Rewarded With Provocations

[shA(ir] knowing (by instinctive perception), endowed with deeper insight, with intuition… poet. (Hans Wehr, “A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic,” ed. J Milton Cowan, 1962).

It helps me read contemporary poetry to conjure the mindset of an athlete in the elite sport of pole vaulting. The bar sits there at a distanced height. I summon latency, coil with icy focus, charge the standards, launch myself on the flexing pole, soar contortedly… On a good day I clear the poem and land flushed with endorphins.

When I was half of who I am your voice came along / rewarding me with provocations. It was a fulgor as / beautiful as treasons on the outer banks on another / night. There were horses, wild ones whose thunder / abandoned earth for lattices of successive hoofbeats.

(From “Abraham Lake” by Nathan Spoon, Poetry, October 2020)

Language redolent of fulgors, beautiful treasons, and lattices of hoofbeats can be repulsive or propulsive according to the reader’s readiness and conditioning. I choose my task to be that of honing a sensibility able to submit to being reached by knowers who are worth their salt. I want good verse to affect me, and complacent satisfactions don’t go with the territory.

“As with other great poets, [Louise] Glück does not invite paraphrase.” (Robert Boyers)

“[The reader] may not get it at once but, if he is sufficiently interested, he invariably gets it. (Wallace Stevens)

Editora Nacional, Madrid, 1979.

The best cue may come from my Arabic teacher’s preface to his Spanish translation of the Koran:

“Although it’s true that to translate is to interpret, we separate clearly what’s commonly called interpretation from translation, distinguishing what the Koran ‘says’ from what it ‘seems to mean.’ ”

(Julio Cortés, rest in peace — un saludo, Profesor)

Let translation follow Nathan Spoon, then, where paraphrase fears to tread:

Cuando era la mitad de quien soy llegó tu voz / premiándome con provocaciones. Era un fulgor tan / bello como traiciones en las riberas alejadas de otra / noche. Había caballos, salvajes cuyo trueno / abandonaba la tierra buscando enrejados de cascos ruidosos.


(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Anthology, Commentary, Quotations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Rewarded With Provocations

  1. Have you ever cleared the bar, landed triumphant, then watched it wobble and fall? I have launched myself and poles at something today. I didn’t crash into the bar, I didn’t make it that high, but there were moments when I thought I knew how to reach it. More attempts and I might get level with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JMN says:

      Don’t give up! Remember, “on a good day” I clear the poem. Haven’t had a good day yet, but it could happen! Pole vaulting is one of the most improbable sports I could think of. I’ve no idea how the vaulter ever leaves the ground.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think it is a good analogy for my task – the thrill of taking flight, the wind streaming through my hair, then the jolt and swift return to earth!

    Liked by 2 people

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