Volume 8 (Fall 2014)
trans. by Nancy Naomi Carlson
Frenetic Poetry's Messengers
Lazy suns feed off meningitis
They ride down rivers from the Middle Ages
Sleep in the fissures of rocks
On a bed of wooden chips and gnarls
They don't stray from the rotted pincers' zone
Like hot-air balloons of hell.
Les Messagers de la Poésie Frénétique
Les soleils fainéants se nourrissent de méningite
Ils descendent les fleuves du moyen âge
Dorment dans les crevasses des rochers
Sur un lit de copeaux et de loupe
Ils ne s'écartent pas de la zone des tenailles pourries
Comme les aérostats de l'enfer.
You can't hide rage
Translator's note: This poem refers to the legend of the “Man in the Iron Mask,” a political prisoner in France during the reign of Louis XIV, whose identity was kept secret.
Ne tient pas qui veut sa rage secrete
Mouth of refrains
In iron restraints
Just like in school
The first head to roll
Un Levain Barbare
La bouche en chant
Dans un carcan
Comme à l'école
La première tête qui tombe.
Hailed by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac as “the greatest French poet of the 20th century,” René Char (1907-1988) enjoyed a literary career of over sixty years. Char's work was strongly influenced by social activism, as he was, himself, a man of action—a hero of the French Resistance and an outspoken critic of nuclear missile silos in France. In his early career, he was associated with the Surrealist movement (which he later disavowed), and was close friends with such visual artists as Braque, Giacometti, and Picasso.
Nancy Naomi Carlson is a winner of grants from the NEA, the Maryland Arts Council, and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Author of three prize-winning non-translated titles, as well as the critically acclaimed Stone Lyre: Poems of René Char, she is an associate editor for Tupelo Press and holds a Ph.D. in foreign language methodology. The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper, her NEA-supported translations of Abdourahman Waberi, from Djibouti, are forthcoming in 2015 from Seagull Books, distributed by the University of Chicago Press. Calazaza's Delicious Dereliction, translations of Suzanne Dracius, from Martinique, are forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2015.
On Libations: A lovely merlot from the Vaucluse region of France, where Char spent much of his life.