Sunday, July 21, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

I recently bought a most extraordinary poetry anthology, "The Rattle Bag," edited by Seamus Heany and Ted Hughes.  (Available in paperback, so head down to your local bookstore and order it.)  Both of these men are well known poets and, according to the introduction, "This anthology massed itself like a cairn.  . . . [the poems] were picked up one by one and left in situ without much initial thought being given to the stuff already in the pile or the position that they might occupy in the final shape."  In short, the anthology started rather as a kind of day book.  And when it came time to actually edit this vast collection of poetry from all over the place and time, it was decided to simply arrange it in alphabetical order (by title or first line) which "allows the contents to discover themselves as we ourselves gradually discovered them -- each poem full of its singular appeal, transmitting its own signals, taking its chances in a big,voluble world."

Which makes reading this collection an activity full of surprise.  Like this amazing poem by Miroslav Holub (translated from Czech by Jarmila Milner) (The term "jade" is listed in the glossary as "horse.")


Someone runs about,
someone scents the wind,
someone stomps the ground, but it's hard.

Red flags flutter
and on his old upholstered jade the picador
with infirm lance
scores the first wound.

Red blood spurts between the shoulder-blades.

Chest about to split,
tongue stuck out to the roots.
Hooves stamp of their own accord.

Three pairs of the bandoleros in the back.
And a matador is drawing his sword
over the railing.

And then someone (blood-spattered, all in)
stops and shouts:
Let's go, quit it,
let's go, quit it,
let's go over across the river and into the trees,
let's go across the river and into the trees,
let's leave the red rags behind,
let's go some other place,

thus he shouts,
or wheezes,
or whispers,

and the barriers roar and
no one understands because
everyone feels the same about it,

the black-and-red bull is going to fall
and be dragged away,
and be dragged away,
and be dragged away,

without grasping the way of the world,
without having grasped the way of the world,
before he has grasped the way of the world.


Alon Perlman said...

Fascinating, a little more of an iron curtain rebel than Szymborska the Pole.
Ačkoli (Although)
Although a poem arises when there's nothing else to be done,

although a poem is a last attempt at order when one can't stand disorder any longer,

although poets are most needed when freedom, vitamin C, communications, laws and hypertension therapy are also most needed

although to be an artist is to fail and art is fidelity to failure, as Samuel Beckett says,

a poem is one one of the last but one of the first things one man.

And as a counterpart to Hitler's dog - this fragment
Napoleon (Achilles a zelva)
"Children, when was Napoleon Bonaparte born,"...

Out butcher had a dog

called Napoleon,

says František.

The butcher used to beat him and the dog died

of hunger

a year ago.

And all the children are now sorry

for Napoleon.

Ann Calhoun said...

"Although a poem arises when there's nothing to be done."

Love that. This poem is certainly an illustration of that thought. Nothing to be done . . . let us go across the river and into the trees . . .