Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sizzling Puzit and Other Newssssss

photo from here

lintek. sobrang init. eto muna, pampalamig na halu-halo.

from Poetry Daily, Eugene Gloria comments on The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter

"The mucilage that binds my New Directions copy of Selected Poems of Ezra Pound has dried and crumbled like crushed Communion hosts. I have neglected this artifact of my student days in Ohio far too long.

What I have not forgotten is that this poem was the one I found most striking when I first discovered the Moderns. The poem takes a long look back to make poetry new. With Ernest Fenollosa’s notes on the Japanese translation of the eighth century Chinese poet Li Po (Rihaku is the Japanese name for Li Po), Ezra Pound re-imagines the ancient poet’s wartime emotions he himself did not possess as a noncombatant in World War I.

In the first of Li Po’s “Two Letters from Ch’ang-Kan,” the poet is speaking in the voice of a woman left at home while her husband fights in some distant war. Waiting, she consoles herself by recalling him dragging his feet and imagines his footprints still fresh near the gate.

Here emotion is understated, subtle and given to us through image (now a cliché in our workshops): “By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses, / Too deep to clear them away!” As their parting lengthens, the woman left behind asserts: “At fifteen I stopped scowling, / I desired my dust to be mingled with yours / Forever and forever and forever. / Why should I climb the look out?” Pound allows the lyric to lapse into a feminized longing for a lover who may never return.

In one translation from the Chinese, the reference to “the look out” alludes to a story of a woman waiting patiently for her husband on a promontory. Another layer unveiled from this version shows the woman turning into a rock having waited so long (see Wai-Lim Yip’s lucid translation of Li Po’s “The Song of Ch’ang-kan”). How curious it is in world literature for a woman to be transformed into a rock while in the throes of deep longing.

One needs only to look back at the story of the indomitable wife of Lot (yet another nameless woman, identified only in relation to her husband) and the brilliant poems by contemporary women poets such as Jane Shore and Wislawa Szymborska who have transposed this biblical narrative from the woman’s point of view.

Whether or not Pound’s “non-Chinese” translation of “The River-Merchant’s Wife” is in the tradition of a war poem or a love poem, what I as a reader value most is Pound’s precise language, a discernable idiom that is spoken plainly, what William Carlos Williams would claim as “an American idiom.” What Pound transports into English is a pure emotion—without sentimentality, a kind of precision that is part and parcel of our modern and contemporary tradition."

Eugene Gloria was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in San Francisco. He earned his BA from San Francisco State University, his MA from Miami University of Ohio, and his MFA from the University of Oregon. He is the author of two books of poems — Hoodlum Birds (Penguin, 2006) and Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (Penguin, 2000), which was selected for the 1999 National Poetry Series and the 2001 Asian American Literary Award. He has also received a Fulbright Research Grant, a grant from the San Francisco Art Commission, a Poetry Society of America award, and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at DePauw University and lives in Greencastle, Indiana.


from the onion:

Signature Dominates Sympathy Card



So that when I discuss with you
my idea of empathy, I am really

stepping into a clinic, the walls
white or off-white, waking vaguely

to color, finding myself hurting
somewhere, like it’s no accident to be here,

that whatever happened should bring me back
not to regret, but to the stain of blood.

That I can comprehend; looking at myself
beside my body, playing doctor examining

a patient, feeling for my own pulse. And if I
should stop by some morgue, it is because

when I beat my chest, it should be out of triumph,
and incidentally, I’ve given up on electricity

or gambling, definitely on sleeping
with other women, preferring instead

to focus on the slow, diminishing light
that confounds and readies my mind

for forgetting, like sealed inside a coffin,
I am now descending into the future

tombstone, the irregular visits
and wilted flowers and rain and years.

That all I really want is to lie down
underground, free from the things

the living do, like breathing or loving.
So don’t feel bad that I cannot talk

as much as these cooing nurses,
nor my children, slumped on the bed,

saying no, all the while I am trying
to say don’t cry, look, see how I die.

For Jem



So that if we alter the spelling, say,
Phillipines, it might just sound biblical,
ready for war in some chapters only
resolvable with God’s grand mediation,
somewhere proximate to the digging
that persists on the margins. Exegeses,
they call it, though it sounds too Greek,
too final. Yet with the scrutiny comes
real value: a heeding governed not by
Romans, but by liberation and post-

script: the letter hurriedly sent because
it’s too urgent, modern, so email.
So that when someone says it’s time
to move, that’s really saying submit
yourself to the language, rely on nouns
and the now brimming voices speaking
in tongues—local and blessed and
totally, inviolably official. A testament
to change. To true glory and precedents.