Wanda Coleman died on the twenty-second of November. I’d been introduced to her work roughly a year ago and hadn’t been able to let go of her long poem, “African Sleeping Sickness.” Some months ago I found her email address and contacted her. She gave me this stunning poem, which Asymptote published in its annual English Poetry Feature.
I knew Ms. Coleman had been ill, and you can find many instances of her thinking on her mortality in this poem:
My urine keeps getting darker, I must be passing.
But that very brief, personal admission is followed by a response—the poem is structured as a dialog—written in an entirely different register: a less inward-looking voice, a voice that opens out to a world of small, happy objects: a voice seeking, offering a sad pleasure, one could say.
Twenty-two cents, and a pack of mints
a rubber band and a paper clip.
Pass the bourbon and give it a kiss.
The title of the poem is “Tremors & Tempests: A Poetic Dialog.” The shaking, the sign of future destruction or pleasure, the barely perceptible movement, and the storm—that’s how I read it. And it’s a useful way to characterize the various natures of speech as well, or what are privately known quantities and what is gathered from public witnessing. Then, how these speak to each other.
I’ve also been thinking, via this poem, on the tension between the local and the international. Read More
Here is a list of translated books I am currently reading or have recently read or re-read or plan to read or have recently bought or plan to buy or have been thinking about for whatever reason. They are all excellent.
Samuel Beckett. The Unnameable. 1953. Translated from the French by the author. Grove Press, 1958.
Beckett, the great self-translator. I recently finished this, the third of the trilogy whose other two books are Molloy (1951) and Malone Dies (1951). The Unnameable is not surprisingly the most difficult of them all, but glorious. A thing to note: I have the Grove Press editions for all three of these, but for The Unnameable I was able to find one with the (above pictured) Roy Kuhlman cover. I will also say that my copy is less beat-up looking than the one above and at this moment there is a smug look on my face.
Inger Christensen. alphabet. 1981. Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied. New Directions, 2001.
Wow—is there any other way to describe this book? Read More