“Araki Yasusada, the diarist from Hiroshima, the Zennist, the member of a prominent literary group called Layered Clouds, the Jack Spicer afficionado conversant in French and English, the family man whose family was devastated by the nuclear blast, the writer whose moving poems, letters and notes comprise the text of Doubled Flowering, this Araki Yasusada - apparently never existed…
Let’s consider a Yasusada poem and ask ourselves whether the fiction of the poem’s authorship makes it less emotionally authentic, or whether the poem’s revelation of human experience and feeling is exaggerated by our presumption that it was written by an actual Hiroshima survivor and not by someone else.”
From the poem “Dream and Charcoal”:
“And then she said: I have gone toward the light and become beautiful.
And then she said: I have taken a couple of wings and attached them to the various back-parts of my body.
And then she said: all the guests are coming back to where they were and then talking.
To which she said: without the grasp-handle, how would you recognise my nakedness?
To which she replied: without nothing is when all things die.”
-From Forrest Gander’s review of Double Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada. Click to read more.
"I’ve made you into a cure, I’ve emulated you.
I’ve torn up some of my poems, and procured new ones.
And if I’ve passed too quickly from one situation to the next—
Not because of blood, not fatally—but through a kind of companionability,
Now, at last, I’m the strength there is in numbers."
-Edip Cansever, from "Sky-Meaning I"
Translated from the Turkish by Julia Clare Tillinghast and Richard Tillinghast
I write one winter’s day,
write off the day and the night, the planets,
go into my house from a harsh sun
and extend those shadows that are swordlike aimed.
It is a day of drifting snow
and with a voice from that which is I
-Bo Carpelan, “The Cool Day”
Translation by David McDuff
Here are some passages I love from Pierre-Albert Jourdan’s notebook-diary,The Approach, translated by John Taylor. Taylor states: This journal records thoughts, books read, daily routines, and hospital experiences during the poet’s five-month long wrestling with terminal illness… The Approach constitutes a courageous testimonial and response to two ominous questions: Why write? And why read? More generally, Jourdan’s oeuvre comprehends writing as an examination par excellence of the predicament: “how to live.”
“The trouble is that others observe us. Our loved ones, also those who make decisions (more or less abruptly) for us. All the same, you cannot wear your decrepitude as if it were a victory.”
“You cannot get out of yourself in order to grasp meaning; halfway out of your depth most of the time, you can only test the current with your fingertips; which is not at all the same thing.”
“I have been sailing my way through a constant fever. Heat flashes, shivering. My pen does not take them into account. What else can I do but obey it? I am not going to turn my blood ink-black by constant worrying. I am going to give my pen the better part. The blue part, preferably.”
“I cannot truly distinguish my own suffering, at least at this bearable stage—but I hope with all my heart that, if it worsens, the same mood will subsist deep inside me—from that of, for example, these trees assailed by the violence of a wind gone mad, from their own struggle; or from that of animals who are tortured, poisoned, stalked, and hunted down and yet who are, each of them, our mainstays. I refuse to pay the slightest bit of attention to those who, their ego bleating at the slightest alert, are surprised to discover that they have not remained at the center of the world. Suffering is so widespread, and extends so far beyond our understanding, that we should relinquish (perhaps in the form of a sacrifice, even a blind one) a part, even if infinitesimal, of our own ills. And this, as long as our mental lucidity is not covered over by the irremediable. This is a prayer that I humbly formulate for myself.”
“Watching plants grow never ages you.
Hands impregnated with rosemary.”
“What language does my body speak? What is it telling me? To think that I can’t catch the slightest scrap. Poverty, extreme poverty. May my body forgive me.”
“For every gaze that turns away, something dies. We never know the sum of these infinitesimal, unnoticed, deaths because they take on the face of our own death.”
“You cannot become attached to human beings, things, or landscapes without suffering immediately taking up a position at your side. This is probably a trite remark. Yet a much stranger fate brings you face to face with uprootedness. It is better, then, to accept the suffering at your side. And illuminate it with love.”
Sentence that I recall having said, during a dream tinged with melancholy, to a young unknown woman with black hair: “In every moment, in this world, there is someone busy crying; and sometimes, it is our fault.”
-Philippe Jaccottet, from Notes from the Ravine
Translation by John Taylor
“There were adjectives: dense, sombre, thick, similar.
You and I, dense similars.
Your hand, dry and warm
in my hand.
Our distress shared and not to be uttered out loud.
We were just the two of us, and mute,
and it was wonderful.”
-Riina Katajavuori, “Gretel and Hansel II”
Translation by Anselm Hollo
“In any case, I trusted you,
always and forever.
Do you know what it’s like to trust another,
always and forever?”
-Riina Katajavuori, “Gretel and Hansel III”
Translation by Anselm Hollo
to hold on to you.”
-Henriikka Tavi, “Mourning Cloak”
Translation by David Hackston
“We don’t want to let our childhood down”
-Tua Forsström, “The Dead Speak Kindly”
Translation by David McDuff