The VII World Festival of Poetry "The emigrated Lyra-2015" is held in Paris, Brussels and Liège. I was invited to read in Liège. Poems in Russian, Oekranian, French, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Arabic. Al the poems of each participant ( we were 20 poets) were translated into French and Russian and published in a book with all the poets in alphabetical order. Of course there is also a real constellation of the Lyra. It can be found between Hercules and the Swan. So we were all between heaven and earth. People came from far away: from Australia, from the USA... Each read in his/her mother tongue with the projection of the translation in French and Russian on a screen behind the reader. Two friends of mine, members of PEN-Flanders were there. Actually, it was Alhadi who had to flee from Sudan who had proposed me to the organizers and his buddy Kaptue from Cameroon of course was there too. They both are incredible performers. Alhadi reads in long drawn sounds in Arabic, moving his right arm and hand to stress the fact that one is reading a story, a poem, and telling it so all can see and hear it. Kaptue reads differently, rawer, he tells the story of what happened in Cameroon and having to flee he reeds as a protest, and seeing the poem one understands his feelings. Fred Schywek took a lot of pictures of the event. Clicking on this link will give you a good idea of the diversity in languages and nationalities. The event brought poets together and any time people are brought together and work together that is a great thing. I want to make a special mention of the interpreter Valéry Dvoinikov for his ease and and pleasant interpretations of the languages needed.
Proofreading the translation of the Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola is as big an adventure as the translation itself. Frank De Vos was the first to make time for me and to date we have gone through the 17 first poems. Four more hours of hard work will be added this afternoon. Frank questions a lot of things in the text: for instance, in the original are quite a lot scientific terms. In English that is no problem because it stems directly from the Latin root. In Dutch one could keep the Latin word, but since the text of Sahara Testaments has a lot of names of city's, rulers, landscape elements which are typical African, and all the terms derived from Latin would make it hard for a dutch lover of poetry to read the text. So I have been checking on the right Dutch scientific terminology for these words. What do I mean? 'Onomastic totems' is a word or word combination most Dutch speaking readers would have to look up and seen the richness of Tade's language, they probably wouldn't bother to go and look it up, so I looked these kinds of words up for them and then it becomes 'naamkundige totems' and within the context it becomes clear that it is the place where all the names have been brought together so they wouldn't get lost...
An other example is 'constellation'. We have 'constellatie' but also a real dutch word 'gesternte' which would sound more familiar and to boot is a beautiful word. Here you see two different handwritings in and around the text... while proofreading.
I got to know of and know Robert Hershon because I had
fallen for a poetry book by Sherman Alexie published by Robert Hershon’s
Hanging Loose Press and doing what I do I had started translating some of the
poems of‘First Indian On the Moon’ while
in Chloride, Arizona. A coincidence was that I visited two friends living on
Staten Island on my way from Chloride, Arizona back to Antwerp Belgium. They
gave me a tour of New York. So I had made an appointment to go to Varickstreet,
Manhattan to meet with the publisher of the book. I showed up and we went out
for a cup of coffee. The conversation flowed easily, I saw a sharp and funny,
intelligent and kind man, taking care of Hanging Loose Press, and a great poet
in his own right. They published not only now famous poets like Sherman Alexie,
Harvey Shapiro, Paul Violi and more… (It is not always easy to follow the
contemporary poetry scene from Europe.) Hanging Loose also produced a magazine
with the same title. Robert Hershon, doesn’t do this all by himself, originally
there were four editors, none taking a salary for their work. I have six issues
of the magazine in Europe. The first thing is the visual impact through the
care given to the cover, happy, colorful, strikingly beautiful artwork: some
names dropping starting with issue 93: George Green, Dick Lourie, Robert
Hershon, Hal Sirowitz (former poet laureate of Queens, N.Y.) Marc Staman, Joan
Larkin, Stephen Lewandowski, Anne Waldman, Breyten Breytenbach, Sherman Alexie,
Donna Brook, Kimiko Hahn and in each issue also a section with ‘writers of high
school age’ a really interesting feature encouraging young authors.
Robert Hershon, with 13 poetry books out now, was kind
enough to mail me his two latest books of his own:
The German Lunatic (2000) and
Calls from the outside world (2006)
Both books contain wonderful, often funny musings stemming
from a wry profoundness. A few e-mails and once in a while a telephone call
have let me stay in touch. So I learned from “The German Lunatic” (2000) of his
love for baseball, a love shared by Sherman Alexie. Luckily I have two baseball
fanatic friends who come and stay the winters in Chloride. Coop and Irene have
done their utmost best to initiate into the rules of baseball. I now understand
the terminology and begin to appreciate the belly cramps at the ninth inning. I
took it upon me to translate this section from ‘The German Lunatic”…
The presentation date for the Sherman Alexie translation “On
the Backs of Salmon’ is October 2nd,, , 2015 in the beautiful “Black
Panter Gallery”, in Antwerp. This book isn’t the only one being presented: also
a translation by Lucienne Stassaert of a book of poetry by Libanese Andrée
Chédid. We will introduce each other. No learned professors, just the work we
did. Her book is called (in Dutch) Existing
is a blessing for me. Of course there will be a party afterwards.
Having worked as an interpreter for the European Parliament I have wondered how a Romanian colleague would deal with a Finnish speaker or how a Portuguese interpreter would get the intention of the Hungarian speaker.
It is not about the words flipping them into the target language so that the words would be understandable. Rather in immersing oneself in a language one can grasp the strangeness of the other's circumstances and maybe understand the different cultural contexts, religious concepts and also every thing pertaining to daily and ceremonial life, to the daily hardships and joys. I have translated quite a lot of poetry by Modern Native Americans: Sherman Alexie's translation will be presented October 2nd in Antwerp. Sherman Alexie is Spokane/Coeur D'Alene Indian. His work is modern and deep, funny and ruthlessly honest. He uses irony and old cultural elements. He is a trickster who will confuse you and make you wonder and fill your heart with joy. He writes about pain in his unique way. He is a poet who challenges the translator, using among other techniques Fibonacci series in his rhymes, in another poem he has always the same end rhyme... Impossible in the target language. His world view, his translation of himself in his unique way is quite a gift. I hope the reader will enjoy his work 'On the backs of salmon' the metaphor I use for this translation. I hope you will be deeply touched by Sherman Alixie's poems I have chosen from his four first poetry books, published by Robert Hershon soul and body of Hanging Loose Press. A click on the image will enlarge it, so you can see the beauty of the books.
Sherman Alexie's books in Chronological order:
The Business of Fancydancing, Hanging Loose Press, 1992
First Indian On the Moon, Hanging Loose Press, 1993
The Summer of Black Widows, Hanging Loose Press, 1996
One Stick Song, Hanging Loose Press, 2000
On August 27 Zwanenzang/Swansong by Rose Vandewalle with my English translation will be presented in literary Café Den Hopsack. Jean De Mey will take care of the music in his unique and wonderful way.
On August 28 however there will be a poetry event near the Ruhr estuary in Duisburg where Ruhr and Rhine mix their waters. The reading will start at 8 PM in 'ruhr art gallery' on the 'leinpfad'. I love that area with the boats, the wind over the water and the mix of people like one encounters in any harbor town...
A few people will read, organizer Fred Schywek, myself and hopefully also Annie Reniers will be able to make it. She then would read from 'Buitenholten' (Outer cavities) and Fred Schywek would read his excellent translation of this highly philosophical work by Annie. He will perform a critical reading of a poem by Thomas Kling, a young poet who died 10 years ago.
I'll be reading some of my own poems and poetry by Native American authors, for sure there will be read a few poems written by Sherman Alexie. The presentation of the bilingual book 'Over the backs of salmon/ Over ruggen van zalmen' will be on October 2nd, 2015, 8 PM in the Black Panter Gallery in Antwerp, Lucienne Stassaert will introduce the book and I'll comment on her translation from French by Andrée Chedid. So a lot of fun and beauty awaits us all in the next few months.
Years ago I was asked about the Navajo Hopi land dispute. Since I had worked years before (I think in 1979) for free in a conference about returning the indigenous lands to the native people, I had very good documentation about several issues. It was a wonderful experience, and I thought it was high time to finally share the English text with you all. A few days ago fine combed the text, hopefully having left no mistakes or extra empty spaces behind.
Today's work was to get bibliography right. I am quite pleased with myself to have finished the job. Rereading the long list with wonderful books a joy by itself.
By the way I added a short list of some of my favorite Native American authors....
Alexie, Sherman, all his novels and poetry (He won the PEN-Faulkner award)
Bird, Gloria, prose and poetry
Boyne, Grace, poetry
Erdrich, Louise, her novels
Harjo, Joy her poetry and other work
Kingsolver, Barbara, her novels and High Tide in Tucson
Least Heat-Moon: Blue Highways and Prairy Erth
Marmon Silko, Leslie, Ceremony, her novels and poetry
Maurice, Kenny, his poetry
Momaday, Scott, everything
Moore, MariJo, her poetry
Rose, Wendy, her poetry: Lost Copper, Academic Squaw, Bone
Simon, J. Ortiz his poetry
Tapahonso, Lucy, her poetry
Tohe, Laura her poetry (No Parole today)
Welch, James, his novels
Of course my thoughts go out to Leonard Peltier, poet and political prisoner
He died, no he committed suicide when he was 46. I am now 68 and stumbled upon his writing. I am an avid reader, read all kinds of things and thinner books usually find a place in my purse to read in any forlorn moment. Now I just bough two of his books (the bookshop in Antwerp only had two of his books) on offer and I went home with Infinite Jest, 1000 pages plus and 93 pages of annotations and the Pale King. No way to carry the book in a regular purse. When I started I was wondering about whether I could read it all without getting bored, uninterested or disgruntled... I soon discovered that this was writing like I had never read:rich, long winded, interesting all about the young peoples at a sports college. The language sings, the fumes of pot almost waft off the page. The words will run away from you, will crowd you, will make you smile... Of course this is a book to be read as a young adult struggling with all that goes on in life. Yet the beauty will floor you at times:
That cockroaches can, up to a certain point, be lived with. That "acceptance" is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else. That different people have radically different ideas of basic personal hygiene. That it is permissible to want. That everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. That this isn't necessary perverse. That there might not, but there are people who might as well be angels.
David Foster Wallace grew up in Illinois. He studied at Amherst, he suffered severe depressions. He wrote a short story about the 1983 episode. The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing." which was published in the Amherst review. Trillaphon is an anti-pychotic medication...
If it looks difficult, think of the education you'll get reading his work: the taste and smell of a time of growing up as Generation X in the USA.