Sunday, March 28, 2021

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE PAR EMILLE NELLIGAN WITH TRANSVERION FOR MARC DI SAVERIO


 


                                                                          

Charles Baudelaire

By

Émille Nelligan

( 1879- 1941)

 

 

Maître, il est beau ton Vers ; ciseleur sans pareil,
Tu nous charmes toujours par ta grâce nouvelle,
Parnassien enchanteur du pays du soleil,
Notre langue frémit sous ta lyre si belle.

Les Classiques sont morts ; le voici le réveil ;
Grand Régénérateur, sous ta pure et vaste aile
Toute une ère est groupée. En ton vers de vermeil
Nous buvons ce poison doux qui nous ensorcelle.

Verlaine, Mallarmé sur ta trace ont suivi.
O Maître tu n'es plus mais tu vas vivre encore,
Tu vivras dans un jour pleinement assouvi.

Du Passé, maintenant, ton siècle ouvre un chemin
Où renaîtront les fleurs, perles de ton déclin.
Voilà la Nuit finie à l'éveil de l'Aurore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Transversion

 

For Marc Di Saverio

 

 

Chiseled beauty, Master, your poetry is without equal.

You continue to charm us with your grace.

Parnassian enchanter from the burnished climes,

Our shared language still thrills to your lyre.

 

The classics, after all, are dead; welcome the dawn!

Great Regenerator, under your vast wing

A whole era is aligned. And your jewel- encrusted verse

We partake from like smoke till we are blown!

 

Verlaine and Mallarmé followed you.

O Master, you are no longer but you will live again,

You will live again on a day of great appeasement.

 

Though past now, your century opened a way

Where the flowers were reborn, pearls from your decline,

Witness the end of the night and the birth of a new aurora.  

 

Friday, March 26, 2021

LIMITED AMOUNT OF SIGNED COPIES OF HENRY STREET ARCADE AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE


 

If you would like to purchase a limited first edition of my latest book Henry Street Arcade, translated into French by Yan Kouton -  'his work reads beautifully in French' ( Anamaria Crowe Serrano - from her review) , please email me at the following  peterseanoneill@hotmail.com 

The collection is inspired by the GPO arcade, the German writer Walter Benjamin and the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire whom I have previously translated. See also The Enemy - Transversions from Charles Baudelaire ( Lapwing, 2015). A new collection of poems by me, and a further selection of my translations from Baudelaire, will be forthcoming in the summer by Poets and Traitors Press ( USA), who have affiliations with some of the major universities in the US.  

   

BAUDELAIRE AT 200 YEARS LITERARY FESTIVAL ALLIANCE FRANCAISE 8TH APRIL


 

In just another ten days Baudelaire 200 Years! Literary Festival supported by the Alliance Francaise in Dublin will take place. It only seems like a few weeks when I first made contact with Christine Weld, the Assistant Director and Cultural Manager at the Alliance, in order to discuss the possibility of the festival in the first place. 

Christine was incredibly supportive from my very first point of contact. As soon as she understood how committed I was, she gave me all of the assistance that I needed. I think that as a French woman who has lived in Ireland for so long, and so understands the social, historic and cultural dimensions of the country, she could appreciate more than anyone the possible interest that a poet as all-encompassing as Baudelaire has had on Ireland's writers.

Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett were all profoundly influenced by the French poet, and had no qualms about admitting it. But Baudelaire's influence does not stop there, more contemporary writers such as Thomas Kinsella and Derek Mahon were also profoundly influenced by the Parisian Master; the flaneur in the former's work, be it Baggot Street or College Green, can be clearly discerned, while the whole 19th century French decadent aesthetic permeates the latter's. 

With the publication of Henry Street Arcade ( Editions du Pont de L'Europe, 2021) translated into French by Yan Kouton, I wanted to acknowledge the French Master's enduring influence on modern Irish writing and also to celebrate the wonderful Franco-Irish literary tradition. Yan and I will be launching the collection as part of the festivities on the day. 

Please see the Alliance Francaise website for details of all the events taking place on the 8th April.     

Saturday, March 13, 2021

XCIII. A UNE PASSANTE PAR BAUDELAIRE - TO A PASSERBY TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH FOR BAUDELAIRE AT 200 ALLIANCE FRANCAISE 8TH APRIL 2021


                                                     Helmut Newton for Wolford 1995


The Greatest Sonnet of the 19th Century

For RJ Dent

 

 

XCIII. – A UNE PASSANTE

 

 

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.

Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,

Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse

Soulevant, balançant le festoon et l’ourlet;

 

Agile et noble, avec ca jambe de statue.

Moi, je bouvais, crispé comme un extravagant,

Dans son œil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,

La douceur qui fascine et le Plaisir qui tue.

 

Un éclair…puis la nuit! – Fugitive beauté

Don’t le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,

Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité?

 

Ailleurs, bien loijn d’ici! Trop tard ! jamais peut-étre!

Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,

O toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XCIII. – TO A WOMAN PASSING

 

 

 

The deafening street about you screams.

Majestic suffering, a great dual;

Tall and slim a woman passes with a fastidious hand,

Balancing and raising it with the hem of her skirt.

 

Agile and noble, and with statuesque limb.

You drink her in, overcome like some fool.

In her eye, exists a livid storm where hurricanes originate;

The gentleness which fascinates, the pleasure which kills.

 

Lightning bolt…then night! – Fugitive beauty

Whose look makes you suddenly come alive,

Will you never see her again?

 

Elsewhere, far from here! too late! Perhaps never to see her again!

Pretending not to see you, she who also doesn’t know where you are going.

O you whom I could have loved, o you who knew it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of the most famous French sonnets of the 19th century, it is the flaneur poem par excellence and, without any doubt, one of Charles Baudelaire’s most -best loved poems and so contributed to what made him so popular with everyone. It is also one of the poems by him which I have struggled the most with to translate. I have made numerous attempts, none really completely satisfy, but this is the latest version of mine and which I am reasonably happy with. It is a testament to the poem’s perfection, rendering all my efforts so imperfect!

My wife, who is Sardinian, has a phrase which perhaps best explains the phenomenon which I am trying to explain that all translators must recognise  -   A furi di  - literally meaning ‘at fury of’, by doing something repeatedly and with insistence – passionately insistent, I would add. The fury is important particularly with the poem above which I very much can’t help but seeing some of my other abiding passions along with Baudelaire and those would be; Heraclitus, Heidegger and Samuel Beckett.

So, what am I referring to exactly with the above tripartite of references? It is in the very aphoristic phrase which ends the second verse, here.

 

Agile et noble, avec ca jambe de statue.

Moi, je bouvais, crispé comme un extravagant,

Dans son œil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,

La douceur qui fascine et le Plaisir qui tue.

 

Un éclair…puis la nuit! – Fugitive beauté

Don’t le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,

 

 

 

Agile and noble, and with statuesque limb.

You drink her in, overcome like some fool.

In her eye, exists a livid storm where hurricanes originate;

The gentleness which fascinates, the pleasure which kills.

 

Lightning bolt…then night! – Fugitive beauty

Whose look makes you suddenly come alive,

 

 

The reference to the lightning bolt is what I find incredibly reminiscent of Heraclitus’s fragment number 64, which Baudelaire must have been aware of, as Les Fleurs du Mal is full of references to Greek antiquity.

τὰ δὲ πάντα οἰακίζει κεραυνός[1]

Lightning steers the universe.[2]

 

Lightning has always been associated with violence, and illumination at the same time. So, fitting so appropriately into Heraclitus’s unifying philosophy where everything, each apparent opposite, seamlessly binds with its opposing nature; be it death or life, or indeed man or woman. Un coup de  foudre  is what the French say when you have been struck to the core by someone’s beauty, comparing it to being hit with a bolt of lightning. I seem to recall that Mario Puzzo uses the expression also in the popular novel The Godfather to explain how Michael Corleone feels when he sees his future wife to be. “ You go hit by the thunderbolt, eh?” Fabrizzio says, clapping him on the back. The scene in the novel takes place in Sicily. Colpo di fulmine – or, love at first sight. But which strikes one violently, like a bolt of lightning. It is this twin register which Baudelaire plays upon, the symbolism is at once classical and popular, hence his eternal appeal. As ordinary people and more specialist readers alike can see what they wish to see in the symbolism. Of course, the metaphor of violence is evoked also in the beautifully aphoristic phrase which prefigures the lighting.  

 

La douceur qui fascine et le Plaisir qui tue.

The gentleness which fascinates, the pleasure which kills.

 

All of which further adds to the element of danger to the encounter. The danger being of course, and which so abruptly happens to the poet at the end of the poem, that the woman will get away from him. ‘Fugitive beauty’. The symbolism is further heightened raising the element of the whole encounter itself metaphoric – the divine apparition being representative of eternal desire itself. In this particular reading, Baudelaire is prefiguring Lacan by almost 100 years. But, this poem is placed deliberately in the Tableaux Parisiens section which follows immediately on from Spleen et Idéal which would suggest that this is no ideal but an actual event, or encounter, happening on the streets of Paris. So empirical reality, as opposed to Platonic idealism. This is where Baudelaire’s sublime Aristotelian system of categorisation comes in, Les Fleurs du Mal being nothing less than a complete phenomenological exploration of the human condition itself, prefiguring Husserl and Heidegger by half a century. Besides, anyone who has ever experienced the phenomenon will be able to testify to its existence. I remember literally jumping off a bar chair when I saw my wife for the first time dressed up on a Friday night!   

 

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.

Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,

Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse

Soulevant, balançant le festoon et l’ourlet;

 

Agile et noble, avec ca jambe de statue.

 

The deafening street about you screams.

Majestic suffering, a great dual;

Tall and slim a woman passes with a fastidious hand,

Balancing and raising it with the hem of her skirt.

 

Agile and noble, and with statuesque limb.

 

 

The danger then being in the dual, that for one fleeting moment in time, there on the street, a perfect stranger appears to you, and the clock is ticking. You must act fast and decisively. The only thing that matters is pure surface.

 

Agile et noble, avec ca jambe de statue.

 

The eye roams, picking out furtive details. Statuesque limbs! This is when I reminded of Helmut Newton and his Giantesses marching along the street in those great black and whites. Once again Art and Life collide, and where one begins and the other takes off is anyone’s guess! Personally, I am transported back to Place de la Concorde. Its 1995, and the Viennese hosiery company Wolford have just launched their new advertising campaign Support & Forming – la sensation luxueuse d’une silhouette plus mince, and the advertising company JC Decaux have inserted Newton’s black and white Goddesses into the transparent billboards which are lit up like great masters in the nearby Louvre. I am on a passing train, and can only see them from afar. They appear to me there in the night like interior visions of my won desire exhibited there in the great open public space before me. And there is another great 20th century philosophical conundrum, all evoked in this 14 line poem!  



[2] Heidegger & Fink: Heraclitus Seminar, Translated by Charles H. Seibert, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1993, p.4. 


Thursday, February 25, 2021

HENRY STREET ARCADE - BILINGUAL EDITION WITH TRANSLATIONS BY YAN KOUTON - REVIEW ANAMARIA CROWE SERRANO


 



Title: Henry Street Arcade

Author: Peter O’Neill

Bilingual version with translations into French by Yan Kouton.

Publisher: Éditions du Pont de l’Europe, 2021

 

Review by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

 

O’Neill is not a poet given to trends or “profiteering”, as he says in the Preface of Henry Street Arcade. His engagement with poetry goes beyond Irish borders, to what could be called a Joycean preoccupation with Shakespeare, Vico, Dante, Homer, Yeats, and of course, Baudelaire, who is his constant companion in the first section of this book. Henry Street Arcade is infused with nods to the philosophies and ideas of these literary giants, but it is Baudelaire’s interest in Parisian arcades that led O’Neill to think about the Henry Street arcade in the first place, that charming little thoroughfare linking Prince’s Street to Henry Street in Dublin.

The French poet is everywhere in the poems of the first section, to the extent that sometimes they read like a parallel Baudelairean universe, from the sensuous languor of “The Big Apple” – the whole collection is strong on the sensuous – to thoughts about decay and the passing of time. Ideals of beauty, whether female or of the city, receive much attention. Yan Kouton must have had fun translating these. His work reads beautifully in French, which of course comprises half of the collection.

There are several dualities running through the poems: male v female, good v evil, mythology v reality, beauty v banality, philosophy v literature. O’Neill’s focus on women – his wife and daughter, as well as random female commuters – is also double-edged in theme and style. Sometimes he is lyrical, imitative of Baudelaire, but there are poems that rely less on artifice and come from a place that speaks more directly to the reader. In defence of feminism, “The Patriarch” is a complaint about the sender of a card to a woman because on the envelope, There was no trace of her family name, / Which she had kept… And in a stunning love poem to his wife, Laura, he churns up personal humility and deference with sexual need, exalting her in the vulgar yet rapturous phrase “bitch from hell”.

The streets of Dublin open up in the second section, Henry Street Arcade, on the poet’s walk to work. Structural and architectural metaphors abound, but the character of the city is more philosophical, conscious that Beauty must always be contrasted with banality. The Molly Malone song leads into the first poem of this section, a clear nod to Joyce’s “Chamber Music”, replete with Yeats, semen and urine. Streets adjacent to the arcade explode with colour and cacophony. Vendors become mythological at their stalls, with a distinct air of seduction: All the flourishing Venus Fly Traps / Straight from The Odyssey they appear, Circe, Calypso / The Sirens, and then the goddess Athena with her Spear! While back down on earth, “Capitalism” gives us coffee prices and calculations regarding the financial viability of tables per café, arriving at the depressing scenario that so many coffee shop owners are faced with.

Throughout the many literary associations that make up an intriguing mosaic of images and ideas for the reader, what comes through in these poems is a love of Dublin, encapsulated in the poem “Motherland”:

Suddenly I am pulled into your archaeology,

Excavating artefacts at every turn,

Each particular piece so exacting,

Like pieces of a sumbolon.

 

Giving me a greater possible understanding of Self,

Compounding primitivism and all

Such prehistory, allowing me to finally

Put together the latest piece in the puzzle.

These physiological or genetic traces

Of you in me; frail feminine shoulders,

The soft feminine skin, like a woman’s!

These, for a man, ridiculously slim feet,

Which all this time I seem to have used to run

From the one whom, only now, I would fully embrace.

 

Swinging in style from the archaic to the contemporary, the sensuous tone of some of the poems in the first section takes a distinctly fetishistic turn as the collection progresses, with erotic references to hosiery and women’s bodies. The setting is apt, arcades being places where lingerie shops were often found, and in the 19th century some of these cavernous structures also housed brothels. They still do in some European cities.

 

The six sonnets of the final section consists of a dialogue between two cross-dressers, Horatio and Orlando. The metaphor for the female anatomy in the title, The Cave or The Passageway of Desire, is obvious, yet instantly subverted by the sexual ambiguity of the subtitle, Sweet Hosiery, That Never Swell: A Short Comely Comedie in the Manner of Shakespeare. While indeed being bawdy, at a deeper level the sonnets bring together the key concerns of the collection: trade (in hosiery here) and its concomitant evils, coupled with sexual desire, which has also been traded over the millennia as well as having been morally problematic.

There is much to like about Henry Street Arcade. O’Neill is bold in his exploration of everything the arcade represents on a personal and a societal level, unafraid to bare his intimate thoughts. He roots the present deeply in the past, something that adds texture to the poems. For all the literary subtext and references, which at times does seem heavy handed, it is a satisfying read even without any in-depth knowledge of the writers the collection calls into service.

 

Review by Anamaría Crowe Serrano


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

SOUS TENSION PAR YAN KOUTON - WITH TRANSVERSION

 








                                                                 



















Sous Tension
(6)

 

 

                                                                        Ça tombe
                                                                   Comme un soupir

Ça prend la fuite
Comme la plupart
Des gens

Dans le calme
Et l’immobilité
De l’acceptation

Ce que l’on ne peut
Jamais arranger

Comme un chemin
Conduisant
Nulle part

Tous ces croisements

Autant de mutations
De passages en question

Que l’on rédige
Noir sur blanc

 

 

( Yan Kouton, 2020 )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Pressure

A transversion

 

 

Like a sigh

It falls

 

And like the majority

Of us

It takes flight

 

In the calm

Immobility

Of acceptance

 

All that we can never

Arrange

 

Like a path

Going nowhere

 

All these comings

And goings

 

So many variations

Of the passage in question

 

So that we must edit it

In black and white


( Peter O’Neill, 2020)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

SANS POUVOIR Y FAIRE QUOIQUE CE SOIT - PAR CHRISTOPHE BREGAINT


 

 

Sans Pouvoir Y Faire Quoique Ce Soit

 

Par Christophe Bregaint

 

 

Sans pouvoir y faire quoique ce soit
je vois les amis qui partent
vers l’infini
Bientôt ça sera mon tour
aussi

Je laisserais peut-être quelques souvenirs
au bord de la nuit
les sourires devraient être impérissables
plus que le chagrin
Conserver à tout prix ce qui a été vécu
avant que le temps ne désarme la mémoire
dans l’invisible

Lui aussi s’en est allé
sans retour
Chaque disparition nous rapproche de la nôtre
en un point inconnu
Nous lèverons l’ancre
avec l’espoir de laisser quelque chose de pas trop mal
de ce côté-ci de cette vie impétueuse

Une larme reflète ce qui s’est envolé
sans dire un mot
les paroles ne sont plus qu’une image
à sauver de la rouille
Autant que cela sera possible
pour combattre le froid de l’absence
on se remémorera toujours des lieux pleins de chaleur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without Too Much Fuss

Transversion

 

Without too much fuss

I see some friend has just left us

Lost to the infinite

And soon

No doubt

It will be my time

Also

 

I’ll leave behind

Perhaps

Some souvenir

There on the edge of the night

Some imperishable memory of a smile

Or delight

Amidst the sadness

Consuming all price

What I lived through

Before Time disarmed me

In her exterminatory gyre

 

Such as he has gone

Without any promise of a return

Each disappearance

Conjoins us to our own

In the manner of John Donne

At some unknown destination

We will put up anchor

With some hope

Of not letting too much of a stain

Tarnish this side of life’s impetuosity

 

A tear can reflect so much more

Than a mere word

Speech being rendered

Inconsequential

In any further attempt

To combat the Absolute;

The coldness of the absence

Which memory

That sparsest of kindling

 Will always

Try to fill with its warmth