Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Obscure Hours

Today, Day 6 of the Sealey Challenge to read a poetry book a day August, I read The Obscure Hours, translations by Richard Jones (East of Eden Press, 2018). East of Eden is the book division of Poetry East, and these translations were published in various issues of Poetry East, of which Richard Jones is the editor. I was once his associate editor, as a graduate student at DePaul University. I remember how much he has always loved poetry in translation and ancient poets of simplicity and wisdom, and I found plenty of that here! With various partners, he has translated the work of Rilke, Basho, Petrarch, Apollinaire, Hitomaro, Issa, Machado, Neruda, and several others, nestled in beautiful art.

Of course, I read the first poem, "Lament," by Rainer Maria Rilke, aware of the connection to yesterday's lamentations and my tendency toward Covid reading, alas:

     Oh how everything seems far away
     and long past.

Yes, it does, but poetry makes it eternal. Rilke is paired with pictures of Rodin sculptures from the Rodin Museum in Paris. Rilke worked as Rodin's personal secretary!

(Another random coincidence here is "Archaic Torso of Apollo," the Rilke poem that ends, "You must change your life," as quoted in my Blogger profile.) And I have discovered, thanks to this book, that "I love the obscure hours of my existence / in which my intellect is absorbed in deep thought."

Here's a Basho haiku that made me laugh:

     I forgot my hat
     And now the cold rain's falling.
     Okay. Whatever.

And here's one that made me mourn:

     Leaning on her cane,
     My white-haired sister still weeps
     Beside her son's grave.

Here is the childlike joy of Isso:

     Snail, you're my hero.
     You will give all of your life
     to climb Mount Fuji.

And here's wisdom in simplicity from Ryokan:

     Falling cherry blossoms.
     The remaining cherry blossoms also become
     falling cherry blossoms.

And here's a short poem from Antonio Machado's Proverbs and Songs, that "gives the lie," as they say, to fake news:

     Your truth? No, the Truth---
     Come with me to look for it.
     Your truth's not even worth keeping.

And that makes it a Thor's Day (if I had a hammer...) as well as a Poetry Someday and, as it is so often, a Random Coinciday in the blog.

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