To Soften...

Despite the fact that my last post here was couched in slightly self-congratulatory terms, (I use the fact it was the anniversary as an excuse), I am afraid I am going to riff on the same theme. On the Tuesday just passed we had our second event with Arc Publications, the country's leading publisher of poetry in translation. Over the last few weeks they have been involved in a monumental tour of the UK with a number of different poets from their stable of European writers. We were lucky enough to have two visits from the in the space of a month. Of course I understand that these events will be of limited interest to most people, and had I been a punter I might well have looked at the billing, considered it noteworthy and then forgotten all about it. Indeed, the majority of the audience on both evenings were affiliated in some way with the translation course at UEA. However, being the boss an all that, I was obliged to attend, and how glad I am that I did. It seems to me always to be the case that the events schedules which are the most obscure or apparently inaccessible are the ones which turn out to be the most rewarding - perhaps for that very reason; I may not have a clue about what the event will be or who the writes in question are, and therefore no apparent interest, but I also have no expectation. It therefore makes for an experience which is hard to be disappointed by and, as is most often the case, easy to be impressed, or even bowled over by. On such occasions I am prone to feeling a mix of shame and pride - the one because I have adopted an attitude which I get frustrated by in others, namely, it aint my bag so I aint interested, and the other because I have gone on and programmed the event nonetheless and have had the pleasure of sharing the experience with other members of the public who are clearly also enjoying it. I wont attempt to relay what happened in Tuesday night, it would be pointless, but as a brief overview, three poets read their work in their native language and in English: Katariina Vuorinen and Janne Nummela from Finland and Sigurður Pálsson from Iceland. Briefly, Janne has been described as a 'Genius in the wilderness' and lived up to that title, with all the eccentricities and wildness one might expect. Katariina performed - and sang - her work without reading, giving perhaps the most mesmerizing delivery I have ever experienced from a poet, and Sigurour, something of a literary icon in his homeland, gave a more traditional reading. All three were exceptional, but it is Palsson's work I would like to highlight on this occasion. Several of the pieces he read struck me as being something very special, but this poem in particular I found moving, funny, clever and affecting. I have work by all three poets in the shop should you wish to read more. I also attach a video of him reading it, which I had no idea someone had recorded in the shop - just found it online!


Announcement From The International Assembly Of Diamonds


Now we cannot do any more

can no longer show

this extreme hardness

this glowing hardness


We were once coal

it took thousands and thousands of years

to bring out

our diamond hardness


Now we cannot do any more


In the morning it was decided

at the international assembly

of diamonds

that we will soften

yes, that we would soften


That is our protest

against the inequality of man

against the injustices of man


We, the diamonds of the world

always adorn the same people

in necklaces,rings

earrings and tiaras


Now we are going to soften

that is the conclusion of our assembly


We are going to soften

even though it leads to us

leaking out of those tiaras

down through the hair of queens

like old semen

from the bodies of long dead soldiers


Even though it leads

to us leaking

down from necklaces

like consumptive phlegm

from dead bodies

of promising young poets


Leaking out of rings and earrings

like choleric spit

on the pavement in a third world country

so that people miss their footing

in the finest areas of town


Miss their footing in us

who decided this morning


at the international assembly

of diamonds


to soften.





Henry LatteComment