Friday, September 29, 2006

The Endless Patience of the Light

—Adam Zagajewski

Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.

Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren't there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.

Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city's opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September's black rain falling.

Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn't penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
of silence.


Auburn Poet Receives Quill Nomination:

Speaking of translations, I see in yesterday's "Scene" section of The Sacramento Bee that Auburn poet William O'Daly has been nomoinated for a Quill Award in Poetry for his translation of 28 cantos by Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda. The book is entitled Still Another Day. Books in 20 categories are nominated by 6000 librarians and booksellers, then readers can vote for their favorites online. (You can vote at by Saturday, Sept. 30.) Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in New York City on Oct. 10; MSNBC will webcast the complete ceremony, or see an edited version on Channel 3 at 10 AM Dec. 10.

O'Daly, a recipient of an NEA grant, is up against competition such as Garrison Keillor, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins and Maya Angelou. Root for the local boy—log in and vote for him, in fact! The Bee says it took him eight years to do this project.

Off Hiatus:

Richard Hansen of Poems-for-All/Book Collector fame has a new weekly e-mail, The Weekly Inch ("Inch", not "Itch"), a newsletter listing up-coming po-events on Sacramento's plate, including his Poems-For-All reading series and teensy books. If you're not on his list, write to him at Or see the Inch by clicking on the Richard Hansen link to the right of this column, then go to "blog" on the menu. As I mentioned yesterday, Richard and I will be co-sponsoring a reading by Taylor Graham at 4 PM on Oct. 22 at The Book Collector (Home of the Snake); see also Richard's up-coming Small Press Poetry Fair Oct. 14—20% off all Snake books!—even the free ones! :-)


—Adam Zagajewski

Dances beautifully
and has great desires.
Seeks the road.
Weeps in the woods.
Is killed by dawn, fever,
and the rooster.


—Adam Zagajewski

I wasn't in this poem,
only gleaming pure pools,
a lizard's tiny eye, the wind
and the sounds of a harmonica
pressed to not my lips.


—Adam Zagajewski

Too much about death,
too many shadows.
Write about life,
an average day,
the yearning for order.

Take the school bell
as your model
of moderation,
even scholarship.

Too much death,
too much
dark radiance.

Take a look,
crowds packed
in cramped stadiums
sing hymns of hatred.

Too much music,
too little harmony, peace,

Write about those moments
when friendship's footbridges
seem more enduring
than despair.

Write about love,
long evenings,
the dawn,
the trees,
about the endless patience
of the light.

(Today's poetry was translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.)



Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their poetry, photos and art, and announcements of Northern California poetry events to for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)