A world is no less itself when upside down / reflected in the pool, as if dangled from its heels / like a prisoner already confessing his innocence / or his guilt by his journey through condition.
As a boy in Nowhere, Illinois, I came across / The Ratline: Notorious Nazis on the Lam, a book / about death-camp goons snaking / through the high grass of Paraguay / with Vatican papers and fake optical frames.
I plunged just as deep into myself / as into the swaying sea / and freed the dolphin sleeping / there under chains of memory. / But I sensed I was mere fathoms / away from some lordlier creature / that kept the key to endless breath.
Gary Snyder’s lively translations of Hanshan (Cold Mountain), along with their fictional account in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, have since inspired numerous poets and translators to mimic Hanshan’s raw poetic style. Most are unaware, however, of their participation in a millennium-old tradition of composing Cold Mountain verses.
Bring me the sunflower so I can plant / it in my salt-scorched patch of earth, so it can throw / back to the day’s reflecting blue / the anguish of its upturned, yellow face.
We were seduced, Madame, by /
mutual machinations, duped, /
you and I, by summer’s mayhem /
pounding on our overheated craniums.
Incandescent, gold and red, / the world vibrates and hums / with the last of the autumn. / Carmel and rust, / sable, tan and chocolate leaves ornament the ground, / while necklaces of green and gold / twist down off the sturdy trees.
Approaching a poem written in another time and/or place, the translator faces a literal dilemma, a double problem of conflicting loyalties. . .
I set off walking south on the shoulder / Of these high cliffs, through kissing gates and over stiles, when summer / Was a crude suggestion yet among the broom and gorse.
An excerpt from Marc di Saverio’s epic poem Crito Di Volta. Here, after some introductory material, Crito delivers his sermon on the mount, as it were. . .