To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

André Breton & Philippe Soupault: from THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, “Feelings Are Free”

Soupault & Breton, photo by Man Ray, 1925

Translation from French by Charlotte Mandell

Trace smell of sulfur
Public health swamp
Red of criminal lips
Quick-march brine
Whim of monkeys
Day-colored clock


Heat of locomotives in their Sunday best
Overcoats of prostitutes
Marine moon problem
Solid meridians beehive
Calomel of childhoods at the theater
Blue countrysides
There are three inhabitants
Flying fish in love with the stars
Beard of rivers languor
Thousand years compass
Psychologist pharmacists are a public danger
Rage of Chicago factories
Men love the paleness of animals


Red-hot pins
Anxious sleep of family men
Table of sugary values
Fishing for endless arguments is on sale
Police of the sexes
Paper flight bloody handkerchief
Academic occupations the sheep runs through luxury hotels
Bed of mirrors
Stars of the Republic
My animal tongue of the idle rich bourgeoisie
Sighs of happy mothers


Crime of teenagers English salt
River of chapped hands
Palace of celebrations and dawns
Red red the song
Sweet sugar become the color green
Sensations gone pale
Courage virgin blotting paper
A fly strikes fear in old men
They discover a brain there are red ants


Colorless gases are suspended
Two thousand three hundred scruples
Snow of freshwater springs
Smiles are accepted
Don’t give sailors’ promises
The lions of the Poles
The sea the sea the natural sand
The grey parrot of poor parents
Vacation of oceans
7 o’clock in the evening
Night in the country of mad rages
Finances sea salt
We can see nothing now but the beautiful hand of summer
Cigarettes of the dying


Foreign animals and industrial generals are in the same circle
The avenue of kisses
Illness of young people
The paper on the wall beds cages and circuses
Studios of salvations
A dance quick a dance
Delicate chemistry
Throw the dice
A man at sea
A man goes by I want to see him
He’s running blue bluer than my frozen fingers stain of the tracks
Railroads factories
Iron burns
Prison tobacco mother of dreams
A roundabout bar sickly gallantry
Thursday Thursday
Take your hand head in the trees
Calm of suns
Compound salts
Trucks, bring us the results
The shades our girlfriends
A general commands hands
Beautiful watches


Opening of sorrows one two one two
They are toads red flags
Saliva of flowers
Electrolysis beautiful dawn
Ball of suburban smoke
Clumps of earth cone of sand
Dear tolerated child you whisper
Never pursued the mauve light of brothels
The rug is bordered with nests of dead leaves
House-movings followed by village bands
On the walls for festival days they hang eyes toys of the poor
Farewell source of illnesses
All cries, all, and those that remain are liquid
For grownups the red order
Sun house dance forgetting the veils of the fog
Summer moon
The lantern and the little grey tree that bears an exotic name those are the fingers of  
       ataxia sufferers the vines of the fields
Biology teaches love
Weave lucid truths
My head is wrapped in a bandage
Crime or suicide
Acetylene is a white carnation
Dreadful pince-nez


Lottery of ascensions and asters
They’re playing cards the thousand tears of tender youth
Quality of the beloveds
The honey from foreheads passes to distances calculated on a work night
The different ailments of streets the cheerful days of sugary Saturdays
Metal mouth setting sun
Compressed air the shame of it
Who wants to sing the ballad of burns

Pretty blood is a rose
A fan of reflections
The colors of milk repose
At this occident of riches

The most gracious contrivances
And odious peddlers of clothes
Offer to our thoughts of romances
All the vapors of gratitude

There is so much to read in these passages
Our veins burst rockets beautiful rockets
Humidity corrodes our feelings with choice subtleties
Our yellow Sunday hobbies
Register of numbered passions
The matches are excellent and flower non-stop
Long live the cerebellums of mice


The air-waves of miracles and deeds
Divine calculation of palaces
Mercy for all those members
A solid rug a sword-cane and the glory of the exiled
The numbers of horizons scarlet tongue inclinations
Why bow your noble or struggling head
The days pass through your hands
Little flame for those born blind
Demonstration of laughs brown school in the back of the village blue smoke of      
      coalminers and alpine foresters
A rainbow shepherd magician
The light comes like a freshwater spring
Physics is nothing anymore
Those long threads and telegrams are the flowers of our rosy civilizations
We must take care of the neighbors smells of nights and morrows
The school window draped with ivy
The galloping of camels
Lost harbor
The train station is on the right Café de la Gare Bifur It’s fear
Oceanic prefectures
I hide inside a historic painting
So green it’s about to blossom
The leaves are tender sighs
Quickly cut down your escaped three-masted desires crazy dancers
The sea has no more color come look at the sea of algae
The gillyflower mappa mundi or shark
The poor giraffe is on the right
The seal groans
The inspectors have obscurities and kingfishers in their hands a graphometer animal of    
       dry cities
For you, lost stamens Headquarters
of cold eternities


Bottles of flames are sweet so sweet
Suburban pirates have eyes lined with black
Green brightness adoration of landscapes
Polished shoes
Industrial company without credentials Chemical Association of Pendulums
Slackness of eyeless rodents
Bulimias of pale brooders
Mauve naivety of sellers of swift, brutally hollowed-out shutters
Under the eye of adopted acids lighthouses give courage
Green water for women
Newspapers from the day before yesterday grandmothers ramble on the sky is blue the
       sea is blue eyes are blue
Musical light beams quadrupeds indolent saber
The torn-apart wasps are mute they are weeping tarantulas The bag of cities under the
       sea pigeons are present lights cut walls and brains
There are always alarm clocks
The basilica of terrified seconds
The importance of barometers flatfish
Basil and reseda
Spanish dances cliff of deeds scaffold of waterfalls
A sphere destroys everything

translator’s note.  I first started translating THE MAGNETIC FIELDS at the request of the young poet Tamás Panitz.  He had been going to Gloucester to visit the poet Gerrit Lansing, a dear friend of my husband, the poet Robert Kelly.  Gerrit would recommend various poetry books he thought were worth reading to Tamás, and Tamás would faithfully follow his advice.  Except in this case:  there was no translation available of THE MAGNETIC FIELDS; the Gascoyne/ Atlas edition had gone out of print and was prohibitively expensive.  So I thought, why not just do the first chapter?  Except after the first chapter, I was hooked — there was no way I could stop after experiencing the thrill of translating such an outlandish, enticing, absorbing text.  I began to feel I was a part of the pioneering automatic writing process, and had to go on to the end.  And so I went on, and on, until I had finished translating the whole book.  This was back in 2016, I think.  When I was done I compared my translation with the Gascoyne and thought, Maybe this is worth publishing after all.  Then by a wonderful coincidence (through the deus ex machina of my friend and fellow translator Jeffrey Zuckerman) I met Edwin Frank, editor in chief at NYRB Classics, and thought on a whim I’d send him the manuscript.  To my delight, he liked my translation, and to my greater delight, he said they would publish it in 2020 — exactly a century after its first publication.  For this, I would like to thank the gods of poetry, whose wonders never cease; the angel Gerrit Lansing, who set all this in motion (and who alas died recently, in 2018); Tamás, for his (frequent) prompting; Robert, for his invaluable help in editing this translation; and all the wonderful people at NYRB Classics, to whom I am truly grateful, but Edwin Frank especially, for recognizing something in this text that might be worth reading.

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