“THIS IS A BOOK. It is what happens when the batteries die, when the lights go out, when the wires that join the world into the fantasy of connectedness run cold …”
It’s a kind of miracle when a book is translated into another language and goes off, hopefully, on its own journey through the world. And all the more in these strange times.
So it was a great surprise to open this morning’s post and find in it copies of ‘D’altro canto’, Chiara De Luca’s Italian translations of my most recent poetry collection, Then Again – especially since that book is itself a kind of exploration of unexpected connections and delayed echoes.
If reading familiar poems in translation is like meeting old friends abroad, that strange sensation is doubly acute here where, appropriately, the back cover contains no blurb or biographical material, just the Italian translation of a poem I dedicated to the late and much lamented Philip Casey, a response to his own poem, A Page Falls Open, of many years ago.
Auden’s observation that “poetry makes nothing happen” is often misread as a criticism of its powerlessness. On the contrary, in his poem ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ where the famous phrase appears he goes on to say that “it survives / in the valley of its making where executives / Would never want to tamper, flows on south / From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, / Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, / A way of happening, a mouth.” If it does not make things happen on the political stage, poetry comes alive in a way that may surprise, and indeed outlive, the one who gives it utterance.
Not for the first time I am hugely indebted to Chiara De Luca and Edizioni Kolibris for publishing my work in Italian (which partly explains me to my Italian in-laws!), for taking my Then Again musings, giving them a mouth, teaching them to sing.