Stephen Burt on Contemporary American Poetry

The poetry we’re going to talk about today belongs to the era that began in the 80s and ended around 2015. It’s an era characterised by an increased distance from the pre-modern past; by an increasing but in a lot of ways insufficient attention to the diversity of experiences and backgrounds, especially among white poets; by the integration of avant-garde techniques, techniques for avoiding prose sense, into poetry that ultimately did make prose sense. It’s also an era characterised by the integration of techniques and attitudes towards poetry that in the 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s would have seemed to belong to distinct camps.

from Stephen Burt on Contemporary American Poetry.

New Poem: Learning to See in Another Language

In the beautiful new Poetry Northwest, Summer/Fall 2017.

Two New Poems

In the beautiful New American Writing:

Federico García Lorca: Ghazal for a Dead Child

Ghazal for a Dead Child
     by Federico García Lorca

Every afternon in Granada,
every afternoon, a child lies dead.
Every afternoon, water
takes a table to gossip.

The dead have moss for wings.
The cloudy breeze, the clean,
are pheasants clear of towers.
The day is a wounded child.

No trace of larks remained aloft
when I found you in wine’s grottoes.
No cloud crumbs remained aground
when you drowned by the river.

A giant fleshed in water fell on the hills.
The valleys tumbled with irises and dogs.
Your body in my hands’ violet shadow:
dead by the river, an archangel, cold.

                         Granada, Spain


Gacela del Niño Muerto

Todas las tardes en Granada,
todas las tardes se muere un niño.
Todas las tardes el agua se sienta
a conversar con sus amigos.

Los muertos llevan alas de musgo.
El viento nublado y el viento limpio
son dos faisanes que vuelan por las torres
y el día es un muchacho herido.

No quedaba en el aire ni una brizna de alondra
cuando yo te encontré por las grutas del vino.
No quedaba en la tierra ni una miga de nube
cuando te ahogabas por el río.

Un gigante de agua cayó sobre los montes
y el valle fue rodando con perros y con lirios.
Tu cuerpo, con la sombra violeta de mis manos,
era, muerto en la orilla, un arcángel de frío.

And here’s Ian Duhig’s take on this poem, and then his translation translated back into Spanish:

Federico García Lorca – Ian Duhig – Carlos López Beltrán & Pedro Serrano.

Poetry Is A Crime Scene

Someone said fiction is a house and poetry is a person on fire running through a house.

I say poetry is the traces of a crime scene. You come upon it, and you wonder, “What happened here?”

You study the signs, and then, epiphany: Holy Christ, someone ran through here on fire.

It doesn’t matter whom. It doesn’t matter where: it matters that you put it together and it hit you like a gut-punch — somebody (maybe me) ran through this house on fire.

Anglo-Saxon Cryptography: Secret Writing in Early Medieval England

At the very end of an eleventh-century manuscript copy of St Augustine’s Confessions, an Anglo-Saxon scribe wrote “Fknktp Lkbrp χρp prfcpnkB rfddp”. Rather than garbled gobbledegook, these words were written in a simple but popular code: the vowels have been replaced by their neighbouring consonants in the alphabet: a=b; e=f; i=k; o=p; x=u. 

The scribe’s words actually read: “Finito libero Christo [the Greek letters χρ is a well-known abbreviation for Christ] preconio reddo”, which is Latin for something along the lines of: “The book is finished, I give a laudation to Christ in return”. Apparently, this scribe was happy that his job was done and rendered thanks to Christ in an encoded message.

The same motivation seems to underlie another encrypted colophon at the end of an eleventh-century Gospel-book made in England: “DFPGRBTKBS AMΗN”:

The first two words of this colophon read “DEO GRATIAS” [thanks be to God]; the last word is “AMEN”, with a Greek capital Eta instead of the E (and a weird M and N, which I haven’t been able to identify).

Thijs Porck, Anglo-Saxon Cryptography: Secret Writing in Early Medieval England

(colophon — 1: an inscription at the end of a book or manuscript usually with facts about its production; 2: an identifying mark used by a printer or a publisher.)

T. S. Eliot in New York, 1958

In the spring of 1958 the (relatively) new Mr and Mrs Eliot travelled to America for a month so that T. S. Eliot could introduce his new wife, Valerie to his family. They sailed from Southampton to New York aboard the Media before flying to Texas for lecture engagements and then on to Cambridge, via New York, to spend time with various members of the Eliot family. 

Introducing Mrs. Eliot
Photo taken 4/19/58, waiting to enter New York sound.

Eliot’s note on the reverse.