Four Baltic Texts Trans-read by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese, A C Clarke, Lydia Harris, Hilary Dyer and Anna Blasiak

What stays with us after we have read a text? Which phrases, images, incidents linger in our memory? What contributes to the incessant reshaping of our reading selves?

Reviews, such as riveting book presentations published regularly in The Riveter, record not only our reading tastes, but also our gradual transformations as readers. And writers. They register our delights and queries, our impatience and attentiveness.

When a response, such as a review, turns into a poem, our reading becomes a trans-reading: the read text transforms in our mind, under our pen, on our screen. The new text intensifies our perceptions, demonstrates partiality, highlights disciplined selection.

The poets who responded to the writings showcased in The Baltics Riveter, read during the ‘Transreading the Baltics’ course I ran for the Poetry School in London in summer 2018, experimented with translation as well. They played games which borrowed reading and writing strategies used by translators in their creative re-imaginings of originals.

The sample transreadings presented in The Riveter intimate their authors’ sensitivities as readers and writers. These new poems invite us to return to their source texts – to read them once again.

By Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese


Conservation is A C Clarke‘s ‘transreading’ of Krišjānis Zeļģis‘s untitled poem about hitting a deer, translated by Jayde Will and published in The Baltic Riveter. A C Clarke’s response derives from rewriting the poem from memory, Alys Conran’s first method of ‘expanded translation’. It is, in Conran’s words, ‘wilfully inaccurate’ and has become more so with reworking. The poem has been written during ‘Transreading the Baltics’ course ran by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at the Poetry School.

 

CONSERVATION

I slammed into a young deer

while you were laughing

in the back of the car.

I hung the gralloched carcase

a week for tenderness,

served it with olives and beer.

The numbles I stirred

into the gravy. Not a thing

wasted, thrift’s the word.

Would an ecopoet cheer?

I think the deer

might applaud.

 

By A C Clarke

A C Clarke is a poet and translator living in Glasgow who has won a number of prizes over the years and been widely published in anthologies and magazines. Herfifth full collection, A Troubling Woman(Oversteps Books), centred on the Medieval visionary Margery Kempe, came out in 2017. It is a companion book to Fr Meslier’s Confession, which is centred on the atheist priest Jean Meslier. She was one of four joint winners in the Cinnamon Press 2017 poetry pamphlet competition with War Baby, which was published in January 2018.


Scored with a Moon is Lydia Harris‘s poem written in response to Doris Kareva’s  *** (A house by the sea; translated by Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov) and Madara Gruntmane’s lines from *** (She loves so demandingly; translated by Marta Ziemelis and Richard O’Brien): “sticking her stories into the cracks of the fissured wall”.  The poem has been written during ‘Transreading the Baltics’ course ran by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at the Poetry School.

 

SCORED WITH A MOON

 

A house on the shore to lodge what is dumb:

a her or a him fills this vessel of stone.

 

We mortared the roof, planed the way in,

welcomed no-eye, no-hoof, no-skin.

 

We leave and return. Our words scuffle the air.

What’s within remains calm or not there.

 

Here is a bird scratched on a bone,

a comb scored with a moon, a stick for a loom.

 

The tide drags the sea up, then down.

Nothing is uttered or born.

By Lydia Harris

Lydia Harris has made her home in the Orkney island of Westray. In 2017 she held a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award for poetry.


Hilary Dyer‘s The Pictures was written in response to an excerpt from Plague Grave (“Katkuhaud) by Ene Mihkelson translated by Christopher Moseley. The poem has been written during ‘Transreading the Baltics’ course ran by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at the Poetry School.

 

THE PICTURES

 

Radio waves

Hate

Pity Pity

 

my pity/mind lies miserable

and                                       knowing

seeing

listening

I you her

 

whose flight did not

 

he has the radio and a soul

 

she came after                              she surveyed

KAATA KAATA

 

forest

fierce

dreaming

was there

 

we who have thrown ourselves down

fully clothed against this cold

and with newspapers

lie straight

die straight

we are cold dreaming now

where

 

By Hilary Dyer

Hilary Dyer studied printmaking in Wales and then Writing on Art at Reading University. She moved to Netherlands in 1976. She worked in English teaching and in anthroposophic art therapy. Currently retired and she is trying to fit reading, writing and picture making together.


Life on Mars is Anna Blasiak’s response to I Can’t Remember My Future Name by Ilzė Butkutė, translated by Rimas Uzgiris, which made Anna think of the “American Horror Story. Freak Show”. The poem has been written during ‘Transreading the Baltics’ course ran by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at the Poetry School.

 

LIFE ON MARS

 

I stumble upon Elsa’s blond perm wig,

her red lipstick and wooden leg.

I walk past a jar with pickled Ma Petite.

This is home.

 

I am the third Siamese sister

to Bette and Dot.

My sink is blocked

with shaved-off beard, like Ethel’s.

 

I am a permanent resident of Jupiter,

a regular freak.

I wear a suit and eye-shadow

in David Bowie blue.

 

Here all talk is Meep,

all talk is throwing daggers,

pinheads end up in Briarcliff

on the other side of the story.

 

And only in the afterlife

life goes on on Mars

and wooden limbs

grow back.

By Anna Blasiak

Anna Blasiak is an art historian, poet and translator. She runs the European Literature Network with Rosie Goldsmith. She has translated over 40 books from English into Polish and, as Anna Hyde, Polish into English. She has worked in museums and a radio station and written on art, film and theatre. annablasiak.com.

Read Anna’s #Riveting Review of CARAVAN LULLABIES by Ilzė Butkutė


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