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

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yves di Manno: Two Poems from the French


What they
would say a man
would say

that the rain

was a threat / that a man
had drowned
the body of

his child / a body

in the river (in the
salt mine) said it again
& for no reason / and the

snow at long last
on the abandoned
broken streets

drops down like

a shroud on
the throngs
wandering by


on the
banks far off
where the children

are dying / the men

keep silent and stare at
the sky / the fixed
stars the bow

& the lyre may we

the dying man’s


a man once gave me
the name that I’ve
carried / you should have

seen how
the sky on this theme
hauled out its white

ink / and the corpse
on the earth of the macular

stretched out alone
in the order of

“Au Terme”

For that night who would speak? / whose shadow
Fanning out veiling a drop more of the pond

Where the lonely voice could be lost –
Be reborn in the morning in hope of his song

Between the spread branches of beech
On the crushed carpet of dead & dry leaves

Trod underfoot by a horde of men
Passing by on the outskirts of villages

And shared there the fruit of their plunder
Then one by one scattered. A single one

Lingered who ought to have sung them
(Those wars) unable to live in a peaceable

Time, so ephemeral, so on the edge of an
Other frontier – over the land of that woman

She who once lived, on the banks of the lake
Where slowly the silent

Boats anchored, heavy
With harvests of green wood. Leaning alone

On a tree trunk he dreamed
Of countries they crisscrossed / later

Of wheat fields & deserts & massacres
Wrought that winter on women their throats slit

Of black children hanged, of the bellies agape
From which worms oozed out, of the severed necks

Of the draft animals – all of these
Harvests, these farms that they torched

Smoke & fog in his memory that one sole
Morning he’d want not to speak of, facing

The uncertain land in front of him
Austere & dry. Because something would

Illumine him too, with a name he no longer
Recalled, nor what mystery ever would justify him

But under the tree would bruskly
Make sense of his story:

A fire inside the fire from yesterday evening
The sword in his hand with no past

A man still in back of this man
Tamping down the cinders that morning –

For the sake of repose, who knows,
Simply there / beyond page and plain

Of a singer / a warrior

Translations from French by Jerome Rothenberg

A Note on Yves di Manno

Born in the Rhône region of France in 1954, Yves di Manno is an extraordinary poet, translator, essayist & editor, who presently lives & works in Paris. Since the 1970s, he has been collaborating on various poetry magazines, has translated several major American poets (William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, George Oppen, among others), & has published more than twenty books of his own poetry, among them: Les Célébrations (Bedou, 1980), & Champs (1984-1987), Kambuja (1992), Partitions (1995) & Un Pré, chemin vers (2003), the last four with éditions Flammarion. He is also the author of a number of critical works on twentieth-century poetry: La Tribu perdue (Java, 1995), “endoquote” (Flammarion, 1999), & two “narrations as dreams”: Domicile (Denoël, 2002) & Discipline (Ed. Héloïse d’Ormesson, 2005). He has been the director for many years of a major poetry series at Flammarion, through which he has edited nearly 100 books, including an important collective work: 49 poètes, in 2004. He is also the editor of a newly translated edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, published in 2002, & his epical translation of my own Technicians of the Sacred was published by éditions José Corti in 2008. His poem "Tertre," excerpted here, is like other of his poems a work in many parts.

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