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Walter Firpo

Some translations

Firpo often sent me his poems accompanied by the note 'kindly translate' - which I did try to do, but he was very critical of my efforts (I still think the 1964 poems are untranslatable). I hope some time to transcribe and perhaps post some of the letters in which he discussed both these and my own adolescent efforts at poetry. As a foretaste here is a comment he made that accompanied the first poems he sent me (his letters were mostly written in English. Although he was brought up in France, Firpo's family was American):

As it is Christmas time I enclose a poem for my personal wishes and a few I should care you to investigate close by translation into English their white and simple clean-cut obscurity. Translation means sameness and close integrity together with a new music of the word, birth and foreign rebirth - Incarnation value. "Le beau est une nouvelle naissance." 

In a poem there is always "death of the old man" and we must give value to what does not yet exist, thru what does exist and the meaning is in the white silence between the "words" which belong to all. Incarnation of silence may well be a tentative definition of poetry, of fidelity to poetry.

Whether I've managed to live up to this or not is another matter. These are mostly translations of late poems and Firpo himself never saw or commented on them. Often in his comments he would complain that I was too literal. If anyone takes the trouble to compare this handful with the originals - some but not all of which are in the 'Poems in French' section - and thinks I've departed a bit here and there, that will be my excuse. 

We learn from the earth
What is closed
An eye that, surrounded
Showing the light
The ship that lies
This unforeseeable storm
The sun won't rise