comes from the Greek for flame
perhaps whoever named it
was thinking of its bright colour
though in the painting ‘La femme aux Phlox’ it’s the form which impresses
the Cubists’ exhibition at the start of last century
in the language of flowers phloxes are united hearts
in the language of war it’s an artillery unit
remarkable for its accuracy of fire
a journalist writes:
the factory is confident this new weapon
will find its consumer
in the kingdom of war
there are other flowers too
hyacinth: a gun with a 152mm calibre
(like a drainpipe hole)
carnation: a 122mm howitzer
(like a grapefruit)
cornflower: a mortar with a range of 18 metres
(like a bowhead whale)
maybe these are the flowers of evil
to which certain butterflies flock
these fit in your palm
and weigh only 90 grams
like a newborn kitten
or a bar of soap
I weigh it in my hand
the bathroom is quiet and safe
hyacinths carnations and phloxes
blaze in the neighbour’s yard
by Volha Hapeyeva
translated from Belarusian by Annie Rutherford
This poem is copyright © Volha Hapeyeva, 2021, the translation is © Annie Rutherford, and it is reprinted here from In My Garden of Mutants (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Arc website.
Notes from Arc:
In My Garden of Mutants, a bilingual chapbook, offers an introduction to the work of the prize-winning Belarusian poet Volha Hapeyeva, in Annie Rutherford’s beautifully modulated translations. The chapbook was a winner of an English PEN Translates Award. You can read more about the collection on the Arc website and watch a filmpoem by Clemens Büntig of ‘And She Dreamt about the Word’, another poem from the collection, on YouTube.
Volha Hapeyeva is an award-winning Belarusian poet who also writes prose, drama and occasional books for children, and who collaborates with electronic musicians and visual artists to create audio-visual performances. Her work has been translated into more than 10 languages with poems published in countries including the USA, Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia, Georgia, and Lithuania. She has participated in numerous literary festivals and conferences all over the world. She was awarded the 2019/20 ‘Writer of the City of Graz’, scholarship (Austria) and curated the Days of Poetry and Wine Festival (Slovenia) in 2020. Find out more about Volha’s work on her website.
Annie Rutherford, who has translated Volha’s poems, is a writer, a translator from German, French and Belarusian, and Programme Co-ordinator for StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. She co-founded the literary magazine Far Off Places and Göttingen’s Poetree festival and is currently the fictions editor for The Interpreter’s House. Read more about Annie’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.
Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.
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