Anna Iltnere: Sea Library

Childhood drawing by Anna Iltnere. A house by the river with blooming water lilies.

Before going to sleep I walk down to the river for a swim. With my nostrils slightly above water, I watch the ducks moving among the water lilies. The lips of invisible fish blow circles into the surface on the other side. Cut grass and cold dew stick to my bare feet as I walk back. I wash them away, kiss my boys goodnight and climb into bed to read and to dream.

If I wake up before the others, I push my bike out of the garage and cycle to the morning sea, three miles away. It’s a gulf, to be honest, but we still call it the sea, the Baltic Sea, a tiny inner pocket of the Atlantic Ocean — where it hides what’s dearest, I imagine. There’s almost no salt in the Baltic Sea, they say, but my tongue still tastes it on my lips and my skin  when I leave gravity behind with my clothes on the shore and surrender my body to the waves. When I’m dressed again, I explore the white sand with my fingertips and put a couple of stranded splinters, tiny dark brown pieces of driftwood, in my pocket, stamp souvenirs from my own little journeys traversing same paths every day. I am a sea librarian now.

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Alexander Booth: from “Insulae”

Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Venice, 2003. Source: magnumphotos.com

On a major thoroughfare between a porn theatre and a filling station, it was just past the central cemetery and the bridge over the railway lines. A young communist lived in the room across from yours. He worked in a hotel. You had no job and no prospects but, for the moment, didn’t care. You’d sit together at the brittle table in the kitchen, all dark browns and orange, smoking, and listening to cassettes of sixties pop tunes, with small cups of coffee, now and again a beer. You had a couple of books and some traveler’s checks. Day after day you’d wander the sunburnt city, surprised, over and over again, at how often you got lost.

To Make a Sound: Caroline Stockford Interviews küçük İskender (Derman İskender Över)

Murat Palta, “Crime and Punishment” as an Ottoman miniature. Source: behance.net

Every morning when I wake up, I sit cross-legged, light a cigarette and plan something new

– küçük İskender, Semih Gümüş interview

 

He was the enfant terrible of Turkish poetry.  Gay man and performer who studied medicine and psychology before earning his entire living from poetry.  Author of 24 books of poetry, küçük İskender was the voice of Istanbul’s underground and underbelly, Beyoğlu: voice of the junkies, trannies, the suicidal and the broken-hearted.  He was a film enthusiast, who wanted his film library to be turned into a foundation.  A fan of Kurt Cobain, Kafka and Mayakovsky, Iskender would sit in his smoky basement in Beyoğlu, beer in hand, and hold forth with histories of film, hair-raising stories of literally fatal love affairs and the darker side of Istanbul.

Born Derman İskender Över in 1964, he went by the name “küçük İskender” which means ‘Little Alexander”, a nod at the poet Iskender Pala, who in his mind would be “Alexander the Great”.

He was, without doubt, Turkey’s most prolific and inventive poet of the post-80s scene. He was the scene.

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Caroline Stockford: Manual for mourning a great poet

Hüseyin Özdemir, küçük İskender, 2006. Source: instagram.com/huseyinozdemir1

“Because life is the most tragic, most magnificent, most merciless trick death can play on us.”

küçük İskender, “Someone Call an Ambulance”

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1.

When you first hear of his illness, you should be in the company of a genius journalist at seven at night and still at work. Upon going into the underwater world of shock, you should walk with said visiting journalist to the fountain that the ravens frequent in Vienna’s Volksgarten. Sit on a bench.  As you watch the cascades of crystal beads streaming from between stone wreathes and sculpted longing you might say,

“I can’t cry yet.”

You may regret not having published books with the great poet and letting him have his own way with the stage play you wrote as a canto of his lines.  But you didn’t finish it. Now, this is finishing it.

“When the question is asked: ‘Is there death, after life?'”

küçük İskender, “Necromantic”

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Petero Kalulé: 3 ear etudes*

Jennifer Kincaid, Digital 3D model of the human cochlea. Source: indigo.uic.edu

 

Cochlea

 

if the kernel of

sound is quiver,

 

the ear shall l-

oose te­ther,  &

 

knell itself  in

echo

of whether whether

wither w

here:

 

*the ear is a kind of leaf

 

 

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Alexander Booth: Scheggia

From “The Little Light that Escaped”

Bryan Sansivero, from “Abandoned Lives”. Source: rosajhberlandartconsultant.com

But I remember.

The scent of sun and ash, a taste of resin, blame. Summers across slanting floors and smiles like sickles for thoughts of flight. Abandoned streets and a feeling of sinking. Makeshift holes not far from the sea; closer in, the cicadas’ hum the whirl straight up to twilight’s hem, brittle wings which brought no breeze while all the rest were busy drinking, swallowing the searing-eyed, searing-tongued prophets and seers, and jaundicing into the yellow silence of the years. The tonal monotony of the land.

Days passing, just out of the reach of the sun. Days passing, in a basement room, watching the arc of the sun through a small square of sky. Tides of no turning. Blocks of light mosaiced while the slow days tasted of mineral, copper, rust.

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𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 And All This Comes to an End

And you would walk out with me to the western corner of the

castle,

To the dynastic temple, with water about it clear as blue jade,

With boats floating, and the sound of mouth-organs and drums,

With ripples like dragon-scales, going grass green on the water,

Pleasure lasting, with courtezans, going and coming without

hindrance,

With the willow flakes falling like snow,

And the vermilioned girls getting drunk about sunset,

And the water a hundred feet deep reflecting green eyebrows

—Eyebrows painted green are a fine sight in young moonlight,

Gracefully painted—

And the girls singing back at each other,

Dancing in transparent brocade,

And the wind lifting the song, and interrupting it,

Tossing it up under the clouds.

And all this comes to an end.

And is not again to be met with.

— from “Exiles Letter” in Ezra Pound’s Cathay

1915

Saudamini Deo: Over Hussain’s Mansion

Or How Reading Agha Shahid Ali Changed the Way I Write

Agha Shahid Ali by Stacey Chase, 1990. Source: thecafereview.com

“In the Name of the Merciful” let night begin.

I must light lamps without her – at every shrine?
God then is only the final assassin.

(from God)

On a hot summer afternoon, I find out that the eighth world of Super Mario Bros. is laid out like a labyrinth. The earlier seven Bowsers that have been killed were false bowsers. The real Bowser must be found and defeated in this last world. It is almost impossible to find a way out of the dark underground with dangerous Koopa Troopas keeping a careful watch, Goombas that must be trampled upon, and a sea of lava flowing beneath – at the end of which stands the ultimate enemy. The king of the kingdom possesses immense strength, is almost indestructible, and has mastered the occult arts. He almost always conspires against Mario but in the RPG series he occasionally collaborates with Mario to defeat evil greater than himself.

“Who is god?” my grandmother reads aloud from a newspaper at a distance while peeling baby potatoes.

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𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Wet-thighed

In the yellow time of pollen, in the blue time of lilacs,

in the green that would balance on the wide green world,

air filled with flux, world-in-a-belly

in the blue lilac weather, she had written a letter:

You came into my life really fast and I liked it.

 

When we let go the basket of the good-luck birds

the sky erupted open in the hail of its libation;

there was a gap and we entered it gladly. Indeed the birds

may have broken the sky and we, soaked, squelched

in the mud of our joy, braided with wet-thighed surrender.

 

In the yellow time of pollen near the blue time of lilacs

there was a gap in things. And here we are.

The sparrows flew away so fast a camera could not catch them.

The monkey swung between our arms and said I am, hooray,

the monkey of all events, the great gibbon of convergences.

 

— from “Totem Poem” by Luke Davies

2004

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Leaving

I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

 

God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar—

All the archangels—their wings frozen—fell tonight.

 

Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;

Only we can convert the infidel tonight.

 

Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities

multiply me at once under your spell tonight.

 

He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.

He’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.

 

— from “Tonight” by Agha Shahid Ali

 

2003

The Unnamable Remains: Yasmine Seale translates Qasmuna bint Ismail

The Blood Moon from a 19th-century Thai manuscript, MS15760 at the British Library. Source: blogs.bl.uk

It is said that Qasmuna’s father, Ismail, enjoyed improvising verse with her. One day he said: ‘Finish this poem’.

I had a friend whose rare delight,

Though it rewarded care with spite,

Itself exonerated.

Qasmuna thought for a moment and replied:

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They Killed for Love: Michael Lesslie in Conversation with Maan Abu Taleb

José Luis Cuevas, Macbeth, 1987. Source: 1stdibs.com

One of my favourite insults to the person of Macbeth comes towards the end of the play, when the aggrieved Macduff calls out to him: “Turn, hellhound, turn!” It is a testament to Shakespeare’s prowess that even after we’ve witnessed all the atrocities committed by Macbeth, the line jars. “He’s not a hellhound!” one feels like shouting back. The insult agitates us. By then we had already tried to alienate ourselves from Macbeth and his deeds, but we’re too intimate with the depths of his anguish to do so, an anguish not mysterious and beyond our grasp, like Hamlet’s. Macbeth is well within our understanding, his dilemma is laid bare for us to ponder and weigh.

The suggestion that in reading Macbeth there are things to be learnt about Bashar al Assad, Saddam Hussein, or al Qathafi, is often laughed to scorn whenever I dare mention it in polite company. It is generally assumed that the characters of these men do not rise to the complexity and elevation of a Shakespearean villain, as if villainy excludes finesse. I am told they are mere butchers, with no depth of feeling or capacity for insight. Yet it is exactly that, insight, that I feel the likes of Saddam have, and which allows them to reign in terror for such elongated periods. One can hate Saddam and everything he stood for, but can we in good faith dismiss him as a brute, or deny his sophisticated methods of intimidation? A viewing of the Al Khold Hall footage – where Saddam solidified his grip on power by effectively staging a play, one where murder was unseen, like Macbeth, but real – demonstrates Saddam’s credentials as a connoisseur of terror. His methods of breaking the wills of men require nothing less than a terrible talent.

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Robin Moger Translates Sukaina Habiballah

From the Aperture Foundation’s Paul Strand Book by Joel Meyerowitz. Source: studiobaer.com

nes t ree

in turn I bore straw

much straw and went

in search of a tree to make

my nest but a tree I did not find 

and with the straw I’d gleaned I packed

my chest I picked a field and I stood upright there 

 

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55: Yasmine, Robin, Mohieddin

Poem 55 from a correspondence in translations of Ibn Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, between Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger. The first two translations are made independently and each subsequent rendering written after the other’s previous version has been sent and seen.

Khusraw discovers Shirin bathing in a pool from a 16th-century Khamsa by Nizami. Source: Wikipedia


screenshot-2


Y(i)

 

Distance, and desire ruins me. To meet

is no relief. Come or go, desire hardly cares.

 

Meeting him, unreckoned

things happen. In place of healing,

another ache of longing.

 

Because to meet him is to see

a person whose beauty grows

ever more abundant, proud.

 

All I can do is match my love’s ascent

To his loveliness on its measured scale.

 

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Yasmine Seale Translates Aisha al-Qurtubiyya

On being proposed to by a male poet

The Guennol Lioness, Mesopotamia, third millennium BC. Source: Wikipedia

I am a lioness: never will I let

my being be the break

on another’s journey.

.

But if that were my choice

I would not answer

to a dog, for to O!

how many lions

am I deaf.

Robin Moger: More Saniya Saleh

The only window, in disrepair

Francesca Woodman, “Untitled”, Rhode Island, 1975-78. Source: americansuburbx.com

Don’t come tonight, sad bat

Packing your head between my brows.  

We have denied one another at times 

In despair and in defeat. In vain

Face bumping at face,

The heart at the heart.

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Valentina Viene Translates Ali Jazo: This Is Your City

Hans-Lemmen

Hans Lemmen/Roger Ballen, Rendez-vous, from “Unleashed”, 2016. Source: damnmagazine.net

Abandoned bags are tossed about by the noon breeze.

Tree leaves, narrow pavements,

.

children next to shoes,

teens, out of school, are smoking.

The curls on their foreheads are so shiny

they look frozen and stiff.

.

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Rachael de Moravia: The Mutability of Beauty

Illustration (made for the poem) by John Trefry

.

I went to New Orleans when I was young.

Spanish moss hung from trees like bodies in the still air.

.

I wore white linen because of the heat

and the only time I felt comfortable was at three in the morning.

.

Her shoulders were bare, her hips narrow like a boy’s,

her skin pale and soft as moth wings in the monochrome night.

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