Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Nubian Vultures Have the Floor, by Aimé Césaire

The Poetry Crossfire! North American editorial bureau has been electrified by Solar Throat Slashed, by Aimé Césaire, which Wesleyan University Press recently published in a crisp cloth-bound edition, restoring the previously expurgated text to its 1948 original presentation. This collection is every bit as sharp, ferocious, and blasphemous as its title suggests. Have you spent your life thus far believing Césaire to be a Division II surrealist? Never will a book leave you so thrilled to discover you're a fool. Poetry Crossfire! quickly realized it was going to have to call in some very special poet-pundits for this show.

Our panel:

Dara Wier is the author of 11 books of poems, most recently Selected Poems (Wave Books). She teaches in the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also co-directs the University of Massachusetts' Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action and is the founding editor of Factory Hollow Press.

Graham Foust is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently A Mouth in California (Flood Editions). He is currently an associate professor at St. Mary's College of California.




The poem:

The Nubian Vultures Have the Floor
by Aimé Césaire, trans. by Clayton Eshelman

Where when how from whence why yes why why why is it that the most villainous tongues have invented so few hooks on which to hang or suspend destiny its pomp and its armpits.

Arrest this innocent man. All decoys. He carries my blood on his shoulders. He carries my blood in his shoes. Peddles my blood in his nose. Death to the smugglers. The borders are closed. What horrible cocaine. Neither thumb nor screw. Let death be instantaneous. Neither known nor unknown
all
thank god my heart is drier than the harmattan, all darkness is my prey
all darkness is my due, and every burst joy.

You Nubian vultures at your hovering and pecking stations over the forest and as far as the cavern whose door is a triangle
whose guardian is a dog
whose life is a chalice
whose virgin is a spider
whose rare wake is a lake for standing upright on the descant roads of stormy nixies

The crossfire:

Dara Wier: Getting by the title took most of the morning, it is out of this world, exponentially rife with trouble, next the first line is exactly what has to happen after that title and getting past that took another few hours, this poem is so powerful, so beautifully and fiercely imagined, the exiting whose whose whose whose in a parallel world with water spirits, oh, rare wake is a lake, you gave us a seriously powerful piece of poetry, with an echoing that is killing, thank you very much.

Graham Foust:
















Dara Wier:















Graham Foust: This picture reminds me of a quibble I have with this translation. If I'm not mistaken, it should be:

So Mary climb in / It's a town full of losers and I'm pullin' outta here to win.

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