Poetry Wednesday – a new form!

From a writer I met at dinner on Monday night, a form I’ve never seen. She calls it a “haiku chase”—a series of interlocked haiku, with the third line one becoming the first line of the next and the last line of the very last one repeating the very first first line. It’s like a very focused combination of a pantoum and triolet. (On the video I describe it as “like a villanelle.” It was late, it had been a rough night, and who doesn’t confuse one structured form with another from time to time?).

So, for your enjoyment, “Haiku Chase V—Hope” by Maria Barnet:


Announcing – Poetry Wednesdays!

Because I love my friend Michelle’s feature “Poetry Mondays,” in which she reads aloud a poem she loves, I’m announcing Poetry Wednesdays, starting with this piece by Mary Oliver.

Enjoy! And if you should be moved to start a Poetry Tuesday (or Folksong Tuesday or Great Choral piece Tuesday), let me know and I’ll post your videos too!

“Outside the Body” – Yona Wallach

from Wild Light, translated by Linda Zisquit

Outside the Body
Yona Wallach

The hypnotist was here
she spoke of the body tired from all the years
serving and doing things for us
and I went out from the body
and sat on the edge of the bed
looked at it
and climbed up to lick it
stroke it
take care of it.

Dahlia Ravikovitch – “Pride”

from Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poems of Dahlia Ravikovitch, translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld. I’ve been reading Ravikovitch because she is essential to reading other contemporary Israeli women poets, like, I guess, knowing Adrienne Rich is here. Everyone knows her work, everyone refers to it in some way, or has it in the background, constant commentary on or counterpoint to their own work. And some of her poems are just breathtaking! I only wish the book had the Hebrew originals so I could learn more about how these two masterful translators dealt with language issues as they went along.

Dahlia Ravikovitch

Even rocks crack, I tell you,
and not on account of age.
For years they lie on their backs in the cold and the heat,
so many years,
it almost creates the impression of calm.
They don’t move, so the cracks can hide.
A kind of pride.
Years pass over them as they wait.
Whoever is going to shatter them
hasn’t come yet.
And so the moss flourishes, the seaweed is cast about,
the sea bursts out and slides back,
and it seems the rocks are perfectly still.
Till a little seal comes to rub against them,
comes and goes.
And suddenly the stone has an open wound.
I told you, when rocks crack, it happens by surprise.
Not to mention people.

“I am not part of this crime”

from Neruda’s “Letter to Miguel Otero Silva,” translated by Robert Bly

[…] I took life,
and I faced her and kissed her,
and then went through the tunnels of the mines
to see how other men live.
And when I came out, my hands stained with garbage and sadness,
I held my hands up and showed them to the generals,
and said, “I am not part of this crime.”
They started to cough, showed disgust, left off saying hello,
gave up calling me Theocritus, and ended up by insulting me
and assigning the entire police force to arrest me
because I didn’t continue to be occupied exclusively with
      metaphysical subjects.
But I had brought joy over to my side.

Translating: “In his love for me” by Shez

I’m working on an MFA in poetry in translation. My translation project is a book of poems by an Israeli Jewish lesbian who writes as Shez. She says of her own work that she writes about being an incest survivor, and wow, does she. Since this has been an important theme in my own work, I have some layer of callous built up such that I can focus on the language and art and not just be overwhelmed by the content, but sometimes, sometimes, what she’s written is so accurate and powerful and heartbreaking that even I stumble, have to step back and breathe.

This is one of those poems, in my most recent translation draft. I’m new at translating, and am still working on the best way to re-present the last line in English, but I think I’ve found the heart of the poem and now just have to fine tune it.

באהתו אותי

בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ אוֹתִי
הִיטְלֶר מַשְׁחִיל פְּנִינָה רִאשׁוֹנָה מֵהַשַׁרְשֶׁרֶת
אֶל תּוֹךְ גְּרוֹנִי – אַחַר כָּךְ בָּאָה
פְּנִינָה נוֹסֶפֶת, וְעוֹד אַחַת, נָחָשׁ
לָבָן מְאֹרָךְ מִשְׁתַּחֵל פְּנִימָה.

In his love for me
Shez, translated by Elliott batTzedek
July 7 2011

In his love for me
Hitler threads the first pearl of the necklace
down my throat – the second pearl follows
then another and always another, white snake
lengthening, squeezing in

A Poem on the Middle East “Peace Process”

A Poem on the Middle East
“Peace Process”
Etheridge Knight ~1972

Israel à la Begin, begins, “We
             /  love  /peace-and-uh
That’s why we  /   drove  /
             the Palestinians off   /  their   /  land—
With the help of america and england’s evil hand.

In the Gaza strip an Arab boy sleeps,
              his knees /  are /  drawn  /  up to his chest.
His hands cup his crotch. He dreams of grenades,
And machine guns and prayers to Allah.

An Israeli boy sleeps in Tel Aviv. He dreams
Of the tales told to him by his  /  grand   /  father:
Nazi boots goosestepping on cobblestone, of lampshades
Made  /  from Jewish skin, of Jewish women—and men—
Naked and torn. He dreams too of blooming gardens
In the “promised land” and of killing Arabs
At his rabbi’s command.

And the “Peacemakers?” Ah, the peacemakers
Give guns to  /  one
And bombs to the  /  other
All contrary to the   /  cries  /  of the Mother.