derbrush of literature, they seem like the Back-to-the-Landers of the 1960s and early 1970s who, in complete revulsion against the values of their parents, rejected everything spoken or written by any earlier generation and proceeded to set eggs under white leghorns and put seed potatoes in cold hills. If their model is William Carlos Williams or his imitators, as it seems often to be. they do not have, nor do most of his imitators, his innately fierce, delicate and exacting crave to use form the line in particular to catch the delineation of things. The supposedly laid-back, prosy, Williams irregular line does not work unless it is informed with a strong inner tension his “radiant gist.” That is why, among others of her works set down in the dullest, most arbitrary lines of broken-up prose, Rosemary Catacalos’ “Blood Wedding Trilogy” leaps out: it is the same versification essentially, but in the fire of a sudden intensity it purifies toward poetry, and the most natural and surprising images occur. Only occasionally in other poems in this collection does this breaking up of sentences into elementary grammatic segments work. In Charles Behlen’s “The Death of Whitman,” the simplemindedness of the versification goes with the simplicity of the poem’s ending. But most often such writing is the ruin of the poem. Sandra Lynn’s “An Afternoon Rain,” though interesting in its imagery and development, employs a Dick-andJane line: One afternoon we were standing There is not even an opportunity for great technical control when the form is as elementary as this. Nor does the fact that a writer’s work is “especially memorable when delivered at readings by the poet” signify anything. That’s a performance. Read on the page, the same work may come off as flat as a day-old Coke. One could make up a Little Anthology of Prose from some of the verse in this book: For a long time I wondered what your mornings were like and if you brushed your teeth and had your coffee before looking west off the front porch at the ground which must be plowed that day. Sam never said much about it one way or another, except to smile and tell us she’s had a hard life. Still, they must have had a little something special going. The girl in the willow tree is skipping church. She has gone out to look at her horse in the moonlight and climbed up to the treehouse where she reads in the day. No matter what way you cut it, this is not the stuff of poetry. As to the translations, when the translators come from as far apart as Mexico and Argentina there are bound to be phrasings, colloquialisms and infusions of indigenous words that one is not familiar with. With what limited Spanish I have, I have worked my way through most of the translations, from English into Spanish or vice versa, and they seem in most instances competent, and often more than that. I hold with Paul Valery that “fidelity to meaning alone is a kind of betrayal” and that, as John Frederick Nims writes in the introduction of a collection of his translations, the translator “has a responsibility . . . to sound, rhythm, diction.” Irene del Corral’s translation of a section of “Clem Maverick” is extremely witty and inventive and marvel of marvels it follows What I love in human na ture is the perverse perse verance that makes most of us go for the secret joy, the secret necessity, even if it’s just whiskey. the rhyme scheme exactly. Her translation of “Barcelona” makes of it at least as fine a poem in Spanish as it is in English. This may be partly because the subject matter is an absolute natural for the Spanish language. Tita Valencia’s rendition of “Mission Canto” is wonderfully tight and exact. Oliver and Alicia Weldon’s lining-out of “Poets of Texas” seems to me perhaps an improvement there is clearer movement and greater tension in the lines. And the first half of Carlos Continez’ translation of “The Death of Whitman” is more brilliant, metallically harsh and firm than the original. On the other hand, most of the translations use the literal-meaning approach. Lourdes Espinola’s version of “High Noon” is just that, with no attempt to find an equivalent for the rhyme pattern. The line “fish wove in and out of the stone,” from another poem, becomes in Marcela Garay Marini’s hands, “los pescas se entrelazaban dentro y fuera de las piedras,” a literal translation, but with great slackness, no equivalent to the English original’s basically accentual coherence. In the same manner Isabella Falco’s translation of “Sales Convention” ignores the iambic pentameter of the lines as they are composed in English. Falco’s lines are extremely extended and her rendition of the first line of another poem expands six tight knots of words into a slack clothesline of nine. Likewise many of the lines in Anick O’Meara’s and Luis Ramos Garcia’s version of “The Palace Cafe, Shiner, Texas” feel padded and over-long, without the original’s briskness and abrupt shifts. But 16 fine poems! What I love in human nature is the perverse perseverance that makes most of us go for the secret joy, the secret necessity, even if it’s just whiskey. It doesn’t always make for the most reliable hired hand or office worker he has his real life, or the possibility of it, too much on his mind. It’s what made the workers strike at Gdansk. It’s what makes freedom poke up its head again and again in the smallest kinds of ways and sometimes by the most devious means. And it’s what makes poets insist they’re going to waste their lives trying to get it down on paper, no matter that their friends think they ought to be doing something “profitable.” It takes as much of an investment to be a poet as to be a business entrepreneur. The risks are a damn sight higher, wellnigh a starve-out proposition, but without art and the practice of poetry is one of the most demanding of the arts there would be nothing left, when all of us are gone, of our inner lives. Washing The Cow’s Skull/Lavando La Calavera De Vaca puts some of these poets’ work into our hands. R. G. Vliet’s most recent book of poems is Water and Snow \(Random Good books in every field JENKINS PUBLISHING CO. The Pemberton Press John H. Jenkins, Publisher Box 2085 6 Austin 78768 the legendary RAW DEAL Steaks, Chops, Chicken open lunch and evenings 6th & Sabine, Austin No Reservations OPEN MONDAYSAT1’12DAY 10-6 AND OPEN SVNDAY 10-1 WATSON & COMPANY BOOKS 604 BLANCO 28 MAY 7, 1982
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