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Poetry In Translation Editors’ Note

We are both darkness and light. Is the inside dark and the outside light, or the reverse? Ying and yang, night and day. Body and soul. We need one to know the other. Poet and translator Red Pine writes in dancing with the dead, “Language is at the surface of the much deeper flux that is our riverine minds. Thus, if we approach translation by focusing on language alone, we mistake the waves for the river, the tracks for the journey.” The words must lead us to see the journey in a way that brings us, as Red Pine goes on to say, to do “what poetry does. It brings us closer to the truth […] to feel its heat.”

Dimitra Kotoula (in Maria Nazos’s fine translations from the Greek) creates a vision “between reality and hope / where the empty moment was revealed” through language so carefully chosen, parsed and charged, it appears to have been sent from a higher source where “[t]he red muscle of the mind glows.” In Case Studies I and II we seem to enter a place without gravity, “a sharp moment of pure light.” New translations of masters revitalizes and helps us see anew against a different backdrop. In our spring issue, we shared two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke from the French. In this summer issue, we bring you Steven Cramer’s “departures from Rilke.” Of these, Steven Ratiner says in his “Red Letter Poetry” that Cramer “carried Rilke – not from German into English – but from one consciousness into another, to breathe in our atmosphere.” With tightly bladed imagery stripped of high Romanticism in a decidedly contemporary tone, Cramer reaches a new edge. Darkness and light, blindness and vision, such is mystery illuminated in a glimpse.

Poems represented in this issue are various manifestations of resistance.

Selected from Arsenal, the first section of his Marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master), these early poems by René Char, some written when he was a teenager, are charged with the violence of liberation, foreshadowing the rise of fascism in Europe and the Second World War (of which he played a part as the French Resistance leader “Captain Alexandre”). Already we see Char as his own poet, more adjacent than central to the surrealist movement under which he is historically, briefly grouped. His poems situate themselves at the heart of resistance, full of doubt, dread, and a precocious self-awareness that tempers the molten hot substance of his capricious outcry.

Miłosz Biedrzycki, half Polish, half Slovenian in origin and one of the leading representatives of the literary magazine called bruLion, founded in 1986 to manifest the group’s desire of outright rebellion against the tradition of moral and political witness represented by Czesław Miłosz and Zbigniew Herbert among others.

This new generation of poets were also called barbarians and were partially inspired by Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, as well as other poets of the New York school of poetry.

The main objective of that new group was to reject the communal perspective and adopt a personal voice in poetry. They adopted a grotesque approach in poetry. Miłosz Biedrzycki’s poems stand out from the group as they are surrealist and Dadaistic in their imagery, which makes him unique in Polish tradition of poetry overall.

Hasan Atiya Al Nassar shabby attire gave no hint of his status as one of the world’s most respected international poets. He was born in Nassiriya, Iraq, but lived as an exile in Bologna and Florence, Italy. He fled Iraq because he objected to the war with Iran, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who executed one of Hasan’s brothers.  He wrote in Arabic and Italian, and his works were published in Italy, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.  His poems are mystical visions with piercing longing and melancholy of an exile. They give voice to the voiceless, displaced, and dispossessed.


–Barbara Siegel Carlson and Ewa Chrusciel



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