SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALEX BEN-ARI

alex-ben-ari


I ASK FORGIVENESS
By Alex Ben-Ari
Translated by Vivan Eden


I ask forgiveness of all the poems
Born misshapen because of my desire to write them
I ask forgiveness of all the people
Whose lives were disrupted by my desire to influence
And of the world
For the superfluous things added to it
And those unnecessarily severed
Because of my lust for symmetry
And happy endings.

I ask forgiveness of my mother
For not knowing how to love her in her misery
Of my children
For the moments when I don’t want them
Of my wife for every time I was too small
To contain her love.

I am lighter than a falling leaf
I am softer than grass
Now a small bird could
Build its nest in me.



Today’s poem originally appeared in Haaretz and appears here today with permission from both the poet and translator.


Alex Ben-Ari is 43 years old. His debut volume of poetry, Concealed Seas (Yamim Samuiim), was awarded honorable mention at the 2008 Metulla Poetry Festival and the 2015 Helicon/Ramy Ditzanny Poetry Prize. His second book, The Gatepost (Korat Hasha’ar), published in 2015, is composed of his original Hebrew haiku. His third book, planned to be published during 2017, is a volume of conceptual poetry.
Alex is one of the six members of the “Waning Moon” blog and publishing house dedicated to Haiku in Hebrew. He is also co-editor (with poets Gilad Meiri and Noa Shkargy) of Nanopoetica, a literary journal of short form literature.

Editor’s Note: Part personal, part pastoral, part ars poetica, today’s poem is emotive, honest, and raw. The poem’s I approaches the reader — and the page — seeking forgiveness. Free from false modesty, free from pride, the poem’s I is humble, admitting failings as poet and father, husband and son. The confessional, narrative nature of the poem is carefully constructed within the framework of the lyric, while the elegant, gentle translation midwives the essence of the poem as it crosses the borders of language. As the reader, we cannot help but be moved — to compassion, to transcendence, to forgiveness and beyond.

Want more from Alex Ben-Ari?
“Ripe Peach,” a poem from Concealed Seas (bi-lingual version)
Haiku poems from The Gatepost (bi-lingual)
Alex Ben-Ari’s official blog (Hebrew)
Ben-Ari lectures (in Hebrew) on music covers
Alex Ben-Ari on Twitter

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO MERMAID POEMS


792px-Elisabeth_Jerichau_Baumann_havfruen


Editor’s Note: In response to last week’s feature, Saturday Poetry Series favorites Erin Lyndal Martin and Elana Bell introduced me to two more fabulous mermaid poems. These poems have been swimming through my mind all week, and are too fantastic not to share. Get a taste here, then follow the links below to read each of these stunning poems in full.



from FABLE OF THE MERMAID AND THE DRUNKS
By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Paul Weinfield

But having come from the river, she understood nothing
She was a mermaid and was lost
Their insults flowed down her perfect, smooth flesh
Their filth enveloped her golden breasts
But not knowing tears, she did not weep tears


(Read the complete poem as translated by Paul Weinfield.)



from LATE SUNDAY MORNING
By Elana Bell

I kiss

the puckered lips, taste
ocean breath and remember

myself, slippery and long
under sun-slanted depths, swaying

to the whine of boats overhead.
I did not need you then, my scales

shining in their pristine sea.


(Read the entire poem in Winter Tangerine.)



Want to read more?
“Sunday Morning” in Winter Tangerine
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” as translated by Paul Weinfeild
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” in English and Spanish via Susan’s Place
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” on youtube, as read by Ethan Hawke



Today’s selections appear via Fair Use.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DES LIENS INVISIBLES, TENDUS / TAUT, INVISIBLE THREADS


Liens


From DES LIENS INVISIBLES, TENDUS / TAUT, INVISIBLE THREADS
Poems by Dara Barnat; Translations by Sabine Huynh:


A BRILLIANT FISH

We must choose each other
again and again.

The feeling is a brilliant fish
you catch a thousand times.

We must carry each other
like smooth stones
in the palms of our hands –

a familiar feel,
a roundness.


UN POISSON MOIRÉ

Un poisson moiré
Se choisir l’un l’autre, s’y reprendre
à plusieurs fois.

Cet émoi ressenti face à un poisson moiré
qu’on pourrait attraper des milliers de fois.

Transportons-nous
tels des galets lisses
dans le creux de la paume –

toucher familier,
rondeur.



GROWING VEGETABLES

Her wide hips remind me
that I was born,
because in photos at twenty
they are still narrow
and slim.

Bending over
and planting roses
she gathers immense joy
from the dirty pebbles
and the new petals.

I hold her basket
like a daughter should
and almost pretend
to smile and be grateful
for the fresh, ripened tomatoes.

Is it with age
that happiness can be found
in growing mint
and drinking ice water
that has collected tiny bugs?

My mother shares soap
with a man who is not my father
but a good man,
waiting inside
to make our sauce.

The basket is now full
and since her joy
takes up the whole garden
there is no room
for my joy.

But she says daughter,
you will have your own life,
and your own garden,
just pray for rain,
and grow your vegetables.


CULTIVER SON POTAGER

Ses hanches généreuses
me rappellent ma naissance
– dans des photos d’elle à vingt ans
elles sont encore étroites
elle est encore mince.

Penchée
sur les roses mises en terre
elle recueille une joie immense
des cailloux sales
et des jeunes pétales.

Je lui tiens son panier
telle une fille dévouée
et réussis presque
à sourire de gratitude
pour ces tomates mûres.

Est-ce avec l’âge
que l’on trouve du bonheur
à faire pousser de la menthe
à boire de l’eau glacée
où surnagent des petites bêtes?

Ma mère partage son savon
avec un homme qui n’est pas
mon père, un homme bon,
il attend à l’intérieur
de préparer notre sauce.

Le panier est plein
la joie de ma mère
remplit le jardin
plus de place
pour la mienne.

Alors elle me dit : tu sais ma fille,
tu auras ta propre vie
et ton propre jardin,
prie pour qu’il pleuve
et cultive ton potager.



PRAYER I DO NOT KNOW

No one is here, just me,
alone. I close

my eyes and try
to remember your face,

its light, your
fingers, their light

touch, your laugh,
the lightness. I recite a prayer

that is my own:
May we live

a thousand years together
in another life.


PRIÈRE OBSCURE

Comment prier
pour toi ? Personne

ici, moi
seule. Je ferme

les yeux, tente de voir
ton visage,

sa lumière, tes doigts,
l’affleurement,

ton rire,
la légèreté. Je récite une prière

qui est mienne:
Puissions-nous vivre

mille ans ensemble
dans une autre vie.


Today’s poems are from Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads, published by Recours au poème éditeurs (2014), and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads is a bilingual collection of poems by the American poet Dara Barnat, translated to French by Sabine Huynh. Dara Barnat explores migration (between New York, where she was raised, and Tel Aviv, her adopted city), the experience of being an English-language poet in Tel Aviv, intimate familial relationships, her father’s long illness and passing, as well as secrets, history, and memory. Loss is certainly at the core of the poems; although she succeeds in guiding her readers to comfort, even joy, with wisdom she has learned from enduring grief. In the last poem of the book, the speaker addresses her father in the afterlife, and they are both happy to be “alive.” This exhilarating vision demonstrates how Walt Whitman informs the poet’s elegies. She imagines herself walking down the street with Whitman. It is also not surprising to encounter Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, since the power of Dara Barnat’s poetry resides in its capacity to observe our solitude with grace and honesty.


Dara Barnat was born in 1979. Her poetry appears widely in journals in the United States and Israel. She is the author of the chapbook Headwind Migration (2009), as well as poetry translations and scholarly essays. Dara holds a Ph.D. from the School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University. Her dissertation explored Walt Whitman’s influence on Jewish American poetics. She teaches poetry and creative writing.


Sabine Huynh was born in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), has authored poetry and prose books (novel, short stories, academic book, literary essay, diary), and has edited an anthology of modern French poetry, which were published by Galaade Editions, Voix d’encre, La Porte, éditions publie.net, Recours au poème éditeurs, E-Fractions Editions, among other French publishers. She writes in English and French, translates daily, occasionally teaches creative writing classes, and regularly contributes to the French literary journals Terre à ciel, Terres de femmes, and Recours au poème. Her website: http://www.sabinehuynh.com


Editor’s Note: The opening poem in Dara Barnat’s debut collection begins, “Please know that taut, / invisible threads / tethered us / to those years.” Threads that bind the speaker to mother and home, to father and illness, to time, to what comes into being and what inevitably slips away. And so Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads invites us into a deeply personal yet resonant world of life and death, love and loss, relationship and the human experience.

Nestled within the honest, reflective, beautiful lyric of these poems are the moments poetry was made for: “maybe / we should part now, because oceans / dry up in time, / even the whitest bones / turn to ash.” Equally powerful are so many of the poems’ closing stanzas and end-lines: “daughter, / you will have your own life, / and your own garden, / just pray for rain, and grow your vegetables;” “May we live // a thousand years together / in another life.”

Throughout the book we are welcomed into a private, sacred space. Into kitchens and gardens, hospitals and homelands. We are invited to bake bread and receive intimate moments like sacrament. Crossing the wide span between memory and horizon, Taut, Invisible Threads is like a migrating bird that “fights the seasons, / and lands wherever / there are seeds, / water, and soft earth, // until it arrives.”

I wish that I were well-versed in French and thereby able to comment on the translations by Sabine Huynh housed within this moving bilingual collection. Falling far short of that wish, I can only say that I have had the pleasure of hearing the translator read some of her poetry translations aloud in French, and it was a transformative experience. Her voice is emboldened by its quiet humility, and the passion she has for translation is well-known amongst the numerous writers who seek to have their work translated by this gifted writer and translator.

I have had the pleasure of featuring both Dara Barnat and Sabine Huynh on this series, and am thrilled to see these two incredibly talented writers and translators brought together in one stunning collection. This book—and this collaboration—is a gift to the poetry world that should be read, shared, and celebrated.


Want to see more by Dara Barnat?
Buy Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads from Recours au poème éditeurs
Dara Barnat’s Official Website
Dara Barnat’s Official Blog
“At Least Forward Now” in Haaretz

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE SONG OF SONGS

739px-Song_of_solomonDepiction of Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter reciting the Song of Solomon.
This image is in the public domain.


From THE SONG OF SONGS
From the Hebrew Bible

I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples;
for I am sick with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the hinds of the field,
that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle,
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is comely.
Catch us the foxes,
the little foxes,
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”

My beloved is mine and I am his,
he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle,
or a young stag upon rugged mountains.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


The Song of Songs, also known as the “Song of Solomon” or “Canticles,” is one of the megillot (scrolls) found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim (or “Writings”), a book of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel; instead, it seems to celebrate sexual love. It gives “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy.” The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy. (Annotated biography of King Solomon courtesy of Wikipedia.org, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Saturday Poetry Series offers you a good old fashioned love poem, emphasis on the old. An anomaly among the fire and brimstone, monotheistic propaganda, and general prescription of the Bible, the illicit sexual nature and unbridled romance of The Song of Songs has baffled scholars for centuries. Believed to have been written some time between the tenth and second centuries BCE, there is no authoritative agreement regarding the poem’s authorship, inception, or setting. The subject matter of the poem itself has long been heatedly debated, with some scholars embracing the titillating nature of this epic poem, while others insist it is a metaphor for man’s love of God. While its milder language is often quoted in the context of weddings, showcasing a true love with ancient roots, when one sits down and reads this masterpiece from beginning to end—with eyes wide open—they encounter a hot and steamy poem that gives Fifty Shades of Grey a real run for its money.

Want to read more about Biblical poetry?
Wikipedia

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GILI HAIMOVICH

gili photo by rob kenter

By Gili Haimovich:

*

My Hebrew is going to get hurt.
So how will she continue to adorn me?
Through my attachment to her
she multiplies,
as if allowing me more time to lament.

*

הָעִבְרִית שֶׁלִּי תֵּכֶף תִּפָּצַע
?אָז אֵיךְ תַּמְשִׁיךְ לְיַפּוֹת אוֹתִי
דֶּרֶךְ הַהִקָּשְׁרוּת שֶׁלִּי אֵלֶיהָ
הִיא הוֹלֶכֶת וּמִתְרַבָּה
.כְּמוֹ לְהַסְפִּיק שֶׁאַסְפּיד יוֹתֵר

Translated from Hebrew by Dara Barnat. Poem originally appeared via The Bakery and appears here today with permission from the poet.


The Dragonfly

I’m ashamed to say it but
The wings of the dragonfly I was
Were made of glass.
Her delicate but roachy body buzzed
In a pleasant yet mechanical way.

I’m ashamed to look at her because I believe it’s still possible
to see her there.
Between you and me,
what blew her cover were the wings attached to her small body
not the bolt,
but the usual flesh and bones and muscles
flapping with the energy of a female.

Poem originally appeared in Recours au Poeme and ARC and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Gili Haimovich is an internationally published poet and translator. In North America she had published the chapbook Living on a Blank Page (Blue Angel Press 2009) and in Hebrew she has four volumes of poetry. Her work appears or are forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies such as: The International Poetry Review, LRC – The Literary Review of Canada, TOK1: Writing the New Toronto, Asymptote, Ezra Magazine, Lilith, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, Cahoots Magazine, Stellar Showcase Journal, Women in Judaism, Recours au Poème (English and Hebrew with French translations) and The Bakery as well as Israeli ones. Gili also works as a Writing Focused Expressive Arts therapist, educator and workshops facilitator.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are the closing of a circle. There is no longer beginning or end, only the far reaches, the impact, the power of poetry. What began with my featuring Dara Barnat’s poem “Walt Whitman” became a magic carpet ride within the Holy Land and its many languages. During my sabbatical in Israel I featured so many amazing poets and translators on this series, and now that I have returned to more familiar pastures I am paying homage to all of them with today’s entry. This will not be the last time I feature Hebrew writers in translation or English writers living in Israel, but it is a bookend on a time and a place that forever changed me and for which I am forever grateful. If I am afraid that “my Hebrew is going to get hurt,” I trust that the amazing poets I have shared here with you throughout my journey will work like invisible threads binding me to a language and a country, always.

Want to read more by and about Gili Haimovich?
PoetryOn
Recours au Poem
Asymptote
The Bakery

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JOAN PRUSKY GLASS

Front Camera

THE BATHING SCENE FROM MARGUERITE DURAS’S THE LOVER
By Joan Prusky Glass

“Very early in my life it was too late.”
                          – M. Duras, The Lover

I read The Lover when I was fifteen.
The girl’s red doll lips became my own.
The power she had over
the Chinese man mine too.
His weakness became fuel
for a journey I was preparing for.
I needed him and despised him
before I knew why.

There is a scene in which
the man, on his knees,
bathes the girl’s slender body,
barely pubescent.
She looks down at him coolly,
braids hanging over her shoulders.
Immodest on purpose.

The lover draws a washcloth
across her hips tenderly,
with grief in his eyes.
Perhaps he is trying to wash
away the power he gave her.

She notices him loving her
the way you might notice
a penny tossed into the well
when your pockets
are filled to the brim.

(Today’s poem originally appeared in TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Joan Prusky Glass lives with her husband and three children in Derby, Connecticut. She is an educator and child advocate by profession. Her poetry has been published or is upcoming in Decades Review, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, Bone Parade, Milk Sugar, Harpweaver, Pyrokinection, Literary Mama, University of Albany’s Offcourse, The Rampallian, Visceral Uterus, Up the River, Haggard & Halloo, vis a tergo and Smith College Alumnae Quarterly among others.

Editor’s Note: What draws us into today’s piece, and what makes us resist against it? Where does the reader’s experience end and the poet’s begin? Where does the poet dissolve into the girl; where does the girl begin and her author end? Is today’s feature about power? Scandal? Sex? Love?

Today Joan Prusky Glass blurs the lines between perception and art, between experience and literature, between revulsion and beauty. The poet paints a watercolor of words, one vivid pigment bleeding into the next, so that we are both moved and unsteady. We are left not knowing where we stand; unsure of the medium, of the players, of ourselves.

Want to read more by and about Joan Prusky Glass?
“Inanimate Objects,” Bone Parade
Three poems, Offcourse
“Boredom Never Killed Anyone,” Visceral Uterus
“On the Death of a Neighbor,” Haggard and Halloo
“The Poet as a Young Girl,” Decades Review

A Review of Magnolia & Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim

magnolia-lotusA Review of Magnolia & Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim, translated by Ian Haight and T’ae-Yŏng Hŏ

By J. Andrew Goodman

Admittedly, I had to read Magnolia and Lotus a number of times before I could appreciate its depth. Some poems are rigid; others are didactic or produce moral puzzles; some poems are merely observations of nature or human experience. Most, however, are evocative or clever in their explorations of human thought and playful in their allegories. Hyesim is a natural observer and an endearing persona. His life is an interesting one.

Hyesim (1178-1234) is the first Sŏn Buddhist Master dedicated to poetry. Sŏn Buddhism is the Korean equivalent of Zen Buddhism in Japan—both forms originated from the same Ch’an Buddhism tradition in China. And, like most poetry written in this tradition, the world is distilled through a tonal distance. Mood appears by observing nature or its juxtaposition with the ravages and delights of human experience. As Ian Haight says of Sŏn Buddhism in the introduction, nature is not an object, but an ideal.

In “Plantain,” Hyesim is imaginative in describing an aspect of nature: A plantain is an unlit/green candle of beeswax//the spread leaves, a vernal coat’s sleeves/desiring to dance.//I see this image in my intoxicated eyes/though the plantain itself//is better/than my comparisons.

The fruit is beautifully rendered here in simile and apt metaphor. In the second stanza, it is personified. In the final stanza, Hyesim acknowledges his limitations to describe the fruit completely. The inability of language to describe absolutely is another aspect of Sŏn Buddhism, and seemingly an exercise in Platonic forms. Magnolia and Lotus is replete with such poems.

“Instead of Heaven and Earth, I Answer” is another example of linguistic exploration and the human mind’s capacity for description. Hyesim recognizes the myriad distinctions a person may observe in an object, then asks in the poem’s final lines:

if one abandons this discriminating mind
what forms of matter are unique?

Nature provides the epistemological truths people should strive to learn. Such realizations lead to enlightenment and transcendence. As Sŏn Buddhists believe in “sudden enlightenment,” it is no surprise to see such didactic poems written in simple verse. The poem is expansive because so much depends on the reader’s thoughtfulness.

These poems feel like anecdotal lectures that may only interest readers who enjoy cerebral foreplay. Other poems intimate Hyesim’s life and a wider gamut of readers will find those more accessible and enjoyable.

In the collection’s introduction, readers are given Hyesim’s biography in short detail. Its brevity owes to little information about Hyesim’s personal life; the book’s translator, Ian Haight, even claims that arranging this collection as a chronicle of Hyesim’s life is presumptuous. What I find most interesting in Hyesim’s biography is his determination to become a monk, though his mother disapproved—his father died when Hyesim was still young. At his mother’s request, he entered the National Academy to prepare for government service. When his mother died and he had no other familial obligations, Hyesim immediately left school to become a monk novitiate.

Hyesim’s own life seemed analogous to Sŏn Buddhist teachings. To achieve enlightenment and to cultivate the mind through self-discipline and abstaining from desire, there is certainly some ambition in the quest. Hyesim proved it could be obtained with humility—he famously refused titles, promotions, and tried to refuse royal gifts—but he seemed to always desire self-improvement toward a more natural ideal. Sŏn Buddhists believe all humans are a part of the Buddha-mind. The Buddha-mind assumes a type of objectivity through which to view humanity and likely accounts for Hyesim’s ease at writing witty, quixotic, and insightful poetry.

In the poem, “Patiently Dreaming, a Buddhist Layman Asks for a Poem About the Pasture Cow,” Hyesim slyly acknowledges the distance between a liberated Buddhist mind and those who do not seek enlightenment, while also addressing the effects of humanity’s exertion of power over nature.

Put to pasture on a family’s field,
a cow watches other cows drink water.
Sometimes this cow tries to eat a little grass—
held by a nose ring, her head cannot move.
As days pass, the cow grows accustomed to this—
after years, the cow accepts it as natural.
In an eternity, the cow never yearns for freedom—
how many years does it take to accept the habit of a yoke?

One wonderful quality about Hyesim’s poetry is its timelessness. Magnolia and Lotus is a collection of poetry written approximately eight centuries ago. Still, Hyesim is thought-provoking. His commentary on nature resounds as a quality of human nature in spite of their sometimes symbiotic relationship. His poetry contributes to modern rallies for human equality and liberation from consumerism. Haight’s translation recovers a unique Korean voice, often overlooked among other Buddhist poets and scholars. Hyesim’s voice is a refreshing one, minding new readers that transcendence is humanly possible. Our only obligation is to watch and to listen.

Magnolia & Lotus: Selected Poems of HyesimTranslated by Ian Haight and T’ae-Yŏng Hŏ. White Pine Press, 2012: $16.00

***

J. Andrew Goodman is a recent MFA graduate from Murray State University and an intern for the independent literary publisher, White Pine Press. He currently lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky.