Reading ‘Reveries about Language’…

Mina Ray reading Reveries
Reading ‘Reveries about language’ at the Still Point Journal launch, 8 Nov 2015

Listen to my reading of an extract from the trilingual poem ‘Reveries about Language’ in this podcast of Kings College London’s radio show on “Translation” (from 17:30 minutes of the podcast).

The reading is also accessible on Youtube:
https://youtu.be/OtTFxmDY5xE

Read the poem in English, French, Croatian:

Reveries about language

Reveries autour de la langue

Sanjarenje of jeziku

 

In my grandmother’s Algerian garden / U Alžirskom vrtu moje bake / Dans le patio algérien de ma grand-mère

Until I was seven, I spent my summers in Algeria with my family. Some of my earliest childhood memories go back to these summers. I remember the intensity of dark red, blue, ochre colours, smells of jasmine and bougainvillea, the garden of orange and lemon trees, my grandmother’s cooking outside and my grandfather’s driving. I still have a a tiny scar on my face because I pulled a young cat by its tail one day. I remember climbing on trees with other local kids, and wandering around my grandparents orange and lemon tree garden. They told me there was a hidden treasure in that garden. I often wondered where in the garden it was hidden, while I was looking at the shiny stars in the Algerian night. My grandfather would often work on his motorcycle, and he would take me sometimes for a drive in town. During the warm days of summer, my grandmother would often cook outside; we ate ´cous-cous’ or ‘la chorba’. I especially loved eating a special type of pancakes (similar to English ‘crumpets’) that my grand-mother made with honey. One weekend, our grandfather took us all from the North of the country to the South of Algeria by car. I still remember as if it was yesterday the day my grandfather and my mother brought me at the door of the Sahara desert, I remember my grandfather’s soft voice: ‘Regarde, ma fille, là-bas, c’est le désert! (‘Look, my child, that’s the desert’).

The two languages spoken in my Algerian family are French and Arabic. Yet, I do not relate any of these experiences to speaking French. Instead, I hear echoes, traces of sounds in Arabic. My Algerian experience is accompanied by a complex relationship I hold to French. I always viewed French as the language of literature and culture, but I also felt for a very long time a sense of inadequacy in relation to that language; I felt like an intruder in that language. Consequently, I cannot relate the memory of French to my Algerian roots. Although I do not speak Arabic, it resonates with me; it feels familiar. My relationship to my Algerian heritage is equally complex, however, a question I explore in the Dangerous Women project blog piece ‘Unveiled’, http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2017/02/01/unveiled/.

I then returned to Algeria much later: in October 2005, December 2010 and December 2011, experiences that marked me equally. In December 2011, I saw my grandmother for the last time. She died last year. She was 100 years old.

//

Do sedme godine svog života, posjećivala sam Alžir ljeti sa svojom familijom. Boje, zvukovi i okusi mojih alžirskih ljeta odredili su moje najranije memorije; intenzivne tamnocrvene, plave i oker boje, miris jasmina i bugenvilije, kuhanje moje bake, vožnje na motoru mog djeda… Još uvijek imam tanki ožiljak na licu jer sam povukla jednu mladu crnu mačku za rep. Jednom su mi djed i baka rekli da je u njihovom vrtu pokopano blago. Često sam razmišljala, pod zvjezdanim nebom, o tom skrivenom blagu. Sjećam se isto tako da sam se penjala po drveću s drugim lokalnom djecom, i lutala u tom vrtu naranča i limuna mog djeda i bake. Moj djed bi često radio na svom motoru i ponekad bi me odveo u vožnju gradom. Tijekom toplih dana ljeta moja baka bi često kuhala vani; jeli smo ‘cous-cous’ ili ‘chorbu’. Posebno sam voljela jesti posebnu vrstu palačinke (slično engleskim ‘crumpets’) premazane medom. Jednom nas je moj djed odveo od sjevera zemlje do juga Alžira autom. Još se sjećam dana, kao da je to bilo jučer, kada su me moj djed i moja majka odveli na vrata Sahare. Još uvijek se sjećam blagog glasa svog djeda: “Regarde, ma fille, la-bas, c’est le désert!” (“Vidi, dijete, tamo se nalazi pustinja!”).

U mojoj alžirskoj familiji govori se francuski i arapski. Moje alžirsko iskustvo popraćeno je kompleksnim odnosom prema francuskom jeziku. Za razliku od hrvatskog, koji je za mene jezik emocija, francuski sam uvijek doživljavala kao jezik književnosti i kulture (djelomično je to tako zbog mog akademskog obrazovanja), i, istovremeno, kao jezik u kojem sam se često osjećala kao ‘nepoželjni’gost (za razliku od engleskog). Taj osjećaj pretjerane svijesti o jeziku (‘hyperconsciousness’) ima za posljedicu da se ni u jednom jeziku ne osjećam ‘doma’, već kao stranac. Dakle, usprkos tome što je francuski moj materinski jezik (kao i hrvatski), ne povezujem svoja alžirska iskustva prvenstveno s francuskim jezikom. U sebi nosim tragove arapskog; melodija arapskog jezika mi je poznata. Iako, moj stav o alžirskom naslijeđu je jednako kompleksan, nešto na što se osvrćem u svom eseju ‘Unveiled’ (‘Otkrivena’), http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2017/02/01/unveiled/.

U Alžir sam se, nakon svojih ranih iskustava, vratila mnogo kasnije: u listopadu 2005., prosincu 2010. i prosincu 2011. Bila su to nova iskustva koja su me jednako tako jako obilježila. U prosincu 2011. posljednji sam put vidjela svoju baku. Umrla je prošle godine, sa 100 godina.

//

Jusqu’à l’âge de sept ans, j’ai passé mes vacances d’été en Algérie avec mes parents. Les couleurs, les parfums, les sonorités et les saveurs de mes étés algériens ont marqué mes souvenirs les plus lointains: coloris d’un rouge intense et profond, bleus et ocre, le parfum du jasmin et des bougainvillées, les orangers du patio, les fumets des plats cuisinés par ma grand-mère, le murmure du jet d’eau dans le patio, de la moto de mon grand-père… J’ai, encore aujourd’hui, une petite cicatrice sur le visage, car j’ai tiré un jeune chat noir par sa queue. Je me souviens d’avoir grimpé dans les arbres avec les autres enfants du quartier et de m’être promené dans le grand jardin d’orangers et de citronniers de mes grand-parents. Ils m’ont révélé, un jour, qu’il y avait un trésor caché dans ce jardin. Je rêvassais souvent en pensant à ce trésor, alors que j’observais les étoiles brillantes de la nuit algérienne. Mon grand-père travaillait souvent sur sa moto et il m’emmenait parfois sur sa moto en ville. Pendant les chaudes journées d’été, ma grand-mère cuisinait souvent dehors; nous mangions du ‘cous-cous’ et de ‘la chorba’. J’adorais manger particulièrement un type spécial de crêpes (semblable aux ‘crumpets’ anglais) que ma grand-mère faisait avec du miel. Un week-end, notre grand-père nous emmena tous du nord du pays au sud de l’Algérie en voiture. Je me souviens vivement encore de ce jour où mon grand-père et ma mère m’ont amené à la porte du désert du Sahara. Je me rappelle encore la voix douce de mon grand-père: ‘Regarde, ma fille, là-bas, c’est le désert’.

On parle le français et l’arabe dans ma famille algérienne. Mais, je ne relie pas mon expérience algérienne au français. C’est pour cette raison, peut-être, que mon vécu algérien est marqué par un rapport complexe à la langue française. A la différence du croate qui est pour moi la langue des émotions, de la spontanéité, la langue française est pour moi la langue de la littérature, de la culture (en partie, sans doute, parce que j’ai fait des études universitaires de français); en même temps; le français est une langue où je me suis souvent sentie comme une invitée indésirable (à la différence de l’anglais). Ce sentiment d’une conscience exagérée de la langue (‘hyperconsciouness’) a engendré pour moi le fait de me sentir nulle part vraiment « chez moi », de me sentir comme une intruse dans la langue française. Ainsi, malgré le fait que le français soit ma langue maternelle (tout comme le croate est ma langue paternelle), je ne relie pas mon algérienne avec mon français, mais avec l’algérien parlé de ma famille algérienne. La mélodie de la langue arabe m’est tout à fait familière. En même temps, mes idées concernant mon héritage algérien sont également complexes; j’ai traité de ce sujet dans mon essai « Unveiled » (‘Dévoilée’), http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2017/02/01/unveiled/.

Je suis retournée en Algérie beaucoup plus tard: en octobre 2005, décembre 2010 et décembre 2011, expériences fortes qui m’ont tout aussi marqué. En décembre 2011, j’ai vu ma grand-mère pour la dernière fois. Elle est morte l’année dernière. Elle avait 100 ans.

Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, London, 31/05/2018

Unbound presents Fernando Pessoa

Alone this summer morning on the deserted wharf,
I look towards the bar, I look towards the Indefinite,
I look and am glad to see
The tiny black figure of an oncoming steamer.
It’s still far away but distinct, classic in its own way.
It leaves a useless trail of smoke in the air far behind it.
It’s coming in, and the morning with it, and here and there
Along the river maritime life begins to stir:
Sails are hoisted, tugboats advance,
Small boats jut out from behind the ships in the harbour.1

Unbound presents the Portuguese poet FERNANDO PESSOA regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. F. Pessoa (1886-1935) was born in Lisbon and lived shortly in Durbai, South Africa, after which he returned to Lisbon. He started writing poetry in 1914. Playing with fluid notions of identity, he often used various literary personas as distinct literary figures apart from writing under his own name. Although he invented many heteronyms, he mainly signed his work under the three following heteronyms: Alberto Caeiro, “a rural, uneducated poet of great ideas who wrote in free verse”, Ricardo Reis, “a physician who composed formal odes influenced by Horace”; and Álvaro de Campos, “an adventurous London-based naval engineer influenced by poet Walt Whitman and the Italian Futurists” (source: Poetry Foundation). 

Of the three main heteronyms used, most critics agree that Álvaro de Campos (born on the 15 October 1890 in Tavira, Portugal) is the one that is probably closest to Pessoa’s personality. Á. de Campos  is the one who feels most strongly, his motto being ‘to feel everything in every way.’ ‘The best way to travel,’ he wrote, ‘is to feel.’ His poetry is the most emotionally intense and varied, constantly oscillating between two fundamental impulses: on the one hand an intense desire to be and feel everything and everyone, declaring that ‘in every corner of my soul stands an altar to a different god’ (alluding to Walt Whitman’s desire to ‘contain multitudes’), and, on the other, a wish for a state of isolation and a sense of nothingness. Pessoa died when he was 47 years old, on November 30, 1935 in Lisbon.

Some critics have discussed the question of what memories of Lisbon are being explored and rewritten in Pessoa’s writing on the city. Is he writing about the city that he left before moving to to South Africa or about the one that he returned to later in his life? According to the critic Maria José de Lancastre, the city represented in Pessoa’s / de Campos poems is the one of the mythical city of his childhood.The city to which he returns after South Africa remains mainly unwritten, although Pessoa uses an external topography of places he resided in or visited, argues de Lancastre. At the same time, the city of Lisbon is reconstructed ‘a posteriori’ as an imagined city that has acquired a purely mythical dimension. At the same time, the city of Lisbon is reconstructed ‘a posteriori’ as an imagined city that has acquired a purely mythical dimension. It is primarily the interior topography of the poet that is being expressed in his writing.

Lisbon is a city that is both lost and regained through writing. It becomes a “metaphor”,  a ‘symbol” punctuated by nostalgia and the feeling of ‘saudade’. Yet, as the critic Filipa de Freitas argues in her analysis of the translations of Pessoa’s long poem ‘Maritime Ode’ notes that there is a notable difference between nostalgia and ‘saudade’ in Pessoa’s work:3

Although nostalgia is also related with sadness and absence, it cannot evidence the complexity of saudade. Nostalgia is a weaker feeling, something like a fog within the poet’s spirit, more close to an idea of melancholy instead of the pain which is also joyful within ‘saudade’ (…) ‘Saudade’, however, is a very deep disposition that structures the subject and appeals to a group of other emotions that conjugate with each other in a very definite way. There is a desire for something lost or absent, a wish of returning and this wish referent may be anything at all, that leads to a sadness initiated by that absence.

A close textual reading of Pessoa’s writing shows the author’s propensity for an incredibly varied number of voices, styles and personas that are characteristic of his writing.4  The excerpts of the poems ‘Lisbon Revisited’ written in 1923 & 1926 shown below are an example of his varied writing on the city.. They plunge the reader into the poet’s interior space that gives rise to the rewriting of his native city and its transformation into a myth.

‘Lisbon revisited’ (1923)

No, I don’t want anything.
I already said I don’t want anything.
Don’t come to me with conclusions!
Death is the only conclusion.
Don’t offer me aesthetics!
Don’t talk to me of morals!
Take metaphysics away from here!
Don’t try to sell me complete systems, don’t bore me
with the breakthroughs Of science (of science, my God, of science!)
— Of science, of the arts, of modern civilization!

(…)

O blue sky—the same one I knew as a child—
Perfect and empty eternal truth!
O gentle, silent, ancestral Tagus,
Tiny truth in which the sky is mirrored!
O sorrow revisited, Lisbon of bygone days today!
You give me nothing, you take nothing from me, you’re nothing I feel is me.
Leave me in peace! I won’t stay long, for I never stay long…
And as long as Silence and the Abyss hold off, I want to be alone!

“Lisbon Revisited”, 1926

Nothing holds me.
I want fifty things at the same time.
I long with meat-craving anxiety
For I don’t know what–
Definitely something indefinite…
I sleep fitfully and live in the fitful dream-state
Of a fitful sleeper, half dreaming.

All abstract and necessary doors were closed in my face.
Curtains were drawn across every hypothesis I could have seen
from the street.
I found the alley but not the number of the address I was given.

I woke up to the same life I’d fallen asleep to.
Even the armies I dreamed of were defeated.
Even my dreams felt false while I dreamed them.
Even the life I merely long for jades me–even that life…

(…)

Once more I see you,
City of my horrifyingly lost childhood…
Happy and sad city, once more I dream here…
I? Is it one and the same I who lived here, and came back,
And came back again, and again,
And yet again have come back?
Or are we–all the I’s that I was here or that were here–
A series of bead-beings joined together by a string of memory,
A series of dreams about me dreamed by someone outside me?
Once more I see you,
With a heart that’s more distant, a soul that’s less mine.

Once more I see you–Lisbon, the Tagus and the rest–,
A useless onlooker of you and of myself,
A foreigner here like everywhere else,
Incidental in life as in my soul,
A ghost wandering through halls of remembrances
To the sound of rats and creaking floorboards
In the accursed castle of having to live…

Once more I see you,
A shadow moving among shadows, gleaming
For an instant in some bleak unknown light
Before passing into the night like a ship’s wake swallowed
In water whose sound fades into silence…

Once more I see you,
But, oh, I cannot see myself!
The magic mirror where I always looked the same has shattered,
And in each fateful fragment I see only a piece of me–
A piece of you and of me!

Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, 7/5/2018.

  1. Àlvaro de Campos (heteronym), “Maritime Ode”, 1915.
  2. Maria José de Lancastre, Fernando Pessoa, Lisbonne revisitée, Anthologie (bilingual Portuguese & French), Paris: Chandeigne, 2017.
  3. Filipa de Freitas, “Naval Ode Translations: Reading the Poet’s Dispositions”, May 7, 2018, https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Portuguese_Brazilian_Studies/ejph/pessoaplural/Issue8/PDF/I8A04.pdf
  4. For further reading of Pessoa’s work see: F. Pessoa, Message, 1934; B. Soares (heteronym), The Book of Disquiet, 1982 (published posthumously); À. de Campos (heteronym), ‘Maritime Ode’, 1915; À. de Campos, ‘Lisbon revisited’, 1923; À. de Campos, ‘Lisbon revisited’, 1926. Other writings published posthumously and translated into several languages include “Poesias de Fernando Pessoa” (1942), Poesias de Alvaro de Campos” (1944), Poemas de Alberto Caeiro” (1946), and “Odes de Ricardo Reis” (1946).

Unbound presents Vahni Capildeo

Unbound presents poets working with / on multilinguality, or those whose language is traversed by their mother tongue. Meet the Trinidadian-British poet Vahni Capildeo, born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. She has lived in the United Kingdom since 1991. Her poetry collection ‘Measures of Expatriation’ won the 2016 Forward Prize for poetry. Her writing is innovative, her language precise, her imagery highly personal. In one word, an original artist to get inspiration from. 

‘Selecting Measures of Expatriation for the Forward Prize, the judging panel chair Malika Booker stated, “We found a vertiginous excitement in the way in which the book grasps its subject: the sense of never quite being at home. This is poetry that transforms. When people in the future seek to know what it’s like to live between places, traditions, habits and cultures, they will read this. Here is the language for what expatriation feels like.’ (source: Poetry Foundation)

Below is a poem from the 2016 collection: 

‘I LOVE YOU’

‘I love you,’ he wouldn’t say: it was against his philosophy; I-love-you

didn’t mean what it meant, plus the verray construction of the phrase

caused bad-old-concrete-lawman-vandal-verbal-mildew-upon-the-grape-harvest-and-war-for-rare-minerals-required-to-manufacture-communications-devices damage; saying I-love-you damaged love, subject and object; plus he could prove this in two dense and delphic languages suitable for philosophy, opera, cursing, and racking the nerves of artificial intelligence machines that perhaps could love but would be hard-wired giammai to dare say so. So what moved him to not-say I-love-you? What wake-up-and-spoil-the-coffee ashtray-licking djinn? I have to start to agree. The verbness of it impropriety (eyes glob up the syringe when you’re giving blood: semisolid spiralling); perhaps too

active… I-love-you, I sand you, I drill you, I honey and set you for wasps,

crimson you like a stolen toga, add value applying dye, fight owner-

ship, I cite you to justify skilled outrage, put your name as guarantor on an astronomical mortgage, I admit desertification comes as a relief, from I to O, O my oasis, O my mirage. Maybe the verb is a tending-to-wards? A tightrope? A tropism? A station? But that’s meeting him on his own ground; plus I can’t disprove entire languages; plus those three little words aren’t meant as saying. An icy drink in stormlight. A looked-at leaf left to transpire its own way until… And sans I-love-you the centuried moon rose above dinnermint stone; many men continued talking; a woman lifted her sarsenet skirt, peed on green lilies and, utterly gracious, walked through the archway to join the mixed group delighting in — word! believe it! — fresh air.

Vahni Capildeo, “‘I Love You’” from Measures of Expatriation.

Unbound presents Zoë Skoulding

Unbound presents poets and writers engaging with and / or exploring multilinguality. Meet the English-born poet Zoë Skoulding.

Zoë Skoulding was born in Bradford, United Kingdom in 1967. Having previously lived in East Anglia, India and Belgium, Skoulding now lives in north Wales. Skoulding’s first collection of poems Tide Table was published in 1998 (followed by The Mirror Trade, 2004; Dark Wires, 2007; From Here, 2008; Remains of a Future City, 2008; The Museum of Disappearing Sounds, 2013). 

Skoulding is a true master at her craft. She possesses a strong writing voice capable of transgressing the boundaries and the borders of both meaning and form whilst also exploring the multivocal and multilingual expressions in her poetry. Stylistically, she combines lyrical imagery with a (post)modernist approach and worldview, something that allows her never to fall into the ‘nostalgia’ trap.  Skoulding is particularly good at studying the relationship between poetry and city space. This relationship is the main theme of the masterful collection ‘Remains of a Future City”. In one of the poems, ‘The Old Walls’, Skoulding writes: 

The wall is who we are and they are not and
            farther in the boundaries collapse in a rush of
            security as cells multiply and break through stone
translucent grit cracks the skin open to the elements
            we go down through layers and this is history
            a low door at the foot of the walls opens into starry
arches articulate as loin bones the slender joints
            lithe as a voice disappearing from behind the
            words behind the walls where water moves  
against deep tones of trees that cloud the air
            behind the smell of wet earth the voice leaves
            the shape of itself and the footprints of walkers
trace the shell of the city its dead words
            we crawled out of our words tender like snails
            and the new city grows from the loins of the old
as lichen spreads in acid maps invading and
            retreating the city runs along fingers runs along
            roads and wires and into fields and the sightlines
run back to the city in wires and the walls
            keep nothing out and the nothing beyond as a cloud
            of eyes moves through the streets and falls like rain

Then, in her 2013 ‘haunted’ collection ‘The Museum of Disappearing Sounds’, Skoulding turns to the theme of disappearance. She intertwines disappearing words and sounds ‘shaken loose from border controls’ giving rise to a poetics of the trace. Traces of other languages, other voices, other cultures appear as can be seen in the extract below from ‘Variants of a Polish fragment’:

this is glass this is szkla or szklo depending on where
it catches its light and I can’t see anything through it
only hear the rasp of broken bottles
swept across a beach where I’m walking
towards you with bare feet in this variant
salt air wears the edges smooth

words are sharp against the town’s low roar
but blur your ears and traffic turns tidal every step
leaves a white wave of salt on my shoes
in wody wielkie in vast waters I could
drown in the undertow of any language
in this variant it would make no difference

It can be said that intertextuality lies at the centre of Skoulding’s writing. Besides her postmodern exploration of modern sonic environments one can find a series of references to the French literary cannon including Rimbaud, Valéry and Baudelaire. So is the Proustian theme of memory and forgetting the central subject of the poem in prose in three parts ‘In Search for Lost Time’. The poem testifies to the poet’s quest for time lost, as can be seen in the third part: 

He would suddenly become aware that he could not remember even time-lapse cameras recording glaciers. A reasonable attempt will be made to replace time lost but there is no magic form. Ask your doctor to complete a press release pertaining to cloud estimates after earthquakes. How can one hold joy and grief in the mind at the same time? Blame advertising slowdown, or the growing literature on the economics of migraine. Little is known why subjective time loss occurs after a novel experience but mice allowed to sleep after being trained help you shed flab in a jiffy. Between accident and absence the world had changed into something recognisable.

This is simply great poetry worth reading and re-reading again. 

Photo: ‘Stranger in the night’, ©Mina Ray 2017

Unbound presents Samira Negrouche

Unbound presents poets and writers working with / on multilinguality. Meet the Algerian poet Samira Negrouche.

Samira Negrouche was born in Algiers in 1980.  She is the author of several poetry collections including: À l’ombre de Grenade, Iridienne, and Cabinet Secret – a work with Enan Burgos. [1] Negrouche possesses three languages: French, Arabic and Tamazight. She writes in French and translates Arabic poetry and has participated in interdisciplinary projects involving drama, video, photography and plastic arts. Le jazz des oliviers was published in Algeria by Tell in 2010 and was subsequently translated and published in Italy the following year. In Paris, she recently published an anthology of contemporary francophone Algerian poets, Quand l’amandier refleurira (Editions de l’Amandier), and has created a show called “Soleils” that focuses on francophone Algerian poetry from the Thirties up to the present day.

In 2012, she wrote a poem on the Arab Spring, Sept petits monologues du jasmin  (Seven Little Jasmine Monologues, translated by Marilyn Hacker). The poem in French is structurally composed of three parts. The first part contains seven ‘mini-poems’ in prose that refer to seven Arabic cities: Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Saana, Damascus, Rabat and Algiers (in French, the author gives only the initials of the cities to the reader).  The second and third parts contain verses entitled ‘Suite a/rythmique’ and ‘Triptyque pour jeu de lignes ou de chambre’. [2]  Negrouche explains: “These fragments were finalized in January 2012, and while I use some details very specific to that period, I think they perhaps have more sense today, with a certain distance. I don’t know, what do you think?”. [3] [4] Of the English translation, she says: “The English version has its own life, and this is what I like and admire about Marilyn Hacker’s work, it never feels like a translation. There aren’t flow accidents when I read her translations.”

An extract of the poem in French and in English is given below:

S.
Deux cent soixante-quatre kilomètres sur les routes poussiéreuses, caravane de jambes desséchées semelles fines qui avancent et se densifient comme chargées de sacs trop grands comme libérées des cargaisons débarquées Aden la brise marine s’éloigne à chaque pas je t’offre mon dos et l’ivoire de ma peau cent fois brûlée sous le soleil journalier traversant grimpant dans la foule des passants cent fois posant le grain à la porte des autres. À s’engouffrer sur le chemin visage déterminé serait-ce résigné ce chemin qui semble n’aller qu’au centre de la métaphore et qui pourtant raccourcit l’illusion.
Deux cent soixante-quatre kilomètres à flamber mon crâne rasé qu’il flambe qu’il dilue l’horizon et altère le temps au-dessus des colonnes serrées d’hommes et de slogans qu’il ajoute un pas à chaque pas et que n’arrivent jamais les routes citadines du plateau antique.


Sanaa
Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres on dusty roads, caravan of withered legs skimpy soles that move forward becoming denser as if weighed down with oversized bags as if liberated from unloaded cargo Aden the sea breeze becomes more distant with each step I offer you my back and the ivory of my skin burned a hundred times by the day-labouring sun crossing clambering in the crowd of passers-by placing the grain a hundred times on others’ threshholds. Surging onto the road faces determined or resigned this road that seems to lead only to the center of the metaphor but still cuts the illusion short.

Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres to set fire to my shaven head let it catch fire let it thin out the horizon and change the weather above the close-ranked columns of men and slogans to each step taken let it add one more and let the city roads never arrive from the ancient heights.)

A.

En cette journée lézardée de déceptions où le bleu a quitté la mer pour envahir la colline chaînes blindées dans l’amas minuscule Minuit avorte le jour laissant la Casbah à ses débris. J’en appelle à la mémoire d’Alger de ses comptoirs marins aux chars de l’occupation j’en appelle à Hassiba à Djamila à Didouche et à Boudiaf aux ancêtres et aux amnésiques aux violeurs de rêves et aux traîtres de toujours j’en appelle à chaque goutte versée à chaque humiliation que jaillisse enfin la baie et qu’elle nous habite qu’elle ouvre nos paupières assommées que se réveillent Al Anka et les diwans assiégés que s’ouvrent les seuils de nos maisons et que s’élève le chant nouveau. Que se lève le TGV expresse, qu’il ramène la brise de Tanger et qu’il amorce sa course de Tunis à Alexandrie et de Beyrouth à Istanbul. Que s’ouvre un jour nouveau et que Minuit embaume de jasmin.

Algiers
On this morning cracked with disappointments when blue has left the sea to invade the hill in a uniformed chain tightening on the diminishing crowds. Midnight aborts the day leaving the Casbah to its rubbish and fragments. I appeal to the memory of Algiers from its seaside bars to the tanks of the occupation, I appeal to Hassiba to Djamila to Didouche and to Boudiaf to the ancestors and to the amnesiacs to the rapists of dreams and to the perpetual traitors I appeal to every drop spilled to every humiliation let the bay gush forth at last and let it inhabit us let it open our senseless eyelids let Al Anka and the besieged diwans awaken let the doorways of our houses open and let a new song arise. Let the TGV Express awaken, let it bring back the breeze from Tanger and let it start a new route from Tunis to Alexandria and from Beirut to Istanbul. Let a new day open and let Midnight be fragrant with jasmine.

Collaborations & a poet’s reading

In 2015, Negrouche collaborated with the English-born poet Zoe Skoulding on the project ‘170 degrees’, as part of the Globe Road Poetry London festival. Listen to Samrouche reading her poetry:

 

Summary in French

Faites la rencontre de Samira Negrouche, poétesse algérienne d’expression francophone qui vit à Alger. Samira Negrouche est une poétesse et auteure algérienne francophone vivant à Alger. Elle est l’auteure de plusieurs recueils de poésie, de courts essais et de textes en prose. Negrouche traduit aussi la poésie de l’arabe et de l’anglais vers le français. Ses travaux ont été traduits dans plus de quinze langues, en autre, en anglais par Zoë Skoulding avec qui elle a collaboré en 2014 sur sa performance ‘179°’ à l’occasion du festival de poésie de Ledbury. Elle a travaillé sur des projets interdisciplinaires de musique, de théâtre, de vidéo, de photographie ainsi que des arts plastiques. Quelques-unes de ses publications: Cabinet Secret (2007), Le Jazz des oliviers (2010), Seuil dynamique (2015). Formée comme médecin, Negrouche consacre tout son temps à des projets créatifs.

[1] The full list of publications:

  • Faiblesse n’est pas de dire… Algiers: Barzakh, 2001.
  • Les Vagues du silence, by Yasminah Salih, Alger: Al Ikhtilef, 2002. (Translation)
  • L’opéra cosmique, Algiers: Al Ikhtilef, 2003.
  • Iridienne, Echalas: Color Gang, 2005.
  • A l’ombre de Grenade, Toulouse A.P l’étoile, 2003 ; Lettres Char-nues, Algiers 2006.
  • Cabinet secret, Echalas: Color Gang, 2007.
  • Le Jazz des oliviers, Blida: Editions du Tell, 2010.
  • Quand l’Amandier refleurira, Anthology, 2012.
  • Six arbres de fortune autour de ma baignoire, Mazette, Paris 2017.

[2] I was unable to verify whether these two parts are missing in the English version or have been left out of the source I consulted.

[3] Source: Arabic Literature in English, https://arablit.org/2017/07/11/samira-negrouches-seven-little-jasmine-monologues/

[4] Source: Sanson, Hervé, ‘Contact et blessure tout ensemble…’, in: Po&sie, 2014/2 (N° 148), https://www.cairn.info/revue-poesie-2014-2-page-24.htm#pa8

Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, 18/03/2018.

Unbound présente Amelia Rosselli

Unbound présente les poètes et les écrivains qui explorent l’expression multilingue dans leur écriture poétique. Faites connaissance de la poétesse italienne Amelia Rosselli.

Ameila Roselli est née à Paris en 1930. Son père, Carlo Rosselli, était un militant antifasciste en exil, fondateur d’un célèbre mouvement de résistance socialiste, Giustizia e Libertà (Justice et Liberté). Sa mère, Marion Cave, était anglaise. Après l’assassinat de Carlo et de son frère Nello (Sabatino) Rosselli par la Cagoule sur l’ordre de Mussolini (1937), la famille Rosselli fuit à Londres, puis aux États-Unis, avant de revenir à Rome, où Amelia Rosselli s’installe définitivement.

L’œuvre poétique d’Amelia Rosselli est marquée par un rapport fondamental à la langue et à la culture française : un lien aussi fort, peut-être, que celui qui l’unit à l’anglais. De ses débuts en 1952 jusqu’à ses derniers poèmes, parus à titre posthume, son écriture reflète en permanence cette situation « entre les langues ». Sa langue n’est pas simplement l’italien mais un « ydioma tripharium » inextricablement lié à son parcours biographique. À partir de 1952, Amelia Rosselli écrit en trois langues une série de poèmes : d’abord en anglais My Clothes to the Wind (Mes vêtements au vent), 1952, puis en italien Cantilena, poesie per Rocco Scotellaro (Cantilène, poésies pour Rocco Scotellaro), 1953, ainsi qu’en français Adolescence : Sanatorio 1954 (Adolescence : Sanatorium 1954), 1954. Enfin, dans Le Chinois à Rome, 1955, le français est la langue principale, mais les deux autres langues affleurent de manière décisive. De même, Diario in Tre Lingue (Journal en Trois Langues), 1955-1956, est écrit en trois langues à la fois. À la fin de cette expérience trilingue (onze ans d’écriture), Amelia Rosselli semble choisir l’italien comme langue d’écriture principale : la publication de Variazioni belliche (Variations de guerre) en 1964 marque le début d’une œuvre poétique surtout italophone, et qui justifie de fait son rattachement au canon littéraire italien. Mais ce choix ne saurait masquer l’utilisation constante des deux autres langues, qui se manifeste dès le premier poème de son recueil Variazioni belliche par l’insertion de mots français, anglais, ou bien par des néologismes d’origine étrangère.

(Source: “Un « chaos linguistique » : les textes en français d’Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996)”, Emilio Sciarrino, http://journals.openedition.org/coma/311?lang=en#bodyftn1)

Le temps peut s’arrêter…
Le temps peut s’arrêter en bien
ou en mal ; il frissonne impertinent
de toute sa large bouche obscure, ou s’arrête
et hurle qu’il en a assez : de
cette belligérance.

Le Temps n’est pas un ventre ; c’est un croc
qui sourit sagement ou persifle
pendant que tu sers son maître, le coeur
brisé.

Le Temps coud et raccommode ! et demande
dans ton rapide, brisé penser
pourquoi tu as laissé la confiture
se gâter ? Je ne suis pas un croc dit
le jongleur, le Temps ne s’arrête pas pour moi

dit le poissonnier ; le tout est
le tout, le Temps est le Temps, bouté hors
des ciels.

Une perle, un sacrifice, un psalmodier
reportages de morts… Je ne suis pas un jongleur
cria le poissonnier, ma main
ma tête, chantent que le temps a
tous ses frissons coordonnés avec le Temps.

Onze chevaux allaient cueillant des mûres
pensant qu’ils deviendraient
vieux, mais le Temps, lui, était assis et
cousait, sans égards pour leurs
larges bouches ouvertes, leurs cavernes
qui désiraient davantage.

Commencèrent onze courses, la “free
lance” pensée vieillissait encore : le Temps
était assis encore pensant, qu’il ne
vieillirait jamais. Accidents indéfinis, paradis
aigris – tous sont dans les bouches
des chevaux, dans leurs ventres terrorisés.
Le Temps-pensant cadra le trou
le Temps-soucieux cherchait à devenir
vieux. Le Temps-assis se collait
à sa place : il n’y avait bataille plus terrifiante
que celle qui était mienne.
J’ai accroché le Temps : il est assis
cueillant des mûres collé à sa
place : mais des cris brisés glissent
de la bouche : le Temps n’a pas de frissons
n’a pas d’autre lieu que la terre !

Puis nous marquerons le Temps, qui
devint énorme beaucoup, portant des barils
à la terre déserte, ou transformant
les carottes en raves, ou différemment
occupant son âme désintéressée. Le Temps
n’a pas de butins ! il peut devenir
vieux, n’était pour mes butins,
qui partagent le total.

Des raves à gorge déployée sourirent :
n’es-tu pas préparée pour
la bataille encore ? Ta flèche est-elle si
légère ? L’encombrante nature
restituera le vol : tu mourras,
et deviendras forte, fumant des fournitures
ou autres maux.

Qui fumant des plats d’argent, creusèrent
leurs fosses légères assez pour
mener droit à ce paradis
où le Temps n’a aucun tort, ni
ornières pour t’agripper. Et encore
pendant que ton sourire blesse, avec
un vouloir de pleurs, qui mène la chanson
une misère brodée de blanc
Temps, plus moëlleux que la grâce
de mon ventre, son faire en te trop-faisant,
pendant que tu te dresses fort.

(“Time can stop…”, in; Sleep, Amela Roselli)
Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, 17/12/2017

Unbound presents Amelia Rosselli

Unbound presents poets working with / on multilinguality. Meet the Italian poet Amelia Rosselli.

Amelia Rosselli was born in Paris in 1930 to an Italian father and an English mother who fled Italy. Rosselli was a poet, a musician and a musicologist, as well as a literary translator. She used multilingual writing widely in her work. Her highly experimental literary output includes verse and prose in English and French, as well as Italian. From 1952, Amelia writes poetry in three languages: first in English, Clothes to the Wind  (1952), than in Italian, Cantilena, poesie per Rocco Scotellaro (1953), and in French, Adolescence : Sanatorio, 1954. Her trilingual journal, Diario in Tre Lingue, 1955-1956, is written in three languages simultaneously. At the end of her life, she returns to Italian as her principal language. Her poetry collection Variazioni belliche, 1964, is written in Italian; however, she also uses English and French insertions in her writing.

Rosselli published eight poetry collections. Her work has been recently collected and published in Hospital Series (2015, translated by Roberta Antognini, Giuseppe Leporace and Deborah Woodard) and Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli (2012, translated by Jennifer Scappettone). She also translated English poetry into Italian. Scholar and translator Lucia Re has described Rosselli as “anti-fascist, Jewish, multi-lingual, an experimental musician and a perennial exile, Amelia Rosselli is one of the great poets of the 20th century”. She died in 1966 in Rome by committing suicide.

(Source: Poetry Foundation; “Un « chaos linguistique » : les textes en français d’Amelia Rosselli” (1930-1996), Emilio Sciarrino)

[There’s something like pain in the room]
(by Amelia Rosselli)

from Documento (1966-73)

There’s something like pain in the room, and
it’s partly overcome: but the weight
of objects wins, their way of signifying
weight and loss.

There’s something like red in the tree, but it’s
the orange of the lampstand
bought in places I don’t want to remember
because they also carry weight.

Since I can know nothing of your hunger
the stylized fountains are
precise in their will
a destiny of people separated by oblique noise
can, when overturned, fall into place quite well.

(Unbound, 17/12/2017)