In this installment, we’re happy to share with you Hélène Cardona’s wonderful new translations from the French of Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac’s Beyond Elsewhere (Plus loin qu’ailleurs, Editions du Cygne, 2013), and translations from the Spanish of her father José Manuel Cardona’s The Birnam Wood (El Bosque de Birnam, Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007). Cardona presented them at AWP Seattle during the panel Translation as Transformation, Language as Skin: Some Perspectives on Creative Process, accompanied by Sidney Wade, Willis Barnstone, Kazim Ali and Donald Revell. And remember: in February and beyond, read, write, and share your favorite translations.
—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman
Excerpts from Beyond Elsewhere (Plus loin qu’ailleurs, Éditions du Cygne, 2013), a long prose poem by Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac
translated from the French by Hélène Cardona
I seek nothing, nothing known, nothing earthly. Celestial bodies, shooting stars, migratory breaths crossing the night without a trace. I seek nothing – everything – instant thousand faces never growing old, diverse bodies and gazes to deceive the emptiness of each.
In this game of mirrors, the quest for a sacred Lung, inspiring me since childhood, and my temptation to revive my whole being, strangely never fizzle. I remain the faithful shadow of an omnipresent light to the end of wandering, wrapping the final nakedness of my sleepless nights in a mystical shroud, and the temporary death of my body in an illusory holiness. Every day God makes I spend the night sleepless; I light the gold of time with the fire of tempestuous ecstasies, and by the grace of ephemeral scorching beauties I set the whole world ablaze in a bolt of eternity.
I take refuge in Woman’s three jewels, her nine gated temple and innumerable windows, renewing every night my vows of love in the sensual and without reprieve paradise of a wild liturgy.
Behind this bewitched mask, in rare lonely nights, I count conquest’s faces, which I recite like a rosary: a rosary whose beads are their eyes, their many eyes staring at me, piercing me, transfixing me, flesh witnesses to my endless thirst, my inexhaustible hunger, accomplices I conned. In their eyes I see myself with greatest clarity: an unhappy young man in search of endless love, who must first be without beginning to honor this condition.
I believe myself free of a future that creates absence and of hope that creates lack; but every morning the sun swallows the star asleep in my arms, still-born in its milk ashes.
I hear behind the night curtain love’s throbbing beat, but it never permeates. Love is covered with bashfulness. I hold her ghost in my arms, but never see her face. I run breathless behind her silhouette, but only her shadow appears. In truth I shun the heights of love, haunted by the memory of vertiginous fall.
Two poems from The Birnam Wood (El Bosque de Birnam, Consell Insular D’Eivissa, 2007) by José Manuel Cardona
(In memoriam Luis Cernuda)
A Pablo García Baena,
with whom I shared so much
“Who, if I cried out, would hear me
among the angelic legions?”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
I remember you through the streets of Vienna.
In the sunrises
your memory comes back to me.
I close my eyes and the whiff
of your breath reaches me, prophecy
I grasped in Delphi, surviving
an infinite wait.
Through the streets of Vienna, past a dawn
of Erysimum in bloom, past unattainable
past the winged splendor of your verses,
I close my eyes and open them
a thousand and one times, to remember
a thousand and one times, to awake
a thousand and one times,
to find relief a thousand and one times,
to give myself up to your angelic care,
weary of crying
for those who lie in the ground.
we share and it is the mystery.
It was written
without you or I knowing it.
It wasn’t the oracle either:
the forefinger of fire that destiny
thrusts at times on the youthful
faces of those it loves,
a merciless god gave.
Traveller, you carry on your shoulders
this light knapsack, trace
at last of a nightingale alien to sacrifice.
The shadows like woods under your spell
fill with trees and the inhabited
faces of Hölderin
and Heraclitus appear and the rose
of that epitaph which since Duino
would forever seal the grave
|of the poet passing on Earth.
Oh incandescent light,
impenetrable intoxicating light
in the everlasting night that inhabits me
without strange whispers or ringing
of greedy bells.
You go with me through the streets of Vienna,
you inhabit my heart, you announce the prodigy,
you summon majesty,
you cleave the air that love breathes
and you part from all, unconquered,
covered in sacred songs, illustrious,
where oblivion dwells.
Nightingale of light, winged prodigy,
leave me the song you carried
like an Olympic relay. The Barbarians
lowered their ensigns and they’re
breeding in the dung heaps
the way leprosy breeds. Miserere.
The bright poppy wept
grieving in wasteland.
Who will say the calamity,
who can remember the inconstant sunrise,
who will not pluck out his eyes
not to see such atrocious misery?
The sickles, the scythes reaped
even the rivers. Let’s move away
without looking back. There are no longer
wheat fields nor love songs or epic poems
and only cemeteries.
Take me by the hand, pilgrim,
oh penitent, and leave or abandon
your hand like a glove slipping
through my hands and let me
feel how the seed germinates.
The pomegranate tree will bloom
where you leave your footprints.
A fire of aubades
will shatter the sky, covering
This Vienna sky in a clear full
moon night is already the dawn
of the Erysimum. (In Knossos, dolphins
0k now how to exit the Labyrinth
and Theseus chats with Oedipus
in full knowledge that the sea, final destiny,
will be his shroud. Because the gods
love the mortals and we struggle
not to return to the Labyrinth.)
Tell me, you who know
the undecipherable secret of signs,
tell me you with the sign of the blind
that repose doesn’t exist.
In our brief time alive,
in our solitude, little is still left.
Yet I will follow your narrow path
with the stubborn illusion of someone who knows
himself as truthful as
these anonymous voices we love
those of the actor they are not and what they do
is lend their masks to the eternal face
of the hero, and he alone
will take over the role of his destiny.
Vienna, September 28, 1993
From The Birnam Wood: El Bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007)
FROM THE EUXINE SEA
To Juan Bernier, friend and mentor,
from this exile of mine and with the hope
to return one day to my spare Celestial Córdoba.
“And I said: Tomorrow I will lie on the South side.”
– Ezra Pound
Inhospitable city. Grizzled
solitary travelers, we left
our sight behind.
It was Ithaca and in Ithaca the inclemency
of slow sunrises like rain
that impregnates all and breeds nothing.
The oracle throbbed on our temples,
the prophetic word rose
and the ships receded and under the spell
of subdued signs
it guided our steps
sprouting in our dreams
beyond the archways and temples
inflaming the masts
with bellows or portents or signs
that would be hardly known and never
to be heard again.
Inhospitable city. Only shadows
were we to be. Unplowed.
And the dream will cloak
the earth with snow and oblivion.
There will be no return ever.
Why the will to always move forward
to go deeper into forests
to embrace the maelstrom?
It was at times the jasmine, then the rose
and the fields of rockrose and lavender
at times the hyacinths, the broom
and at others the iris.
Inhospitable city. Seafaring
love with no other horizon or banner
than the debris of shipwrecks fluttering
like a torchlight.
No longer will your feet tread the ruins of Thebes
there will be no grieving city nor
resurrected bodies to ward off
solitude and pain.
Our bones lost recovered
masts and spars of ashen shrouds
will the feasts speak of ancient times.
The living dead lies
in the far land
and no bell will toll
when the indigo dawn is his refuge.
You lie inland because the sea
brought back the bones one by one
brought back the buried flesh
brought back the corpse that reappears
raised amidst the cedars.
We had taken a seat
next to the Sphinx alone
on the cliff. We evoked
the shipwreck of those days
with caresses and trumpet sounds
the unbridled frenzy of dawns
that will never recur
in the snow and sleep.
of merlons ablaze
and the howl
of the hound that in our procession
would remain petrified on the shore
or agony of a yawning world.
From The Birnam Wood: El Bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007)
Hélène Cardona is a poet, linguist, literary translator and actress, author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013), Pinnacle Book Award & Readers’ Favorite Award winner, The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press, 2006), Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne, 2014), her translation of What We Carry by Dorianne Laux. She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and LMU, and received the Poiesis Award of Honor and fellowships from the Goethe-Institut & Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She is Chief Executive Editor of Dublin Poetry Review and Levure Littéraire, and Managing Editor of Fulcrum. Publications include Washington Square, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Warwick Review, Irish Literary Times, and many more. Acting credits include Chocolat, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, etc. For Serendipity, she co-wrote with Peter Chelsom & Alan Silvestri the song Lucienne, which she also sang.
Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac is the author of the acclaimed Beyond Elsewhere (Éditions du Cygne, 2013). He has been published in numerous anthologies of short stories and poetry, including Petite anthologie de la jeune poésie française (Éditions Géhess, 2009), Le livre de la prière (Éditions de l’Inférieur, 2013), and literary and philosophical journals, notably Les Citadelles, Poésie Directe, Littérales, Polyglotte, Recours au Poème, Testament, 3è Millénaire and L’Opinion indépendante. He contributed to the book Irak, la faute, with Alain Michel and Fabien Voyer (Éditions du Cerf, 2000). Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac graduated from Sciences Po (The Paris Institute of Political Studies) and holds a Master’s degree (Master 2 Recherche : Fondements des Droits de l’Homme). At first a practitioner of martial arts, he then became fascinated with the history and ideas of Asian religions and their poetic expression in particular, which led him to India.
José Manuel Cardona is a poet from Ibiza, Spain. He is the author of El Vendimiador (Atzavara, 1953); Poemas a Circe (Adonais, 1959); and the anthology The Birnam Wood (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007), published by the government of Ibiza. He was co-editor of several literary journals and wrote for many publications. He participated in the II Congreso de Poesía in Salamanca and wrote his thesis on the Mexican revolution at the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica de Madrid. The Franco regime forced him into exile in France. He is an attorney (University of Barcelona) and holds PhDs in Literature and Humanities (University of Nancy), and Political Sciences and Economy (IHEI, Geneva). He worked for the UN most of his life, in Geneva, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Belgrade, Sofia, Kiev, Tblisi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Panama, among many places.