Thursday, April 3, 2014

NPM: Darwin and books with happy endings

Yesterday I noticed quite a bit of traffic coming from, directed towards the Leonel Rugama poem I posted during NPM 2011. Seems blogger Addie Zierman is observing National Poetry Month herself, and had invited a gentleman and a poet named Dave Harrity to post a commencement in which he offers a sapient enumeration of what poetry is and what it isn't, and then links to 30 poets and poems of his recommendation—one of them being "The Earth Is a Satellite of the Moon," written by Leoniel Rugama and reproduced on Beyond Easy. Groovy.

Harrity's post on "The Contradictory Nature of Poetry" is well worth your attention, and his handpicked poems demonstrate an epicurean poetical palate—one far more cultivated than that of your present correspondent. Today I think I'll be stealing a Wisława Szymborska piece he selected (we looked at two of Szymborska's poems last year) about scientific iconoclast Charles Darwin. The text is copy/pasted from The Poetry Foundation; click the link if you're interested in reading the translators' notes.

Wisława Szymborska (1923 – 2012)
Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Baranczak*

They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,

he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

* Hm! Baranczak wrote the introduction to the English translation of Bolesław Prus's Lalka.

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