The Grape Grower in Champagne

The regiment arrives
The village dozes off in the perfumed light
A priest has a helmet on his head
Is the champagne bottle artillery or not
The vinestock like ermine on a coat of arms
Bonjour soldiers
I saw them racing this way and that
Bonjour soldiers champagne bottles in which blood ferments
You’ll stay a few days then back to the front
In your echelons like a field planted with vines
I send my bottles all over the place like the shells of a delightful artillery

The night is blond oh blond wine
A grape-grower was singing bent over his vines
A grape-grower without a mouth on the far horizon
A grape-grower who himself was the living bottle
A grape-grower who knows all about war
A grape-grower in Champagne who’s an artilleryman

Now it’s evening and they’re playing poker
Then the soldiers will return to the front
Where the Artillery uncorks its foaming bottles
Well Adieu gentlemen come back if you can
But who’s to say what the future has planned

by Guillaume Apollinaire

Welcome back to the Weekly Poem series after its summer vacation. This week’s publisher, CB editions, organises a highly successful annual poetry book fair called ‘Free Verse’, and this year’s event will take place in Conway Hall in London on Saturday 7 September. More than fifty publishers will be represented, and there will be free readings and workshops. Entry is free too. For more details, visit the the Free Verse website.

And a reminder that the Poetry Centre is offering a PhD Studentship in Poetry. This is a three-year, full-time PhD studentship in any aspect of Poetry and Poetics. More details can be found on the Brookes website. Please share this link with anyone you think might be interested. The deadline for applications is 6 September.

This translation copyright © Beverley Bie Brahic, 2012. It is reprinted from The Little Auto by Guillaume Apollinaire by permission of CB editions.

Notes from CB editions:

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) – whose writings ranged from plays to experimental poetry, from art criticism to erotica – was a central figure in the literary and artistic life of early 20th-century Paris. In 1914 he swapped the high life of avant-garde Paris for the mud and desolation of war in the trenches, but in The Little AutoBeverley Bie Brahic, the translator and a poet in her own right (and whose poem ‘PS: Book of Eve’ was a Weekly Poem selection in January), has chosen poems that are wholly different from those that for English readers have come to exemplify the genre of war poetry. In Apollinaire, juxtaposed with the orgy of destruction are nostalgia for antiquity and impatience for the future, melancholy and exuberance. You can read further excerpts from the book at CB editions’ site.

CB editions publishes no more than six books a year, mainly poetry and short fiction and including work in translation. Since 2008 its poetry titles have twice won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and have twice been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize. In 2011 CBe put on Free Verse, a one-day book fair for poetry publishers to show their work and sell direct to the public; the event was repeated in September 2012 with over 50 publishers taking part. Find out more about the publisher from the website, where you can also sign up to the CB editions mailing list, or ‘like’ the publisher on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its activities.

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.