Sunday, February 19, 2006

arch's list

a: Katy, here are my four poems (actually two songs and two poems--sorry I couldn't cut them down to three). All are translated from a foreign language. The two songs from French, translated by me, so please forgive the crappy translation. Still, I do not hesitate to put them way up there. (I guess that goes to prove my concern for content over ... ?) They are both sung by my goddess, Dalida (though "Avec le temps" is originally by the great Leo Ferre). Neither is written by her; but I do believe in the power of choice. In any case, they are existentialism in a song. "Avec le temps" sums up the essential dilemma of life: time. And "Pour ne pas vivre seul" will be my wedding vow (talk about one depressing wedding!).

The two poems are by the great Pablo Neruda
. "Everybody" I found, hand written on grid paper, above the desk of a great friend of mine from grad school (whom I have very sadly lost touch with--my desk at the time boasted a handwritten copy of "Avec le temps". She also introduced me to one of my top 3 poets, Mark Strand.) And "There's No Forgetting" is the poem on which I based a work of the same title (and essentially my thesis).

As for the top 3 poets (I skipped Neruda as he got 2 poems):
1. Mahmoud Darwish
(the title of my thesis, "Memory for Forgetfulness" is that of a book by him.)
2. The Giantess, the Fierce: Sylvia Plath

3. As spoiled above, the Sublime Mark Strand

And I do have to mention 2 runner-ups: Naomi Shihab Nye
and the ferocious Marie Howe

Ok, now I can see your list!


k: on to your favorite poets...
We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

"Coming to This" by Mark Strand
i found a website that hosts about 15 of his poems ( ) so i read the first 5 or 6. he's great. thank you for introducing us :)

oh and mahmoud darwish appears in the same online database!

it's easy to see, too, where you get your poeitc influence, whether you recognize it or not. this, "passport" is a lovely lovely poem and it reminds me so much of you.

ah, and there there is a tragic beauty, mrs plath. have you read "the bell jar"? she is far too insignificant in the lives of adolecnts. her work and the work of j.d. salinger should be taugh hand in hand with extreme focus in every highschool. fortunatly i found them both on my own accord and adore both "the bell jar" and "the catcher in the rye".

i flipped through "ariel", sylvia's most renowned collection, while selecting the remaining 2 of my favorite poems. in the end i decided to embrace the white-male culture of literature in this country and its history instead (though robert frost and robinson jeffers are among the finest and most sensitve upper-class white males).

as for your 4 poems, i will read them from home. i want to give them the utmost attentiveness which i cannot promise you here at work. though i am especially impressed with your worldliness, ashraf. you've translated those two songs from french? that's fantastic. of course i'll excuse any blunders.

i opened up "avec le temps" just to see your translation, and i wouldn't worry if i were you. first of all the only thing i know how to say in french is "parcore" and the typical hello goodbye thank you my name is sort of dialogue. in middle school i supposedly studied some french. though, the only thing i remember was watching Provance the mini series. at least i learned that alls i need to find truffles is a pig on a leash.

i thought about giving you a list of my 3 favorite collections, but i wanted to restrict myself to the requested amount. i'll give it to you right now though:

Jacklight by Louise Erdrich

Satellite by Matthew Rohrer

Wessex Poems by Thomas Hardy

i don't own a copy of wessex poems because i am in love with the copy at the Umass Amherst Library and will have no other. i am still planning my amazing hiest of this particular text. never have i ever loved a book for being a book so much; the pages are thick and glossy, the words are printed in such a way that leeks power; you can tell by the print that a person must have pressed his fists into every letter to create it. sigh. i miss it, my wessex poems. i must have renewed it 5 or 6 times before finally bringing it back (i had to give it back to graduate, can you believe that!?)

i'm looking forward to really reading those four poems. thank you for sharing :) and i look forward to what you might think of my lists.


these four poems, your four favorite... i can see why you would have had trouble deciding between them. they are all perfect examples of what i find so endearing and precious in your poetry.

closed concepts within moments of the poem
more love
more despair
humanity responding to nature
and quiet

out of the four i find "There's No Forgetting" the most compelling. though... again, like your art, i find it difficult to pin point the exact reason why. it's a visceral response, it's something deeper than sound and rhythm, something rooted deep within what it means to be human and what it means to know love.

you proved your religion to me, your poetry to me.

i loved reading these poems.

a: Katy, thank you, thank you, thank you (me and my triplets!). That is probably one of the most generous things anyone has done for me. Very interesting list. Some things took me by surprise: for example, I didn't think of myself as so much love and despair (more despair, perhaps); but I guess I am a die hard romantic at heart. caution, repetition, and closed concepts within moments of the poem are very true, though I probably didn't recognize them as such (caution, yes; repitition, uh-huh; closed concepts, now that you mention it...). And humanity, I'd like to think yes. But nature and quiet? Very interesting. What do you mean by nature? It's funny, I never thought of myself as that. And quiet? I thought I was loud. Very interesting...

And that is one of the most beautiful lines: "you proved your religion to me"...

I will hold you until you miss
Yourself like I do you
And then rest your case in mine
And your head in my lap
That I can braid your thoughts again.
this section of Alkaline embodies what i mean when i list quiet as an element that reoccurs in your poetry. i wish i could read it out loud to you so you could understand how i interpret the line breaks, but i'll do my best here to point the moments of quiet out here for you.

i will hold you until you miss [this is a complete and beautiful line, until i read ....]
yourself like i do you [this addition not only changes everything that's going on in the first line here, it also creates an awesome tension between the two lines, and almost, then, the two characters, the me and the you. reading the second line is like .... the but statement. "i love you, but i'm still leaving"

you do it again...

and your head in my lap [this could end here, this is where the mind of the reader breaks, and there is silence, in the voice, in the breath, in the mind]
that i can braid your thoughts again [until suddenly the reader is reminded who's in charge, you are, ashraf, the poet. you make your stance well in your work. you give yourself this awesome power, this controller characteristic that is purely male, yet deliberate, does that make sense?]

as for nature... more so, humanity responding to nature... also from alkaline is this section:
I will hold the moon
Fixed in the sky
For you to see my shadow.
it's obvious right? a human has this magic, this strength to hold the moon above his head to make his shadow that much more imposing, impressive.

i'm thinking i should have added "control" to the list, though control isn't something i feel when i read your poetry. it's something more subtle, perhaps control isn't even the right word.

a: your e-mail, well, it made me squirm. And no, absolutely not in any negative way (so this wasn't payback!). But rather because I don't think I have had such acute and perceptive attention lavished on my writing since... well, no, not even since Ahmad used to leave his commentary. And perhaps the most uncanny bit about it was that I was starting to believe that these stops and pauses... that they go mostly unnoticed. And to have someone describe them like they actually communicated... Well, that's just overwhelming!

k: i'm glad that what i pointed out in Alkaline shows you that those moments in your poetry don't go unnoticed (at least not by me). if ever you want me to show you that someone gets it, i'll be glad to, but i won't do that sort of commentary unless i feel it will encourage or help you.

No comments: