River Sonnet

When the old she-salmon swam to my rock
where I had sat to watch her moldering
transform into a fruiting body, clock
of flesh stretched above pale pebbles, ticking
tail where her roe lay like scattered apple
blossoms the rain has adhered to the road
and her great heaving sides stained with the dull
flowering shapes of fungus, I could not know
what secret pain it took for her to nose
against the current there, the large head scarred,
flanks those of a barnacled ship: she rose
from shallow water, a calcified shard
bearing time’s white etchings, and one dark eye—
lidless—that willed I mark her drifting by.

by Keetje Kuipers

© BOA Editions, 2010.

‘River Sonnet’ is taken from Beautiful in the Mouth, and reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:

Keetje Kuipers is a native of the Northwestern United States. She earned her B.A. at Swarthmore College and her M.F.A. at the University of Oregon. She is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In 2007 Keetje was the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident. She used the residency to complete work on her book Beautiful in the Mouth, from which ‘River Sonnet’ comes. This latest collection was awarded the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.

Written over the course of five years and a geographic journey spanning Paris to New York to Oregon, Kuipers’ Beautiful in the Mouth examines contemporary female loss in terms of literal and figurative geography: the empty bedroom of a dead child, a clear-cut hillside outside of a logging town. From her own unique perspective, Kuipers continues in the spirit of poets like Elizabeth Bishop to examine how loss forces itself upon unwilling landscapes and how those landscapes must alter to receive that loss.

BOA Editions, Ltd., a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works, fosters readership and appreciation of contemporary literature. By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public. Support for this effort comes from the sale of its publications, grant funding, and private donations. To find out more about BOA Editions, visit the publisher’s website.

Feast – from ‘Triad’

This word tapping down
Into sacred rites,
Things laid out before our gods.

Against all the odds
Again the stranger
Open to the stranger’s face.

A toast and embrace
Repairing two words,
Our glasses raised, our eating

In tents of meeting,
A trust-mended pledge.
The host as guest, the guest host.

by Micheal O’Siadhail

© Micheal O’Siadhail, 2010

‘Feast’ is the third part of a sequence entitled ‘Triad’, and is taken from Tongues (Bloodaxe Books, 2010).

Micheal O’Siadhail won the Marten Toonder Prize for Literature in 1998. He is a freelance writer, and was formerly a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and a professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. His academic works include Learning Irish and Modern Irish, whilst his published poetry collections include Poems: 1975-1995 (Bloodaxe, 1999), and The Gossamer Wall: Poems in witness to the Holocaust (Bloodaxe, 2002). You can watch O’Siadhail read some of his poems here, and read more about him here.

Language pervades our world, the media, our relationships, minds and hearts. We learn it and we pass it on. In Tongues, the book from which ‘Feast’ comes, Micheal O’Siadhail delights in language and shares its wonder and fascination.

Like a genetic code, language brings human life over thousands of years into the present. It unites the personal and the social, allows for continuity and novelty and can arouse the strongest passions.

In Tongues, O’Siadhail explores individual words, plays with grammar, and meditates on pictograms and the distilled meaning of proverbs across cultures. The variety of forms from sonnets to complex rhyming and syllabic patterns matches the thematic richness.

Founded in Newcastle in 1978, Bloodaxe Books is one of Britain’s leading independent poetry publishers. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, its authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry. Details of all Bloodaxe’s publications, plus sample video and audio clips of poets reading their work, can be found 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.


Death will not correct
a single line of verse
she is no proof-reader
she is no sympathetic
lady editor

a bad metaphor is immortal

a shoddy poet who has died
is a shoddy dead poet

a bore bores after death
a fool keeps up his foolish chatter
from beyond the grave

by Tadeusz Rózewicz

© Tadeusz Rózewicz, 2004. Translation © Adam Czerniawski, 2004.

This is the first in a new series of weekly poems from the Poetry Centre. We hope you enjoyed a fine summer.

Notes from Anvil Press:

Tadeusz Rózewicz (born in 1921,) is perhaps Poland’s most highly regarded living poet. He is also a well-known playwright. He came to prominence in then-communist Poland in the fifties, and his poems began to be translated and published in English about the same time. Adam Czerniawski, a Polish émigré living in England, is his principal translator in Britain and is a close friend of the poet. This poem comes from the collection entitled They Came to See a Poet. Originally published by Anvil Press in 2004, a third edition of the book is to be published in January 2011. You can learn more about Rózewicz here.

Rózewicz is famous for the kind of minimalism that resulted from the view that Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, which affected Poland particularly badly, somehow made poetry superfluous, or even offensive. He found that he could write truthfully and accurately only through a stark, direct form of poetry rooted in common speech, poetry that had abandoned traditional formal niceties.

Poems of this kind are more translatable than many, since they consist largely of spare, direct statement, without metaphor. It is worth pondering what makes this a poem rather than just a series of statements. Poems are made of words not ideas, yet this plain poem is a poem because of its economy – its movement is faithfully echoed in English, its rhythms carefully controlled, the whole having the satisfying finality of a classical epigram.

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.