In my words, April 22 – 28

On Friday I took the C uptown to 96th Street. A man on the train, as a pretty woman entered and sat down across from him, was reading the Times, but his eyes fluttered at the top of the page, wanting to look but not be discovered, reminding me of a bird, a gull above the East River hovering, looking for a fish. I’m sure the man has forgotten the incident, but here I am remembering. Everything was work this week and not very creative. I wanted to complete sonnets, make decisions, go with the gut, flow, but didn’t seem to have the will or inspiration. I did things though like work on a translation, Un Cuento del Conejo y el Coyote, a Mexican folktale that I want to put on my blog, from a book I bought in Oaxaca, story as old as Aesop, as new as Bugs Bunny, the prey outwitting the predator, here a rabbit and a coyote, illustrated by Francisco Toldeo, one of my favorite artists, so I love it and want to share it with the world, thirty-two pages, two to a scan, which makes sixteen, the left with the text in Zapotec and Spanish and the right Toledo, a lot to scan, a lot of time drawn out, careful steps repeated trying to get it right, pages pressed flat on the glass, aligned and not crooked. Here are the first two pages with my translation following. I hope you like it. There are fifteen more to come. Click on the picture to see it larger.

This is a story my grandfather told me about the Rabbit and the Coyote. On the night of a full moon, the Rabbit entered a garden of chiles. It was such a happy sight that he hopped among them picking the biggest ones to eat.

I also scanned Canto I from New Directions SELECTED POEMS OF EZRA POUND and made a video with Pound’s reading taken from an LP I bought in the 70s that I had digitized. He’s sonorous, his oft trilled words seem stark and clear although often arcane, parts of the Odyssey retold, flight, hell and spiteful Neptune. Pound wanted his Cantos to be epic and believed that Homer began that tradition. A translator of Homer is mentioned as well as obscure Elpenor, the youngest companion of Odysseus, of no consequence except that he falls down drunk and breaks his neck, and then comes back as a ghost to tell us about it, a man of no fortune and with a name to come, remembered only by Homer and then Pound.

When Pound reads, he edits out the line To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities. It is perhaps the most uninteresting line in the Canto, and when taken out, the lines

Came we then to the bounds of deepest water
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays


Came we then to the bounds of deepest water
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays…

Pound takes the land away and covers the water with the close-webbed mist. Odysseus must stay on the water and not go home yet. Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads Pound changes to Many men mauled with bronze lance heads which makes it sound more natural, normal and modern. One wonders why he would change it in the recording, when so much of the poem remains difficult for the average reader anyway. Here are some words I bet you don’t know.

ell-square pitkin: sounds Old English, but was made up by the poet, invented, but wants to mean (I think): “I dug a little pit, a little hole.” Digging up some dirt perhaps to either bury or cover the dead.
fosse: ditch, a moat
dreory: sounds like dreary but it means “blood dripping”
ingle: a hearth, a comforting fire in a room, (vagina?)
Anticlea: Odysseus’ mother who died before he came home.
bever: drink
Andreas Divus: a translator of Homer: In officina Wecheli (his printer in Paris)
Venerandnam: worthy of reverence, veneration
Cypri munimenta sortita est: “The walls of Cyprus are meant for her.”

Pound for me, like my Grandma would say, is neither hot nor cold, but I have enjoyed him, and though he might be a hard fellow to like, I have friends who love him. Me, I want to help others read, hear and decide. Yours in the word! It’s been said that Pound copied his reading style from his former boss, Yeats. What do you think?

I worked so much yesterday, sitting from morning until afternoon, that I felt my knees were getting locked into place. I packed some poems to work on in my backpack and took the compost down to La Plaza. As I turned my compost in the bin with a pitchfork mixing it into the other mouldering stuff, I could see pink earthworms twisting startled by the sunlight as I happily watched them glistening for a moment before I put the lid back on. At the East River, I sat on a bench to read a poem by Sam Hamill that I want to make into a video, a poem from his book Dumb Luck called Weasel, Crow and Coyote on the Dharma Trail. It’s a fable I want to record well and started to memorize it, looked at the words, worked out how much I should read before I stop, take a break, breathe. The crows, “Ha! Ha!” I planned to pronounce as caws. I noticed Crow bobbed on his bough and Crow called Coyote as joggers passed by, walkers walked, and riders rode their bikes. Three generations of Jewish ladies passed, a grandmother, mother, and daughter perhaps, the mother wearing a sheitel, the wig, teenager with natural hair yet, and the grandmother who seemed to be the hippest, was wearing a beret and no sheitel, sneakers and a mini-skirt, modest because she was wearing black heavy hose too. Kayakers rowed by. A Circle Line with a party going on on deck, dancers dancing, music booming, “Do it! Do it!” hundreds of bodies bouncing up and down with their hands in the air, was so far off in the distance, I could cover it, though not its booming, with my hand.

from Dumb Luck by Sam Hamill

Perhaps the week has been creative doing things. Writing is partly ephemeral and poets can get caught up in the ephemera. Time gets lost. But if you do something well, even if it’s not what you intended or wanted to do, whatever you did do affects what you will do. Practice makes perfect, yes, but you don’t get good by doing just one thing, perfecting the skill you want to do perfectly. If you are diligent when defrosting the frig, and attend to it the best you can, then you will play the guitar or write as well as that and even better; excellence is one endeavor.

Mind by Akram

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