from Initial Elegy
It’s not the love of no one
but that no-one had yet penetrated
the air of anyone daring far off
to face fully the air’s possible loveliness.
Air’s loveliness crowns her, and i am made to know
this, though it is something i so rarely know,
unless… (“The Nichita Stanescu Translations by Elisa Sampedrín”)
In her O Resplendor (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2010), Montreal poet and translator Erín Moure continues her progression of turning the act of writing deeper into the act of reading, where one can no longer be distinguished from the other, something that, over the years, had once been a territory predominantly that of novelists. How does the poem turn in such territory?
To hear enough points of view, one can better understand history, one can better understand story, and Moure digs deep to explore other voices, translating translations, and opening up points of view across the board. This is Moure cross-translating Elisa Sampedrín, Paul Celan, Oana Avasilichioaei and Nichita Stanescu, wrapping translations back in and around on themselves, whether in the first section, “The Nichita Stanescu Translations by Elisa Sampedrín” or, further along, “The Paul Celan Translations by Erín Moure.” Just what are all of these versions of versions of versions leading to? As she writes on page five (or, someone does, being “The Nichita Stanescu Translations by Elisa Sampedrín”):
I can’t explain why I was so suddenly drawn to translation.These distances, these voices, that Moure brings in read almost like more complex variations on novelist Paul Auster, writing a character with the same name, or Robert Kroetsch writing the archivist Raymond going through the papers of Rita Kleinhart in Kroetsch’s poetry collection The Hornbooks of Rita K. (Edmonton AB: University of Alberta Press, 2001). There is even Borges’ idea of the double that Moure seems to multiply, coming out third, fourth, fifth.
Even the simplest of Moure’s pieces are intricately woven, working in, through and across everything that surrounds; a book that deals with grief, elegy, self-portrait and the death of her mother, as well as her ongoing work on translation and the citizen. In O Resplendor, Moure chronicles the movements from one text to the next; is this a novel or a collection of poems? And who, exactly, is telling the story?
I couldn’t write her the message at all. It wouldn’t speak. I was given over to language and it was withholding itself even from me. I’d seen the third photo by then, not on paper but in an email that had landed in my spam box. It was of a woman in a summer dress, sleeveless, about my own age probably, holding a rope attached to a low wagon of sorts, a slab of plywood on wheels, really, laden with boxes and a huge wrapped bag. She was stopped in the road among the cars. There were two people on a stoop as well, not looking at her, young women outside an apartment block. And a figure on the balcony above. Who?The collection also includes her heartbreakingly-lovely sequence “Map of Calgary,” originally published online in Australia’s Jacket, and written for her mother.
At the far left edge of the photo, walking off into the distance, carrying what looked like a small sofa between them, were two other women. That photographer had caught O. and E.S. entirely by accident. But I recognized O.’s blue bag. And E.’s walk, even though she was immobile in the photograph, and had her back to me.
I shut the computer. (“CRÓNICA THREE”)
The smallest of white curls, I look close, smile.
Ramses is in the flowerpots (an email from the pyramids).
She touches her rib cage, gingerly,
to her right: it’s hurting here now.
I am given over to language.
The seeds of the cosmos grow up as poppies, I suggest.
Red poppies, she asks?
The flagropes still, sunlit. No noise on the metal.
I’ll open that door when I come to it, I tell her.
She lies back. This feels right, feels better.
A ribprint on my hand. I save it.
(A coyote in pixels. To show her.)