Saturday, May 27, 2017

Verano / Summer

I submitted the following five search terms to Google images:




and the above image is what they came up with. And why did I do that?

Because those were the five words I contributed to Charles Olsen's Palabras Prestadas [Given - or loaned - words] project last month. In Spanish, they translate as:




And now the results are in!

Here is the winning entry among the many submitted poems (more of which you can sample at your leisure here):



Acabo de instalar un columpio en el árbol que hay detrás de mi casa. No tiene nombre.
Ni siquiera sé si alguien lo va a usar alguna vez. Tenía los materiales y lo hice. Punto.
Noto, sin embargo, la ilusión de la promesa en las caras de la gente que mira el columpio.

Pongo bajo el agua el bote de cristal para quitar la etiqueta. Ojalá fuera tan fácil.
Yo lo intento bajo la ducha todos los días. Unos segundos bajo el chorro y fuera etiquetas.
Pero no. Nunca es tan fácil. Al revés, me da por pensar en la ducha. Y no me sienta bien.

El gato bebe del bote limpio de etiquetas. Seguro que a él le importa un pito.
Mi padre las coleccionaba. Con mimo y paciencia, ablandaba el papel sin romperlo.
Solo se permitía ser delicado con esa artesanía cotidiana. En lo demás era como debía, supongo.

La piedra está vieja pero hace posible una pequeña llama. Como si fuera a ser la última.
Guardo el mechero cuando noto que la vela prende. La coloco con cuidado en la repisa del balcón.
Me siento en un taburete. La corriente que viene de la ventana apaga la llama. Pronto se hará de noche.

Jöel López Astorkiza
Haro, La Rioja, España

And here it is translated into English by Charles Olsen:



I’ve just put up a swing in the tree out the back. It has no name.
I don’t even know if anyone will ever use it. I had the materials and just did it.
I see, however, the hopeful joy on the faces of passersby who see it over the fence.

I place the jar in water to remove the label. If only it were so easy.
I try it in the shower everyday. A few seconds under the jet of water and away labels.
But no, it’s never that easy. On the contrary, I start thinking in the shower. It doesn’t do me much good.

The cat drinks from the labelless jar. I’m sure he’s not bothered.
My father collected them. With care and patience he'd soften the paper without tearing it.
He only allowed himself to be delicate with this everyday handicraft. For the rest he was as he should be, I suppose.

The flint is old but it gives off a small flame as though it were its last.
I put away the lighter once the candle is lit. I place it carefully on the balcony rail.
I sit on a stool. A draft coming in the window blows out the flame. Soon it will be night.

Jöel López Astorkiza
Haro, La Rioja


Charles also added some fascinating notes about the translation process:
I sent it to Jöel to check and he had some suggestions for changes but it was interesting as one change he suggested was the American expression 'Period' (ie. I had the materials and did it. Period.) and so I explained this was an expression I never used and an American translator would probably change other expressions in the poem as well. Also 'rock' or 'stone' has changed in translation to the 'flint' of a lighter.
I guess any regular readers of this blog will understand why I chose those particular words for the poets to work with (especially 'cat'), but I have to say that the variety and accomplishment in the various results came as a complete surprise to me - I was particularly struck by Aurora & Gabriel Merino's beautiful pagework / poem 'Albertina,' but the other poems were great also. I don't envy the task of judging between them!

Don't forget that there'll be a local version of the 'Given Words' competition being held here as part of the Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day this year. Charles writes of that:
I'm also preparing the National Poetry Day Given Words competition and will send you the details when we launch in mid-June. For the moment I've set up the blog:
And what does Zero Tolerance Ross think about the whole thing? Enough said, I think! ...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bird Skeleton

Bronwyn Lloyd: Voodoo Bird (23/4/17)

A couple of weeks ago Bronwyn found this little chap nestled on the doorstep of her studio (which used to be my father's surgery), beside the house.

But who left it there? Was it a cat? The lawnmower man? Someone laying a hex?

Certainly it seems to be missing a head. It did remind me a bit of an old poem of mine, from my first book City of Strange Brunettes (1998):

First Love

We built a man of slates, and after years,
revisited, the rock had grown a face.

(... The lake dissects bird-craniums;
tree-roots wrestle midden-stones for space.)

We counted on the winter to preserve us.
Spring runoff leaves no craquelure to trace.

Jack Ross: City of Strange Brunettes (1998)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Palabras Prestadas / Given Words

Darrell Ward: R.I.P.

Ever since Ice Road Truckers star Darrell Ward died in a planecrash at the early age of 52 - the first casualty among their core cast of daredevils - it's been a bit difficult to keep up our enthusiasm for the TV reality series.

This morning, however, I received the exciting news that expatriate Kiwi poet Charles Olsen had completed his translation of my poem "Ice Road Trucker" into Spanish, and posted it on his "Palabras Prestadas" website.

I have to say that I'm quite thrilled to see my words transformed into another language (especially one I can read) - just as I was when Dieter Riemenschneider included a couple of my poems in his 2010 bilingual German-English anthology Wildes Licht: Gedichte aus Aotearoa Neuseeland [Wild Light: Poems from Aotearoa New Zealand].

So far as I can judge, Charles has done a bang-up job. I do wonder, though, if I can repurpose his work here as some kind of witness to the immense pleasure I've got out of watching this series over the years? In particular, as a tribute to Darrell Ward himself, who strikes me as the most man of anyone I've ever seen.

That time when he managed to drag another truck out of the ditch single-handedly, by driving them both at the same time (I know that doesn't sound physically possible, but he did somehow accomplish it) had to be seen to be believed.

Anyway, here's the poem, in translation (you can read the original English version here, if you like). And what better date to have it appear online than the Cinco de Mayo?

Jack Ross ha publicado varios libros de poesía, entre ellos City of Strange Brunettes (1998), Chantal's Book (2002), To Terezín (2007), Celanie (2012) y A Clearer View of the Hinterland (2014), además de cuatro novelas y dos libros de relatos cortos. Es director y editor de la revista Poetry NZ, y ha editado diversas revistas literarias y antologías. Tiene un doctorado en Inglés y Literatura Comparativa de la Universidad de Edimburgo y actualmente es Catedrático en Escritura Creativa en Massey University.
New Zealand Book Council – Jack Ross

Camionero sobre hielo

El motor se detuvo
a medio bajada por la rampa de salida

justo cuando cambió el semáforo a verde
para con cuidado en el arcén

y enciende
la luces de emergencia

decía Bronwyn
fuimos a buscar ayuda

me dejó en la estación de servicio
cuando llegué al coche

había un policía
un autobús había golpeado un vehículo utilitario

calle abajo
Necesitaba esto como un tiro en la cabeza

el de la grúa era un viejo fibroso

que levantó el coche
sin esfuerzo

mientras dábamos saltos
en la cabina de su camión

ya sé qué se siente

al conducir un gran camión
sobre los campos de hielo

mi álter ego
radio frequencia en mano

abierta la botella de Jim Beam
entre las piernas

el horizonte gris de peltre

(Traducción del poema Ice Road Trucker de Jack Ross – traducido por Charles Olsen)

Battle of Puebla (5 May 1862)