Thursday, June 19, 2008

Antonio Machado, Issa, and the Return of the King

Cover by Oberc

As time and tide permit, I've been trying to get a hold of and read some of the volumes suggested for the Near Perfect Books of Poetry list. This week, via the wonder that is interlibrary loan, I received The Sea and the Honeycomb: a Book of Tiny Poems, edited by Robert Bly. I've enjoyed much of what I've read; a great many of the poems are translations by Bly himself, occasionally with a collaborator.

The poems that struck me immediately were translations of the work of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado. I've run into his work before and enjoyed it, particularly the shorter poems. Here are a couple of Bly's translations:


It is good to know that glasses
are to drink from;
the bad thing is not to know
what thirst is for.


If it is good to live,
then it is better to be asleep dreaming,
and best of all,
mother, is to awake.


Another excellent poem from this collection is by, of all people, Vladimir Nabokov:


Only the birds are able to throw off their shadow.
The shadow always stays behind on earth.

Our imagination flies:
we are its shadow, on the earth.


Finally there are a few poems by the delightful Issa, our patron; though I've seen this one translated differently, I like the starkness of this rendering:


Why mention people?
Even the scarecrows
are crooked.


The Sea and the Honeycomb is out of print and if you want a copy of your own, it will cost you via amazon's used market or my favorite virtual source for used books, abebooks. Some of the Bly translations are available in The Winged Energy of Delight, a volume of selected translations. The Issa and Machado are there but since the later's poems are part of a larger work, they are not indexed and one has to leaf through. But they are there, along with an incredible cross section of great poets. Here is the contents page plus a generous preview of the poems, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Since this blog takes its name and inspiration from the master poet Issa, I've tried to provide many different translators takes on his work (the Issa link above is new and different). Here is a translation from a master in his own right, Cid Corman, with a very different approach to another familiar Issa poem:


Only one guy and
only one fly trying to
make the guest room do


I've begun preparing the contributor copies of the new issues, #'s 163 & 164, for mailing and I'm hoping that they will begin to go out over the next two weeks. In the meantime at flashback central, here are a couple of little pieces from Lilliput #85, originally published in January 1997:



My father leans close
to my ear, a root beer
barrel rattling over
back teeth, he fumbles
against the rust clasp
on a blue plastic case,
scissors and black combs
within clear pockets.

Mark Forrester

Oh, Cowboy,

you climb up my tree,
wake all the bats.

Lindsey Royce

Why We Never Got Rid of the Poodle
----We Found at Blue Stem Lake

We are all of us
in winter branches
without names.

Greg Kosmicki

Dear Don:

More threats. More haiku.

John Cantey Knight

N. B.

Life is like
nothing else.

Cid Corman


Finally, to close out with a smile, below you will find the Monday edition from a relatively new comic strip, Lio. Lio is about a little boy with a mighty attraction to the macabre: zombies, monsters, aliens etc. are all regularly, and happily, featured in this generally amusing strip. This week takes it to another level with a homage to the greatest comic kid of all-time, Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes. Below, Lio is once more messing with the mystic, with results that will delight comic fans everywhere:

I'm a sucker for cartoon strip (as opposed to comic/graphic novel) crossovers.

Till next time:


Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput 
Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues),
just make a suggestion of a title or titles for the Near Perfect Books
page, either in a comment to this post, in email to lilliput review at
gmail dot com, or in snail mail to the address on the homepage.


Anonymous said...

Lio! Huzzah!

Oh, er, yes. Poetry. Good show. ;)


Charles Gramlich said...

I love Calvin and Hobbes. Great Issa pieces as well.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ah, yes, poetry along with those comics. Reminded me of Dave Morice's publication Poetry Comics. In that spirit, I found

It appears there a bunch of these at the Poetry Foundation website. Maybe I'll do a post on them ...


Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Great comic! There's a comic in our local paper, Pearls Before Swine, that had a strip featuring the baby from The Family Guy.

I like that Cid Corman translation. And in the spirit of multiple translations, I just sent you a check yesterday, Don, for a copy of Dennis Maloney's "Dust Lingers," and I picked up a used copy of Issa/Basho/Buson translations by Sam Hamill, to go with the Blyth translations I'm reading right now.

Poet Hound said...

Always a pleasure to drop in and read. I also loved the nod to Calvin and Hobbes having many of the comic books myself. Now I can add Lio to comic strips I enjoy. Thank you!
And I agree with Mr. Schwartz, I enjoyed Cid Corman as well.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Funny story about the Corman translation - it comes from a small book from Gnomen Press called "One Man's Moon." There were only a handful of Issa translations and "Only one guy" was best by a long shot. I saw the book and thought I'd pick up a copy and so ordered it via amazon, only to discover I already owned it (talk of an embarrassment of riches!). I was disappointed because of the waste of book buying funds.

The package arrived yesterday, I opened it and was delighted to discover that it was an updated edition with at least 3 times as many poems and many more of Issa's, of a generally higher caliber than the handful of riches.

Serendipity, what a joy ...

This is the new one ...


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


I guess "Pearls Before Swine" has a penchant for crossovers. The crossover link at the bottom of the post links to two other crossovers, one from "Pearls" and one from, the most improbable of all, "Family Circus" featuring Zippy.

Here's the link
from the post ...


Greg said...

I like that Pearls one, very funny. and I'll definitely check out One Man's Moon. Glad the new one was bigger and better!