I haven't featured any of my translations during this run of poetry, so here is one, by the poet Alain Mabanckou (1966-), about whom I've written before. (His newly translated novel African Psycho, published by Soft Skull Press of Brooklyn, is now on bookstore shelves, and it'll be one of the J's Theater book picks for next month.) Mabanckou, as I'd previously noted, is an award-winning fiction writer, but he's also a talented--and award-winning--poet, and began his career with several books of poems before turning primarily to prose. Of Congolese ancestry, he now lives in the United States and has taught at the University of Michigan and the University of California-San Diego. He was just at the Pen World Voices Festival this past week (did anyone catch him or the festival?).
The following poem, in its brevity and pessimism, captures the feelings, I would unfortunately suggest, of a sizable number of people across the globe.
à J. Dipongo, la disparue
Promesse de lumière
Joie de vivre
La Terre est un jardin de mille-feuilles
une masure à louer
avec vue sur la Mort…
to J. Dipongo, the vanished one
Promise of light
Joy of living
Earth is a thousand-leaved garden
a dump for rent
with Death-front views...
Copyright © 1995, 2007, Alain Mabanckou, from L'Usure des Lendemains, Ivry: Éditions Nouvelles du Sud, all rights reserved.