babel 6

we don’t know the name of the plant
we want to know the name of the plant
carroty liquid streams out when we break
the stem; strange substance of meaning
I would dip my finger into
to draw my hieroglyphs on your forehead
but there is no credit in the phonemes that pour out of my mouth
shrivelled cherries half rotten papayas not worth purchasing
ok I find diphthongs embarrassing to say the way you do
lips need to be elastic slugs in the act of androgynous love
but look at these unusually shaped fruits I dare you to eat them
roll them in your sinuses and spit the pips drawing accents
on a vowel bearing öszibarack or málna; say it little by little
say it and then take a look at the tiny boy
who sits in silence on the stone floor
in the garden near a pot of flowers
reaches out for a handful of soil from time to time
to chew and then to swallow smiling with black teeth

by Agnes Lehoczky

© Agnes Lehoczky, 2008

Agnes Lehoczky was born in 1976 in Budapest. Her work has appeared in a number of online and print publications both in Hungary and in the UK. Budapest to Babel, published by Egg Box in October 2008, is her first collection in English. A second is due from Egg Box later this year.

‘babel 6’ is from a sequence of poems entitled ‘garden dialogues’, which appear in Budapest to Babel, a lively and rewarding collection about the difficulties and joys of language. Often poignant, always inventive, the book explores states of confusion and chaos, playfulness and delight, with a freshness of style and tone. Find out more about the book at this page, where you can also watch Agnes Lehoczky reading from her book at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London last year.

Egg Box is a small, independent poetry publisher based in Norwich, run by poet Nathan Hamilton. It is rapidly establishing a strong reputation for its freshness of approach and keen eye for talented newcomers. Click here to visit Egg Box’s website.

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.

80

Imagine a small state with a small population
let there be labor-saving tools
that aren’t used
let people consider death
and not move far
let there be boats and carts
but no reason to ride them
let there be armor and weapons
but no reason to employ them
let people return to the use of knots
and be satisfied with their food
and pleased with their clothing
and content with their homes
and happy with their customs
let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
and live out their lives
without making a visit

by Lao-tzu, translated by Red Pine

Translation © Red Pine, 2009

Bill Porter assumes the pen name Red Pine for his translations. He was born in Los Angeles in 1943, grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, served a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, graduated from the University of California with a degree in anthropology, and attended graduate school at Columbia University. Uninspired by the prospect of an academic career, he dropped out of Columbia in 1972 and moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. After four years with the monks and nuns, he struck out on his own and eventually found work at English-language radio stations in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where he produced over a thousand programs about his travels in China. In 1993 he returned to America with his family and has lived ever since in Port Townsend, Washington.

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching, from which this poem comes (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), is an essential volume of world literature, and Red Pine’s nuanced and authoritative English translation is one of the bestselling English versions. This revised edition includes extensive commentary by Taoist scholars, adepts, poets, and recluses spanning more than 2,000 years. You can read two more selections from the book here, and learn more about Lao-tzu here.

Copper Canyon Press is a non-profit publisher that believes poetry is vital to language and living. For thirty-five years, the Press has fostered the work of emerging, established, and world-renowned poets for an expanding audience. To find out more about Copper Canyon and its publications, click 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.