Tuesday 30 January 2018

Hölderlin: 'Das Angenehme dieser Welt...' in English (REVISED)

Das Angenehme dieser Welt hab’ ich genossen,
Die Jugendstunden sind, wie lang! wie lang! verflossen,
April und Mai und Julius sind ferne,
Ich bin nichts mehr, ich lebe nicht mehr gerne!

World’s pleasures I enjoyed from first to last,
My youthful days, long gone! long gone! are past,
April May and July lie far away,
I’m nothing more, have no more wish to stay!

Revised translation 05.02.18

Thursday 25 January 2018


the spoons

The Galway pub was shaped like two boxes put together – a squarish first one on entering from the street, the bar on the right, and a narrower, elongated one further back, flush with the right-hand wall behind the bar. The pub was gradually filling up – already installed at the bar was an old man in a nondescript brown raincoat, almost completely bald but for a wash of white round the back, as if the tide had come in and stopped there, clean-shaven by local standards, with pale blue eyes behind round pebble glasses. Some of the locals began to unpack impressive-looking cases, but he took no interest in the proceedings, supping his pint of stout and apparently trying the memorise every single bottle on the shelves in front of him.
A banjo-case can be recognised at fifty yards, but a wooden crate with a telescopic shaft? The owner pulled some thickish string from his pocket, hooked it over a nail at the bottom front of the crate and pulled it up to the top of the shaft, where a plug secured it in a small hole – the bass player.
A third man produced from a inner pocket a fistful of penny whistles – a C, a D and a G with mouthpieces of blue plastic. He saw me gazing at them. ‘These three, sir, cover all the keys known to man! Well, to an Irishman.’
The trio got to work. The stout flowed. Another man joined in on a kazoo. The jigs got merrier. There were choruses joined in by an appreciative audience, with much fall-a-diddle-daying and tooray-laying all round. The ‘band’ had placed themselves at the end of the bar, successfully blocking the path to the toilets at the back. This led to natural breaks in the music. During one of them, the old man shifted from one buttock to the other, then drew his chair across towards the others. There were no rules about who could join in – if you had an instrument with you, you were a fully paid-up member. But the old man had none. None visible that is. And then, from out of his raincoat pocket he produced two spoons, apparently welded together in some way at the tip of the handles. They were a whitish grey, with no gleam to them at all. When the next number began, the virtuoso of the spoons joined in. Holding with his right, he slapped the open palm of his left hand and an ear-splitting clack-a-tee-CLACK! assailed the ears of all the unsuspecting stout-drinkers. The old man’s face went red at the exertions required for the execution of his art – one he could even vary by substituting his left thigh for his palm. This had a timbre of rolling thunder, rather than an express train at full tilt, a donk-a-tee-DONK.
The poor players were baffled. Courtesy required them to smile at the old man, and despite the ‘Jaysus, ye can’t even hear yerself TINK!’, they gave it all they had got, trying to upweigh the geriatric cacophony in their midst. But to no avail. They played a couple more and gave up. The old man took this as a natural end to the playing.
‘Ah Sir,’ he said, turning to me as I tried to collect my scattered wits, a beam now suffusing his crimson face, his glasses half-misted, ‘the spoons, sir – are they not a superbly aggressive instrument!’

Klaus Høeck: 'Canzone' part I in English

To access the file, go to here

Monday 22 January 2018

Sunday 21 January 2018

A Komrij poem to cheer poets up


Dichters, we lezen ze met droge ogen.
Waar zijn de tijden van het hartebloed?
Waar de gezangen van het mededogen?
De litanieën, waar? Voorbij. Voorgoed.

Het bloed werd gruis. De tranen werden glas.
Het leed werd leed van bordkarton. Te koop
Kwam grimas, gil en wrede pijn. (En masse,
Per stuk, zoals je wil.) Azijn werd stroop.

De dichter, heden, is een zonderling.
Hij hangt de paljas uit voor zijn publiek.
Wat blijft: bezetenheid om één, één ding.
De wonden die hij likt. En de muziek.


Poets, we read them and our eyes stay dry.
Where are the times of lifeblood freely shed?
Where songs full of compassion’s heartfelt cry?
The litanies – where now? All gone. Quite dead.

Blood turned to grit and slag. Tears turned to glass.
Sorrow was pasteboard. What now sold a treat
Were grimace, shriek and brutal pain. (En masse,
Per piece, you name it). Vinegar was sweet.

The poet, nowadays, is just a freak.
He clowns around and poses in full view.
What’s left: a single-track, obsessive streak.
The wounds he licks. The music too.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

ALS: 'Raadsel'

Johannes V. Jensen: 'På Memphis Station'

On Memphis Station

Half awake and half dozing,
Struck by a drear reality, but still lost
In an inner sea fog of Danaidean dreams
I stand teeth chattering
On Memphis Station, Tennessee.
It is raining.

The night is so desolate and extinguished,
And the rain flays the ground
With a senseless, dark energy.
Everything is clammy and impenetrable.

Why does the train wait here hour after hour?
Why has my lot ground to a halt here?
Am I to flee from rain and mind-numbingness
In Denmark, India and Japan
Only to be rained in and rot in Memphis
Tennessee, U.S.A.?

And now the day is dawning. Light dismally
Seeps in over this wet prison.
The day exposes mercilessly
The cold rails and all the black mud,
The waiting room with the chocolate vending machine,
Orange peel, cigar stubs and burnt-out matches,
The day gapes through with spewing gutters
And an eternal grid of rain,
Rain I say from heaven to earth.

How deaf and irremovable the world is,
How devoid of talent its creator!
And why do I keep on paying my dues
To this plebeian water cure of an existence!

Quiet! See how the engine,
That enormous contraption, stands calmly seething
Enveloping itself in smoke – it is patient.
Light your pipe on an empty stomach,
Curse God and swallow your pain!

Go on then and stay in Memphis!
After all, your life is nothing else
Than a soggy downpour, and it was always
Your lot to hang around delayed
In some miserable waiting room or other –
Stay in Memphis, Tennessee!

For inside one of these poster-yelling houses
Happiness awaits you, happiness,
If only you can devour your impatience –
Here too a curvaceous young maid sleeps
With her ear buried in her hair,
She will come to meet you
One fine day in the street
Like a wave of perfume
With a look as if she knew you.

Isn’t it spring?
Doesn’t the rain fall lushly?
Doesn’t it sound like an amorous murmuring,
A long muted billing and cooing
Mouth to mouth
Between the rain and the earth?
The day dawned so mournfully,
But look – the rainfall gleams now!

Do you grudge the day its right to fight?
After all, it is light now. And the smell of soil
sets in between the rusty iron struts of the platform
Mixed with the rank breath of the rain-dust –
A hint of spring.
Isn’t that consoling?

And see now how the Mississippi
In its bed of flooded forests
Wakes to the day!
See how the huge river enjoys its winding!
How regally it gushes in curves, swinging flotillas
of trees and tattered driftwood in its eddies!
See how it leads a huge paddle steamer
Into its Deluge-embrace
Like a dancer that masters the dance-floor!
See the sunken headlands – Oh what a vast calm
Over the landscape of drowning forests!
Can’t you see how the morning waters of the current
Dress themselves a mile wide in the day’s paltry light
And soundly journey under the rain-heavy clouds!

Compose yourself, you too, implacable one!
Will you never forget that eternity was promised you?
Do you withhold from the earth your poor gratitude?
What do you want then with your lover’s heart?

Compose yourself and stay in Memphis,
Seek citizenship on the market square,
Go in and take out a life insurance among the others,
Pay your premium of meanness,
So that they can feel secure,
And you won’t be thrown out of the association.
Court that maid with roses and a gold ring
And set up a sawmill like everyone else.
Look around, smoke your pipe of wisdom
In sphinx-abandoned Memphis,
Hitch up your rubber boots without a qualm...

Ah, there comes that miserable freight train
That we have waited six hours for.
It comes in slowly – with crushed sides,
It whistles feebly, the cars limping on three wheels,
And the stove roof dripping with earth and mud.
But on the tender among the coals
Lie four motionless figures
Covered with blood-drenched coats.

Then our great express train snorts,
Moves slightly forwards and stops with a deep sigh
Ready to leap forward. The track is clear.

And we journey on
Through the flooded forests
Beneath the gaping floodgates of the rain.