Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poem: Paul van Ostaijen

I haven't had any time to post much of late, since classes begin in a few weeks, but here's a translation of a very short poem by the late experimental Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928), whose work has not been extensively translated into English, although New Directions did publish the posthumous volume Feasts of Fear and Agony back in 1976. I thought about van Ostaijen's work after reading an email from Reggie H. about a very interesting Edward Hoagland essay on fragmentation, open-field structure, poetic indeterminacy, and so on. Van Ostaijen, who had to flee Belgium because of his pro-Flemish independence views, died of tuberculosis in 1928. The poem below is to the famous Swiss-born French poet Blaise Cendrars (b. Frédéric Louis Sauser, 1887-1961), and despite its brevity, captures Ostaijen's poetic spirit and style, with its spatial openness, internal play on the word "klinken," which can mean both "to sound" or "vocalize" and "to rivet," and the final play on Cendrars's nom-de-plume, with its root meaning of "burning coals, ashes, cinders."

Aan Cendrars

Man loopt straat
luide stem tussen huizen
hij roept
klinkt klinker klaar
Blaise Blaise BLAIS -

gij zijt het

And my translation:

To Cendrars

Man walks street
loud voice under houses
he calls
vowel clearly sounds
Blaise Blaise BLAIS -
you are the
Copyright © Paul van Ostaijen, 2006.

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