Historia

                 

                   moving on or going back to where you came from

        

                                               Amy Clampitt

  

                   it is not the substance of a man’s fault

                   it is the shape of it

                   is what lives with him, is what shows

 

                                               Charles Olson

                      

a room crammed with sharp toys                              

                                     

a field zesty with fire   

                  

                   history as historia        

 

        cool as a shot to the mouth    

  

                            *

  

                                      in pinched shoes  

                                               cataleptic            

                                              

                            merely to show up

                  

                   the birdlime viscidity of the garden

                   the scalpel-like finger

                              of a shriveled leaf—                     

                  

                   not accusatory   

                                               shadowed only

                                                         by itself

                   not pointing

         towards a balance-act 

                                             but balancing         

                 

                            *

                   

I was six and made of violins

                                               stumped

                            by metronomic light 

        

I wanted to energise him away

         like glucose

                   globed

         into whiteness—

 

         a voice spoken slantwise

                            but faraway—    

        

                                      sleeping it off

                  

                   I traveled in the dark

                   so as not to be seen    

  

                            *

  

         dusk-nervousness

         in what is             unclaimed

 

I wait and fail      

         paying off warders

                   at your door—    

 

                                               the thrillbox

                                               of birthdays

                                              

                   whalecalls from waterclotted

                            condensation

 

                                      the gazebladed kitchen 

 

                   the uplander silences of television

 

                                      blackish fingernails

                                                         from window-mould

                           

                            eyes goggled

                                      towards a lit hearth 

                                               fringe fraying

                                                                 

                            or cupping at the curtain frame

                                      fearful of fire 

                                               on the domestic zodiac

 

bees cried in their flower-coats

                   collecting honey

  

                            *

  

                   how the air divides      

                            like cutting a loaf—

 

         as much childed           

                   as fevered

 

                                      left alone

                            in the dry season         

                           

         to feed from the day’s nutrients—

 

                                                                  naphtha mirage 

                                                                            over the wheatfield

                                                                                              at sunset

 

                                               foxfur grinning on a spidersweb

                                                                 

                                                                  dialysis of rain

                                                                            inside a garden well     

                                                                 

                                                                  equal to breath             

  

                            *

  

         —to hear the substance of the earth

                                      to know its shape        

 

                   blessèd as an egg

   and yet—

 

                   and yet bombarded

                            by the radio impulse

                                      of survival

                                              

                   the whistlework of money—

        

her ivied hair       

                   trenched at the oven or

         admonished at the fire-grate

  

                            *

  

shuffle-worn cards

                                      blanked-out letters

                                               from the on-dead 

 

how life tickles the palm         at twenty

  

                            *

  

                   dreaming up worser devils

 

thinking the lesser disease might be

                                               loneliness—

 

no-one to ignite

                   the red-eyed bird

                            of your mind

 

no-one told you why

                                        love

                                               blunts

  

                            *

  

if the bones sing          

 

if chaos is chaos         

         returned—          

 

                                               no atom nuclei

                   no definitive cure         

                                                           

*

  

enter fortune

 

         a ransacked house   

                   half-emptied—   

 

that which remains

preserved in boxes

 

                   now bulges

         like a museum   

  

                            *

  

baffled voices     vow trounces

         —as if from any archive—

  

I lean over and touch my ear

         to the grid complex—

 

                            like hearing ritual cannibalism

                                      in the byways of a river

 

by James Byrne

Please join us on Friday 19 February from 6-8pm here at Oxford Brookesto celebrate the prize-winning poets of the ‘Open’ and ‘English as a Second Language’categories in our inaugural International Poetry Competition. The event willinclude readings from the winners, as well as an exciting showcase of work fromlocal young poets, mentored by award-winning writer, Kate Clanchy. Lightrefreshments will follow. If you would like to attend, please let us know viae-mail: poetrycomp@brookes.ac.ukby 10 February. 

‘Historia’ is copyright © James Byrne, 2015. It is reprinted from White Coins (Arc Publications, 2015) by permission of Arc Publications.

James Byrne’s most recent poetry collection Blood/Sugar, was published by Arc Publications in 2009. Byrne is the editor of The Wolf, an internationally-renowned poetry magazine, which he co-founded in 2002. He won the Treci Trg poetry festival prize in Serbia and his Selected Poems: The Vanishing House was published in Belgrade. Byrne lives in Liverpool and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. His poems have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Burmese and Chinese and he is the International Editor for Arc Publications.

White Coins rewards the reader with a nomadic poetry for the 21st century; one that mingles personal, social and historical spaces whilst celebrating, at all times, linguistic versatility and innovation. Read more about the book on Arc’s website, and hear James read from his work on the Archive of the Now site.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications 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. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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.

Tercets on love—The lovers


See how those cranes fly arcing through the sky!
The clouds they have for company on their way
Were there already when they had to fly

From one life to another far away.
Together at the selfsame height and pace
It seems an almost casual display.

That crane and cloud just chance to share the space
Of the wide skies through which they pass so briefly
So neither one may linger in this place

And all they see is one another slightly
Rocking on the wind in loose accord
Who now in flight lie side by side so lightly

The wind may carry them off into the void.
If they remain themselves, and hold on tight
They can be touched by nothing untoward

It doesn’t matter if they’re driven out
Threatened by gunshots or by stormy weather.
Indifferent to the sun and moon’s pale light

They journey on, besotted with each other.
What are you fleeing from?
          —The world.
                     —Where to?
                                    —Wherever.
You ask how long now have they been together?

Not long.
          —And when they’ll part?
                    —Oh, soon enough.
So love appears secure to those who love.
by Bertolt Brecht; translated by Tom Kuhn

Please join us on Friday 19 February from 6-8pm here at Oxford Brookes to celebrate the prize-winning poets of the ‘Open’ and ‘English as a Second Language’ categories in our inaugural International Poetry Competition. The event will include readings from the winners, as well as an exciting showcase of work from local young poets, mentored by award-winning writer, Kate Clanchy. Light refreshments will follow. If you would like to attend, please let us know via e-mail: poetrycomp@brookes.ac.uk by 10 February.

‘Tercets on love—The lovers’, which was originally published in German in 1930 as “Terzinen über die Liebe—Die Liebenden”, is translated by Tom Kuhn. Copyright © 1930 by Bertolt-Brecht-Erben / Suhrkamp Verlag, from Love Poems by Bertolt Brecht, translated by David Constantine and Tom Kuhn, and published by Liveright Publishing Corporation (2015). It is used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

This poem is the last in our series featuring work from collections shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015, judged by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard, and supported in 2015 by the British Council. The winner of the competition was Iain Galbraith, who translated Jan Wagner’s book Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc Publications, 2015). You can find out more about the competition and all the shortlisted books on the Poetry Society website. Many thanks to the Poetry Society, and in particular Sophie Baker, for providing us with this year’s selection.

Tom Kuhn teaches at the University of Oxford, where he is a Fellow of St Hugh’s College. He works on twentieth-century drama and German exile literature and has been, since 1996, editor of the main English-language Brecht edition. There is more information about Tom’s work on the Oxford University website.

Bertolt Brecht is widely considered the greatest German playwright of the twentieth century, and to this day remains best known as a dramatist, the author of Mother CourageThe Threepenny Opera, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, among so many other works. However, Brecht was also a hugely prolific and eclectic poet, producing more than 2,000 poems during his lifetime—indeed, so many that even his own wife, Helene Weigel, had no idea just how many he had written. Written between 1918 and 1955, these poems reflect an artist driven not only by the bitter and violent politics of his age but, like Goethe, by the untrammeled forces of love, romance, and erotic desire. Read more about the book on the Norton website.

Liveright Publishing Corporation is an imprint of W.W. Norton, that is a home for outstanding works that define and redefine our culture, and that continue to provoke interest and inspire readers around the world. Find out more about Liveright 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.

He was easy to get…


He was easy to get.
It was possible on the second evening.
I waited till the third (and knew
I was taking a risk).
Then he said, laughing: it’s the bath salts
Not your hair.
But he was easy to get.For a month I left him straight aftermaking love.
Every third day I stayed away.
I never wrote.
But store up snow in a pot
It gets dirty all the same.
I did more than I could
When it was already over. I threw out the bitches who weresleeping with him

As though I didn’t mind
I did it laughing and crying.
I turned on the gas
Five minutes before he arrived, I
Borrowed money in his name:
It did no good.

But one night I slept
And one morning I got up
I washed myself from head to toe
Ate and said to myself:
That’s it now.

Truth is:
I slept with him twice more
But by God and my mother
It was nothing.
Like everything else
It passed.


by Bertolt Brecht; translated by David Constantine

‘He was easy to get …’, which was originally published in German in 1960 as ‘Es war leicht ihn zu bekommen…’, is translated by David Constantine. Copyright © 1960 by Bertolt-Brecht-Erben / Suhrkamp Verlag, from Love Poems by Bertolt Brecht, translated by David Constantine and Tom Kuhn, and published by Liveright Publishing Corporation (2015). It is used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

This poem is the penultimate one in our series featuring work from collections shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015, judged by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard, and supported in 2015 by the British Council. The winner of the competition was Iain Galbraith, who translated Jan Wagner’s book Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc Publications, 2015). You can find out more about the competition and all the shortlisted books on the Poetry Society website.

David Constantine is a freelance writer and translator. His most recent volume of poetry is Elder (2014); his fourth collection of short stories, Tea at the Midland, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2013. You can read more about his work on the Poetry Archive website.

Bertolt Brecht is widely considered the greatest German playwright of the twentieth century, and to this day remains best known as a dramatist, the author of Mother CourageThe Threepenny Opera, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, among so many other works. However, Brecht was also a hugely prolific and eclectic poet, producing more than 2,000 poems during his lifetime—indeed, so many that even his own wife, Helene Weigel, had no idea just how many he had written. Written between 1918 and 1955, these poems reflect an artist driven not only by the bitter and violent politics of his age but, like Goethe, by the untrammeled forces of love, romance, and erotic desire. Read more about the book on the Norton website.

Liveright Publishing Corporation is an imprint of W.W. Norton, that is a home for outstanding works that define and redefine our culture, and that continue to provoke interest and inspire readers around the world. Find out more about Liveright 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.