Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Chus Pato's Charenton, trans. Erin Moure

the body starts to generate heat. felt, i’m wrapped in it, in the
As a translator, Montreal poet Erin Moure [see her 12 or 20 questions here; see my review of her most recent poetry collection here] seems very attracted to writing that mixes poetry and language theory, as well as philosophy; a poetry that engages language and thinking. With her earlier work translating some of the work of Quebecoise writer Nicole Brossard from French into English, and her own transelations of Pessoa (resulting in her book Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person, published in 2001 by House of Anansi), Moure’s interest in working more than one language and more recent forays into learning the Galician language (the Moures are originally from the same Spanish region) make her work as a translator from the Galician a natural progression of her own life’s work. With her earlier translation of Chus Pato’s m-Talá (published as a chapbook by Vancouver’s Nomados in 2003), her work on the Canadian/British co-publication Charenton (Ottawa ON: Buschek Books / Exeter UK: Shearsman Books, 2007) becomes the second of Pato’s work she has translated into English. Called “one of the most singular and acclaimed writers in contemporary Spanish poetry,” Chus Pato writes in Galician, but has been translated into a number of other languages including Spanish, Polish, Serbian and Portuguese, and now English, with Moure serving as her official English translator.
for such beauty to exist you have to imagine a wall [(– this wall, is it high?)(– vast)] of brick with buttresses shoring up its rhythm; in front of it, a green border masks a doorway lost in time. An older poet walks past here each morning, her emotions more or less / like the building, boarded up, abandoned to disintegrate. To her, doubts have the texture of gorges and the pent gasp of mouth-to-mouth, and as for her more or less – poetic? – efforts, she’s not sure if she should keep dragging this code through narrow and twisting alpine passes, or if she should persevere or not with the taxing exercises of rescue and shipwreck, if she should just give up all that has been obsession and justification for life.

now she sets soft greenery in front of you (moss) that grows at the rim of sewer covers or in the geometrical quadrangles of flagstones (in fact, there’s a sidewalk here). In the middle, the poet, devastated as an architecture (without acanthus, capital, fust, doric) – possibly even the building at 15, B Street in the strangest of towns, in a remote country – was stopped short by a disappearance, by lack of energy, of projects… by the corrosion of years. Later a first field of frost.
There is much in this work reminiscent of the work of Canadian ex-pat poet (now in Chicago) nathalie stephens [see her 12 or 20 here], as both work to create a poetic that moves slyly as a single unit of composition from one step to the next through not only matters of identity and identity politics, but in using the combined fragments of poetry/prose to further the poetic to the next level, refusing to remain static in a single form.
like flowers, blooming from inside your eyes, the letters. You get up to see if you can shake them off: they stick. Cradle-transparency words. They suck you through tunnels of Green vegetation, flatlands that are not The Limia, patches of greenery you can’t get through, ships. You treat them as if they were foreign vocables and spend hours peering into the Latin dictionary, into the anthology of French literature, the sole ones you love. You decide on their meaning because to your mind such words are always interchangeable. You loathe these terms because you want to endure, because clover dodder doesn’t exist, nor BRIARS, nor oaks. Thus you spin round, or it’s the lay on the ground that changes direction. From this point on, words mark risks, of identity-character
There was even conversation a few years ago put forth to the Canada Council, spearheaded by Moure and Robert Majzels [see his 12 or 20 questions here], petitioning them to consider allowing money to be used to “translate and promote foreign works in Canada” [I even posted their letter here], but I don’t know if anything ever became of it.
thinking of that word “zebra”

is like believing the earth is still a flat disk


there are various trees, fallen, and the mountain stays up,
unstuck, because it leans on the wall of the room in which i
the forest takes up one of the four corners of my table, the
corner of where the sun rises

on the summit a bear ambles in the snow (a bear mannequin)

between me and the forest, diagonally: framed photographs
a gasoline heart, a purple plume, a stork, Snow White’s slipper
and then the forest

i know it’ll hurt to clean out the forest
Pato’s poems write through performance and the body, taking apart literature, history and various personal/public myths into her own house of endless rooms, and an endless desire to work beyond whatever constraints a personal/public politic can have over us.
notwithstanding, it’s useful, the “I” is, for example, for knowing
what floor you’re on without having to ask, for orienting
yourself with a map (“I”-decipher of codes)
Her poems work through myth even as her biography at the back of the book writes:
In her words: “writing metabolizes the world, even that world that cannot be absorbed into writing.” And: “I have a predilection for those constructions which investigate the possibility of a language-thinking that refuses to repeat the already-written and lives in contact-lamination with the seams of the unsayable, of what hasn’t yet been written into the corporeality of the poem.” “To me, the poem is a freedom-machine.” “My autobiography? It does not always seem to be mine; sometimes I would rather have other lives. Insofar as all autobiography participates in fiction, I prefer not to be forced to choose, so I opt not to have one.”

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