Who’s playing

  for Renata Fontenla

who’s playing
the symphony of quivering shadows

the water drips drop by drop
leaves imprints on stones

the sun rises
and small pieces of darkness are
spread on the white wall of your house

                                            of the olive tree
                                of the lamp post
                                                            of the bird perching on it

the white wall
soaks the shadows
                                 drop by drop
                                 leaf by leaf

from the crevices of the wall
                     little plants
                     little shadows sprout

to reach the roots of the tree
the lamp post
the bird
the sun has come to your house

the door is open
the house is empty

the sun stands on your threshold in silence

by Amarjit Chandan

‘Who’s playing’, copyright © Amarjit Chandan, 2010, is taken from Sonata for Four Hands by Amarjit Chandan, a bilingual edition edited & introduced by Stephen Watts, with a foreword by John Berger, and translated by the author with Stephen Watts, Julia Casterton, Shashi Joshi, Amin Mughal, Ajmer Rode and John Welch.

Notes courtesy of Arc:

Amarjit Chandan was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1946, and lives and works in London. He has published seven collections of poetry and four books of essays in Punjabi and his poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines world-wide. He has edited and translated into Punjabi about thirty anthologies of Indian and world poetry and fiction by, among others, Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Cardenal, Martin Carter and John Berger. He was one of ten British poets selected by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, on National Poetry Day in 2001, and he participated in the International Aldeburgh Poetry Festival the same year. He has given many readings throughout the world including at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest and, in the USA, at the University of California Santa Barbara and Columbia University. Sonata for Four Hands is the first collection by Amarjit Chandan to be published in the UK.

He has received numerous literary awards for his work, including the Life-time Achievement Award by the Language Department of the Punjab Government, India in 2004; the Life-time Achievement Award by the Panjabis in Britain All-Party Parliamentary Group, London in 2006; and the Life-time Achievement Award by the Anad Foundation New Delhi in November 2009. A short poem by Amarjit Chandan in both Punjabi and English is engraved in granite by the artist Alec Peever and installed in a square in Slough High Street.

Amin Mughal (co-translator) was born in the Punjab in 1935 and has lived in England as a political exile since 1984. He is a critic of Urdu and Punjabi literature. He taught English at Islamia College and Shah Hussain College in Lahore. As a leader of the National Awami Party, he was imprisoned a number of times. He worked for the weekly magazine Viewpoint in Lahore and was editor of Awaz, an Urdu daily published in London.

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.

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.

What Song is Singing in the Silence of the Snow

My Russian neighbors slumber, they lisp and sigh, they snore. They turn over towards what door. Open or closed, in the cathedral that is coughing, in the mine where they dig the ore that shines. That burns like coal, that heats the house of hems, the skirts that bloom in paisley, red, green, and blue as Ukrainian domes, as tattoos faded on the backs of ex-prisoners, sleeping before they wake for the early shift, and the sound of their cars sparking up in the dark, and the snow falling all around in hush. What music is left, this Prokovfiev too much to bear, this Shastokovitch that we share, piano keys that stutter charts, that mutter fields of dark earth, sunflowers, the digging and the ditch, the shovel and the spade, the cut above the shoulder blade, the ladder of a stitch, that leaves a scar, that when touched opens, opens a map of the body’s archipelago, the islands of moles that stretch across the Northern sea of your back, and the snow ghosting against our bedroom window, choreographing its thousand falling stars.

by Sean Thomas Dougherty

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‘What Song is Singing in the Silence of the Snow’ is taken from Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line by Sean Thomas Dougherty. Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010. The poem is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author of nine books including Nightshift Belonging to Lorca, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and Except by Falling, winner of the 2000 Pinyon Press Poetry Prize from Mesa State College.  His awards include two Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry. Known for his electrifying performances, he has toured extensively across North America and Europe. He received an MFA in poetry from Syracuse University and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania where he teaches writing workshops.

In his newest book, Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line, from which ‘What Song is Singing in the Silence of the Snow’ comes, issues of identity and the various complexities of social and cultural history remain central to Dougherty’s poetics. Sasha is a powerful, grief-driven, deeply-felt collection that still manages to find the beautiful and the true, the little epiphanies that give our lives meaning no matter how ephemeral they might be. You can find out more about Sean Thomas Dougherty in an interview on this site, hear him read a poem from this collection here, and hear him read poems from earlier collections on this page.

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, 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.

“What is more beautiful than a road?” – George Sand

It’s raining. We talk, here, where we always talk.
Where the pavement flares roundly in front of the Action Centre.
Next door is a caff; we never go there.
The rain started as you told me what the worst thing is for you.
It was gentle then but now we are really wet and you don’t seem to
have noticed.
At my shoulder are my Grandmas and behind them, their Grandmas.
They stand, a long line of women getting wet on street corners.
None of us are dreaming of stairs.

by Anna Robinson

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‘”What is more beautiful than a road?”‘ is copyright © Anna Robinson, 2010, and reprinted from the collection The Finders of London by permission of Enitharmon Press.

Notes courtesy of Enitharmon:

Anna Robinson‘s first full collection, The Finders of London, introduces a compelling new voice in poetry. Working-class voices lend strength to Robinson’s own, and with it she mythologizes, catalogues, and searches for the anima and animus of this multi-natured city.

Anna Robinson was born and lives in London. She has an MA in Public History from Ruskin College, Oxford. Her pamphlet, Songs from the flats (Hearing Eye, 2006), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. In 2001, she became the first recipient of The Poetry School Scholarship and her poetry was featured in the School’s second anthology, Entering the Tapestry, (Enitharmon, 2003). Her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Poetry London, Magma, Brittle Star, the reater, In The Company of Poets (Hearing Eye, 2003), and Oxford Poets 2007 (Oxford/Carcanet). As part of Poetry International and the South Bank Centre’s Trading Places project, Robinson was Poet in Residence in Lower Marsh in 2006. A former tutor in prisons, she is a regular poetry judge for the Koestler Competition and is a founding editor for Not Shut Up! and the newly established Long Poem Magazine.

You can read more of Anna Robinson’s work here, and hear her read ‘The Flats’, another poem from this collection, here.

Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration. Founded in 1967 with an emphasis on independence and quality, Enitharmon has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally renowned collaborations between artists, including Gilbert & George, and poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon Editions imprint. Discover more about Enitharmon 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.

Waking Late in My Garden: To Magistrate Han and Secretary Lu in Chaoying

Farmers have already started to plow
thick smoke is rising from their yards
birds are singing sweetly from garden trees
being retired I was still asleep
unaware the day was so late
I got up and gazed at the azure sky
I stretched my limbs
and felt happy indeed
then I went back below thatched eaves
poured some wine and considered fine men
adjusting their belts on their way to the office
with nothing but documents to fill their days
wishing they were here in the woods
enjoying the sight of mountains and streams
unless you’re living in enlightened times
why not work on yourselves instead

by Wei Ying-wu, translated by Red Pine

Translation © Red Pine, 2009. This week’s poem is taken from In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, and reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

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Born into an aristocratic family in decline, Wei Ying-wu (737–791) served in several government posts without distinction. He disdained the literary establishment of his day and fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world. You can find out more about Wei Ying-wu in a sample from the introduction to In Such Hard Times here.

Bill Porter (who assumes the pen name Red Pine for his translation work), is one of the finest translators of Chinese poetry into English and the first to translate the classical anthology Poems of the Masters. 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 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 interviewed local dignitaries and produced more than a thousand programs about his travels in China.

In October 2010, Red Pine received the American Literary Translation Association’s Lucien Stryk award for In Such Hard Times. Read more poems from the book on this page.

Copper Canyon Press is a nonprofit publisher that believes poetry is vital to language and living. Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to authors, editorial acumen, and dedication to the poetry audience. As the preeminent American independent publisher of poetry, Copper Canyon Press fosters the work of emerging, established, and world-renowned poets for an expanding audience. Copper Canyon Press publishes new collections of poetry by both revered and emerging American poets, translations of classical and contemporary work from many of the world’s cultures, re-issues of out-of-print poetry classics, anthologies, and prose books about poetry. Click here to visit the Copper Canyon 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.