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: 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

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

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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.