Friday 30 July 2010

Workshop poem by the Dutch poet J.C. Bloem - fifth draft


Ik heb van ’t leven vrijwel niets verwacht,
’t Geluk is nu eenmaal niet te achterhalen.
Wat geeft het? – In de koude voorjaarsnacht
Zingen de onsterfelijke nachtegalen.


Of life my expectations have been slight,
Joy’s just a thing to which we go on clinging.
What does it matter? – In the cold spring night
Once more the immortal nightingales are singing.

This is the second Bloem workshop poem. To see the first go to here, and the second here.

Friday 9 July 2010

Poem by the Swedish poet Hjalmar Gullberg

Jag trodde på en gud

Jag trodde på en gud men han visste det inte,
han fick aldrig veta att jag trodde på honom
ännu många år efter han var död.
Vid ingående förhör med mig om saken
blev jag upplyst om det verkliga förhållandet.
O slocknade stjärnors ljus som når försenat fram
till ögon i natten! Jag har skådat min gud
som han var i sin härlighet före katastrofen.
Han fick aldrig veta att jag trodde på honom
och att jag inte visste han var död.

I believed in a god

I believed in a god but he did not know it;
he never found out that I believed in him
even many years after he was dead.
On close interrogation with me on the matter
I was informed of the actual state of things.
Oh, light of extinguished stars that reaches
delayed the nighttime eye! I have viewed my god
as he was in his glory before the catastrophe.
He never found out that I believed in him
and that I did not know he was dead.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Poem by the Dutch writer René Puthaar


(after Mallarmé's 'Brise Marine')

The sailors are silent. Only the heart sings now.
Beneath the keel the deep reef calls, the mast is tall,
A zephyr softly strokes the ship’s deck and its prow;
No seaman’s grave is once more promised by some gale.
By hope so sorely vexed all human senses grow
Contrary now the flag flies from the harbour wall.

Farewell, exotic nature. Lower your anchor,
Steamer, homecoming draws near. See the people wave.
Nothing about the mother and her child has altered,
Nothing still guards from stories the empty page
When morning light pronounces doom on loneliness
And, capable of all questions, pulls up more weeds.
Waylaid the heart fast plummets, but with steely face.
Between the so familiar foam and sky I see
Birds, foolhardy, drunk, though almost home. Home ahead!
The flesh is sad, alas! and all the books are read.

(To see the original poem and Arthur Symon's translation, go to here)

Monday 5 July 2010

Poem by the Dutch writer Alfred Schaffer


At that time Superman was known as extremely friendly.
He would greet politely at the breakfast table,
pass the sugar when asked
        and enjoy the breathtaking panorama.
He would play old music when making decisions
and afterwards phone his mother.

Until the night the windows of his birthplace were smashed
his balloon face hung like a boy’s dream
        throughout the town.
He asked: take pity on my situation,
but had to wave his fists
                to keep people’s attention.

He became The Great Absentee. He would sneak in
        and sit on the back row of theatres
and roar for another encore, or grin for minutes on end
at women in the lift via mirrors
                and bide his time.

He has done marvels by leaning forward
        at unguarded moments
and whispering something into an ear,
by adding moustaches to unknown people’s photos
in the scrapbooks he took with him to auditions.

He could actually fly. Whenever he felt bored
he simply rented a couple of comic films.

Friday 2 July 2010

Poem by the Dutch writer Willem Jan Otten



His garden philosopher he called me,
but I was toothless and intrigued him
by being doting and untravelled.

I saw that something scared him,
hard to know precisely what, oh nonsense,
he said, and then I just let slip:

you fear the first of January.
What do you mean, he softly asked.
Eternal one, I said, a chance remark,

I spin on my own axis, while you move.


For a great conqueror time is
the forward downward thing,
the deep-descending chute where all

the realm collapses in a ceaseless fall.
Iskander was so right. Time only moves
in one direction. Shall. Shall.

But by the never-ending Royal Road,
at every hamlet’s edge there always stands,
just like a bar line in a music stave,

a mumbling philosopher like me, who waves
and tells Iskander: Your journey, that is me,
and I’ve a memory that’s pitiful,

not even you will I take to my grave.


There’s no direction and no downward path,
were there no toothless poet to be passed,
eternity is where the conqueror

without contrivance loses all his wits,
it’s just a flash, and then the sideways step,
the Mighty Will stills all his legions

and wipes the dotard drivel off my skin.