Tashi Aged Four

A little of me goes trotting off
    In a bright red swimsuit.
The ocean’s barely stirring.       
    But a little of her is already
Slipping away without our knowing,
    Since – with me gone –
She will never have run
    So well for anyone else
Out to the sparkling pleat
    The sea folds over anew
Rising towards the spade and bucket
          That mark out our forgetting.

by Jacques Réda

Original poem © Jacques Réda, 2009. Translation © Jennie Feldman and Stephen Romer, 2009.

From Into the Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets, 1938-2008, edited and translated by Jennie Feldman and Stephen Romer, Anvil Press, 2009.

Anvil Press Poetry writes:

‘Tashi Aged Four’ by Jacques Réda is almost my favourite piece from this anthology of French poetry. Poems about children by their parents or grandparents flirt with sentimentality – but it’s resolutely avoided here, as it is in Ted Hughes’s ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’, or Victor Hugo’s poems in L’art d’être grand-père (The Art of Being a Grandfather).

The poem is simply an elaboration of a fleeting incident: his reaction to seeing his grand-daughter “trotting off” on the beach. From this, with the device of “a little of me” linking with “a little of her”, he weaves a meditation on time and the human condition: one that is light and natural as his passing thoughts. It is done with such firm delicacy – and, I think, tenderness.

The poem is of course a translation, and it’s a testament to the translators’ skill in capturing the poet’s voice that one hardly notices this fact. Jennie Feldman’s translations of a selection of Jacques Réda’s poems, Treading Lightly, was published by Anvil in 2005. You can find out more about that book and Réda here.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern. You can read more about Anvil here.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

In Xochicalco

Cows grazing among the ruins.
The dry cornfield extends a yellow fence.
Walls of fog blur directions.
No flower opens.
Thorns catch in clothing
and the jaguar devours the heart.

Drizzle,
         precarious offering.
Droplets draw fleeting signs in puddles—
no more fleeting than the day
when we saw what we loved most
fall apart between our hands
                                  like an ancient urn.

We waded the fog like a river.
It surrounded the hills.
Only the peaks emerged like islands.

Purple,
ashy face of earth.
Voices like bats’ wings
through the stone notches
where the hills meet,
where the wind cuts
                         like an obsidian knife.

The black air widens.
The mist blinds us,
it closes around the temple.
The same mist wraps the heart.

Higher up,
deeper under the earth,
wherever she goes who gathers souls,
she who scatters ashes.

by Elsa Cross

Original poem © Elsa Cross, 1991. Translation © Luis Ingelmo & Michael Smith, 2009.

Note: Xochicalco is the site of an impressive Aztec temple, not far from Mexico City.

Elsa Cross was born in Mexico City in 1946. The majority of her work has been published in the volume Espirales. Poemas escogidos 1965-1999 (UNAM, 2000), but a new complete edition of her poetry will appear this year, published by the Fondo de Cultura Económica in Mexico City. ‘In Xochicalco’ is taken from the recent volume Selected Poems, published by Shearsman Books, edited by Tony Frazer, and translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Ruth Fainlight, Luis Ingelmo & Michael Smith, and John Oliver Simon.

Cross’s poems have been translated into twelve languages and published in magazines and more than sixty anthologies in different countries. She has an MA and PhD in Philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she holds a professorship and teaches Philosophy of Religion and Comparative Mythology. In 2008 Elsa Cross was awarded the most prestigious poetry prize in Mexico, the Xavier Villurrutia Prize, an award that she shared with Pura López-Colomé. You can find out more about Elsa Cross here.

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here.

Please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Century-end Prayer

Let the arctic birds,
friendly with polar winds,
have an easy time of it, Lord,
for the next hundred years.
I don’t even know
if there are any arctic birds.
I am as ignorant
about bird-life near the Poles
as birds are about good and evil.
I wish my ignorance could also be
equated with innocence.


But my prayers are not hooked
to some mariner’s compass;
and when I start walking down
with my back to the Pole Star,
I lead my prayers by the hand.
And here in warm-rain country
let the rhinoceros
trundle through mire
and the next millennium
and the next.
May the beaver and the porcupine
burrow their way
to their underground haven
and may the elephant shed his tusks
so that we don’t shed his blood.


And a small skylight prayer, Lord:
may the sparrow know glass
from the crisp air outside.

by Keki N. Daruwalla

© Keki N. Daruwalla, 2008

Keki N. Daruwalla is one of India’s leading English-language writers. Born in 1937 in Lahore, Daruwalla has published nine volumes of poetry. ‘Century-end Prayer’ comes from The Glass-Blower: Selected Poems, a book published by Arc in 2008 and which collects poems from all of the poet’s previous collections. Keki Daruwalla has won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia. His Collected Poems: 1970-2005 appeared from Penguin India in 2006. He is also the author of three volumes of short stories, a novella, two collections of poetry for children and, more recently, the travelogue Riding the Himalayas (2006). Daruwalla is also well-known as a writer on international affairs, having served in both the Indian Police Service and in a number of positions within the civil service, including Special Assistant to the Prime Minister. He was part of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the Zimbabwe elections in 1980, and at the time of his retirement was Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in India. For more information about Daruwalla, click here or here. You can listen to him reading his work here.

Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, click here.

Please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.