles and is unique of its kind; no pattern repeats, and each is guaranteed to change through time with or without use of device. The BGE iPhone (the result of a timely recent collaboration between Apple visionary Steve Jobs and U2) remarkably accrues greater value when it ceases to operate and is left in a corner to “breed” dust. Fifty percent of profits are immediately donated to Amnesty International.
If you don’t have one yet, I know where you can get one, cheap.
Fri 14 Feb 2014
Dear Shia LaBeouf,
I and several other poets in my circle have been following with great interest the recent controversy concerning the accusations of plagiarism that have been leveled against you. We find it all very interesting, and believe there’s really no reason to feel ashamed. I thought to offer you some advice.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
But most importantly, keep doing whatever it is you are doing. It’s great!
Brian Kim Stefans