Thursday, February 02, 2017

winter foliage / whitsun

Beech, January 30, 2017

5. future foliage

how to recognize trees in winter – by the buds
on their leafless twigs. do they have scales, half cupped,
or no scales, protected by matted hair? “We can
not name what barely we’ve begun to know.”
as in winter we’ve nothing but what’s to come
to recognize it by. how very fast it all went,
last yellow fronds on spears, all long fallen, having
been ravished by flaring colours, say: the most beautiful
ravished you. left you a shell, or left you behind
as a shell in chill, so shape something, sharpish, but when?
listen: if there’s so little time, there’s little choice
but to relocate memory to the future, postpone
the naming of what barely we’ve begun to know, and not
let a single stirring of a leaf – which today has vanished
(where to?) and which tomorrow will return – go unseen.

Monika Rinck, one of the six poems in "the humours of foliage", translated by Nicholas Grindell.

It was Amos Weisz's translations that got me really interested in Monika Rinck. Here's one of them ("Pfingstrosen" in German) :

Whitsun roses

in all phases of foliation the clusters nest,
loaded packets, dense, tight, and mute
squats in buds the launch for fats
centres clad in purple and / or white
there live back-to-back petals bent
on nutty stalks and blossom out.
when it started raining, when I
held the heavy head at the stalk
in my great hand,
childhood was drawn into the damp air,
sharp screams, wanting it,
lured by whitsun into habit.
types of desire arose
and faded as I heard the whisper
of their many thousand petals I wanted
to muss up, crumple, shred the rain-wet rose
wanted to tear off its petals,
throw them around,
and stamp on them, call friends,
                               come and see
the big fat flower thingy I've got here
white round as a cat's head without eyes, me, me,
I want to drive the cat's head that's no cat
through the mad pack of my wishes
done in and touched up, no unharmed
I leave the sublime roses lifeless & brittle in the middle
of the rapids down which
           Comes my

Monika Rinck, six poems translated by Amos Weisz.

This is part of the remarkable selection of Amos Weisz's writings that Peter Philpott has recently added to his re-born Great Works site. Weisz suffered from mental health problems, and committed suicide at a young age in 2008.

Pfingst = Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday (counting both ends) = Whitsun or Whit Sunday in Britain, apparently so named for the white baptismal robes.  Whitsun, or rather the following Whit Monday, was a public holiday until 1978, when it was replaced by the fixed Late May bank holiday. That must be why the word "Whitsun", so commonplace in my youth, seems then to have utterly disappeared from my life.

Whitsun (poem by Sylvia Plath)

This is not what I meant:
Stucco arches, the banked rocks sunning in rows,
Bald eyes or petrified eggs,
Grownups coffined in stockings and jackets,
Lard-pale, sipping the thin
Air like a medicine.

The stopped horse on his chromium pole
Stares through us; his hooves chew the breeze.
Your shirt of crisp linen
Bloats like a spinnaker. Hat brims
Deflect the watery dazzle; the people idle
As if in hospital.

I can smell the salt, all right.
At our feet, the weed-mustachioed sea
Exhibits its glaucous silks,
Bowing and truckling like an old-school oriental.
You're no happier than I about it.
A policeman points out a vacant cliff

Green as a pool table, where cabbage butterflies
Peel off to sea as gulls do,
And we picnic in the death-stench of a hawthorn.
The waves pulse like hearts.
Beached under the spumy blooms, we lie
Sea-sick and fever-dry.                         

Last year I took a booklet of Alistair Noon translations of Monika Rinck on a road trip but as it happened  I never opened them. I certainly will now.

Monika Rinck, two poems translated by Alistair Noon.

Alder, February 1st, 2017

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