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Remembering Seamus Heaney

SH interview



What is your own apology for poetry? What is poetry good for?
To quote my friend Derek Ma­hon, they keep the colors new. They rinse things
[Mi làm phiền ta quá. Kiếp trước mi đúng là con đỉa. Mi có lời xin lỗi như thế nào, đối với ta? Ta đẹp ở chỗ nào?
Tôi xin trích dẫn bạn tôi: Thơ làm sắc màu luôn tươi rói. Thơ kỳ cọ đời... ]
.

What is your own apology for poetry? What is poetry good for?
To quote my friend Derek Ma­hon, they keep the colors new. They rinse things
[Mi làm phiền ta quá. Kiếp trước mi đúng là con đỉa. Mi có lời xin lỗi như thế nào, đối với ta? Ta đẹp ở chỗ nào?
Tôi xin trích dẫn bạn tôi: Thơ làm sắc màu luôn tươi rói. Thơ kỳ cọ đời... ]
.
CITY St Petersburg 
I’ve only been to St Petersburg once, about ten years ago. I was interested in it because I’d been reading the poets Mandelstam and Akhmatova, both of whom lived there. It’s a city of beautiful perspectives, with a great sense of the survival of the siege [of Leningrad, 1941-44], and of course there are literary associations at every turn. There’s the so-called "Dostoyevsky area", and the Nevsky Prospect. Mandelstam wrote a poem about the Admiralty Building, and Pushkin wrote one about the bronze statue of St Peter the Great. We visited Joseph Brodsky’s apartment. We’d known him in America, and he’d written about this Soviet "room-and-a-half" where he grew up. We met a friend of his there who’d photographed him on the day of his exile. He’d made a cake, and there was vodka, and we had a little ceremony in memory of Joseph.
Tôi thăm St Peterbug một lần, cách đây 10 năm. Tôi quan tâm tới nó, bởi là vì tôi đọc những nhà thơ Mandelstam và Akhmatova, cả hai sống ở đó. Đó là 1 thành phố với những viễn tượng đẹp, với một cảm quan/ý nghĩa lớn, về sống sót cuộc vây hãm, khi còn với cái tên là Leningrad, 1941-44, và, lẽ dĩ nhiên, với những hội hè, hội ngộ, kết giao văn chương, ở mọi ngõ ngách, bước ngoặt, ở đó. Có cái gọi là “góc Dos” [chắc giống “góc Sài Gòn”, “góc Hà Nội”, “góc Thảo Trường”…  của TV], và “Toàn Cảnh Nevsky”. Mandelstam đã từng đi 1 bài thơ về tòa nhà Admiralty Building, và Pushkin, một bài, về pho tượng đồng St Peter Đại Đế.
Chúng tôi thăm căn phòng của Brodsky. Chúng tôi quen biết ông ở Mẽo, và ông đã từng viết về “căn phòng rưỡi” Xô Viết này, nơi ông lớn lên. Chúng tôi gặp 1 ông bạn của ông ở đó, người đã từng đi 1 pô hình, chụp ông, ngày bị nhà nước VC Liên Xô tống đi lưu vong.
Ông bạn này nướng 1 cái bánh, và, kèm thêm 1 chai vốc ka, chúng tôi làm một cái tiệc nho nhỏ, tưởng nhớ nhà thơ Joseph của chúng tôi.
Trong căn phòng rưỡi
Joseph Brodsky
*
K vừa đưa bài Trong Căn Phòng Rưỡi, và bài thơ Gởi Con Gái Tôi do anh dịch của Brodsky lên a2a . Đồng thời K link vào bài phim Room and A Half, nói tiếng Nga, xem cho vui .
Như một món quà SN .

 
THE ESSAYS OF JOSEPH BRODSKY
 
In 1986 Joseph Brodsky published Less Than One, a book of essays. Some of the essays were translated from the Russian, others he wrote directly in English. In two cases the English matrix had a symbolic importance to him: in a heartfelt homage to W H. Auden, who did much to smooth his path for him when he quit Russia in 1972, and whom he regarded as the greatest poet in English of the century; and in his memoir of his parents, whom he had to leave behind in Leningrad, and who, despite repeated petitions to the Soviet-era authorities, were never granted permission to visit him. He chose English, he explained, to honor them in a language of freedom.
Coetzee
Năm 1986, Brodsky cho xb một tuyển tập tiểu luận Less Than One. Một số, dịch từ tiếng Nga, số khác, ông viết thẳng bằng tiếng Anh. Trong hai trường hợp, “ma trận Anh” có 1 sự quan trọng mang tính biểu tượng đối với ông: Bài tôn vinh cảm động, dành cho nhà thơ Anh W.H. Auden, người đã làm cho cuộc bỏ nước ra đi và sống lưu vong nơi xứ người trở nên bớt nặng nề, và, với ông, là nhà thơ vĩ đại nhất của dòng thơ tiếng Anh của thế kỷ; bài viết về bố mẹ và thời gian sống cùng hai bậc sinh thành trong căn phòng rưỡi ở Moscow, thời kỳ Xô Viết, là để vinh danh bố mẹ bằng 1 thứ ngôn ngữ của tự do.


What is your own apology for poetry? What is poetry good for?
To quote my friend Derek Ma­hon, they keep the colours new. They rinse things..

CITY St Petersburg 
I’ve only been to St Petersburg once, about ten years ago. I was interested in it because I’d been reading the poets Mandelstam and Akhmatova, both of whom lived there. It’s a city of beautiful perspectives, with a great sense of the survival of the siege [of Leningrad, 1941-44], and of course there are literary associations at every turn. There’s the so-called "Dostoyevsky area", and the Nevsky Prospect. Mandelstam wrote a poem about the Admiralty Building, and Pushkin wrote one about the bronze statue of St Peter the Great. We visited Joseph Brodsky’s apartment. We’d known him in America, and he’d written about this Soviet "room-and-a-half" where he grew up. We met a friend of his there who’d photographed him on the day of his exile. He’d made a cake, and there was vodka, and we had a little ceremony in memory of Joseph.

Remembering Seamus Heaney


EMPEROR AND FARMER'S SON           
THE GUTTURAL MUSE
Late summer, and at midnight
I smelt the heat of the day:
At my window over the hotel car park
I breathed the muddied night airs off the lake
And watched a young crowd leave the discotheque.
Their voices rose up thick and comforting
As oily bubbles the feeding tench sent up
That evening at dusk-the slimy tench
Once called the doctor fish because his slime
Was said to heal the wounds of fish that touched it.
A girl in a white dress
Was being courted out among the cars:
As her voice swarmed and puddled into laughs
I felt like some old pike all badged with sores
Wanting to swim in touch with soft-mouthed life.
-Seamus Heaney
(1939-2013)
The New Yorker, Sept 9, 2013


*
SCAFFOLDING
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls. of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Làm nhà
Tặng bạn, như một lời tạ lỗi 
Những người thợ khi xây một căn nhà
Thường đắn đo từng khung cây làm giàn giáo
Sao cho giàn đừng bung
Ở những nơi bộn bề công chuyện
Chắt chiu từng cây thang 
Ngại ngùng từng mối nối
Tất cả bỏ đi, khi việc xong
Tường đá lộ ra, uy nghi, sừng sững 
Bạn thân ơi, đôi khi có vẻ
Những cây cầu ngày xưa gẫy đổ giữa chúng ta
Đừng sợ. Hãy để cho khung rêu rụng xuống
Tâm đắc một điều
Ngôi nhà của chúng ta đã làm xong


Note: Tập thơ, thấy ghi mua ngày 17.01.96. Tìm mãi mới thấy.
Bài thơ trên, lời tặng, tạ lỗi... liên quan tới cô bạn phù dâu ngày nào. GCC
DIGGING
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. 
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flower beds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away


Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
Remembering Seamus Heaney
A shy soul
WHEN Seamus Heaney began writing poetry, during his years studying to be a schoolteacher in the 1960s, he used the pen-name “Incertus”, meaning “uncertain”. Later, he would describe himself as “a shy soul fretting and all that”. As an older man with an illustrious career behind him his gentle voice could still be mistaken for shyness. When I saw him give a lecture at Cambridge University on the importance of peaty bogs in his work he stood tall yet slightly stooped over a lectern, quietly capturing the audience's attention with his self-deprecating dry humour.
Prospero
Một linh hồn cả thẹn



Nobel prize-winning Northern Irish poet died this morning in a Dublin hospital after a short illness
Làm nhà
Tặng bạn, như một lời tạ lỗi 
Những người thợ khi xây một căn nhà
Thường đắn đo từng khung cây làm giàn giáo
Sao cho giàn đừng bung
Ở những nơi bộn bề công chuyện
Chắt chiu từng cây thang 
 Ngại ngùng từng mối nối
Tất cả bỏ đi, khi việc xong
Tường đá lộ ra, uy nghi, sừng sững 
Bạn thân ơi, đôi khi có vẻ
Những cây cầu ngày xưa gẫy đổ giữa chúng ta
Đừng sợ. Hãy để cho khung rêu rụng xuống
Tâm đắc một điều
Ngôi nhà của chúng ta đã làm xong
(Dịch bài Scaffolding của Seamus Heaney, Poems 1965-75)
Prospero

Books, arts and culture



Remembering Seamus Heaney

A shy soul



WHEN Seamus Heaney began writing poetry, during his years studying to be a schoolteacher in the 1960s, he used the pen-name “Incertus”, meaning “uncertain”. Later, he would describe himself as “a shy soul fretting and all that”. As an older man with an illustrious career behind him his gentle voice could still be mistaken for shyness. When I saw him give a lecture at Cambridge University on the importance of peaty bogs in his work he stood tall yet slightly stooped over a lectern, quietly capturing the audience's attention with his self-deprecating dry humour.
Yet there is little that is hesitant in his poems. “Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.” So opens “Digging”, the first poem in “Death of a Naturalist” (1966), his first, dazzling collection. The poem would go on to be studied in schools and endlessly quoted in articles about Heaney, who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1995. Rightly so—in 31 lines Heaney confidently captures the mixture of lyrical observation and matter-of-factness that went on to characterise his work.
Heaney's language is spare and to the point, yet his poems are full with texture. He later wrote that “Digging” was the first poem “where I thought my feelings had got into words, or to put it more accurately, where I thought my feel had got into words.” It was this knack for conveying “the feel” of a thing that marks Heaney out as one of the major poets of the 20th century.
Born in 1939 in County Derry in Northern Ireland Heaney grew up in a rural farmstead, his family crammed into three rooms. As he described it in his Nobel prize speech: “It was an intimate, physical, creaturely existence in which the night sounds of the horse in the stable beyond one bedroom wall mingled with the sounds of adult conversation from the kitchen beyond the other”. The beauty of the Irish landscape recurs throughout his work. He watches his father till the earth and observes potato diggers stopping for their lunch-break. But life is not romanticised. Everyday harsh realities are turned into lyric poetry—farmers drown kittens and dead turkeys are slapped upon the cold marble slabs of a table.
Over 12 collections of poems this rustic upbringing is never far away. But the collection that made his name, “North” (1975) touches on another aspect of contemporary Ireland that has rarely been so well articulated. Describing the sectarian conflict of the 1970s and 1980s, poems such as “Whatever You Say Say Nothing” capture the impossibility of putting such violence into words: “The famous / Northern reticence, the tight gag of place / And times”. “Smoke-signals are loud-mouthed compared with us”, he writes. Few wrote so well and with such nuance about the Northern Irish Troubles.
Along with his poetry, Heaney was also an excellent translator (having studied Latin and Anglo-Saxon at Queen’s University in Belfast). His translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” in 1995 brought it to a new audience, as did his 2009 version of the little-known, but brilliant medieval Scots poem by Robert Henryson, “The Testament of Cresseid”. His translations of Greek plays, such as “The Burial at Thebes” (adapted from Sophocles’s “Antigone”) and “The Cure at Troy” (a version of Sophocles's “Philoctetes”) subtly interwove differing voices, bridging the gap between poetry and plays. And as a lecturer at Harvard and Oxford (where he was Professor of Poetry from 1989 to 1994) he was a brilliant teacher. His criticism sparkles with the combination of plain speaking and acute observation so familiar in his poems.
Last year I heard Heaney speak again in London. Older, and slightly more frail, his muscular poems still shone out in the darkness of an auditorium. From his last collection, “Human Chain” (2010), he read a poem written in memory of his friend David Hammond. It begins: “The door was open and the house was dark / Wherefore I called his name, although I knew / The answer this time would be silence”. Although death has now silenced Heaney, his voice will live on.



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