[read the essay]
Like Andrei Tarkovsky or Arvo Pärt, Tranströmer has few works, each a distillation of a master image-maker and devotee of silence. I fell in love with Tranströmer’s poetry, like many Americans, through Samuel Charters’ translation of the book-length poem Baltics, which appeared with the incredible (but now defunct) Oyez press in Berkeley, California, in 1975. Here is the first stanza of the second section of Baltics in Charters’ translation:
The wind walks in the pine forest. It sighs heavily, lightly.
In the middle of the forest, the Baltic also sighs, deep in the
forest you’re out on the open sea.
NER will publish Spatz for the sixth time in 18 years in our next issue (32.4). He first appeared in NER in 1992 (14.2).
An excerpt from Spatz’s book Inukshuk, scheduled for publication by Bellevue Literary Press in June 2012:
Opening shot: exterior: the Erebus and the Terror on a sea more or less the same blue-green as that bus ceiling. No icebergs yet, no sign of land. Low-flying mist, and as the ships come closer, you see men on board, wearing black and wrapped in wool. Cue distant dance music—accordions, mandolin, and piano; mournful, ballad-inflected, but melodic and mostly happy. This is a good day, despite the ominous backdrop—a joyous day. Roll-across subtitle: Day 107 of the Franklin Expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage. Stores just replenished in Greenland and closing in on Lancaster Sound. The true start of the adventure . . . or . . . the beginning of the end?
Michael Katz presents a little-known short story by Leo Tolstoy. (He’s shown here reading this translation at NER’s Middlebury Reunion Reading.)
Tolstoy wrote “Alyósha Gorshok” (literally, “Alyósha-the-Pot”) in 1905. The only mention of the story in his diary is an entry for February 28 of that year: “Have been writing Alyósha. Quite bad. Gave it up.” The story was published posthumously in 1911 with several other works of his late, post-conversion period. Prince Dmitry Mirsky in his pioneering survey, The History of Russian Literature (1949), regarded the story as a masterpiece. “Concentrated into its six pages . . . [it] is one of [Tolstoy’s] most perfect creations, and one of the few which make one forget the bedrock Luciferianism and pride of the author.”
In the new issue of Gulf Coast, Sarah A. Strickley describes Cy Twombly’s relationship with poetry:
Twombly liked poets—Rilke, Pound, and Eliot in particular. They offered him the condensed phrase, the reference. To his thinking, it didn’t matter if he represented the lyric precisely in his pictures; the important thing was that it was there for him when he needed it. A case in point is the massive, 13-by-52-foot painting, Untitled (Say Goodbye to Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor). The painting began with several volumes of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholia, but only reached completion after twenty-two years of work when Twombly wrangled the use of a warehouse, unrolled the canvas, and came to a beautiful line from a Keats poem. He changed plains to shores, but dismissed the disparity as unimportant: “For me, it’s just a fantasy, you know. I mean it’s a way the mind works; it can’t occupy itself with just a brush all the time,” he said.
The issue contains a beautifully reproduced selection of Twombly’s paintings from the Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection, Houston.