View this article only in English | Polish

Poetry From the September 2011 issue: Homage



And of course the birds go on chirping, and how!
Even if they’re not chirping.
Bah, wires can chirp almost as well,
so it’s easy to confuse them. It’s altogether loud
and sensuous, almost phonetic.
And the flowers blossom to make things colorful,
and later wither, first on the graves, but they’re bent
out of shape there, mostly due to us
passing by on the paths between the trees
as if nothing had happened.
And no way to avoid the brown-eyed gaze of the pansies,
which have all but disappeared now from the flower beds,
forced out by nasturtiums and marigolds. No flower beds either.
All the hazel eyes are rotting now underground.

Translation of "Podsłuch." Copyright Piotr Sommer. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by W. Martin and Christian Hawkey. All rights reserved.

I oczywiście dalej ćwierkają ptaki, i to jak!
Nawet jak nie ćwierkają.
Ba, druty potrafią ćwierkać niewiele gorzej,
że można je pomylić. W ogóle jest dźwięcznie
i zmysłowo, wręcz fonetycznie.
I kwitną kwiaty, żeby było kolorowo,
a potem więdną, najpierw na grobach, bo tam są cięte
na wszystko, najbardziej na nas
przechodzących alejkami pośród drzew,
jak gdyby nigdy nic.
I nie ma jak uniknąć piwnego wzroku bratków
których prawie nie ma dziś na klombach,
wyparły je nasturcje i aksamitki. Nie ma też klombów.
Wszystkie brązowe oczy gniją już pod ziemią.

Piotr SommerPiotr Sommer

Piotr Sommer (b. 1948) is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Czynnik liryczny (1986, Lyric Factor), Nowe stosunki wyrazów (1997, New Relations of Words),  Rano na ziemi (2009, Morning on Earth), Dni i noce (2009, Days and Nights), and Wiersze ze słów (2009, Poems from Words). He has also published two books of essays, Smak detalu (1995, A Taste for Detail) and Po stykach (2005, Contact Lines), as well as many translations from contemporary American, English and Irish poetry (John Ashbery, John Berryman, John Cage, D.J. Enright, Kenneth Koch, Michael Longley, Frank O’Hara, Charles Reznikoff, David Schubert, James Schuyler). Przed snem (2008, Before Sleep) is his book of poems for children, and Ucieczka w bok. Pytania i odpowiedzi (2010, Escaping Aside: Questions and Answers) is a book of selected interviews. His poems have been translated into many languages, and his collections have appeared in English, German, Slovak, and Slovene. His many prizes include the Silesius Poetry Prize (2010). His most recent book in English is Continued (2005).

photo: Robert Wiącek

Translated from PolishPolish by W. MartinW. Martin and by Christian HawkeyChristian Hawkey

W. Martin is the translator of Michał Witkowski's Lovetown (Portobello, 2010), Erich Kästner's Emil and the Detectives (Overlook, 2007), and Natasza Goerke's Farewells to Plasma (Twisted Spoon, 2002), among other things. He is a former Fiction Editor of Chicago Review and a 2008 recipient of the NEA Literature Fellowship for Translation.

Christian Hawkey is a poet and translator. He is the author of Petitions for an Alien Relative (a chapbook by hand held editions, 2010); Ventrakl (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010); Citizen Of (Wave Books, 2007); Hour, Hour, a chapbook which includes drawings by the artist Ryan Mrowzowski (Delirium Press, 2006); and The Book of Funnels (Verse Press, 2004), winner of the 2006 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. In 2006 he was given a Creative Capital Innovative Literature Award, and he has also received awards from the Poetry Fund and the Academy of American Poets. He teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.