Mortal, think: what’s under a charnel’s lid:
a worm-bitten corpse, bare of nerve and
bare of flesh, whose naked bones, undone
and stripped of pulp, their swivels quit:
here, out of putrefaction, falls a hand,
and there, turning inside out, the eyes
distill into phlegm, and varied muscles,
for gluttonous worms, become some grassy land:
the torn-up belly blaring with stink
infects the nearby air with a foul stench,
and the half-gnawed nose deforms the face;
Jean-Baptiste Chassignet (1594)
This poem forewords Tali’s story of the death of a brother. The book describes the decomposition of the brother’s body upon death, and also its ruination by drug addiction and AIDS when alive. Chassignet’s baroque sonnet is thus very apt. Tali presents it incomplete—fragmented—as is the body, the narrative, elegy. You can read the entire poem, in French, here.
The translation of the poem is mine.
You can buy this book from Action Books or SPD.
Bref, I read a lot of poetry translated from German and a lot of nonfiction translated from French. This is not very shocking. Much of my non-book reading happened at Asymptote: this reading (plus editing) is far more diverse and includes work by poets like Vicente Huidobro (Chile), Jan Dammu (Iraq), and writers who push at the limits of what translation means (the Special Feature in our January issue). One of my favorite pieces of this latter sort is Bronwyn Haslam’s anagrammatic translations of Nicole Brossard’s poetry (“Soft Links” becomes “Silk Fonts,” for example):
It’s nouns that gulp fire and life, one can’t tell if they’re Latin, French, Urdu, Veda, Cree, Mandarin, Aleut, Creole, Basque, English, secrete a number, deed, quorum, animal or accelerate old anxieties eddying before us in doubled somber contours full of luster and immense legends.
I also got to collaborate with my friend Michael Joseph Walsh to put together a different sort of experimental translation portfolio for Denver Quarterly 50.4 I have a few extra copies and would be happy to mail them to anyone interested (or you can subscribe). Joshua Ware’s visual translations of Celan appear as an online supplement to this portfolio here.
Photographs by Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault
For some years now I’ve been obsessed with a film by Yvon Marciano called Le cri de la soie (1996), which fictionalizes the life of pioneer psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. This year I read two texts relevant to this film, de Clérambault’s case studies of women who developed an unusual sexual “passion” for silk and other textiles: Passion érotique des étoffes chez la femme (1908) and its suite (1910). Read More