Posts Tagged 'literature'

Glatshteyn’s God

by ben shahn 


The inmost sense
of my sublimest words
turns my prayer imbecile.
Exalting You makes incense fill
the air with redolence
of idols.
I pray from a tongue-tied page
my woebegone God.

The least little flower
rejoices You more
than all six days
of Creation.
Evil’s inertia
brings You small care.
You lend us years
by the thousands,
then hide Your face.
The walls of our houses
drool gibberish.

We have yet to learn
the ABCs
of holiness.
How many myriad lives must we seize
before our thoughts can earn
even the footstool of Your favor.
I pray from a tongue-tied page
my woebegone God.

You do not terrify,
You have no malice.
Still You keep Your distance from us
who live in the profanation
of every moment.
The flash of eternity
in our nostrils
assures our ruin.
I pray from a tongue-tied page
my woebegone God.

Jacob Glatshteyn

Translated by Cynthia Ozick, from the Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse.

Modern Rome’s Greatest Poet?

belliWe’re taking a breather to plug a couple of pieces of literary news. Just out online is the Fall 2007 issue of BigCityLit which contains my poem “Time Traveler”. In other news, this month’s edition of The American carries my interview with Mike Stocks about his recently published translation of the Roman poet G. G. Belli. This is the first new translation into English in over 25 years of this extraordinary–if too-often overlooked–poet whose massive opus of over 2000 sonnets paints an unparalleled picture of 19th century Rome and its people.

It Always Starts This Way

It always starts this way: a poem
buried deep in the pages of a book
by an unknown hand. Then, love.

Love of books, love of poems, love of the unknown.

Everything begins in this way. Everything ends
in an accident we blame on God.

But poetry won’t save us from the end.
One day the pages of the book
will stick together, and to pry them apart
we’ll need a lifetime of nimble fingers.

By then it will already be too late.

Marc Alan Di Martino

The (ex) New Yorker

saul steinbergWell, the world is large enough even for us. As we begin at the proverbial beginning, we take this opportunity to thank Martha’s Version for all their hard work and support in making all this possible. The blogosphere may not be as prestigious as the gilded pages of the New Yorker or Harper’s, but it can hold its own. And if you’ve ever aspired to publish in those places, you will have noticed the same names appearing month after month after month–genug! Enough, we say. Make room for us, too. We may never boast their readership, but we will not grow old and grey waiting for John Updike to keel over and leave his twenty lines to us greenhorns. So if you are a poet in exile you are welcome to send us some of your work. You will be happy that the New Yorker didn’t reject it.

Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."


January 2020
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