This next transcreated poem is originally by Reza Mohammadi, an Afghani born in 1979, who originally composed Smoke in Persian. From this point Reza himself & Narguess Farzad made English translations, which were then comblended into one by Nick Laird. It was from this last version that I made the Goethe-friendly poem you are about to read.
REZA MOHAMMADI: Smoke
Unto the man I would return
Who once inside my shirt did burn.
At each lip’s precipice I fret
To find the voice I once did set
Down-dangling from a cigarette.
I ask the card-turn to unshroud
The revelations thro’ the crowd
That sweeps aside bird, plant & cloud.
Carry off, great Lord, this flower,
To tables fill’d by my mother,
& to the house of my father,
& to the fish of the rivers
Whom, three times a day, take lovers,
Suicide’s soft deliverers.
I’m six years old, care to buy bread?
What am I doing here, I said.
Carry my soul to the tented
Gypsy mystic, tinted, scented,
Take it to be finger-printed.
I’ll never leave this street, y’know,
That named a missile long ago.
You’ll see I only came to buy
Some rolls of bread – you’ll see that I
Have seen exactly six years by.
Before the next man join’d my thread
Morning stopp’d gorging on his head,
& like this poem’s folding, he
Was thrown, was caught, within old me.
Hey! This much wind my shirt won’t stand,
We should not let this much cloud land.
The blacken’d body’s shrapnel flew
Right back to eat, snack, feast on you.
Why should I be God’s kick’d up dust,
I flow like ink from His fingers.
The broken lighters of his feet
Flicker & flare in mine like heat.
His heart a wet, spent ciggarette,
His mother’s lashes crudely set
Inside his pocket, food for worms,
With sister’s hair that fistfull squirms,
& those barb’d eyelids of his wife.
I wish somebody in his life
Had told him moons dont burst in flame
When clad in clothes by top brands made.
The one runs from me as he ran
From his ma’s table & her pan,
Thus I would like to tell him this,
How poet’s metamorphosis
Grows on lips like little roses
Caus’d by earth – which decomposes!
Even the river dodges me,
Even the doves take flight to flee
& all the Judas trees within
Are made of debris from this bin;
How was your face made up, I said,
What shade the scarf swath’d round your head?
Black-sooted in black suit I stand,
A dandelion in one hand,
Addresses I can’t call to mind,
As on moth-wings descends dusts fine,
Dusts upon petals de-scend-ing –
Now I’m forgetting everything.
Like I said last time out, every composition session is different. whereas last time I got two poems in one day, this weekend I got one poem over three days. It is called ‘Knowingly Willingly,’ & is the creation of a Turkish poet, Gonca Ozman, who quite unlike the majority of the Divan poets is actually younger than me – I’m 1976, she’s 1982. Anyway, without further ado, lets see my transcreation, based on the translation out of the Turkish by Maureen Freely & Ozge Calli Spike, & poeticized by Jo Shapcott. Mt transcraeyion has taken some effort, as the irregular-length couplets were difficult to formalize in regular quatrains, but the beast was eventually tamed!
GONCA OZMEN: Knowingly Willingly
Insane the shadows that I taste
& speak to, tho’ I promis’d not;
Love keep me from my home displac’d,
Especially its nights boycott!
Come & empty out my bottom
Drawer, the garden incinerate,
& then, just like the hick I am,
Fling me outside, without debate.
Your halls ancestral snow-tall climb,
As each into each other coils,
& into you, & into time,
Why stand so awkward with your spoils?
Forgive me love this very night,
Night most of all, when comes dusk’s shroud
To turn things dark, let me alight
Once more the dance-floor, blend with crowd.
My body is a gun, by flags
Of sorrow made, & aim’d at thee,
Tho’ trapp’d in your unwelcome snags
Tis naught to what once made me flee.
Love! Rescue! Save me! Hear my song,
Untether unpleasant morning,
Save me from both those tables long
& elegance rooms adorning.
Into the poison Marsh of Death,
You could take a swim most eely,
But you’d dive, in an instant’s breath,
Back into those morning’s freely.
When rose your mother’s fine cheekbone
Approving stomach’s rumbling,
My tights were full of holes, alone,
I pass through your breakfast stumbling!
Love, to me listen, most of all
At night, when moondust lingers long,
When I can trust soft words to fall
Like wine draughts crooning on the tongue!
Unlike my voice each prickly thread,
Love lay me down within the night,
Destitute-distill’d your wine-bed,
Poverty-fed, is pour’d from fright.
Go to the garden, love, & tell,
The Jasmines & the Freesias,
About myself, night comes to dwell,
Absolve me to the Dervishes.
Love see a world in me, a grape
Peel’d delicately heavenly,
Let not outside your mind escape
Where spools spinning machinery.
Forget the pain that I maintain,
Pressing upon you, unallay’d,
Yes, let it rest, forget the pain,
Into the distance let it fade.
Go catch an apple & a burst
of street-jive, then a catcall clear,
A stream of conscience unrehears’d,
Exploding laughter in your ear.
You’ve ran like water thro’ my voice,
& what you drop don’t pockets blame,
More dust than one long-untouch’d vase
I’ve gathered, while I play your game.
In buttons undone there’s meaning,
Words slay their targets, well you know,
Love look at me, in me leaning,
You touch me but left long ago.
Even waters have no spare time
To flow with me, nobody cares,
To halt night’s sordid paradigm,
Allowing morning’s gloryglares.
Every composition session is different – there are many contributing factors which lead to a day’s creation in the genres of longer poem. I recall being on Rab Island in 2004, & creating 12 tryptychs worth of Axis & Allies in a single day – 240 lines. Keats, while scrambling about the Isle of White during Endymion managed 50. Thus, returning to The New Divan, I simply whistled through two poems as opposed to last week’s projection of one completed & several doodled at per session. The two are Paradise on Earth by Fadhil Al Azzawi, & Ephesus Ghazal by Jan Wagner. They are the last two poems in the collection, actually, & it was on hearing Robin Robertson’s translation of the Ephesus Ghazal, & his admittance that ‘he didnt really rhyme’ which started this whole project in the first place.
It was a perfectly delightful morning, Indian Summery almost, & Daisy was also enjoying an early morning strut. Today’s compositions took place in two places – the first was near a wind-farm as you top the Lammermuirs on the A68. The second was in a delightful spot on the Lauder-Stow road. On that same road I filmed a Pendragon Post, talking about the New Divan – it seemd apt. After here we went to Stow for a bit, where I filmed Daisy for an idea I have about her presenting history shows to dubbed on voice overs, with the first one being called DAISY & THE SECRETS OF THE PICTISH KING LIST. Then, on the return via the Sutra Aisle road, I paused at the foresty place to dash off a poem from THE NEW TRUTH - my new & main poetical creation for the rest of 2019. But I digress too far, & let us now enjoy – I hope – the second & third full poems of THE NEW DIVAN.
FADHIL AL-AZZAWI: Paradise on Earth
I see it as I leave the inn
The dark of night, an evil djinn
Pursues me close, each step I take,
These steps shall shudder as I shake
Dogs furious, a-bark behind
Like hunt-track wolves, outflung from mind,
I must drive this road’s solitude,
I must sing madly, loud & crude!
Dervish disguis’d as angel slips
Out from the mosque, threats on his lips,
Waving his stick thro’ air at me,
“Hey, you are losing your life!” he
Screams, “You have lost your life,” Adam,
Did you not know its forbidden
In this world to drink Eden’s wine?
But in Paradise, hey, that’s fine!
Go drink that wine, its bountiful
& free, search for the beautiful
Eyes, bountiful houris, gratis.
Oh master of my days, where is
This place, lord tell me where we are.
He points his stick up to a star, “There,” utters he, “Eternity,”
Twinkling… blazing… “Up there!” says he,
Fluttering as the falcons rise
Evanishing in splendid skies!
I do not move, stricken with doubt,
I dare not move, Hafiz steps out
Arriving as he always does
As of-a-sudden surprises, “My friend!” he laughs, “Why worry so?
Their walls are high & you have no
Wings there to fly – no – let us make
This mortal rock an angels’ lake ,
Look at these mountains rising up,
For when the flood oerflows the cup,
These seas, these oceans, all aswirl
With fish & gorgeous whales which whirl
About this Godufactured Earth,
Where even serpents maintain worth,
We must remember to release
Snakes from their cages, whom, in peace,
Shall twine around those fine branches
Of our tree – happy, glorious -
What more will we need than that?
JAN WAGNER: Ephesus Ghazal
With tyrants who cavort like gods,
Our days cut-short at shortest odds,
Of these severe was one in faith,
His painters perpetrate a wraith,
With shaggy face & eyes like sleet,
Lads seven underneath his feet,
Prepar’d for freedom, so they hid
Themselves before Dawn lifts its lid.
Cavebound, the dog curl’d at their feet,
That loved them all with love complete,
While they first slept the Emperor
Gave rocks in cartloads the order,
‘Block up the entrance!’ Still they slept,
Dispersing trances, by them crept
Long centuries on centuries,
So deep that sleep it seems death is
Enmesh’d with slumbers – angel’s hand
As gentle as a grazing land,
Did turn them… dreadful, delicate;
Depending on which way the foot
Did point – to Heaven, down to Hell –
Limbs rolling as lads dreamlands dwell.
Eroded rocks, awoke hungry,
Thinking new morn was what they see
Just one night old; so sent to town
Their youngest, keenest, skills a crown,
Who found a bakers where once stood
The court, the baker’s face of blood
Drain’d white, straining for friends, in fear –
The proffer’d coin engrav’d, a clear
Depicted face, some king long dead, “He was the emperor,” someone said,
A whole town came to gawp & glare
At this young marvel standing there,
Whose uncles & great-grandchildren
Were lang syne dust, distant aeon
In which he tried to grow a beard,
The townsfolk thought this very weird,
Tho’ simmering their pots were set,
They shrank Ephesus’ parapet,
To distant dots, even before
The millet cook’d; they wanted more
To see the cave, & when they did,
The other six no longer hid,
A clan of seven spread from death,
Who’d somehow shar’d eternal breath!
Here is my first full transcreation of A New Divan into The New Divan. I decided to do it as altho the project is noble, what has been presented to the public is lacking distinctly in the art which both Goethe & Hafiz would have appreciated. Instead we have what appears to the naked eye as field notes in free verse. In its current form it is accessible to the vast majority of the English-speaking world, which is something I would like to redress thro’ the creation of a natural synthesis of all the parts into an octosyllabic, rhyming harmony. Borrowing a car for the day I headed out from Edinburgh with Daisy the dog for my whistlestop tour of the Borders. I mean, its great down there, I don’t know why folk are determined on driving seven hours to Skye, the scenery is just as resplendent & the drive is better for the Carbon footprint. After traversing the Lammermuirs we skirted Duns, paused at Hume Castle, & popped into Kelso for an hour. This is where the Teviot meets the Tweed & the riverside walk is a wide, cerebral, link-like stretch. As for the town itself, its a fine affair with a massive square & a genial atmosphere of the highest quality.
From Kelso we drove towards Morebattle, skirted it & headed through a romantic glen towards, through & beyond the house-huddle of Hownam (pronounced Hoonam). Just at the point where we hit Dere Street – the old Roman road between York & Scotland – I found myself at the foot of Woden Law, a climb of whose steep slopes afforded a windy yet spectacular view. Daisy kept up & was intrigued to watch the 6 or 7 crows/ravens hovering over sections of shale. It was a superb sensation to stumble on the defenses of the iron age hillfort, & that it had Roman additions, is situated so close to Deer Street, & of course that it was named after Cunedda’s father (see the last post) set my naturally inquisitive mind a-racing.
From Woden Law we popped into Morebattle, having a couple of coffees in a church that is in the middle of being converted into a pilgrim center for walkers of St Cuthbert’s Way between Melrose & Lindisfarne. Pilgrims had been complaining that there were not more spiritual experiences on the route, plus the coffee was really good. The priest – an Episcopalian named Margaret Pederson – came for a chat & I showed her The New Divan. She said she was familiar with Hafiz for his spiritual insight, & providing a cue for me to waffle on a bit about what I was doing with the project as I tossed off a few more lines.
Morebattle itself was a fine village, with a community shop & its own John Clare-Rabbie Burns hybrid, the peasant poet Robert Davidson. He was a farm labourer who published three volumes of his own poetry during his lifetime. He also wrote a short autobiography to accompany his third and final book of poems. This makes Davidson one of the first working men anywhere to have published an account of their lives. Given his circumstances, his achievement is a considerable one. Given his circumstances, the insight he provides into such lives and times is an invaluable one. Davidson never to have once left the Morebattle district, the small corner of the Scottish Borders in which he was born, lived and died. Davidson was a ‘day labourer’ and sometime ‘hind’ and like others from his station in life, his wages were low and somewhat uncertain. He lived his life in poverty and often on the edge of destitution. His is the authentic voice of the rural poor.
From Morebattle it was just a wee drive in the direction of Coldstream to Branxton & the fabulous Flodden battlefield. It wasn’t that fabolous for the Scottish king, James IV, who finding himself tactically outflanked by a forced English march, left his secure position on the Flodden Ridge & turned about face to meet the English from the top of Branxton Hill who were now between him & home. Obsessed with attacking in the Swiss echelon styles, & losing the artillery battle with his massive seige cannon which couldn’t handle the new elevation in time, he ordered his men to leave the relative safety of the hill summit just as the Scots would do againts Cromwell at Doon Hill, & march downslopes to attack the English. Unfortunately they wandered into uscouted marshy ground & the momentum halted, allowing the dense mass of Scots & their unwieldy pikes to be targeted by arrowstorms or hacked to pieces by the shorter but nimbler English bills. There died on the field the flower of Scottish nobility, among whom was the Scottish king himself. This is a poem I wrote about the visit penned when I got back to the ranche.
Sonnet: Upon Seeing the Merits in a Second Referendum
I go to Flodden in these bareback times,
How sad the phantoms in this sodden field,
Lamenting not them dying by their King,
But how no Scotsman dares to thrust his pike
Against the machinations of the South,
These days, when Scotia knows herself once more.
Before, I wished an island to remain,
But now, I sense a nation full reborn,
Transcending quibblings of a Quisling House
Descending into spittle-threats and farce,
For whom would want to member with a gang
Determined on a dead-end in the dark?
My song’s for Independence to redress
Those crimes ‘No’ voted for, this time I’m ‘Yes!’
It was on the field of Flodden that I also finished my first full poem for The New Divan. Its path to my pen began with Clara Janés’ Canto del Escanciador, or ‘The Song of the One Who Pours the Wine.’ Clara is a Spanish poet, & a distinguishd translator of several central & Eastern European languages, so you can see her credentials. Next up was Lavinia Greenlaw, a winner of the TS. Eliot, Forward and Whitbread Poetry Prizes, and the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger – again quite a high-ranking poet in the current Ancien Régime. The full poem reads as follows;
The Song of the One Who Pours the Wine
As Shiraz roses sheer upclimb
These pages thro’, so hear the chime
Sung by the Holy Fool that stands
Beside the well at dusk – these hands
Reveal the decorated cup,
As if, from it, Jamshid did sup,
Containing worlds within wine-pools
Where ripple stars, submerging jewels,
Revealing patterns unimpair’d
By fauna & by flora shar’d,
A human heart or pulseless stone?
Upon a palm leaf focus hone
In some garden botanica,
Such as the one in Padua,
When famously illustrated
The metamorph you’ll see outspread!
As formula, in chimes, upswells
From caravans & tiny bells;
All things must change, all time must pass,
But even so, as higher class
Of thinker contemplates these things,
All fixed must be in place on strings –
Prayer beads of love & science.
Pour me another cup forth-hence,
Permitting detailed inspection
Of all that swims in reflection,
I’ll read the Cosmos as a sacred text,
Accepting what I’ll see I must acknowledge next.
Keeping electrons in a trance,
By atom procharge made to dance,
Like the limitless extension
Of the waves in curv’d connexion;
Deep secrets of this circuitrie
Reveals the links twyx atomie,
When object & subject between
Sees space collapsing mezzanine.
All this is held by such perfume
Exhaled by Shiraz rose in bloom,
Love is the scent-sway, & does etch
The first & best alphabet, which
Declaring in Persopolis,
This Human grace forever is!
Yet, falls the dusk, the Holy Fool
Sings by the well’s radiant pool,
The poet plucks from blazing flames
A flicker of all things, all names,
That brand my hands, together we
Repeat his arcane sorcery;
Nature, my one joy is to connect!
Despite snatching at several of the poems during the day, & getting a few decent lines for each, it was Clara’s that I saw to the finish-line. I quite like the process actually, its quite demanding mentally to enter someone’s poetry & to make it sound satisfactorily better in both sound & sense, while adhering to the general form system I have universally imposed. It felt only natural that whenever I hit a brick wall of transcreation, after a stanza or so, I could leap like a flea to another poem & start with a fresh impulse. Why waste one’s energies trying to find the perfect line when that moment is clearly not the one intended to find it. Poetry, remember, the true essence of poetry, is a collection of the best moments. It definitely feels the right way to proceed, its the same method I used to get the openings to all 24 poems down first. I also enjoyed making a day of it, out in the field absorbing poesis, writing poetry as I went. So I hope to repeat it in the future, of which there will be 23 more days of composition!