Monday, December 9, 2013

Alex Cigale Translates Russian Poet Gennady Katsov

Alex Cigale has published some 120 of his own poems, and significantly more translations of Russian Silver Age and contemporary poetry, in such journals as The Colorado Review, Green Mountains Review, North American Review, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, and The Literary Review (TLR), and online in Asymptote, Drunken Boat, McSweeney’s (poems) and translations in Ancora Imparo, Cimarron Review, Inventory, Literary Imagination, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, Plume, Two Lines, Brooklyn Rail In Translation, The Manhattan Review, St. Ann‘s, and Washington Square ReviewHe recently returned to New York after living two years in Kyrgyzstan, where he was Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia. A selection of Cigale’s English translations of Gennady Katsov’s Russian poems follows. The complete collection, Ekphrastic Poems, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil in 2014.

Andy Warhol
The first “Self-Portrait” (1964)

Four silkscreens, the background a sky blue,
With head held straight up, and to the side.
Already famous but not yet as a God:
Together brought him sixteen hundred bucks.

The glasses sit on the nose’s bridge,
Like two dark aughts – though a king, naked.
But the third – neck held in a tight-knot brace,
And the void of the tie strangling his neck.

Belatedly we’ve learned: not half a century
Past, the battlehost of zeros is limitless.
But long before that – a bullet in the gut.
And twenty years hence, immortality.

Otto Dix, “Portrait of the Journalist,
Silvie von Harden” (1926)

The pile of ash on the tip of the cigarette,
Attention to the right stocking, rolling down.
Jugendstil dominates beer hall and plein air.

That decadence, lips expelling a syllable.

With faith in Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Frau’s womb,
In perspective and peace, and victory at war!
The Third Reich – Soldaten’s meat for cannons.
It’s fraulein, whose duty is to give soldiers birth.

In the beclouded monocle no longer visible
Are Weimar, Mann, Spritzer, Jazz, and cabaret.
Pikes of right hands and thundering Deutsch
In which the oracle shrieks, like early rapping.

Grant Wood, “American Gothic” (1930)

The house – a fortress, white, redoubtable.
The foundation solid, fences blinding bright
And, like a row of middle fingers, stuck upright.
The roofs peaked, in high-retro gothic style.

In the sober Midwest American provinces,
Among standard barns, the cattle, milking cows,
The rigid watchfulness of its stolid citizens,
Hearing sharpened, sense of smell perked up.

Their boots dug in deeper than bottomless wells,
Their views on life and wills are iron pronged,
They turn a deaf ear to all the slanderous rumors
Those outsiders, the rootless cosmopolites, brang.

Vincent Van Gogh,
“Night CafĂ© in Arles” (1888)

The clock ticks. The billiard table tilts. Nothing’s
at rest. Some rooms you can’t get drunk in:
In their mirrors, the light burns so brightly
Not even the thought of a reflection may stir.

Their occupants, even in other times,
All “Cote de Provence” suffused – sadness, gases –
And if someone here were thrown into hell,
They’d emerge immediately, centuries hence.

The floor brushed with ocher gives off no luster,
The oil lamps shed tears without nary a blink,
And the one who runs into this bistro for a drink
Will neither shudder nor leave. Nor ever escape.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Poet Catherine Chandler Meets Edward Hopper in an Empty Room

Catherine Chandler is an American-Canadian poet, teacher, and translator. A graduate of McGill University, where she lectured in Spanish in the Department of Translation Studies for many years, she has written five books of poetry, including the full-length collections Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011) and Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis Press, forthcoming, March 2014). Her poems, translations, reviews, scholarly papers, and audio recordings have been published in numerous print and online journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. Her poem "Coming to Terms" was chosen by A.E. Stallings as the winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award (2010), and Lines of Flight was nominated for the 2013 Poets' Prize. Catherine currently lives in Saint-Lazare, Quebec and Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room, 1963
Zeeman’s Paradox
(Imagining Edward Hopper’s Sun in an Empty Room, 1963)

Sunlight streams into an empty room
through an undraped window to the walls and floor
in silence, like the silence of a tomb.

Don’t go looking for the bride and groom.
They’ve split. No, they don’t live there anymore.
Sunlight seeps into the empty room,

where absences – a trace of her perfume
and echoes of their voices – underscore
the silence. Like a vacuum or a tomb,

deserted beaches or a barren womb,
this is the after scene. Not the before,
when sunlight graced the corners of this room

that’s now for rent. The landlord took his broom
and swept unwanted remnants out the door, 
whistling in the nice, clean, sunny tomb.

These dark, unlikely angles, I presume,
and blackened trees know what I’m searching for
is sunlight, not a shadowed waiting room
gone silent like a long-abandoned tomb.

A strange video about the life of Edward Hopper with great period photographs and film.

painters and poets

Friday, November 15, 2013

Poet Ken Pobo, Odilon Redon, and Rene Magritte

Kenneth Pobo’s poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Mudfish, The Cider Press Review, The Fiddlehead, and Hawaii Review, among literary journals. His chapbook Placemats is forthcoming from Eastern Point Press. His poetry collection Introductions appeared in 2003, Ordering: A Season in My Garden in 2001. 
Ken Pobo teaches literature and creative writing at Widener University in Chester, PA. He received the prestigious Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2007. 

Bust of a Man Asleep Amid Flowers
by Odilon Redon
Bust of a Man Asleep Amid
Flowers, Date Unknown
Before he falls asleep, he and his
sweetheart have tea.  She’s been angry
with him all day.  When they reconcile,

kind of, he slips out to the prairie,
sits with the moon, having tea
with her sweetheart, while Saturn undresses. 

The man hopes he won’t dream,
sees himself as Pegasus, but no
winged creature ever visits at night. 

Most of life is drab, like old linoleum—
tonight, again, no rescue comes,
but poppies, daisies, and roses sneak up,

open buds wide, shield him from sprites
that play practical jokes.  In the morning
he tells his sweetheart that he’s forgotten

his dream.  He walks to the cramped shop
in town which barely survives
year after year, shelves holding glass

figurines he makes in the back room,
animals, flowers, and heroes that dream
about their maker, love and fear him.

Ophelia Among the Flowers, 1905-08

Ophelia Among the Flowers
by Odilon Redon

To clarify the dreams of flowers,
an interpreter often gets wounded,

a single hand hurt in the dark. 
I gave up hope, knew that the rose

would offer secrets to me, a woman
carried away by a stiff current.  Are you

losing hope too?  Here, take this garland
that I made when I learned that the sun

warms only corpses.  No forget-me-not
shies away from a cemetery plot—

they bloom in the breath of who
you loved. 

Morning breaks.  Look—
an impossible garden overhead.

The Birth of the Idol, 1926

The Birth of the Idol
by Rene Magritte

Land runs away from water, preferring
the comforts of lemon squares and tea
among Victorian houses.  The mannequin

chooses between water’s wild whips
and the land whose hornets hang
like pendants, wishes

that undialed days would last,
has tried to give birth for centuries—
it’s uncomfortable to wait that long,

so it follows the wind’s hoofprints
back to Eden, still flowering, still
off limits, a closed park to sneak into.   

Read Pobo’s essay “Poets Among the Stones” here

painters and poets