Poetry

Poetry by Isabel Zapata in Translation

Poems by ISABEL ZAPATA

Translated from the Spanish by ROBIN MYERS

Poems appear in both Spanish and English. 

 

Translator’s Note

Like many translators, I grow weary of talking about “faithfulness” and “betrayal,” about whether it’s “possible” to translate poetry, about what gets “lost” in translation. These queries quickly become platitudes, and platitudes are tiresome. But what’s always relevant, always urgent, and always exhilarating to me about translation is the idea of respect. The practice of care. One of my favorite translators, Sophie Hughes, recently said in an interview: “I approach a text that is already complete, mature, sure of itself, and it’s my responsibility to look after it, to respect it for what it is (its nature or essence), whilst protecting it from linguistic butchery, from translationese, from too many mistakes or outlandish mis- and reinterpretations.” And how can we respect anything for what it is until we truly listen to what it has to say about itself and how it sees the world?

Griffin LessellPoetry by Isabel Zapata in Translation
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August 2019 Poetry Feature

New poems by Nathan McClain, Sara Elkamel, and Brian Simoneau

NATHAN MCCLAIN | The Flowers

| At the Park, a Boy’s Birthday

SARA ELKAMEL | Instructions for getting around a desert

BRIAN SIMONEAU |  Each morning I get up I die a little

 

NATHAN MCCLAIN

The flowers

in the greenhouse
now flowers

in the supermarket
rubber-bound

clipped
from wherever

they seemed almost
to nod

their agreement with what
the breeze once said

now flowers
in some glass vase

on the dining room table
where no one eats

What race they are
doesn’t matter nor if

their stems are thorny
you see

They’re just flowers
They die

You walk by
them all the time

hardly thinking
twice about their names

 

At the Park, a Boy’s Birthday Party  

No surprises here, really.
Not the plastic,

white cutlery
or the fancy glass bowl,

cubes of pineapple
and Bosc pear

floating in punch
(naturally red)

that no one
(thank the Lord)

has thought yet to spike.
Each boy, blindfolded,

spun in place, and shoved
down the piñata’s path

with a bat
he can barely lift,

the piñata star-shaped,
tasseled pink at its ends,

seems accurate.
At this age,

their limbs
inarticulate as the smoke

of catfish or pork ribs
that hiss on the park grill.

They hardly notice
the sun’s descent.

            It’s getting late, I think
to say as someone’s father

knots the blindfold
over my eyes. Fits the bat

into my hands. In my ear,
the boys shriek, and there—

the star,
snagged in the oak

of my mind, the rope,
swaying

almost gently. How,
even dizzied,

do I step towards it?

 

SARA ELKAMEL

Instructions for getting around a desert  

The bride is seeing ghosts today.
She stands expertly with unease

as subtle as a sweet surprise
dissolved under a cloud.

There is nothing around
to quiver. Just our unkindness

pouring out our hands
like sand.

When they describe sugar
they say it looks

like salt. Feels the same when
bitten. For its gentleness,

ideal as a cure for dryness,
acidity, soreness, even weak

eyesight. But when she sees
the same dream twice, the bride

self-medicates: dissolves elsewhere
in gentle hot earth. Fills

her palms with salt, but
are these the kinds of gifts

you give at the end?
How red is a red infinity

if you give it your back,
your head like a rosefinch

caught in the horizon.
How infinite?

 

BRIAN SIMONEAU

Each morning I get up I die a little 

A truck rumbles the day to life, lifts with robotic arm our bin
and sets it softly down. We are living in the future

and the future brought pain to ankles, to knees, my temples
rendered gray. So today I don a fraying t-shirt, silk-screened
logo faded the way our favorite mix-tape songs now slip

from digital lives. What’s come won’t come undone, summer
hungover, and the slang we sang unstrung, each year a little

harder to believe. I walk the girls to school over squares
of cement cracked by frost and passing to nowhere, corners
with no corner stores, even gas stations an indecent drive

away, past bedroom after bedroom, two-car garages hiding
if people are home or not. Kids on the street wait for the day

to begin with vinyl seats and backpacks on laps, their task
what it is for us all: remake themselves to the minute at hand.
Unshaven, unshowered, a baseball cap tugged into place,

I flip-flop down the block, stop to watch a helicopter
overhead. I will hop and skip. I will not step on a crack.

 

Nathan McClain is the author of Scale(Four Way Books, 2017), the recipient of fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Frost Place, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Poem-a-Day, The Baffler, West Branch Wired, upstreet, and Foundry. He teaches at Hampshire College.

Sara Elkamel is a journalist and poet, living between Cairo and New York City. She holds an M.A. in arts and culture journalism from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Guernica, The Common, Winter Tangerine, American Chordata and elsewhere.

Brian Simoneau is the author of the poetry collection River Bound (C&R Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, Southern Indiana Review, Third Coast, and other journals. Originally from Lowell, Massachusetts, he lives near Boston with his family.

Isabel MeyersAugust 2019 Poetry Feature
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June 2019 Poetry Feature: Eleanor Stanford

Four Poems By ELEANOR STANFORD

Contents

  • Everything that exists in any world exists in the actual world
  • There is nothing so far away from us as not to be part of our world
  • The world we live in is a very inclusive thing
  • “Missing” universals that ought to be possible
Sofia BelimovaJune 2019 Poetry Feature: Eleanor Stanford
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Immigrant Ditty

By VLADIMIR GANDELSMAN

Translated from Russian by OLGA LIVSHIN and ANDREW JANCO

Poem appears in both Russian and English.

 

Translators’ Note:

Born in 1948, Vladimir Gandelsman is very much the literary child of the poets of the Russian Silver Age. He draws on their dramatic, spiritually intense version of modernism, the acme, or the highest point of expression, whether meditating on fleeting moments or on major historical events. His literary parents include Pasternak and Mandelstam. Proust and Wilde are his relatives: he draws on and develops their respective fascinations with the sensuous quality of everyday life. Gandelsman’s exquisite diction and surprising collages of words help us remember our own moments of heightened feeling.

Sofia BelimovaImmigrant Ditty
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April 2019 Poetry Feature: Jessica Lanay

This April we welcome back TC contributor JESSICA LANAY for a single-author Poetry Month feature.

“First Fall”

“Mouth Piece”

“A Brief History of Shrinking”

“Dear Mountain”

“Erasure”

 

First Fall

We dampened the cool white sheets
throwing each other, knowing
we are both liars; we didn’t get
what we wanted: me—a chest

Julia PikeApril 2019 Poetry Feature: Jessica Lanay
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Philosophical Flowers

By RICHIE HOFMANN

 

The streets are named for German poets
in my huge provincial Midwestern city.
Dust whirls up from the tires of passing cars,
lifting a veil over me, like Romantic longing. On Goethe, I want nothing 
more than to reach down and feel a lover’s big skull
in my hands. On Schiller, lust subsides, among the wrought iron
doors and grand steps, lined with hundreds of dollars of candles. 
Inside, patricians mingle in the high-minded friendships
I desire for myself. About this, as so much else,
the flowers in the window-boxes on Schiller are philosophical.
Their arguments are convoluted, but concern the beauty of simplicity, freedom from need,
and, even more often, the depredations of time.
One fat peony speaks as if she were the Sybil:
“Live with your century but do not be its creature.”

Isabel MeyersPhilosophical Flowers
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