Contemporary poetry in translation can seem doubly daunting, but fortunately we have a revelatory guide for the perplexed in Ilya Kaminsky. Here he presents our first "all poetry, all the time" main feature celebrating Gloria Fuertes's vigor, Zafer Senocak and Zehra Çirak's new myths, Luis García Montero's playfulness, Daniil Kharms's theatrics of marvel and Göran Sonnevi's passionate curiosity.
As Ilya points out, there are striking similarities in this issue. Ioan Flora's Eastern European science fiction-in-verse is worlds away from Silvina Ocampo's "Infinite Horses," or Milo De Angelis's elegiac "Mute Map," yet represents the same sort of longing. Tristan Tzara's "Friend midear," exclaims "It is a beautiful thing to be in a poem," and so Mansur Rajih's poem declares-against all geopolitical odds-"Yemen is a happy country." With similar exuberance, Karim Fawzi, in a poem written just after the American invasion of Iraq, speaks of berries and Baghdad, and of beating his present existence "with the cane of departure". Finally, Valzyna Mort's poetry may define the way in which we Americans think of literature from Belarus in the years to come.
Thanks to co-editor Alissa Valles on the ground in Warsaw, we have an extraordinary "Polish corner" of work never before seen in English.
Inveterate prose-o-philes will be missing transformative discoveries ("the seeds of rare flowers/to develop your literary taste"), but may click on the three features below.
A Note from the Poetry Editor
Poets must speak of their time, Czeslaw Milosz often told his students. And so they, in very different ways, do. Karim Fawzi, in a poem dated June 9th, 2003, speaks of berries and Baghdad,
Now I will tell you how the worms I kept in an empty soap carton and fed white mulberry leaves, changed themselves without my help, curling into scoops of color, and how later I
when there were no secret parts writing was devised on a woman's body no part left undescribed men and their dirty fingers mixed up one character with the other until the letters
I my umbrella both of us gray with a fine wooden grip from hand to hand we go I and my trusty umbrella he's always at hand even when it's not raining but when the sun comes
“Is there anything on earth that has significance…”
"Is there anything on earth that has significance, and that could alter the run of events not only on earth but also in other worlds?" I asked my teacher. "There is," he answered. "What is
I never had a beard. Not even in the photo that you contemplate now amused, the young man with eyes full of impertinence and contrary, with the turtleneck sweater, and the long hair and a
Poetry is useless, it serves only to behead a king or seduce a young woman. Perhaps it serves also, if water is death, to part the water with a dream. And if time grants its unique
From “Mozart’s Third Brain”, CIV
I lay a light stone on my father's grave, a gray stone on the gray stone Hadn't planned to, it just happened Then I think: Now you have made him a Jew But then I realize
On the intergalactic station Malmorius, Jaspar the Terrible feverishly prepares for the decisive attack. Who knows where in the Central Desert of Athyria, Commander Z. checks the
The Infinite Horses
I have seen them sleeping in the pastures, repeated through the fields, at rest; furious and on their knees I have seen them, like haughty gods, completely white, dressed and with
I Let's slip into that last evening, the pharmacy where her pale restless face didn't register the greeting, the nightguard's: hungry face, I can't get past
Friend Midear, you won't understand but listen The pain I cannot weep into a handkerchief The words are somber like a procession of kings For your soul with sad, dry lakes I
"The sun also shines from here", his finger pointing to his heart his eyes rimmed with tears For the next poem in this sequence, click here.
Do not despair, my friend: The light that shines on our land will remain chaste. We still have time. Maybe next year, the year after- it will be enough. We will see the new face
You are paid to be a murderer.
An asphalt sky: your memory Your earth is only a body Time is a poem approaching Time is a poem withering Time is a poem dying & time is a wailing wall for poems and dreams
The Scent of Berries
Who among us belongs to another: Do you, with the wrinkled face? Or we, guardians of the road to no return? Or do we all, Baghdad, belong to the executioner? The scent of berries is
Reader in the Dark
You reach in the hour of sleep to put out the light, to feel for the lock of your door, and lowered curtain of the window. You leap like a cat up the stairs, slip underneath the
“maybe you too sometimes fantasize”
maybe you too sometimes fantasize that god resembles your most difficult teacher the one who never gave the highest mark one day he invites your parents to school and who knows what he
“What would I wish for”
What would I wish for to be a small freckle on the wind's nose to ride in a convertible beside a middle-aged man a teenager will do it's as if everything that has
Men arrive like a date on a calendar they keep visiting once a month men who've seen the bottom of the deepest bottles kings of both earth and heaven and like the pearls from a torn
II even our mothers have no idea how we got here how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing we couldn't tell which of us was