Showing posts from February, 2020


Mirja Paljakka /by permission A person steps outside, looks at the night sky, comes in transformed. That's what happens in Yves Bonnefoy's "Hopkins Forest." It's not all that happens, even though in many poems it would be plenty. The speaker dreams, remembers, compares, contemplates language, time, and mortality, and walks in the forest where those thoughts rise and rest. Going outside at night in the country is a chance to feel the presence of mystery. It's almost inevitable. Filling a bucket of water and looking up at the sky, Bonnefoy's speaker finds it looks different than it had a moment before. The "deepest blackness" (I'm using Emily Grosholz's translation throughout) is marked only by the Milky Way, appearing as a "brazier from which a coil of smoke" rises, as remote as it is brilliant. I picture the small hibachi we used to cook on long after dark, or any bonfire, transferred to a vast realm.


Yves Bonnefoy ( translated by Emily Grosholz) HOPKINS FOREST I went outside To draw some water from the well, beside the trees, And I was in the presence of another sky. Gone the constellations of a moment before, Three quarters of the firmament were empty, The deepest blackness alone held sway there, Except that on the left, above the horizon, Mixed in the crown of trees, There was a mass of glowing stars Like a brazier, from which a coil of smoke rose. I went inside And re-opened the book upon the table. Page after page, There were only indecipherable signs, Aggregates of forms that made no sense Despite their vague recurrence, And underneath a whiteness, an abyss As if what we call spirit were falling there, Quietly, like snow. Nonetheless, I turned the pages. Many years before, On a train at dawn Between Princeton Junction and Newark, That’s to say, for me two accidental places, Where two arrows from nowhere happened t


Jami Macarty on birds, the colour yellow, and being and presence in poetry. Photo by Vincent K. Wong SUSAN GILLIS: What brought you to poetry -- or poetry to you? JAMI MACARTY: Wow! From my point of view, this is a rather deep, philosophical question. Who knows? What brings us to anything? Are we brought to things or do we bring things to us? Buddhist teachings would say that though it seems like things are coming to us, we are giving our attention to things. Ultimately, it’s a mystery, is it not? To play along, I’ll riff on some instances of people who “brought” poetry to me. Mrs. (Betty) Towle, my third grade teacher, required students to memorize and then recite a poem in class. I chose Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Time to Rise” from A Child’s Garden of Verses:            A birdie with a yellow bill            Hopped upon the window sill.            Cocked his shiny eye and said :           ‘Ain’t you ’shamed, you sleepy-head ?’ The quatrain’s last line


Tomas Tranströmer   FRÅN MARS – 79 Trött på alla som kommer med ord, ord men inget spark for jag till den snötäckta ön. Det vilda har inga ord. De oskrivna sidorna breder ut sig åt alla håll! Jag stöter på sparen av rådjursklövar i snön. Språk men inga ord. FROM MARCH OF '79 Tired of all who come with words, words but no language, I headed for the snow-covered island.  The wild has no words. Unwritten pages spread out in every direction! I come upon tracks of roe deer in the snow. Language but no words.  From Bright Scythe , translated by Patty Crane . By permission.  Image by Mirja Paljakka . By permission.