Ecology of the lichen

We paddle head over ears in a field of yellow flowers,
with only heads surfaced in an unplanned discourse,
attuned, swimming in meadow meandering among
old crypts and tombs.  I mistrust their shapes, their
sepulchral postures made of bath stone, chalked

extravaganza. You can tell, I haven’t yet wrapped bodies
in linen, you smile. It gives a shape like that, and facing
me you cut a sarcophagus out of the moist air crafting
the swift choreography of a corpse, outlining my outline.
These lime stones are hollow, look. We stare through

their tunnels, sliding our hands in their craters for names
and dates, for one or two initials; but none. Have you,
have you done it before? In the bare space only a slice
of a face, fraction of a glare, mouth half open, your voice
slips through. You laugh. Who do you think prepares them?

You dip your finger into a soft headstone coated with deep
pigments of lichen, orange, red and brown.  Like catacombs’
network, complicated under the microscope’s lens. They live
with their photosynthetic partner – you say brushing yellow
pollen off my skin – who produces food for them from sunlight.

by Ágnes Lehóczky

Copyright © Ágnes Lehóczky, 2008. ‘Ecology of the lichen’ is reprinted by permission of Ágnes Lehóczky and Egg Box.

Ágnes Lehóczky is an Hungarian-born poet and translator. She completed her Masters in English and Hungarian Literature at Pazmany Peter University of Hungary in 2001 and an MA with distinction in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2006. She holds a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing from UEA. She has two short poetry collections in Hungarian, Station X (2000) and Medallion (2002), published by Universitas, Hungary.

Ágnes’s first full collection, Budapest to Babel, was published by Egg Box in 2008. (Click on the link to hear her read from the collection, and to read more poems from this book.) She was the 2009 recipient of the Arthur Welton Poetry Award and the winner of the Daniil Pashkoff Prize 2010 in poetry. She is currently working on her second collection to be published by Egg Box in 2011, and her collection of essays on the poetry of Ágnes Nemes Nagy is to be published this year by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Ágnes currently teaches creative writing on the Masters course at the University of Sheffield.

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.


it’s not just in dream that it’s often happened to
me that I’ve been unable to find the exit through
the right door got into trains going in the wrong
direction it was a station I only half recognised
that was a fright but I was under glass and was
fixed to that spot and could not move because
I had just got to that place in the book I began
to sense surging flushes in my blood I walked
around in the woods and could feel warm light
and slackly let myself be led to an edge images
came but they were not giving me pain any more
like they used to for beneath dead treetops the
wilderness was coming alive with fern and fox-
glove and I went back into the gullies of streets
incomprehensibly distant in my blood in its
suites of rooms without windows I walked and I
ran in circles for a while until something beneath
my jacket heaved I clutched at it with my right
hand and held it and breathed hard at the edge
of the platform I bent forward and saw the tracks

by Norbert Hummelt

Copyright © Luchterhand Literaturverlag, 2007. Translation copyright © Catherine Hales, 2010. ‘exit’ is taken from the German volume Totentanz, and appears in English in Berlin Fresco — Selected Poems by Norbert Hummelt, translated by Catherine Hales, Shearsman Books, 2010. It is reprinted here by permission of Shearsman Books.

Notes courtesy of Shearsman Books:

A poet, essayist, publisher, and translator, Norbert Hummelt was born in Neuss am Rhein in 1962. From 1983 to 1990 he studied German and English in Cologne and since 1991 he has been a freelance writer. He has been living in Berlin since 2006, having previously also lived in New York, Dublin and Amsterdam. Since 2005 he has been publisher of the Lyrikedition 2000, which publishes new editions of out-of-print 20th century poetry collections, as well as first collections by new poets. He is also editor of the journal Text+Kritik. He has taught at the Deutsche Literaturinstitut (German Literature Institute) in Leipzig and at the Universität der Künste (University of the Arts) in Berlin. He has translated the poetry of W.B. Yeats, Wordsworth and Inger Christensen, as well as T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and The Waste Land. You can read more from the book here, and hear Hummelt read from his poems (in German, with a number of translations of the texts) at this page.

The translator, Catherine Hales, grew up in Surrey, but now lives near the Spree in Berlin, where she works as a freelance translator. Her poetry and translations of contemporary German poetry have appeared in many magazines, including Tears in the FencePoetry Salzburg ReviewFireStrideand Shadowtrain. Catherine Hales’s poem ‘temporary lodging’ was the Brookes weekly poem for 15 November, 2010.

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.

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.

[Two untitled poems]

[untitled 1]

To return to the poplar its weight,
I would have to reject narrative’s convulsed form.
To accomplish
a literary work,
I would have to oust the stage of review
worsening the rest of it.
all is impossible to me and language exploits the fact.

Pour rendre son poids au peuplier,
il faudrait
que je repousse la figure convulsée du récit.
by François Jacqmin
Pour accomplir
une œuvre littéraire,
il me faudrait évincer le temps du compte rendu
exaspérer le reste.
En attendant,
tout m’est impossible et le verbe en abuse

[untitled 2]

The landscape is fixed. It is that powdery
which bogs down in its whiteness. .
Its axles
sink deep in the despotic innocence
of the snow.
Though not quite lost, we start to dread
nowhere, and especially
that inclement silence
which thunders against the affront of all travel.

Le paysage est arrêté. Il est cet attelage
yoke poudreux
qui s’enlise dans sa blancheur
Ses essieux
s’enfoncent dans l’innocence despotique
de la neige.
Sans être égarés, nous commençons à redouter
le nulle part, et surtout
ce silence inclément
qui tonne contre l’affront de tout voyage.

Copyright © François Jacqmin. Translation copyright © Philip Mosley, 2010.

These two untitled poems are taken from The Book of the Snow by François Jacqmin, translated by Philip Mosley, with an introduction by Clive Scott (Arc ‘Visible Poets’ translation series No. 28), and published by Arc Publications.

Notes courtesy of Arc:

François Jacqmin, acknowledged as one of the foremost francophone Belgian poets of the latter half of the twentieth century, was born in 1929 in Horion-Hozémont in the province of Liège. In 1940 his family fled to England to escape the German occupation. He learned English in a school run by Spanish Jesuits, discovered English literature, and wrote his first unpublished poems in English. He returned to Belgium in 1948 and rediscovered his native language and literature. His association with the irreverent, experimental group that formed around the magazine Phantomas inspired him to develop a distinctive identity as a poet inspired by art, nature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. His three major volumes of poetry are Les Saisons (1979), Le Domino gris (1984), and Le Livre de la neige (1990). Eléments de géométrie, a volume of prose poems written a few years before his death in 1992, was published in 2005. You can learn more about Jacqmin and the translation here, watch a short film about him here (in French), and read another poem from this book here.

The translator, Philip Mosley, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University. He earned his M.A. in European literature and his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of East Anglia. Among his book publications are Split Screen: Belgian Cinema and Cultural Identity, Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress, and Georges Rodenbach: Critical Essays. He has translated The Intelligence of Flowers by Maurice Maeterlinck, Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach, Tea Masters, Teahouses by Werner Lambersy, and October Long Sunday by Guy Vaes. In 2008 he was awarded the Prix de la Traduction Littéraire by the French Community of Belgium for his translations of Belgian authors into English.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. Find out more about Arc by visiting the publisher’s website, where there are discounts available on Arc books.

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.