Poetry catchup — two poems — with some Armitage beard poems at the end

Having not had enough poetry in my life for years, I didn’t want to neglect two things poetry-related:

First, on U.S. Memorial Day I mentioned a poem by Wyslawa Szymborska and said I wished we could hear it read in Polish, because it’s such a sonorous language. Ania was so kind as to send a sound recording, and I’ve uploaded it to youtube:

Here’s the Polish text if you’d like to follow along; the English translation I’ve reposted below, as well.

Koniec i początek (Wisława Szymborska)Po każdej wojnie
ktoś musi posprzątać.
Jaki taki porządek
sam się przecież nie zrobi.

Ktoś musi zepchnąć gruzy
na pobocza dróg,
żeby mogły przejechać
wozy pełne trupów.

Ktoś musi grzęznąć
w szlamie i popiele,
sprężynach kanap,
drzazgach szkła
i krwawych szmatach.

Ktoś musi przywlec belkę
do podparcia ściany,
ktoś oszklić okno
i osadzić drzwi na zawiasach.

Fotogeniczne to nie jest
i wymaga lat.
Wszystkie kamery wyjechały już
na inną wojnę.

Mosty trzeba z powrotem
i dworce na nowo.
W strzępach będą rękawy
od zakasywania.

Ktoś z miotłą w rękach
wspomina jeszcze jak było.
Ktoś słucha
przytakując nie urwaną głową
Ale już w ich pobliżu
zaczną kręcić się tacy,
których to będzie nudzić.

Ktoś czasem jeszcze
Wykopie spod krzaka
przeżarte rdzą argumenty
i poprzenosi je na stos odpadków.

Ci, co wiedzieli
o co tutaj szło,
muszą ustąpić miejsca tym,
co wiedzą mało.
I mniej niż mało.
I wreszcie tyle co nic.

W trawie, która porosła
przyczyny i skutki,
musi ktoś sobie leżeć
z kłosem w zębach
i gapić się na chmury.

The End and the Beginning (Wisława Szymborska)

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we’ll need bridges
and new railway stations.

Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out,
blade of grass in his mouth,
gazing at the clouds.

From: Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, 2001

Ángel González Muñiz (1925-2008)

Next, when I was drunkenly reciting sonnets into my computer a few weeks ago, I got many nice comments from Spanish-speaking readers, including a suggestion of a modern Spanish poet to love — Ángel González Muñiz — and the text of a poem. It’s a really gorgeous poem, and I’m posting it in Spanish along with my rough English translation. This poem has a favorite quality for me in poetry: the sense of something meaningful, deep, and profound hidden among the prosaic.

Inventario de lugares propicios al amor

Son pocos.
La primavera está muy prestigiada, pero
es mejor el verano.
Y también esas grietas que el otoño
forma al interceder con los domingos
en algunas ciudades
ya de por sí amarillas como plátanos.
El invierno elimina muchos sitios:
quicios de puertas orientadas al norte,
orillas de los ríos,
bancos públicos.
Los contrafuertes exteriores
de las viejas iglesias
dejan a veces huecos
utilizables aunque caiga nieve.
Pero desengañémonos: las bajas
temperaturas y los vientos húmedos
lo dificultan todo.
Las ordenanzas, además, proscriben
la caricia ( con exenciones
para determinadas zonas epidérmicas
-sin interés alguno-
en niños, perros y otros animales)
y el «no tocar, peligro de ignominia»
puede leerse en miles de miradas
¿Adónde huir, entonces?
Por todas partes ojos bizcos,
córneas torturadas,
implacables pupilas,
retinas reticentes,
vigilan, desconfían, amenazan.
Queda quizá el recurso de andar solo,
de vaciar el alma de ternura
y llenarla de hastío e indiferencia,
en este tiempo hostil, propicio al odio.

[Servetus’s rough translation:]

List of places suitable for love

There aren’t many.
Spring is very prestigious, but summer is better.
And also those fissures that the autumn
Forms to intercede with Sundays
In some cities
Already in themselves yellow like plantains.
The winter eliminates many sites:
The jams of doors oriented toward the north,
The banks of rivers,
Public benches.
The flying buttresses
Of the old churches
Leave empty spaces
That can be used even if snow falls.
But let’s not kid ourselves: the low
Temperatures and moist winds
Make everything harder.
The rules, on top of that, prescribe
The caress (with tax exemptions
For particular epidermal zones
–without any interest—
in children, dogs, and other animals)
and “don’t touch, danger of disgrace”
can be read in thousands of glances.
Where to flee, then?
Everywhere crossed eyes
Tortured corneas
Implacable pupils,
Reticent retinas
Keep vigil, distrust, threaten.
It remains, perhaps: the recourse of going alone
Of emptying the soul of tenderness
And filling it with haste and indifference
In this hostile time, suitable for hate.

Finally, for beard lovers:

What’s better than one bearded Armitage? Three bearded Armitages!!! Love this. Source: The Framework Blog

Someone jokingly said yesterday that we should start writing poems to the beard. Here are some especially nice ones that showed up in comments:

Joy to the Beard (by fitzg)

A beard arose on the screen,
Brown and deep-hued was it;
Though not intended to preen –
Or t’was it? :D

At the summit of endless legs,
Shoulders so broad and wide;
It jutted, but subtely and begs
Our forebearance at pride….

Pride so well-earned and right
For an actor so skilled and adept,
Providing characters to delight,
For whom we oftimes wept.

With whom we laughed and cheered,
Oh Lucas – where art thou??
Porter, who never veered from the path,
JS, cleaned up nicely, after a bath;

Giz, who strayed from the right,
A-sweat from the heat of the plain
Black as leather in the night;
But replete with remorse and pain.

The beard says it all….(well, actually, the acting is more)

Ode (by Teuchter, channelling Robert Burns, me thinks)

See yon brown beard that grows so fine,
Could we but with our hands entwine,
Those silky strands!
Alas, for us ’tis but a dream,
There’s lands and oceans in between,
But hope still stands

It’s a new genre: the Armitage beard ode. I like it. Going to write a wikipedia article about it soon. Yum.

~ by Servetus on June 25, 2011.

13 Responses to “Poetry catchup — two poems — with some Armitage beard poems at the end”

  1. Madame Szymborska’s voice is so lovely. It requires listening and re-listening. Many thanks for the translation.


  2. Lovely poems. Thanks for posting these. The first one by Wyslawa Szymborska was especially moving. And loving those beard odes by Fitzg and Teuchter. Well done ladies!


    • She needs to be better known in the Anglophone world. Not sure how it is in the Francophone world.


  3. I’m just here for the beard. We have some excellent RA beard bards among us!

    Looking forward to the wiki entry. I’ll submit my HotBrit graphic to accompany your article. 😉 http://fanvideos.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/siggie001/


  4. Thanks Servetus, for using my Armitage-a-trois cartoon. I get responses of giggle on my blog, but this time, seeing my cartoon on your blog, made me giggle. The cartoon was a way to combine fans´ wishful thinkings about RA bearded pictures for the Recognise mag into one striking image. Subconsciously the ´line up´ makes me think of the Daltons brothers in Lucky Luke(!) Is he a bad boy for using the BEARD ? Oh yeah! 🙂


    • For some reason it also made me think of Sesame Street and “The Count.” One bearded Richard Armitage. Two bearded Richard Armitages! THREE BEARDED RICHARD ARMITAGES!!!! Bwa ha ha ha!


  5. Servetus. Thank you for this post, I’m just moved.
    Oh, and these poems to the beard, beautiful 🙂
    Bravo ladies!


  6. Oh yes that’s a beard that deserves poetry. Well done to Fitzg , Teucher and
    Wyslawa Szymborska.


  7. […] Wisława Szymborska has died. When a poet dies, the entire world becomes slightly more ugly. I wrote about her here. Requiescat in […]


  8. […] may remember my selection of a poem by Wisława Szymborska for Memorial Day several years ago. This is the poem I’m thinking of for Inauguration Day 2017, by Nobel Prize-winner Czesław […]


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