Image credit: Sufyan Jalal, from Withering Exhibition

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Anaximenes

It may be necessary to breathe in

to be inspired.

 

But the moment

of truth—

death, the poem—

always comes

with an expiration.

 

 

Birth of a Bover Snail

 With rotary

patience,

after fifteen days

dreaming in spirals

and helixes

in the subsoil’s

starry dark

 

the verb

inhabit

solidifies

into the noun

home.

 

 

Definition’s Path 

Perhaps someone would know how to tell me.

Then I would tell you.

Like one who explains what she doesn’t know.

Like one who gives what he doesn’t have.

 

 

The Magic of Honey

While orienting itself

among the nervous

edges

of a lavender bush,

 

the bee translates

the language of flowers

into the language of honey.

 

On each morning’s toast,

we read

the name of the woods

we used to race through

as children.

 

 

How to Know if a Poem Is Working

 Picture a Japanese house:

 

through the wall-

paper

of the poem

 

you have to be able to listen

to your neighbor’s silence

while reading this poem.

 

 

Field Notebook 

Heat expands the pages

and lines of verse mature

precipitously, explode,

fall, and are lost.

 

Who will lend them—

hurry—

a mouth as round and large

as comprehension?

 

 

Harmony

What if we have to return to rhyme.

Not words, but things.

Not things, but splinters, kisses, traces,

errant lights and microscopic loves.

 

Go out and search for

the twin sister

of each insignificant thing,

lower-case letter

sleeping inside the belly

of every capital.

 

Come, pull the thread

from one end of the universe to the other:

                                              someone will respond.



Original ↓

Anaxímenes

Potser calgui inspirar

per inspirar-se.

 

Però el moment

de la veritat

–la mort, el poema–

arriba sempre

amb una expiració.

 

 

Naixement d’un cargol bover

Amb paciència

rotatòria,

després de quinze dies

somiant espirals

i hèlices

en la foscor estelada

del subsòl,

 

el verb

habitar

se solidifica

en el substantiu

casa.

 

 

Camí de la definició

Potser algú sabria dir-m’ho.

Aleshores jo us ho diria.

Com qui explica allò que no sap.

Com qui dóna allò que no té.

 

 

La màgia de la mel

Mentre s’orienta

entre les terminacions

nervioses

d’una mata d’espígol,

 

l’abella tradueix

del llenguatge de les flors

al llenguatge de la mel.

 

En la torrada de cada matí,

nosaltres hi llegim

el nom del bosc

on corríem

de petits.

 

 

Com saber si un poema funciona

Imagina’t una casa japonesa:

 

a través de les parets

de paper

del poema

 

has de poder escoltar

el silenci del veí

llegint aquest poema.

 

 

Quadern de camp 

La calor dilata les pàgines

i els versos maduren

precipitadament, esclaten,

cauen i es perden.

 

Qui els prestarà

–de pressa–

una boca rodona i gran

com la comprensió?

 

 

Harmonia

Potser ens calgui tornar a rimar.

No paraules, sinó coses.

No coses, sinó resquills, biaixos, indicis,

llumetes errants i amors microscòpics.

Sortir a trobar

la germana bessona

de cada insignificança,

la lletra minúscula

que dorm al ventre

de cada majúscula.

 

Vinga, estreba el fil.

D’un extrem a l’altre de l’univers:

                                     algú respondrà.

Translator's Note

Gorga’s limpid, minimalist poems from her most recent collection, Voyage to the Center, are less interested in plumbing depths than in creating surfaces that gesture toward silence, the unsaid, the no-speech of the blank page. In her poem “Anaximenes,” for example, Gorga references the Greek philosopher who believed that air was the primary substance holding the universe together and that breath, pneuma, was synonymous with air. Thus the whole poem might be read as an inhalation during the first stanza and a longer exhalation while reading the second stanza; the reader is enacting the very philosophy being described.

Many of Gorga’s poems openly think about language itself, as in “Birth of a Bover Snail,” where the transformation of the snail and the hardening of its shell mark the transition linguistically from the verb inhabit to the noun home—yet one more poem enacting its theme. Several of the poems here speak about poetry itself and its connection to silence, as in “Field Notebook” and “How to Know if a Poem Is Working.” In the latter, it is only through the silence of overhearing someone else’s reading of the poem that the poem you have before you is truly successful. Likewise in “Harmony” which suggests that “things” and “not words” have to return to the condition of rhyming. Here there is a suggested re-ordering of our perception of the physical universe.

In translating these poems, I attempt to use as few words as possible, like light brushwork in a gestural painting, in order to achieve the same suggestive, understated quality as the original Catalan poem. This is especially true when the poem itself is extremely brief, as in “Definition’s Path”: a four-line poem that sees the definition of a word as a social transaction, yet a paradoxical one that gestures beyond language itself.


Sharon Dolin

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