Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rendez Vous

Michel Marchildon performing at Gulf of Maine Books. We had an afternoon "Rendez-Vous" with song, poetry and prose, all in French. One of the poets later described the event as being like "a City Lights happening."

Monday, April 16, 2007

kenji, akutagawa, zanzotto

We have just received, on the same day, new collections by three of my favorite writers:Selections - Miyazawa Kenji - edited by Hiroaki Sato ( in the Univ. of California Poets For the Millenium series, which also includes titles - in stock here - by Andre Breton, Maria Sabina, Paul Celan, and Jose Lezama Lima), Mandarins - stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa - translated from the Japanese by Charles De Wolf and published by Archipelago Books, and The Selected Poetry and Prose of Andrea Zanzotto, a bilingual edition, edited and translated from the Italian by Patrick Barron (we also carry his anthology of Italian Environmental Literature) and published by the University of Chicago Press.

I first read Miyazawa Kenji in the early 1970s, translated by Gary Snyder, and then at Snyder's house heard the Japanes poet Nanao Sakaki read the Kenji poem that all Japanese people know:

November 3rd

neither yielding to rain
nor yielding to wind
yielding neither to
snow nor to summer heat
with a stout body
like that
without greed
never getting angry
always smiling quiet-
eating one and a half pints of brown rice
and bean paste and a bit of
vegetables a day
in everything
not taking oneself
into account
looking listening understanding well
and not forgetting
living in the shadow of pine trees in a field
in a small
hut thatched with miscanthus
if in the east there's a
sick child
going and nursing
if in the west there's a tired mother
going and carrying
for her
bundles of rice
if in the south
there's someone
and saying
you don't have to be
if in the north
there's a quarrel
or a lawsuit
saying it's not worth it
stop it
in a drought
shedding tears
in a cold summer
pacing back and forth lost
a good-for-nothing
by everyone
neither praised
nor thought a pain
like that
is what I want
to be.

Miyazawa Kenji only lived to be 37. Here is his last poem, written just before his death:

Because of an illness, crumbling,
this life -
if I could give it for the dharma
how glad I would be

I have been a fan of Ryunosuke Akutagawa since the early 1970s, when I read his story Hell Screen in Donald Keene's Modern Japanese Literature, and later his famous Rashomon. His new collection, Mandarins, translated by Charles de Wolf, has 13 stories, two of them appearing in English for the first time. He was called the "father of the Japanese short story" and wrote some wild poems as well. He died at the age of 35, from an overdose of barbituates.

Andrea Zanzotto has spent most of his life in northern Italy, in Pieve di Soligo. Patrick Barron, his editor/translator says that his poetry creates "something of an impossible yet highly focused map, lacking fixed itineraries but providing an intense understanding of the vibrating, interwoven, and concentrated vitalities that stretch, tension-filled, from lauded/abused woodland, to rareified alpine heights, to thoroughly humanized countryside." Zanzotto himself says " My village is like a garden, here and there devastated, map and palimpsest, gestures fixed in an eternal instant, a blinking of eyes, a sudden opening of narrow streets that are always here and yet curving elsewhere."

There's no telling how much green
is buried under this green
nor how much rain under this rain
many are the infinities
that here converge
that from here wander off
oblivious, stupefied
There's-no-telling This is the relict
of that rainy relict
the green in which the extreme of the green
is weaving
Perhaps there's-no-telling for a
deaf movement of light distilling
itself in an ephemeral sound, and knowing
Perhaps allowing blooming, extending
member to member, rejoining.

Andrea Zanzotto, from Meteo
translated by Patrick Barron

Monday, April 09, 2007

Fadhil al Azzawi

A quote from Iraqi poet Fadhil al Azzawi. (We carry his collection of poems Miracle Maker - his selected poems from BOA editions)
"Here is where I see the exceptional role of poetry: to confront the numerous lies and forgeries and to pull the masks off of the delusion-sellers' faces by affirming the truth that is buried under piles of commercialized and repetitive language, and to delve to the bottom of the deepest oceans to capture the jewels of speech."