Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Collaborative Project Extant

Forche, Carolyn. Ed. Against Forgetting:Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness. New York: Norton, 1993.

If you liked the Reznikoff book, this one will give you a taste of more poetry born of horrific realities. What is interesting about this anthology is that it crosses the spectrum from the genocide in Turkish Armenia to the more recent student uprising in China during the 1980s. Most of the poems are translations and are as true as can be. I think there is a better translation of Paul Celan's Death Fugue by John Feltstiner. The first stanza is as follows:

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air there you won't lie too cramped
a man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair
He writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
He whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he orders us strike up and play for the dance

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