Garlands – Brief Poems by Meleager of Gadara

Meleager the poet (Μελέαγρος), not to be confused with Meleager the Greek mythological hero, lived during the first century BC (c. 140 BC.-c. 70 BC). He was born in the city of Gadara, now known as Umm Qays in modern Jordan. He was raised and educated in Tyre and, later, lived on the Aegean island of Cos where he died, it is believed at the age of seventy. He claimed to speak Greek, Syrian and Phoenician. His satirical and philosophical essays, based on the beliefs of the Greek Cynics, have not survived. However his sensual poetry, in the form of 134 epigrams, continues to find new translators and new readers. He is famous for an anthology of poetry entitled The Garland, the first anthology of epigrammatic poems written over the previous two centuries. In the preface he names all his contributors and assigns each one the name of a flower, shrub or herb –  hence the title. This work was subsumed into what has become known as The Greek Anthology.

Meleager included his own poems in the anthology. These are primarily erotic epigrams, often written in the first person, dealing with his own experience and emotion. Most of the experiences and much of the emotion derives from the difficulties and distractions of love, sometimes concerning a woman, sometimes concerning a young boy. These brief poems are neatly constructed in a strict metre with a tone varying from the affectionate to the cynical and a language, at times simple, and at times imbued with the traditional imagery of bows, torches, cupids, thunderbolts, honey, light flowers and insects (in one epigram he asks a mosquito to be the messenger to his unfaithful beloved). His poems influenced he epigrammatic tradition which flourished during the Roman Empire and they continue to be translated today. In the 1830’s, J. H. Merivale, in an edition of The Greek Anthology, wrote of Meleager that “as a … composer of epigrams he was very far superior” to the authors he included in The Garland. Some 140 years later, scholar and translator Peter Jay stated, Meleager’s poetic authenticity lies in the mastery of every aspect of his medium.

TRANSLATING MELEAGER

The epigrams of Meleager have been extensively rendered in English and continue to inspire translations. Walter Headlam brought out Fifty Poems of Meleager (1890); W. R Paton translated them in The Greek Anthology (1916); Richard Aldington translated 128 of them in The Poems of Meleager of Gadara (1920): F. A. Wright translated The Complete Poems of Meleager of Gadara (1924); Peter Whigham produced verse translations of the poems along with prose translations by Peter Jay in The Poems of Meleager (1975); Baron Frederick Corvo (aka Frederick Rolfe) produced The Songs of Meleager (1984). However all the translations below are taken from one source: Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology edited by Daryl Hine (Princeton University Press, 2001) which translates most of the twelfth book of The Greek Anthology. That book, the so-called Musa Puerilis, is given its first complete verse version in English by the Canadian-born poet. Richard Howard had this to say of these translations: Daryl Hine’s translations from The Greek Anthology are the liveliest, frequently loveliest, and certainly the most libidinous versions of these celebrated texts that I’ve ever seen. I know from years of teaching that American students, even of the Classics, are quite vague about what The Greek Anthology was really like—particularly the salacious aspect of those poems. Hine alone gives a fair (or is that foul) sample.

DARYL HINE

Daryl Hine (1936 – 2012), a Canadian poet and translator, was born in Burnaby and grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia. Having attended McGill University in Montreal, he then went to Europe on a Canada Council scholarship, where he lived for three years. He moved to New York in 1962 and to Chicago in 1963 where he taught courses in poetry and comparative literature at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois, Chicago. He was the editor of Poetry from 1968 to 1978. Hine was a highly regarded translator of classical writers such as Homer, Hesiod, and Ovid, among others. His translation of Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns (2005) won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He was also  the recipient of a Canada Foundation-Rockefeller fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, an American Academy and Institution of Arts and Letters Award and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was the author of fifteen books of poetry and six works of verse translation. Following the death of his partner of more than 30 years, the philosopher Samuel Todes, Hine lived in semi-retirement in Evanston, Illinois. In 2012 Daryl Hine died of complications of a blood disorder at the age of 76.

 

Brief Poems by Meleager of Gadara

TRANSLATED BY DARYL HINE

Ἠγρεύθην ὁ πρόσθεν ἐγώ ποτε τοῖς δυσέρωσι 
κώμοις ἠιθέων πολλάκις ἐγγελάσας: 
καὶ μ᾽ ἐπὶ σοῖς ὁ πτανὸς Ἔρως προθύροισι, Μυΐσκε, 
στῆσεν ἐπιγράψας ‘ σκῦλ᾽ ἀπὸ Σωφροσύνης.’

I used to laugh at young men who were not 
Successful in their wooing. Now I’m caught; 
Myiscus, on your gate winged Love has placed 
Me, labelled as, “A Trophy of the Chaste.” 

***

ἦν καλὸς Ἡράκλειτος, ὅτ᾽ ἦν ποτε: νῦν δὲ παρ᾽ ἥβην 
κηρύσσει πόλεμον δέρρις ὀπισθοβάταις. 
ἀλλά, Πολυξενίδη, τάδ᾽ ὁρῶν, μὴ γαῦρα φρυάσσου: 
ἔστι καὶ ἐν γλουτοῖς φυομένη Νέμεσις.

A peach was Heraclitus when — don’t scoff! — 
Still Heraclitus; now he’s past his prime 
His hairy hide puts all assailants off. 
On your cheeks too the curse will come in time. 

***

οὐκέτι μοι Θήρων γράφεται καλός, οὐδ᾽ ὁ πυραυγὴς 
πρίν ποτε, νῦν δ᾽ ἤδη δαλός, Ἀπολλόδοτος. 
στέργω θῆλυν ἔρωτα: δασυτρώγλων δὲ πίεσμα 
λασταύρων μελέτω ποιμέσιν αἰγοβάταις.

No, Theron’s beauty does no longer please 
Me, nor Apollodotus’ burnt-out charms. 
I like cunt. Let bestial goatherds squeeze 
Their hairy little bumboys in their arms! 

***

κεῖμαι: λὰξ ἐπίβαινε κατ᾽ αὐχένος, ἄγριε δαῖμον. 
οἶδά σε, ναὶ μὰ θεούς, καὶ ^ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρειν 
οἶδα καὶ ἔμπυρα τόξα. βαλὼν δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐμὴν φρένα πυρσούς, 
οὐ φλέξεις: ἤδη πᾶσα γάρ ἐστι τέφρη.

Yes, kick me when I’m down, you spiteful sprite! 
I feel your weight, I feel your fiery dart. 
But if you try to set fire to my heart, 
You can’t: it is incinerated quite. 

***

ἢν ἐνίδω Θήρωνα, τὰ πάνθ᾽ ὁρῶ: ἢν δὲ τὰ πάντα 
βλέψω, τόνδε δὲ μή, τἄμπαλιν οὐδὲν ὁρῶ.

When I see Thero I see everything; 
But when he’s absent I can’t see a thing. 

***

ἤν τι πάθω, Κλεόβουλε, ῾τὸ γὰρ πλέον ἐν πυρὶ παίδων 
βαλλόμενος κεῖμαι λείψανον ἐν σποδιῇ:᾿ 
λίσσομαι, ἀκρήτῳ μέθυσον, πρὶν ὑπὸ χθόνα θέσθαι, 
κάλπιν, ἐπιγράψας ‘ δῶρον Ἔρως Ἀίδῃ.’

If, Cleobulus, I should expire 
Being cast on the juvenile pyre, 
As to ashes I burn 
Sprinkle wine on my urn 
And inscribe it, “ To Death from Desire.” 

***

εἰ μὴ τόξον Ἔρως, μηδὲ πτερά, μηδὲ φαρέτραν,
μηδὲ πυριβλήτους εἶχε πόθων ἀκίδας,
οὐκ, αὐτὸν τὸν πτανὸν ἐπόμνυμαι, οὔποτ᾽ ἂν ἔγνως
ἐκ μορφᾶς τίς ἔφυ Ζωίλος ἢ τίς Ἔρως.

If Cupid had no bow, no wings, and no 
Quiver filled with fiery arrows of 
Desire, by looks alone you’d never know 
Zoilus from the winged god of love. 

***

ἁ Κύπρις θήλεια γυναικομανῆ] φλόγα βάλλει: 
ἄρσενα δ᾽ αὐτὸς Ἔρως ἵμερον ἁνιοχεῖ. 
ποῖ ῥέψω; ποτὶ παῖδ᾽ ἢ ματέρα; φαμὶ δὲ καὐτὰν 
Κύπριν ἐρεῖν: ‘νικᾷ τὸ θρασὺ παιδάριον

Lady Venus generates our lust 
For females; Cupid pricks desire for males. 
Which shall I turn to? Even Venus must 
Admit her cheeky little brat prevails. 

***

ἠοῦς ἄγγελε, χαῖρε, Φαεσφόρε, καὶ ταχὺς ἔλθοις 
ἕσπερος, ἣν ἀπάγεις, λάθριος αὖθις ἄγων.

Hail, morning star, fair messenger of dawn! 
As evening star, bring back the sweet cheat gone. 

***

Κύπρις ἐμοὶ ναύκληρος, Ἔρως δ᾽ οἴακα φυλάσσει 
ἄκρον ἔχων ψυχῆς ἐν χερὶ πηδάλιον 
χειμαίνει δ᾽ ὁ βαρὺς πνεύσας Πόθος, οὕνεκα δὴ νῦν 
παμφύλῳ παίδων νήχομαι ἐν πελάγει.

My skipper’s Venus, Cupid mans the helm, 
Holding my spirit’s rudder in his hand; 
Desire blows hard enough to overwhelm 
Me, breasting a sea of boys from every land. 

***

χειμέριον μὲν πνεῦμα: φέρει δ᾽ ἐπὶ σοί με, Μυΐσκε, 
ἁρπαστὸν κώμοις ὁ γλυκύδακρυς Ἔρως. 
χειμαίνει δὲ βαρὺς πνεύσας Πόθος, ἀλλὰ μ᾽ ἐς ὅρμον 
δέξαι, τὸν ναύτην Κύπριδος ἐν πελάγει.

Myiscus, despite this wintry wind I’m swept 
Away by Love’s sweet tears to pay you court. 
Desire is like a hurricane. Accept 
This loving mariner into your port. 

 

LINKS

All of the epigrams of Meleager in a prose translation by W. R. Paton.

Ten of the poems translated by Thomas McEvilley.

A large selection of the poems in the original Greek from Maleager: The Poems edited by Jerry Clack.

The Poems of Maleager: Verse Translations by Peter Whigham; Introduction and literal translations by Peter Jay.

Full text of Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology Translated by Daryl Hine.

A review of Puerilities by Otto Steinmayer.

The Canadian Encyclopaedia page on Daryl Hine.

Clock’s Tocks – Brief Poems by George Turberville

A falconer, woodcut illustration from Turberville’s Book of Falconry or Hawking (1575).

George Turberville (c.1540 – c.1610) was an English poet born at Whitechurch in Dorset of a right ancient and genteel family. The Turbervilles were an old Dorsetshire family, the inspiration for the d’Urbervilles of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. George Turberville was a scholar of Winchester College in 1554 at the age of fourteen and, after studying in New College, Oxford in 1561, he moved to the Inns of Court in London where he gained a reputation as a poet and man of affairs. In 1568 he accompanied, as his secretary, Thomas Randolph, who received a commission from Queen Elizabeth to be ambassador to the Emperor of Russia, Ivan the Terrible. It was in Moscow that he composed his first collection of poems, entitled Poems describing the Places and Manners of the Country and People of Russia, Anno 1568. No copy of this work survives.  In 1575 he acquired a property at Shapwick in Dorset where, according to his friend, Anthony Wood, he was esteemed a most accomplished gentlemen, and his company was much sought after and desired by all men.

His Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs and Sonnets appeared “newly corrected with additions” in 1567. (The poems below, with modernised spelling, are taken from that collection.) He was the first English poet to publish a book of verses to his lady, a genre that became popular in the Elizabethan age. In that same year he published translations of Ovid and Mantuanus, which included some of the first attempts at blank verse in English. His translation of The Heroycall Epistles of the Learned Poet, Publius Ovidius Naso was odd for the time because it seems to have a sexual aggression, bordering on violence, which was very uncommon in poems of the age. The Book of Falconry or Hawking (from which the image left is taken) and the Noble Art of Venerie (printed together in 1575) were also attributed to Turberville.

George Turberville was popular in his day. His contemporary, Sir John Harington, whose poetry is discussed and anthologised in another Brief Poems post,  has an epitaph in commendation of ‘George Turbervill, a learned gentleman,’ in his first book of Epigrams (1618), which concludes, ‘My pen doth praise thee dead, thine grac’d me living.’ George Gascoigne was friendly with Turbervile, who was probably the ‘G. T.’ from whom the manuscript of Gascoigne’s ‘A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres’ was obtained. Turbervile received the praise of George Puttenham in his Art of Poesie, although he was also called a ‘bad rhymer,’ and it is plain from contemporaries like Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey that he came to be regarded as worthy but also outdated. He had a modest sense of his own worth.  In the epilogue to his collection, he describes himself as paddling along the banks of the stream of Helicon, like a sculler against the tide, for fear of the deep stream and the ‘mighty hulkes’ that adventured out so far. He viewed himself as a gentleman amateur who chose light over serious verse.  I write but of familiar stuffe, because my stile is lowe… Not euery woodman that doth shoote, hath skill to chose his Deere.

The title page of his Tragical Tales (1587), which are translations from Boccaccio and Bandello, says that the book was written at the time of the author’s troubles. What these troubles were is now unknown. A George Turberville was summoned before the council on 22 June 1587 to answer ‘certaine matters objected against him’. His friend, Anthony Wood, says he was living and in high esteem in 1594. From the fact that the 1611 edition of The Book of Falconry or Hawking  is labelled ‘Heretofore published by George Turbervile, gentleman,’ it is assumed that the author was dead prior to that year.

GEORGE TURBERVILLE AND THE PLAIN STYLE

I first came across the poetry of George Turberville in an excellent anthology edited by John Williams, English Renaissance Poetry, a book so battered from  perusal over four decades that it is now almost falling apart. According to Williams, His best poems are either witty or ironic or both; partly because of the perfection of their execution and the smallness of their themes, they remind me of the later Madrigalists, though the language and feeling of Turberville have a Native dryness unlike that of later poets. Yvor Winters, who inspired the anthology, described that Native dryness as the plain style where the poem has a theme usually broad, simple, and obvious, even tending toward the proverbial, but usually a theme of some importance, humanly speaking; a feeling restrained to the minimum required by the subject; a rhetoric restrained to a similar minimum, the poet being interested in his rhetoric as a means of stating his matter as economically as possible, and not, as are the Petrarchans, in the pleasures of rhetoric for its own sake. It is the simplicity and the concision, that stating the matter as economically as possible, I find admirable. When he uses the word sonnet, as he does in a poem below, it is in the old sense of being freely applied to poems of varied rhyme-scheme, length, and meter, and where, as his friend George Gascoigne complained, some thinke that all Poemes (being short) may be called Sonets. In his thematic approach, Turberville’s poetry is mostly conventional for the Elizabethan era, concerned with time passing (the clock tick-tocking) and the vagaries of love, albeit with an often caustic tone. But it continues to resonate today as I hope the selection below exemplifies.

 

 

Brief Poems by George Turberville

Master Googe his Sonnet of the pains of Love

Two lines shall tell the grief
that I by Love sustain:
I burn, I flame, I faint, I freeze,
of Hell I feel the pain.

Turberville’s answer and distich to the same.

Two lines shall teach you how
to purchase ease anew:
Let Reason rule where Love did reign,
and idle thoughts eschew.

***

Of one that had little Wit

I thee advise
If thou be wise
To keep thy wit
Though it be small:
‘Tis rare to get
And far to fet,
‘Twas ever yit
Dearest ware of all.

***

Of one that had a great Nose.

Stande with thy Nose against
the Sun with open chaps,
and by thy teeth we shall discern
what tis a clock perhaps.

***

Of Drunkenness

At night when ale is in,
like friends we part to bed;
In morrow gray, when ale is out,
Then hatred is in head.

***

Of the Clock and the Cock.

Good reason thou allow
one letter more to me
than to the cock: for cocks do sleep
when clocks do wake for thee.

***

Of the cruel hatred of Stepmothers.

The son-in-law his stepdame being dead,
Began her hearse with garlands to commend:
Meanwhile there fell a stone upon his head
From out the tomb that brought the boy abed,
A proof that stepdames hate hath never end.

***

The Lover to His Lady, That Gazed Much Up to The Skies

My Girl, thou gazest much
Upon the golden skies:
Would I were Heaven, I would behold
Thee then with all mine eyes.

***

Of an open foe and a feigned friend

Oh both give me the man
that says, I hate in deed;
than him that hath a knife to kill,
yet wears a friendly weed.

***

Of a Rich Miser.

A miser’s mind thou hast,
thou hast a prince’s pelf:
which makes thee wealthy to thine heir,
a beggar to thy self.

 

LINKS

The Wikipedia Page on George Turberville.

A web version of Epitaphes, epigrams, songs and sonets with a discourse of the friendly affections of Tymetes to Pyndara his ladie. Newly corrected with additions, and set out by George Turbervile Gentleman.

A reproduction of the 1567 edition of Epitaphes, epigrams, songs and sonets with a discourse of the friendly affections of Tymetes to Pyndara his ladie. Newly corrected with additions, and set out by George Turbervile Gentleman.

A reproduction of the 1576 edition of Tubervilles’ Booke of Hunting.

 

Irish Arses – Brief Poems by Brendan Kennelly

Brendan Kennelly, an Irish poet and novelist, was born in Ballylongford in County Kerry on 17 April 1936.  His parents owned a pub at the village crossroads. He was educated at the inter-denominational school, St. Ita’s College in Tarbert and at Trinity College, where he edited the student literary magazine Icarus. He graduated from Trinity and wrote his PhD thesis there. The subject of his doctoral thesis, Modern Irish Poets and the Irish Epic, was the revival of ancient Gaelic mythology in English verse by notable Irish poets, including Samuel Ferguson and W.B. Yeats. He also studied at Leeds University. He was Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin for thirty years until his retirement from teaching in 2005. In 2010 he was awarded the Irish PEN Award for his contribution to Irish Literature. He now lives in Listowel in County Kerry.

THE POETRY OF BRENDAN KENNELLY

A prolific and fluent writer, Brendan Kennelly has more than fifty books to his credit, over thirty of them collections of poetry. Many of them are book-length sequences, adapting and adopting various voices to his own ends: For me, poetry is an entering into the lives of things and people, dreams and events. An early sequence Cromwell (Beaver Row Press, 1983; Bloodaxe Books, 1987) is a wildly ambitious attempt to convey the historical import of a polarising figure in Anglo-Irish relations by utilising various voices and personae and then putting them through a chronological blender. The use of a persona can be a liberating agent and reveal more about our existence and our way of life than personal outpourings. Not only does Kennelly ventriloquize Cromwell, but he also creates his own gargantuan and rabelesian figures, in particular a mythical mad Irishman with the Joycean name of M.P.G.M. Buffún Esq. (pronounced buffoon). A later book, Moloney Up and At It (Mercier Press, 1984) continues the rabelesian theme, but in a rural manner. Set in his native Kerry and using the local language, these ten comic poems on the themes of sex and death are monologues in the voice of a local man. Kennelly himself appears as a comic foil in the concluding poem.

The poems below are taken from four of Kennelly’s most ambitious books. The Book of Judas (Bloodaxe Books,1991) is an epic poem of nearly 400 pages, almost 800 poems, mediated by the Biblical figure of Judas transported through history, myth and legend to contemporary Ireland. What unites this amazing enterprise is not only the reviled figure of Judas but the sense of ultimate betrayal which he symbolises. I believe, he writes in a preface, that this culture is now in an advanced state of self-betrayal, playing Judas to itself. In this poem I wanted this man to talk to himself, this culture to mutter to itself of what is lost or forgotten or betrayed or grotesquely twisted in memory. Talk to himself, Judas certainly does. The great strength of the book is its relentlessly colloquial style, pouring out cliché, bombast, invective, obscenity, blasphemy and sheer bloody-minded self-exculpation. (From my vantage point as traitor/I see what’s true.) There are times when the sheer effort to cope with the style breaks down and the book splutters and stutters along for pages at a time (Clichés, I said, clichés, is this all you have to give.) But Kennelly works hard to offer a variety of complimentary voices to that given to his anti-hero, what he calls the Judas voice. Biblical, historical and literary figures of betrayal swagger their way through the narrative. Like Paradise Lost, the book is in twelve sections; like Satan, Judas is its compelling anti-hero; and like Milton, Kennelly has created a style appropriate to his grand enterprise, one that owes more to a televisual than a theological age. (I kept a production notebook on the crucifixion.) It is a remarkable work.

Poetry My Arse, subtitled, “A riotous Epic Poem”, (Bloodaxe Books,1995) is equally ambitious. This poem concerns a poet, poetry, language and various forms of relationship. The poet Ace de Horner, moves through his poetry, the city, different relationships. He broods a lot. The city in question is Dublin and, as well as being identified as “post-colonial”, Kennelly also calls it, in a prefatory “Acenote”, the most garrulous city in Christendom. There are elements of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake with Ace de Horner as a latter-day Bloom or HCE. The book is defiantly garrulous, a kind of shuffling arena of voices. These voices lead to a cacophony of bile and bluster, like a Dublin bar-room at closing time. While the poetry is constantly undercutting itself as it spools out, there is a bluntness to the satire. The book, it seems to me, lacks the rigour or intellectual control to transform bitterness into a sustainable satire on Dublin’s literary life. It operates best at the level of burlesque, lampoon, farce and crude jokes. In defiantly undercutting any auspicious or traditional sense of the resonance of poetry, the exuberance and exhibitionism are left to do the work of social and literary criticism. The poems are propelled by the energetic thrust of their defiant style and best read as part of a compelling comedy. Any objection to a book that refuses to take itself seriously is always going to be met with an in-built deflector. Kennelly’s response to one negative reviewer is apt: The reviewer said it was full of shit, sex and violence. He was right. My intention was his perception. But it is also about the connection between the poet and his society. It explores the nature of poetry, my blind Dublin Homer who sees more clearly as he becomes more blind.

Arses reappear in Martial Art (Bloodaxe Books, 2003). Given the scatological, even the pornographic nature of much of Kennelly’s work, it is not surprising that he turned to the Latin poet for inspiration. What is surprising, and welcome, is the manner in which he reins in his exuberance and attains an uncharacteristic concision. The book is no structured translation of much translated poems. It includes translation, but it is also an effort, successful in large parts, to wrest Martial to his own ends. Some of the poems are in the mode of the Latin poet rather than mere translations. There are verses here which I wrote after trying to translate him, or while I tried to translate him.  It is a tribute to the skill with which he conducts the enterprise that it is sometimes hard to know which poem is original and which is a translation. The empathy is emphasised when Kennelly calls Martial a wandering provincial in a confident metropolis. Martial’s movement from the Spanish town of Bilbilis to Rome is mirrored in the transition of Kennelly from the rural Kerry town of Ballylongford to metropolitan Dublin. The identification is further explored in a brief introduction: If he’d been a boxer, he’d have developed a new kind of knockout punch, smiling at his victim as he walked back to his corner. His themes are many and varied. He writes of money, food, wine, furniture, style, power, sex, corruption, love, hatred, streets, darkness, families, poverty, snobbery, poets, poetry, polished deceit, aesthetic back-stabbers, High Art, low artists, metropolitan egotism and arrogance, politics, escape to the countryside, property, law, education, greed, manipulative men and women, cliques, loners, talkers and chatterboxes of every shade and motive, patrons, misery, the happy life, clothes, enemies, gossip, friends, flattery and the old constant problem of personal survival and hope of self-renewal. That’s Rome two thousand years ago. That’s Dublin today… Is one translating Martial? Or is Martial, smiling and mischievous as ever, translating the translator? The rock-star as literary critic, Bono, has endorsed Brendan Kennelly’s translations, in a blurb, This is poetry as base as heavy metal, as high as the Holy Spirit flies, comic and tragic, from litany to rant, roaring at times, soaring at other times. He may be overblowing the achievement, but he has a point.

Three Irish arses make an appearance in Now (Bloodaxe Books, 2006). The first is that of a swan who “cocks his arse/to the full moon.” The second and third use that slang Irish invocation, my arse or, more colloquially, O kiss me arse. (See below.) Typical of Kennelly, he can be both concise and verbose at once. The book consists of more than six hundred and fifty three-line poems: I decided to write a poem sequence of three-liners that would try to convey the sliding identities of “now.” Although they flirt fitfully with terza-rima, epigram, even the odd haiku-like structure, they have more in common with the energetic burst that make up Poetry My Arse. The sequence is autobiographical and contains a motley cast of odd and incongruous characters with names like Tinker, Deborah Breen, Professor Strong, Zachary Hoakes and Professor Hoggett. As if to repay the tribute in the blurb on Martial Art, even Bono makes a grandiloquent appearance in the sequence. In a brief introductory note, and these introductory notes are among the more pleasing aspects of his many collections, Kennelly invokes some of his previous books and argues Now is an attempt to probe the concerns (obsessions?) with time in these poems in a more condensed, immediate way that is influenced by ancient proverbs from different cultures and modern headlines from different countries. Each of these often rhyming triplets posits questions of time, of an inherent Now, of the relation between a personal past and a city’s past. Despite their brevity, they are more loquacious than condensed, the work of one of the most eclectic and energetic of Irish poets.

 

 

Brief Poems by Brendan Kennelly

from THE BOOK OF JUDAS 

Christmas 1986

At the entrance to the church, in black
Spare lettering: GUNS NOT PRAYER.

***

Herod’s Epitaph

Time’s children gave him plenty rope:
While there’s death there’s hope.

***

Nowhere

The camp is nowhere, yet a hundred
Starving stragglers drag in here every day.

***

Time

Despite madness and heartache
Despite white supremacy and black magic
Despite heaven’s rage and earthquake
Let’s take a commercial break.

***

How Able is Abel

Saxon shillings, Yankee dollars, Irish mist:
Cutest hoor that ever pissed.
Turns muck to amethyst.

***

All poems © Bloodaxe Books.

 

from POETRY MY ARSE

Happy

“I like sleeping with Stephen.
I like sleeping with Stephen’s daddy too.
Neither knows I sleep with the other.
I keep two men happy. And you?”

***

For Adults

“Why are you so intent,”I asked, “on getting
other men’s wives into bed?”
“Adultery is for adults,” he said.

***

Slice

“I know,” she said, “when we laugh and fuck
life’s a blessèd slice of luck.”

***

The Good News

I told him I was getting married.
His lip
curled into a question:
“Will she take the whip?”

***

Colleague

“She broke both legs, we soon forgot her.
If that woman was a horse we’d have shot her.”

***

Nourishment

She lifted her head, Ace heard her say,
“Well, that’s my protein for today.”

***

All poems © Bloodaxe Books.

 

from MARTIAL ART

Three Things

Three things make an epigram sing:
brevity, honey, sting.

***

Stress

The god of divination is under stress.
What he’ll say
is anyone’s guess.

***

Talkers

When these two talk in their usual way
the sun covers its face and turns away.

***

Meaning

When one dines alone
one knows the meaning 
of conversation.

***

Two souls

I know two souls
who always go to bed late
fearing their sleep
may lessen their hate.

***

Prattus

Had Prattus the heaven’s embroidered cloths
he’d wipe his arse with them.

***

Poetry

If Martial’s truth were told
all that I give
is less than I withhold.

***

Late

He sits up late in a cold, dark place.
Why? His wife’s face.

***

Passion and permanence

What he, in love, bedwhispers to her
is printed on air, scrawled on water.

***

The art of war

Soldiers never afraid to risk their lives
are quivering cowards before their wives.

***

Further translations of Martial by Brendan Kennelly, together with the original Latin, are available on the Brief Poems Martial post.

All poems © Bloodaxe Books.

from NOW

He wonders why hate
has such an accomplished smile.
Hell is a paradise of style.

***

He observes that sometimes in summer leaves fall
as in autumn, whether on a swan’s nest 
or a body in the canal.

***

Now the philosopher: “There is no difference between living
and dying.” “Why, then, do you not die.”
“Because there is no difference.”

***

“A poem should not mean
but be.”
“On the matter of meaning and being, we disagree.”

***

The swan cocks his arse
to the full moon, 
going down.

***

“Ravenous appetite, my arse!
A man is no more 
than a lusty goat waiting to snore!”

***

“O kiss me arse,” she chirps, “forget your gloomy style.
It takes forty-two muscles to frown,
seventeen to smile.”

***

“Will she ever shut up?
Why can’t the thoughtless 
be wordless?”

***

All poems © Bloodaxe Books.

 

LINKS

The “Trinity Writers” Page on Brendan Kennelly.

The Wikipedia page on Brendan Kennelly.

The Bloodaxe Books page on Brendan Kennelly.

The Poetry International page on Brendan Kennelly.

The Poetry Archive page on Brendan Kennelly.

An Irish Times article on Brendan Kennelly by Eileen Battersby.

A review of Martial Art by Paul Davis.

 

Pillow Cases – Brief Poems by Suzanne Buffam

Suzanne Buffam,  a Canadian poet, was born in Montreal and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She earned an MA in English literature from Concordia University in Montreal, and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of three collections of poetry. Her third, A Pillow Book (Canarium Books 2016), was named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of poetry in 2016. Her second book,  The Irrationalist (Canarium Books, 2010), was a finalist for the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize. Her first, Past Imperfect (House of Anansi Press, 2005), won the Gerald Lampert Award in 2006. She has taught Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the University of Chicago, and Columbia College Chicago. In 2014/2015 she spent some time  in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She now lives in Chicago with her husband, the poet Srikanth Reddy.

ON BRIEF POEMS IN THE IRRATIONALIST

Suzanne Buffam’s second collection, The Irrationalist, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2011. It is an eclectic collection with many diverse, intriguing and witty poems, including such favourites of mine as Enough, The New Experience and a remarkable prose poem, Trying, about attempting to conceive a child. However, for me, the most enjoyable section of the book is its central section entitled Little Commentaries. This consists of seventy-four poems with the title “On______”. She discusses them in an interview with Sina QueryasI had the title in mind for many years—lifted from a small, hand-bound pamphlet—Commentariolus (Little Commentary)–circulated by Nicolaus Copernicus in the 16th century, in which he first (and covertly) set out his heliocentric theory of the universe. Having been somewhat obsessed with miniature things all my life, I was instantly drawn to the way this revolutionary theory, with its huge philosophical and theological implications, was smuggled into the culture under such an unassuming, self-deflating little cover. It seemed like a great title for a book of small poems…. I hit on this project of miniature poems, or “commentaries,” that gave me the freedom to write about basically anything at all of interest to me, in the Copernican spirit that “there is no one center of the universe.” …  I love epigrams, proverbs, and all pithy things.

 

ON BRIEF POEMS IN A PILLOW BOOK

Suzanne Buffam’s third collection, A Pillow Book, was named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of poetry in 2016. Whether it is, in any conventional sense, a poetry book is a moot point. Inspired by a famous eleventh-century Japanese text called The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, a book, as Wikipedia tells us,  of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi (定子) during the 990s and early 1000s in Heian Japan, Suzanne Buffam’s collection is her record of insomnia in notes, fragments, memories, dreams and lists, some of them abecedarian. She offers her own description of the form and the genre: A “pillow book” is a sort of miscellany, made up of anecdotes, essays, character sketches, descriptions, diary entries, and lists, among other odds and delights not easily reconciled within Western notions of genre. “The quintessential ungenre,” “the formless form,” “the echt-genre,” as recent scholars have called it, the pillow book was, in a sense, the original blog. 

There is a narrative arc which spans a winter in Chicago; there are recurring characters including a husband, a daughter, a cleaning lady, a caregiver, and a waiter; there are diverse settings, mainly in the house and, most often, in the bed in the bedroom: and there are the lists. The lists came first, and were basically all I wrote during the disorienting blur of early motherhood. At first I saw them as a stand-alone sequence. Their brevity and levity sprang from the same playful impulse that gave rise to the short “little commentaries” in my previous book.

While I enjoyed A Pillow Book and read it in one sitting – not in bed – it did not have the same resonance and depth as The Irrationalist. The lists, while often witty, are hit and miss and, in my view, the briefer they are the better. I include some of my favourite ones below. That said, the book is an ambitious and intriguing project and I look forward to where Suzanne Buffam’s imagination leads her to explore.

 

 

Brief Poems by Suzanne Buffam

LITTLE COMMENTARIES
(from “The Irrationalist”)

ON MOONLIGHT

Moonlight fills the bathroom sink,
If a person could drink from it
She would be her own ghost.

***

ON FIRST LINES

The first line should pry up
A little corner of the soul

As the first ray of daylight 
Pries open the sleeper’s lids.

***

ON BORGES

Put one dream
Inside another.

***

ON INVECTIVE

Fuck you and the horse you rode in on
Is often just another way of saying come back.

***

ON LAST LINES

The last line should strike like a lover’s complaint.
You should never see it coming,
And you should never hear the end of it.

***

ON JOY

Joy unmixed with sorrow
Is like a fountain turned off at night.

***

ON EVOLUTION

Place your face
Into your hands.
A perfect fit!

***

ON SUICIDE

People who commit suicide don’t fail to believe in life.
They fail to believe in death.

***

ON HUMMINGBIRDS

The smaller the heart the swifter the wings.

***

ON WHITE FLOWERS

By moonlight the lily dominates the field.

LISTS FROM A PILLOW BOOK

IFFY SIMILES

Classy as a cruise ship
Patient as a pimp.
Simple as a snowflake.
Sexy as an ankh.
Green as the Green Zone.
Cozy as a coffin.
Friendly as fire.
Easy is as easy does.

***

NO USE

Wet cigarettes.
E-cigarettes.
A babysitter whose babysitter is sick.
Nunchucks at a fight.
Stiletto heels at the beach.
Last year’s flu shot. 
Next year’s peace talks.

***

THINGS THAT ARE DISTANT THOUGH NEAR

Crows on a fence post.
Ex-lovers on Facebook.
Facing-page translations.
Fellow commuters.
Last season’s computers.
Yesterday.
Today.

***

THINGS THAT ARE NEAR THOUGH DISTANT

Paradise.
Hell.
The Andromeda Galaxy.
Pen pals.
Laughter on the far side of the bay.

***

THINGS THAT MAKE THE HEART BEAT FASTER

Applause.
Raccoons on the roof.
A backwards glance on the street.
Sleeping babies.
The telephone ringing in the dark.

 

LINKS

Suzanne Buffam’s poems through her website.

Selected interviews with Suzanne Buffam.

Columns of Amethyst – Brief poems by T. E. Hulme

Thomas  Ernest Hulme (T. E. Hulme) was born at Gratton Hall, Endon, Staffordshire on the 16th September 1883. He grew up in an affluent household with chauffeurs, gardeners and a big house. He was educated at Newcastle-under-Lyme High School where he was a prominent member, nicknamed “The Whip”, of the school debating society. He studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics. He founded a group called the Discord Club which indulged in provocative bad behaviour and certain disreputable activities after the Boat Race in 1904 led to him being sent down. After his expulsion a mock funeral was held in his honour, seemingly the longest such funeral ever seen in Cambridge. He later returned to Cambridge to study philosophy, but was again expelled after some explicit love letters to an under aged girl were discovered. He then studied at University College London for a time before travelling through Canada where, as he put it, the first time I ever felt the necessity or inevitableness of verse was in the desire to reproduce the peculiar quality of feeling which is induced by the flat spaces and wide horizons of the virgin prairie of Western Canada. He moved to Brussels where he learned French and German. While there he acquainted himself with the works of the French philosopher, Henri Bergson, which led him to develop the ideas which led to the creation of “Imagism” in poetry.

Hulme was noted for his truculence. Over six feet tall with a ruddy complexion, and what Wyndham Lewis called an “extremely fine head” and “legs like a racing cyclist”, his arguments were often physical as well as philosophical. He once fought Wyndham Lewis over a girl, Kate Lechmere. Although the fight had started indoors, when it moved outside in Soho Square, Hulme hung Lewis upside down on the railings by his trousers. His inclination for physical violence and intemperate arguments was aided by a knuckle-duster made for him by the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. There are strong suggestions from his  biographers that this knuckle-duster was also used to pleasure his lovers. A non-smoking, teetotalling Tory, he loved sex and boiled sweets, and he preferred suet pudding and treacle to cigarettes and alcohol.

in London, in 1908, he established the Poets’ Club, a group who met once a month to discuss and share poetry and prose, and there he advanced his poetic ideas of image particularly in his celebrated  “Lecture on Modern Poetry”, a manifesto of sorts for the Imagist movement. Eventually he grew tired of the Poets’ Club and established a new group that met at the Cafe Tour d’Eiffel where he attempted to create a new English poetry embracing the attitudes of pre-war England. Ezra Pound was part of this group. There was a fractious relationship between the two men with Pound often claiming credit for Hulme’s contributions to Imagism. His interest in poetry declined by 1910 and this led to the dissolution of the Cafe Tour d’Eiffel group. However, he continued to write literary criticism and journalism.

He became increasingly obsessed with the impending world war and when, on August 4, 1914, it was announced that Great Britain had declared war on Germany, after the German Army invaded Belgium on its way to attack France, Hulme entered military service and joined the Honourable Artillery Company. He was sent to the Western Front. His defence of that war irked Bertrand Russell who called him  ‘an evil man’, following their heated public debate over the War in national newspapers. He wrote of his war experiences in his diary: It’s not the idea of being killed that’s alarming, but the idea of being hit by a jagged piece of steel. You hear the whistle of the shell coming, you crouch down as low as you can and just wait. It doesn’t burst merely with a bang, it has a kind of crash with a snap in it, like the crack of a very large whip. They seem to burst just over your head, you seem to anticipate it killing you in the back, it hits just near you and you get hit on the back with clods of earth and (in my case) spent bits of shell and shrapnel bullets fall all around you. I picked up one bullet almost sizzling in the mud just by my toe… What irritates you is the continuation of the shelling. You seem to feel that 20 minutes is normal, is enough – but when it goes on for over an hour, you get more and more exasperated, feel as if it were ‘unfair’. However, he added a postscript: I’m getting used to this kind of life and as long as I don’t get hurt or it doesn’t rain too much, don’t mind it at all.

He was wounded in April 1915 and sent home. In March 1916 he was commissioned into the Royal Marine Artillery and was sent to the Royal Naval Siege guns on the Belgian coast. Initially he enjoyed a quieter war. However the fighting intensified and, on 28th September 1917, he was killed  while manning a gun near Nieuport in  Flanders when he was blown to bits by a direct hit from a shell. He was thirty-four years old. He is buried in the Koksijde (Coxyde) Military Cemetery, Belgium. His headstone carries the inscription “One of the War Poets”.

 

 

THE POETRY OF T. E. HULME

T. S. Eliot admired Hulme’s small poetic output, about 25 poems totalling some 260 lines. He praised him as the author of two or three of the most beautiful short poems in the language, calling him the forerunner of a new attitude of mind, which should be the twentieth-century mind, if the twentieth century is to have a mind of its own. His poems “Autumn” (see below) and “A City Sunset”, both published in 1909,  have the distinction of being considered the first Imagist poems. His search for a ‘dry, hard, classical verse’ to replace the tired Romanticism of much late Victorian and Georgian poetry, inspired the Imagist movement, supposedly founded by Ezra Pound in 1912. The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme  first appeared in 1912, at the back of Ezra Pound’s volume Ripostes and contained just five poems, none of them longer than half a page, and the total running to just 33 lines. Yet those five poems ignited the modernist revolution in English poetry, a revolution that embraced brevity, precision of image and language, understatement, free verse and topical everyday experience. 

A philosophical concept of “image” lay at the root of Hulme’s poetic philosophy which incorporated elements of Bergson’s philosophy. Image, he argued, was the untouched material of experience that could be artistically represented in poetry. He was inspired also by Gustave Kahn, a French symbolist poet, who had written about free verse in his book Premiers poemes (1897). Khan’s poems resisted following stringent rules of meter, rhyme, and rhythm; instead, it meandered with the mind of the writer.  Hulme was clear on what he wanted from poetry: I want to speak verse in a plain way as I would of pigs: that is the only honest way. Although Ezra Pound often gets the credit for founding the Imagist movement, (along with English poet Richard Aldington and American poet Hilda Doolittle) and writing the influential ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, the ideas had already been formulated by Hulme years earlier. Although Pound and Hulme were associates, Pound later minimised the role Hulme had played in the formation of Imagist practice. However, Pound did acknowledge his significance when he wrote that Hulme set an enviable example to many of his contemporaries who have had less to say. Whatever poetic limitations Hulme’s (and Pound’s) philosophy have, the poetry of T. E. Hulme deserves a modern audience.

 

 

Brief Poems by T. E. Hulme

Autumn

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

***

Above the Dock

Above the quiet dock in mid night,
Tangled in the tall mast’s corded height,
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child’s balloon, forgotten after play.

***

from Fragments

Old houses were scaffolding once 
and workmen whistling.

***

Three birds flew over the red wall
into the pit of the evening sun.
O daring, dooméd birds that pass from my sight.

***

Raleigh in the dark tower prisoned
Dreamed of the blue sea and beyond
Where in strange tropic paradise
Grew musk…

***

Her skirt lifted as a dark mist
From the columns of amethyst.

***

This to all ladies gay I say.
Away, abhorréd lace, away.

***

The lark crawls on the cloud
Like a flea on a white belly.

***

The mystic sadness of the sight
Of a far town seen in the night.

***

Sounds fluttered, 
like bats in the dusk.

***

The flounced edge of skirt, 
recoiling like waves off a cliff.

***

Down the long desolate street of stars.

***

The bloom of the grape has gone.

***

When she speaks, almost her breasts touch me.
Backward leans her head.

 

 

LINKS

Extracts from T. E. Hulme: Selected Writings.

The Poetry Foundation Page on T. E. Hulme.

Ten short poems by T. E. Hulme.

Five fascinating facts about T. E. Hulme.

T. E. Hulme: The First Modern Poet?

An essay by Alan Jenkins on the TLS blog.

Celery Stalks – Brief poems by Anakreon

Anakreon, sometimes written Anacreon, (/əˈnækriən/; Greek: Ἀνακρέων ὁ Τήϊος; c. 582 – c. 485 BC) was a Greek lyric poet, born at Teos in Ionia, now Sighalik in Turkey, around 582 B. C. After the capture of Sardis by the Persians in 541 B.C., he fled to Abdera in Thrace. Later the Tyrant of Samos, Polykrates,  invited him to teach his son music and poetry and he became a poetic luminary of the court of Samos. In return for his patronage and protection, Anakreon wrote many complimentary odes about the tyrant. According to John Addison, writing in 1735, Anakreon once received a treasure of five gold talents from Polykrates, and couldn’t sleep for two nights in a row. He then returned it to his patron, saying: “However considerable the sum might be, it’s not an equal price for the trouble of keeping it“.

After the murder of Polykrates in 522 B.C., Anakreon  was invited to Athens by Hipparchus, brother of the reigning Athenian tyrant Hippias, who sent a fifty oared galley to convey him over the Ægean. There he became acquainted with the poet Simonides, and other members of the brilliant circle which had gathered around Hipparchus. After the assassination of Hipparchus in 514 B.C. he moved to Thessaly for a short period, but soon he returned to Athens (by that stage a democracy) where he was apparently forgiven his earlier friendships with the tyrants. He finally settled in Abdera, and died in the eighty-fifth year of his age, choked (according to an anecdote of Pliny the Elder) by a grape-stone which he swallowed in a draught of new wine.

For many years , Anakreon was popular in Athens, where his statue was to be seen on the Acropolis, alongside that of his friend Xanthippus, the father of Pericles. According to Pausanias, that statue depicts him as drunk. On several coins from Teos he is represented holding a lyre in his hand, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. A marble statue found in 1835 in the Sabine district, and now in the Galleria Borghese, is said to represent Anakreon.

 

 

THE POETRY OF ANAKREON

Anakreon wrote all of his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect. Like all early lyric poetry, it was composed to be sung or recited to the accompaniment of music, usually the lyre. Although he wrote six books, what survives today are merely lyric fragments. As Guy Davenport puts it succinctly, “These fragments are all that survive of a poet whose fame and stature arise from a collection of poems he did not write.”  The poet who inspired Belleau, Ronsard, Herrick, Ben Johnson, Thomas Moore and many others was not the Anakreon whose poems were first printed in Paris in 1554. It took until the nineteenth century to discover that this “poet” was  an imitation, probably prepared in Alexandria by Aristarchus in the second century, by a group of unknown poets in homage to their inspiration. These sixty poems now known as The Anacreonata were written as a tribute and not as a deception, although they are thought to exaggerate the frivolity and exuberant eroticism of his work. “What we have of the real Anakreon,” as Davenport puts it, “is precious little, and that is in fragments: six ruins of lyrics on papyrus that has been visited by the rat and the maggot, 155 brief quotations from other writers, mainly grammarians, and one line, partly conjectural, written on a vase painting.

Anakreon’s poetry concerned such themes as love, infatuation, unhappiness, wine, celebrations, festivals and, of course, celery. According to Willis Barnstone, the most remarkable feature of the poetry is “its varying tone of playfulness, sophistication, detachment or irony.” Despite his reputed fondness for wine, he disliked vulgarity and excess, preferring to write in a formal and elegant manner, with an ironic enjoyment of life and language.

 

TRANSLATING THE FRAGMENTS OF ANAKREON

I have used two sets of translations below. Willis Barnstone in his Greek Lyric Poetry (in Modern English Translation) states “My intention has been to use a contemporary idiom, generally chaste, but colloquial as the occasion suggests.” While the poems of Anakreon are without titles, he offers the following justification for their inclusion:  All the poems included here have titles, yet few of these are traditional in the Greek. Why use titles then in English translations? …The titles here are mainly informational, based on contextual information or on common ancient allusions with which a modern reader may be unfamiliar. Hopefully, titles will serve to replace lengthy footnotes and make poems more complete.”  Equally colloquial, although in a more idiomatic and more alliterative manner, are the translations of Guy Davenport who, in Anakreon: Complete Poems offers everything (fragmentary phrases included) that has survived.  Initially I have paired the translations but I also include a few extra from Davenport for which there are no Barnstone equivalents. Also, below the original Greek of the celebrated epitaph on Timocritus, and alongside the work of Barnstone and Davenport, I have added two translations, both attributed to Francis Fawkes, and some further translations of this brief poem.

Aside from the epitaph on Timocritus, I have not been able to source the originals on-line and append them to the translations as I have managed in my posts on Archilochus, Sappho, Hadrian, Catullus, Martial, Thomas Campion’s Latin poems and John Owen, the Welsh poet who wrote in Latin. If you can help me add these, I can be contacted through the Contact page or through the Comments box below.

 

 

Brief Poems by Anakreon

 

TRANSLATIONS BY WILLIS BARNSTONE AND GUY DAVENPORT

DICE

The dice of love are
shouting and madness.

W. B.

___

Toss knucklebones with Eros;
Madness and confusion every throw.

G. D

***

KNOCKOUT

Eros, the blacksmith of love,
smashed me with a giant hammer
and doused me in the cold river.

W B

___

Eros the blacksmith
Hammers me again,
Striking while I’m hot,
And thrusts me sizzling
In the ice-cold stream.

G. D.

***

THE PLUNGE

Lord! I clamber up the white cliff
and dive into the steaming wave,
O dead drunk with love.

W. B.

___

I climb the white cliff again
To throw myself into the grey sea,
Drunk with love again.

G. D.

***

ON A CONSERVATIVE LOVER

I love and yet do not love.
I am mad yet not quite mad.

W. B.

___

I am perhaps in love
Again, perhaps not,
And crazy to boot.
No, not crazy.

G. D

***

ON STREETWALKERS

Although we call these women loose,
they tighten their thighs around thighs.

W. B.

___

Twining thigh with thigh.

G. D.

***

A WAY TO THE HEART

Come swiftly
and rub aromatic myrrh on her breasts;
the hollow cave around her heart.

W. B.

___

Can myrrh rubbed on a chest
Sweeten the great round heart inside.

G. D

***

DECEMBER

We go through Poseidon’s month.
Ponderous clouds sag with water
and furious storms break out
collapsing the rain earthward.

W. B.

___

In the month of Posideion,
When the clouds are fat with rain,
Wild storms bring us Zeus.

G. D.

***

VACILLATION

The bird flashes back and forth
between the black leaves of laurel trees
and the greenness of the olive grove.

W. B.

___

(Spring wind) shakes
The darkleaved laurel and green olive tree.

G. D

***

ENCOUNTER

I looked at her and took off
like a frightened cuckoo bird.

W. B.

___

Like the cuckoo,
I made myself scarce
When she was about.

G. D.

***

PREPARATION

Let us hang garlands of celery
across our foreheads
and call a festival to Dionysos.

W.B.

___

Garlands of celery around our brows,
We’re off to celebrate the Dionysia.

G. D.

 

 

Καρτερὸς ἐν πολέμοις Τιμόκριτος, οὗ τόδε σᾶμα·
  Ἄρης δ᾽ οὐκ ἀγαθῶν φείδεται, ἀλλὰ κακῶν.

 

TRANSLATIONS OF THE EPITAPH ON TIMOCRATUS

TIMOCRATUS adorns this humble grave —
Mars spares the coward, but destroys the brave.

The tomb of great Timocritus behold!
Mars spares the base, but slays the brave and bold.

Both are attributed to Francis Fawkes (1720-1777)

___

This Tomb the brave Timocritus contains;
Mars’ Envy only spares
The trembling Coward whom his Sword disdains,
Not him who nobly dares

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

___

Here sleeps the valiant Timocritus free from life’s sorrows and cares;
Ares spares not the brave, only the coward he spares.

Judson France Davidson

___

This is the tomb of Timocritus, a stanch man in the wars; for it is the craven, not the brave, that are spared by Ares.

J. M. Edmonds

___

Of brave Timocritus this is the grave:
The War-God spares the coward, not the brave.

C. M. Bowra

___

Good soldier was Timokritos, whose grave
This is. War spares the coward, not the brave.

Andrew Robert Burn

___

Epitaph on Timokritos
A valiant warrior moulders in this grave,
Ares spares the cowards, not the brave.
Raymond Oliver
____

ON A HOPLITE

Here, the tomb of Timokrotos, a hero in the wars.
It is the coward whom Ares spares – not the brave.

Willis Barnstone

___

He was a soldier in the wars
Timokritos. This is his grave.
Sometimes unkind Ares kills
Not the cowards but the brave.

Guy Davenport

 

 

SOME TRANSLATIONS BY GUY DAVENPORT

Sweetly singing
Swiftly serving
Swallow.

***

The talents that tantalised
Talented Tantalos (tantalize me)

***

Show me the way to go home.
I’m drunk and I need to go to bed.

***

Lovely, too lovely,
And too many love you.

 

 

LINKS

The Wikipedia entry on Anacreon.

The Britannica entry on Anacreon.

Anakreon: Complete Poems by Guy Davenport

The Works of Anacreon, Sappho, Bion. Moschus and Musaeus; Translated by Francis Fawkes.

The Works of Anacreon Translated into English Verse by Joseph Addison.

 

Toadstools – Brief Poems by Fred Chappell

Fred Chappell (born May 28, 1936 on a farm near Canton, North Carolina) is a poet, novelist and critic. He taught at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he was an English professor, for over 40 years. While working there he helped establish the MFA in writing program and received the O. Max Gardner Award for teaching. He was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2004. Retired from teaching, but still continuing to write, he now lives with his wife, Susan, in North Carolina.

Fred Chappell is a versatile southern man of letters who has written more nearly thirty books in a variety of genres, including at least 15 books of poetry, eight novels, and several volumes of short stories and criticism. According to The Los Angeles Times, “Not since James Agee and Robert Penn Warren has a southern writer displayed such masterful versatility.”  He has won numerous poetry awards including the Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Cup which he won three times beginning in 1971, the Bollingen Prize, which he shared with John Ashbery in 1985, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry in 1996, and the T. S. Eliot Prize. 

The Académie Française awarded his 1968 novel, Dagon, the Prix de Meilleur des Lettres Etrangers. Although initially celebrated for his prose, Chappell’s poetry has gained a steady reputation and a loyal readership. Of his move from prose to poetry, he had this to say: Now for the first time I could begin to think directly about the most important intellectual and artistic endeavor in the world: the composition of poetry.” His most ambitious work is Midquest (1981),a four-volume poetic autobiography,” as the poet himself described it. He has also published numerous collections of poetry since Midquest, including Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems (1995), Family Gathering (2000), Backsass (2004), and Shadowbox (2009). C (1993) marked a change of approach, containing 100 poems that are briefer, more humorous and more accessible than his previous poems. Although the C of the title refers to the Roman numeral 100, it is also the first letter of his surname and, as he once noted, also represents the imperative mode of the verb “to see.” Fred Chappell continues to write poetry which he calls “the noblest secular endeavour that the human mind undertakes.”

 

C

In an earlier post, Salt – Brief Poems by J. V. Cunningham,  I describe how, in the 1970’s,  I first encountered A Century of Epigrams.  It was only recently I came across the poetry of Fred Chappell and his slim volume C which also contains a century of epigrams. I managed to source a copy of the book from an English retailer, Bookbarn International. I was not disappointed. Michael McFee contrasts the epigrams of Cunningham and Chappell: “Cunningham’s epigrams may be more classically classical than Chappell’s, more intensely chiseled, but they also seem less human somehow, less accessible and fun to read.” Here I disagree. While Cunningham’s epigrams may be more classical, they are no less human, no less accessible and no less “fun to read.” Their “wit” may be more traditional, but they are humorous in a different manner. And while they may lack the self-deprecatory tone of Chappell’s epigrams, they have a deeper sense of rhyme, rhythm and classical proportions. McFee is right to invoke the spirit of Ogden Nash (see my post Squibs – Brief Poems by Ogden Nash) and to call Chappell a “subversive formalist” with a sense of mischievousness. And while I prefer Cunningham’s rigour and Nash’s fluidity, I do enjoy the loose, unbuttoned, satiric and demotic style Fred Chappell has mastered. I hope you do too.

TRANSLATIONS

As Michael McFee noted of C, “Of the hundred epigrams included, twenty-eight of them – over a quarter of the total poems – are translations or versions of epigrams written by other poets at other times.” When it comes to translating classical (and modern) epigrams, I prefer the work of Chappell to Cunningham. The range is broader and the style looser and more suited to the poets chosen. I have provided a brief sample below to give a flavour of the Fred Chappell art of translation. Chappell, himself, is modest when it comes to his abilities with the classical poets: “I’m from a generation that was cheated of a classical education. If you want to learn those languages, you have to start young, at six or seven. I’ve had Latin halfway and like to refresh myself from time to time. I’ve never had much Greek. The Greek translations I’ve done have been partially faked.”  Whatever about their accuracy, their humour, their brevity and their contemporary references ensure that they will continue to attract readers to a poet who has modelled his epigrammatic style on the influence of a Latin model. Martial (whose work is dealt with in another post,  Bedside Lamps – Brief Poems by Martial) is invoked in the initial Proem and remains a ghostly presence in this intriguing collection.

Brief Poems by Fred Chappell

EPIGRAMS

CHIPMUNK

Don’t blink, or
I’m gone,
Slow thinker.

***

EPITAPH: THE POET

I never truckled.
I never pandered.
I was born
To be remaindered.

***

EPITAPH: THE PLAYBOY

It was wine and women
That did me in.
If I get a chance
They’ll do it again.

***

UPON A CONFESSIONAL POET

You’ve shown us all in stark undress
The sins you needed to confess.
If my peccadilloes were so small
I never would undress at all.

***

TOADSTOOL

He’s the oddest fellow
Ever was made,
Lifting his white umbrella
To ward off shade.

***

SEX MANUAL

We’ve followed instructions to the letter,
Pausing at diagram 82.
“Aren’t we there yet?” one of us queries.
But in this position I can’t tell who.

***

COMING HOME

Even the sunlight is a smell you remembered.

(This poem is also included on the Monostich post)

***

LITERARY CRITIC

Blossom’s footnotes never shirk
The task of touting his own work.

***

LITERARY CRITIC

Peter Puffer piped a pack of poets into
Undeservedly prominent public view:
Then, just to prove the power of his pen,
Provokingly piped them pouting out again.

***

OVERHEARD IN THE TEAROOM

“Marianne, my dear,
I’ll say this for Ruth:
Though she never tells the truth
Her lies are quite sincere.”

***

GRACE BEFORE MEAT

Bless our corn pones, Lord. But let us dream
They might be black currant muffins with strawberry jam and clotted double Devon cream.

***

UPON AN AMOROUS OLD COUPLE

This coltish April weather
Has caused them to aspire
To rub dry sticks together
In hopes that they’ll catch fire.

***

THE EPIGRAMMATIST

Mankind perishes. The world goes dark.
He racks his brains for a tart remark.

***

From C, by Fred Chappell, copyright 1993 by Fred Chappell, published by Louisiana State University Press.

 

 

TRANSLATIONS

EPITAPH: JUSTICE

The poet Hipponax lies here.
In justice, this is only fair.
His lines were never dark or deep.
Now he enjoys (like his readers) sleep.

from the Greek of Theocritus

***

AGRICULTURE

You’ve planted seven wealthy husbands
While the bodies were still warm.
You own, Chloë, what I’d call
A profit making farm.

from the Latin of Martial

(Further translations of the Latin poet are available on the Martial post)

***

FOR THE TOMB OF THE LITTLE DOG ZABOT

Your house was small, your body but a puplet;
A shoebox was your grave, your epitaph this couplet.

from the Italian of Petrarch

***

MORNING LIGHT

Immensity
Illumes me.

from the Italian of Giusseppe Ungaretti

***

THE SWALLOWS

in nifty capitals of black satin
they’re typing out the aubade
daybreak just dictated

from the Italian of “Farfa”

***

From C, by Fred Chappell, copyright 1993 by Fred Chappell, published by Louisiana State University Press.

 

 

LINKS

The Poetry Foundation page for Fred Chappell.

“The Epigrammatical Fred Chappell” by Michael McFee; an article in the Southern Literary Journal.

C is published by the LSU Press.

C is available to buy on the amazon.co.uk  site.

C is available to buy on the amazon.com site.

An interview with Fred Chappell by Okla Elliott.

An interview with Fred Chappell by William Walsh