The Homecoming

For Lois Pereiro

In Ithaca everyone was dead.
They say it was me, Argos the dog, who woke first:
           –  Dead, dead, dead!
A smell stronger than dung,
the smell of a living man,
made me vomit celestial remains,
That man who reeked of legend,
a twitching skeleton,
a bad-tempered ghost,
ripped open the scar with his nails
and smeared the mired shadows with words.
There were our names. All of them.
And the infallible memory of the trees
in Laertes’ orchard.
Half a hundred rows of vines,
thirteen pear trees,
ten apple trees,
forty fig trees.
The blind old man saw, in the end, his son, thanks to the earth’s algebra.
After, Odysseus
came and woke us one by one
and our tears, since then,
are the rope that binds the light
with a violent joy.

by Manuel Rivas, translated by Lorna Shaughnessy

This is the second in our series of four poems taken from the shortlist for The Corneliu M Popescu Prize. The Prize, run by the Poetry Society, was formerly called the European Poetry Translation Prize. The first winner of the Prize, in 1983, was Tony Harrison for The Oresteia. The prize was relaunched in 2003, and renamed in honour of the Romanian translator Corneliu M Popescu, who died in an earthquake in 1977 at the age of 19. The Popescu Prize 2013 has a shortlist of seven books, and the winner will be announced on 29 November.

The original poem ‘The Homecoming’ is copyright © Manuel Rivas, 2009, and the translation is © Lorna Shaughnessy, 2012. It is reprinted by permission of  Shearsman Books from  The Disappearance of Snow  by Manuel Rivas, translated by Lorna Shaughnessy.

The judges of the Popescu Prize, Karen Leeder and David Wheatley, comment: ‘What is your message?’ asks Manuel Rivas in ‘Missed Call’, but these translations show that, as well as being what gets lost, poetry in translation can be about what gets through, the connections we make, and the voices we hear loud and clear.

Poet, novelist, short-story writer and journalist, Manuel Rivas was born in A Coruña, Galicia (north-western Spain) in 1957, and writes in Galician, which is one of Spain’s co-official languages. His work has a deep connection with the landscape, folklore and history of Galicia, but has a universal impact that has led to him being recognised as one of Europe’s leading contemporary writers. A desaparición da neve is his most recent collection of poems and had the unusual distinction of being issued with a single volume in Spain together with translations of the poems into Catalan, Basque and Castilian. Further selections from The Disappearance of Snow can be found in  this pdf file from the Shearsman website.

Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in County Galway. She lectures in the Department of Spanish, NUI Galway. She has published two collections of her own poems, Torching the Brown River and Witness Trees (Salmon Poetry) as well as two translations of contemporary Mexican poets: Mother Tongue: Selected Poems by Pura López Colomé and If We Have Lost Our Oldest Tales by María Baranda, both with Arden House.

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with a very active translation list. Founded in 1981 as a magazine, with some occasional chapbooks, the press – now based in Bristol – has grown rapidly in recent years, and is now one of the most active poetry publishers in the U.K. You can find out more about Shearsman’s work from the  publisher’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.