Saturday, June 9, 2012


As the majority of large press publishers are going down the drain, or at least cheapening their paper stock so you're now holding a box of tissues as a book, instead of a book — it's rewarding, even better, heart warming — to watch New Directions continue in its legacy of slipping into our hungry mitts quality writers and quality books. The new palm-held Robert Walser Thirty Poems translated by the long distance running poet and translator Christopher Middleton (he's been around since almost Babe Ruth) is one more case in point. This is an immensely charming design, with wrap around band, decorative boards and exquisite rich paper text as designed between the team of New Directions and the Christine Burgin Gallery.

Let's read some poems ~

White Linen

A little movement stirs the linen,
it's in the garden, in the wind
which comes, a marvel, from the sky.
The sky is halfway still, half wild;
half it is involved with cloud,
half stepping brightly out in blue.
Already the sun has been forgotten
and all the world is making ready
to disappear into a garden
which is evening; white the linen
stirs in a gentle wind, the evening
wind, does it make a sort of linen
airily also stir in me?
I don't believe so. Quiet night
has just become entirely sovereign.
The breeze in me now stirs no more.


Whatever it was in plain sight
gave me fresh heart, if, nonetheless
it could not, being nature, give me rest,
soon it will be far away, outside.

I'll go without it then, this glow,
this ringing of the sounds and of the colors,
and with a passion sing of it. Somehow, as if
what's missing left me with a mystery,
its absence makes me love it all twice over.

Once you have seen it with your inward eye,
a beautiful thing spreads beauty all around.
To dote on it, or want it back again, is wrong.
It walks along with you, kept well in mind.

The Newspaper

Pondering coolly in my thoughts
my future and my losses,
I peered down from the point I stood on
across unruffled lake waters
where swans moved like women,
as if they performed a ceremony.
Prettily painted boats came and went
to and fro, and the mountain
swam in the mirror
just as aptly as a person of spirit
delights in life and in the charm
of a fine sorrow the soul shudders. Later,
while the whisper of branches
made itself audible from trees
and I was walking down the hill,
I spread out the newspaper.

This life, how old it is

This life, how old it is. Even the golden
forests and the red lips of people.
Time was when people thought that they were young,
but others came back before them, younger still,
who grew like plants. Every flower
is young because it does not think, but is,
and is nobler than the lovely noble minds
of people who just know, alas, their loveliness:
the loveliness of a dog of a better kind,
shapelier than the kind a human shows.
Does death disgust us for the reason
that we in fact are much too fond of life?
When a plant dies, does it think of something?
Does a violet have a feeling when it fades?
By the loveliness of a fish how touched we are,
no legs, no hands, the round enormous eyes!


Robert Walser
selected & translated by Christopher Middleton
New Directions/Christine Burgin Gallery (2012)