Monday, July 22, 2013


photo : Alex Harris
from Last and First Eskimos
by Robert Coles

The Dream

Last night you were in a dream
I dreamed you
walking on the shore
over the little stones
and I was walking with you
last night when I dreamed about you
I dreamed I followed you
I thought I was awake
I wanted you
as though you were a young seal
you were what I wanted
as a young seal
in the eyes of a hunter
before it dives because it's being followed
you were what I wanted
that's how
I wanted you
in my dream about you

Song of the Old Woman

A lot of heads around me
a lot of ears around me
a lot of eyes around me
will those ears hear me much longer
will those eyes see me much longer
when those ears don't hear me any more
when those eyes don't look at mine any more
I won't eat liver with blubber any more
then those eyes won't see me any more
and this hair will have disappeared from my head


My song was ready
it was in my mouth
it was all ready
my song
but I gave up the hunt
because the sea got rough
the cold North wind blew
and I saw heavy fogs getting up
along the mountain I saw them running
I saw them getting up
the cold wet fogs out of the north sky


1969, from French versions by
Paul-Emile Victor
translated by W.S. Merwin

"More than once during the years. . .I had persuaded myself that I had finished trying to translate poetry. It was a moment whose time seemed to have come. Yet I kept finding that I had been led back again, sometimes by a suggestion from someone else, other times by something — perhaps a single line or phrase — that suddenly caught me in the original, maybe a line or phrase with which I had long been familiar. This indecisiveness, I realize, is quite consistent with the impossible art of translating, for there is no such thing as the final translation of a poem. Only the original is unique and absolute: it essentially cannot exist "in other words." And one part of the impossibility of translating any poem is the fact that what we want the translation to be is exactly what it never can be, the original. Yet the impossibility of the whole enterprise is part of the perennial temptation to try again."

W.S. Merwin, from his essay "Listening for the Original"