Monday 27 November 2017

Friday 24 November 2017

Friday 17 November 2017

Two poems by Ronelda S. Kamfer


all i wanted to retain
was the blue of the sea
the green of winter
the yellow of the sun
the distance of the moon
the water of rain
the sound of the wind
my place behind mother’s back

Worse things than alone

when the fruit  was harvested
and the countryside dry and meagre
when the ground was good
and the summer sun burnt
you sweet and tough
there was always a tree that
grew out of season

my grandpa said
we call it jealousy
for it grows in the emptiest garden
it bears the loveliest fruit
and gets the most sun

To see the original poems in Afrikaans, go to here

Friday 10 November 2017

Two lovely stanzas from Harry Martinson's 'Aniara'

Jag skall berätta vad jag hört om glas
och då skall ni förstå. I varje glas
som står tillräckligt länge oberört
förflyttas glasets blåsa efterhand
oändligt sakta mot en annan punkt
i glasets kropp och efter tusen år
har blåsan gjort en resa i sitt glas.

På samma sätt i en oändlig rymd
där svalg av ljusårs djup sin välvning slår
kring blåsan Aniara där hon går.
Ty fastän farten som hon gör är stor
och mycket högre än en snabb planets
är hennes hastighet med rymdmått sedd
på pricken svarande mot den vi vet
att blåsan gör i denna skål av glas. (...)

I’ll tell you what I’ve heard concerning glass
and then you’ll understand. In any glass
that can remain untouched for long enough
the bubble in the glass will by degrees
move infinitely slowly to a point
elsewhere within the glass and will complete
this journey first after a thousand years.

It’s likewise in a space that’s infinite
where light-years’ deep abyss throws up its vault
round Aniara’s bubble as she moves.
For though the speed she travels at is great
far swifter than a rapid planet’s course
in terms of space velocities it would
exactly correspond to that we know
the bubble moves at in this bowl of glass. (...)

Thursday 9 November 2017

'The Stones of Venice' - cycle of poems by the Dutch poet Gerrit Komrij


pale oarsman on his way to the city

You saw a rowboat coming from the Lido.
The oarsman’s rudder was a stave of glass;
His oars two stockfish; burly of frame he seemed to
You, through sluggish strokes, to hint of tenderness.

His countenance was pearly in its sheen.
His eyes like phantoms gazed towards the mainland,
His lips were trembling wordlessly. He seemed
Entranced, enraptured by what flimsy dreamland?

You studied him from the Campanile through
Opera glasses - caught your breath, when, pale as
Marble, he hauled his bulk up on the near-shore.

You saw him toil. His movements now appeared more
Jerky, till he began to come apart, to
Crumble into blackish, repulsive pieces.

the labyrinth

We found out in the Calle delle Case
Nove we could go no further, admitted
We’d lost our way. Oh dear, we were now facing
3am plus. Above, the stars acquitted

Themselves, in quite unmatched magnificence, of
All their accepted, decorative duties.
We could but praise the light they shed - the sense of
Place their beacon gave, alas, was muted.

At quickened pace we hurried back, through all
Those alleys, lanes, those passages and byways -
Meeting no living soul in all the tried ways -

Faster we went, still faster, glimpsing all
At once a bridge we thought we could recall!
Thank God! we cried, collapsing gently sideways.

the dream of a village lad

The quays, I know them all now, the alleyways
And the Palazzos. Makes me feel real warm.
I’ve left my heart behind here, lots of places,
(And on the Academy bridge my arm,

The Rialto my kidney. And my liver -
Left at the Arsenale I recall.)
Oh, Venice as a city can deliver...
Though it’s a peep-show and a magic-hall.

Here you can snuff it in the poshest style
In some old locked-up mansion stuffed with riches,
Even a swindler needn’t feel a heel.

Oh, on my exit, hope you’ll stand awhile
On one of the huge Grand Canal’s fine bridges
And watch me gliding past just like an eel.

chinese lanterns and festoons

On board a ceremonious, decked-out sloop
They passed the rows of undermined old houses.
And from the formerly well-trodden stoop
The one-time water-pipes stuck out like hoses.

They proudly passed through locks in need of pitching.
We’re putting out to sea, they sang aloud.
Their jerkins were embroidered with gold stitching
From the caboose their emerald swelled out.

The smoke still came from the now distant housing
Dead sand was swirling in the gutter-drain.
Upon the water old stoves drifted, drowsing,

Though all was miles behind their craft’s long train.
No sooner did they hear the sea carousing
Than they sank too. Like someone with no brain.

the city

Here dead birds roam, above the towers the grandees
From times so long since flown are gently floating,
The graveyards now are higher than the Andes!
Quiet, laddie, quiet. (Calm down.) This is worth noting.

You can of course remember the first hour
That we were here? The square becoming round,
The footman emperor, the water fire,
The sun a leper and the club-foot sound?

(Keep quiet, calm down: it’s only poetry,
It’s only turns of phrase.) But ow! That roar
Of the dead in the water, listen, more,

Listen how your entire life is in touch
With everything that hankers back to such,
And not with god-knows-what or he-or-she.

the stench

Today the stench was really twice as bad.
From every chink thick smoke rose to the sky
That almost made you gag. The dregs that had
Come gurgling upwards looked like bile or lye.

And from the rebates percolated gas.
You asked the gondolier to move on faster.
You saw in houses cracks in walls and plaster
And how the paint was peeling off en masse.

‘Hurry, please, hurry!’ You would bear no more
That canal sewer full of slurry, slime,
And sought Palladio’s cathedral door.

But you were stuck there in the leaden sump
At the palace of Peggy Guggenheim,
That old, decrepit, vulgar Yankee frump.

in the night

The street musicians on San Marco square
Departed at the signal from the two Moors.
You scarcely heard, borne on the distant air,
Their chorus’ and the clock-tower’s final tremors.

Over the stones there scurried scraps of paper.
In some quiet gallery you sat, unseen.
The lights that first had been the square’s slim tapers
Went out. Only the cobbles softly gleamed.

Then all at once the Sirens were heard singing.
So rare. So high. The setts danced to a samba.
A pinnacle collapsed. The Moors were floored.

The waves slapped round your legs, now gently stinging,
The Sirens shrieked and whistled round the ramparts,
From the basilica a fire-gush roared.