To celebrate World Poetry Day – some world poetry

To celebrate World Poetry Day – some world poetry

I thought of posting some ethnopoetics, I have had Jerome Rothenberg’s anthologies for many years, but so much is contextual, ritualised and would look bare on this page. In fact, Rothenberg developed the ‘event’ poem as a performative work with instructions for performance, often including ritual procedure. There are some in Poland/1931, beginning in in 1967, a run of ancestral poems, published in installments .

Here is just a short assortment of different poems, but all tinged with the rust of nostalgia, matching my mood on the coldest day for months, windy and wet.

Behind this door
now buried in deep grass
a different generation will celebrate
the Festival of Dolls.
Matsuo Basho ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’, prologue. Trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa


Bells on our eyelashes
and the death throes of words,
and I among fields of speech,
a knight on a horse made of dirt.
My lungs are my poetry, my eyes a book,
and I, under the skin of words,
on the beaming banks of foam,
a poet who sang and died
leaving this singed elegy
before the faces of poets,
for birds at the edge of sky.
from ‘Elegy for the First Century’ by Syrian-born poet Adonis, trans. K Mattawa

For an Okapi in the Munich Zoo

That a steel door should open and a beast of fable
Enter its last cage because it’s time to feed,
Because the warden wants home and the audience is laughing,
Is not recorded in any unicorn legend. Okapi ‒
A word from the jungle languages no one speaks anymore.
Too short for the savannahs, its patient, rust brown neck
Has deserved the straw bale, the barred pen.
For the deforested world would be alien for it, as alien
As a combined animal for the distracted visitor,
Half giraffe, half zebra, and equally distant
From childhood’s shadows, the picture book silhouettes of both.
Another ruminant of forgotten times, a guard
Installed at the zoological wayside like a warning
Of the exotic nature of the survivors, lonely in their ways.
Durs Grünbein, Trans. Peter Lach-Newinsky

I Was Here

A flash, a beam’s dying hieroglyph on plaster—
and the stubborn, helplessly repeated spell
“Kilroy was here,” like the lichen’s
etchings. In an alcove of dusk a homeless man
spreads his cardboard for the night. No one
is reflected on the wall.
Ryszard Krynicki, trans. R Krynicki

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