Initially wooed by the First World War poets and then seduced by the Beats, Dick Jones has been exploring the vast territories in between since the age of 15. Work has been published in a number of magazines, print and online, including Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Ireland Review, Qarrtsiluni, Westwords, Mipoesias, Three Candles, Other Poetry, Rattlesnake and Ouroboros Review. In 2010 Dick received a Pushcart nomination for his poem "Sea Of Stars" and his first collection, Ancient Lights, was published by Phoenicia Publishing in 2012. His translation of Blaise Cendrars’ iconoclastic epic poem "La Prose du Transsibérien…", illustrated by Natalie d’Arbeloff, was published in a specialist edition by The Old Stile Press in 2015.
For fun and modest profit he plays bass guitar in blues roots-and-shoots trio Broke Down Engine and in song-writing trio Moorby Jones.
Just you and I in the attic,
The walls have collapsed.
Flesh has given way.
The debris of the blue sky tumbles all around.
I see your face more clearly.
Tonight we share the same age
Before these her remembered hands
10 o’ clock.
The wall clock striking
And blood recoiling.
Far away the wind pushes at an early star.
But you are there,
And like bindweed,
My arm tugging at yours,
You wipe away my tears,
hot across your fingers.
Il n’y a plus que toi et moi dans la mansarde Mon père Les murs sont écroulés La chair s’est écroulée Des gravats de ciel bleu tombent de tous côtés Je vois mieux ton visage Tu pleures Et cette nuit nous avons le même âge Au bord des mains qu’elle a laissées
Dix heures La pendule qui sonne Et le sang qui recule Il n’y a plus personne Maison fermée Le vent qui pousse au loin une étoile avancée
Il n’y a plus personne Et tu es là Mon père Et comme un liseron Mon bras grimpe à ton bras Tu effaces mes larmes En te brûlant les doigts.
Quite a challenge, this one. It’s always a delicate balance that has to be maintained between ‘translation’ and ‘version’ so I shall be interested in any feedback from other Francophones.
I found a brief biog of Yves Préfontaine at the Electronic Poetry Centre (which, incidentally, opened for business way back in the mid ‘90s when there was virtually no poetry presence on the internet at all).
Born in 1937 in Montréal, poet Yves Préfontaine is an anthropologist by training. He published his first poems at the age of fifteen and released his first collection at twenty. At eighteen, he began his career as radio script writer at Radio-Canada, with some incursions into television. He organized, amongst other things, a series of fourteen shows with Oscar Peterson, the great jazz pianist – who was also originally from Montréal. In 1959, he co-founded the journals Situations and Le Québec libre; later he joined the editorial board of Liberté, of which he was the editor-in-chief from 1961 to 1962. […] His poems have been translated into English, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, and Croatian.
I live in a region where the cold has beaten down the grass, where gloom lies heavy over the ghostly trees.
I live in silence amongst a dormant population, shivering under the frost of their words. I live amongst a people who have lost all language both fragile and forceful.
I live inside an all-embracing cry –
Speechless stone –
Sudden clifftops –
The winter a naked blade in my chest.
A snowdrift of exhaustion gently stifles this land in which I live.
And I prevail within the fog.
And I persist in speaking out.
And from my pain no echo returns.
A people’s language is their bread.
A place of light amongst the rotting wheat.
I live amongst a people who have lost themselves.
And the great territories of their joy wither beneath this endless tundra
This great disowned abundance.
I live inside a cry powerless now to pierce, to strike, to break through
these barriers of spittle and masks.
I live amongst a phantom people disowned like the ugly daughter.
And my footsteps mark a circle in this desert. A deluge of furious white faces surrounds me.
The land that I inhabit is a marble tableau under ice.
And this land empty of the men of light whispers in my blood
like a lover.
But I fight against this absence between my teeth, a poverty of words
that gleam and then are lost.
J’habite un espace où le froid triomphe de l’herbe, où la grisaille règne en lourdeur sur des fantômes d’arbres.
J’habite en silence un peuple qui sommeille, frileux sous le givre de ses mots. J’habite un peuple dont se tarit la parole frêle et brusque.
J’habite un cri tout alentour de moi – Pierre sans verbe – Falaise abrupte – Lame nue dans ma poitrine l’hiver.
Une neige de fatigue étrangle avec douceur le pays que j’habite.
Et je persiste en des fumées. Et je m’acharne à parler. Et la blessure n’a point d’écho.
Le pain d’un peuple est sa parole. Mais point de clarté dans le blé qui pourrit.
J’habite un peuple qui ne s’habite plus. Et les champs entiers de la joie se flétrissent sous tant de sécheresse Et tant de gerbes reniées. J’habite un cri qui n’en peut plus de heurter, de cogner, d’abattre Ces parois de crachats et de masques. J’habite le spectre d’un peuple renié comme fille sans faste. Et mes pas font un cercle en ce désert. Une pluie de visages blancs Me cerne de fureur.
Le pays que j’habite est un marbre sous la glace. Et ce pays sans hommes de lumière glisse dans mes veines comme Femme que j’aime. Or je sévis contre l’absence avec entre les dents, une pauvreté de mots Qui brillent et se perdent.
A translation of a pyramid poem by Québécois poet, writer, artist, and musician Raôul (or Raöul) Duguay. I’m not sure quite what to make of it, but I do like the chords and discords that result from reading it out loud. It comes across as a sort of Lucky’s speech from ‘Godot’ without any syntactical architecture!
order a disorder
atom bread butter fire
air freedom water slavery
sun field town alley
plane earth globe lunar
light garden shadow asphalt
tree delight day night tear fear
house table wheat room province
state stone weather space particles
east full love west empty hunger
smile caress you him fear work
luck spring someone theirs muscles iron foot
hand breast sweet woman sex arms wife rock
heart essence thirst faith flesh existence prison
light summer leaf juice autumn plastic concrete
mountain horse pathway valley car cement
egg hatching health mother bomb blood scratch
music star snow pine tree cry sleep twilight law
color rhythm butterfly game earthworm grey speed stop wolfpack
dance wave ocean shoreline salt accident face foam slide
singing prayer speaking book sun machine radio television plan caress
drawing line curve volume step building silver electricity go
fruit vegetable milk honey cereals hot dog hamburger steak potatoes
child woman beauty peace MAN MAN animal vegetable mineral moved
Due to the difficulty of having a poem formatted in HTML appear the same in all environments, we present an alternate version in image form below:
ordre un désordre
atome pain beurre feu
air liberté eau esclave
soleil champ ville ruelle
planète terre globe lunaire
lumière jardin ombre asphalte
arbre joie jour nuit pleur peur
maison table blé chambre province
pays pierre temps espace poussières
orient plein amour occident vide faim
sourire caresse toi lui crainte travail
bonheur printemps on eux muscles fer pied
main sein femme bonté sexe bras femme roche
coeur essence soif foi corps existence prison
lumière feuille été jus automne plastique béton
montagne cheval sentiers vallée automobile ciment
oeuf éclosion santé maman bombe explosion sang bobo
musique étoile neige sapin cri sommeil crépuscule loi
couleur rythme papillon jeu ver gris vitesse stop meute
danse vague océan rivage sel accident visage écume coulée
chant prière parole livre sol machine radio télévision plancaresse
dessin ligne courbe volume pas building argent électricité go
fruit légume lait miel céréales hot dog hamburger steak patates
enfant femme beauté paix HOMME HOMME animal végétal minéral mû
When I started to write poetry as a suffocatingly earnest, paralysingly intense teenager, I scribbled down everything as it emerged into a small, blue school exercise book. Just beneath the heavily-scored-out printed title of ‘Spelling Book’, I inscribed the words ‘Poems — 1960 Until Whenever’, carefully foxed the edges of the pages, distressed the cover and thrust the slim volume just far enough into my jacket pocket for the title to be clearly visible.
Now, as a writer of poems in late middle age (60 being the new 40), I have graduated from ‘Spelling Book’ to Moleskine, but I still scribble down everything as it emerges onto its pages. If I put the two books side by side — which I just have — the only significant differences I note are that a.) whilst I read ‘Poems — 1960 Until Whenever’ with a mixture of dry-mouthed embarrassment and wry amusement, the contents of the Moleskine bring a little more satisfaction, and b.) my handwriting has got worse during the past 45 years.
All of which constitutes an unpromising start to a piece on links between writing poetry and information technology. However, cherished notebooks notwithstanding, I would claim that the latter has had a more profound influence on the former than any of the other forces that chance or design have brought to bear during the long years since ‘Poems — 1960 Until Whenever’. Here’s how.
I came to computer usage late. I maintained a lofty indifference to their rapid incursion into our lives during the ’80s, only finally deigning to tickle a keyboard when my son needed some help in typing up his degree thesis against a rapidly approaching deadline. Within 30 minutes of applying the changeover technique from typewriter percussion to keyboard caress, I was seduced. On changing schools in the early ’90s and having access to the staff computer room, I launched myself onto what, at that time, comprised the Internet.
Even in those early days there was a handful of poetry sites and one or two e-mags too. I submitted some stuff to one called So It Goes and — maybe unsurprisingly, considering the thin scattering of e-poets across the territory — got it published.
But initially there was little to promote or even sustain the interests of the online poet and for me the principal utility of the computer was as a composing and editing tool. The speed at which a poem could be formatted, amended and re-formatted was intoxicating and, after a few deranged weeks of font and layout experimentation, the flexibility and range of the medium began to have a profound influence over the structure and substance of the message. Even in those early days of tiny monitors, keyboards like pub pianos and regular encounters with the blue screen of death, the pixel dance that had words spinning across the digital page enabled a synchronicity of content and form simply unobtainable within the humble notebook. Buying my own computer enabled me to reach beyond the limitations of Windows 95 and queues for each terminal, and being very definitely the first on my block to wire in cable broadband had me uploading and downloading at frightening speed.
As my facility both in keyboard technique and computer procedure developed, I began to transfer all my painstakingly typed manuscripts to various digital files and folders. And surfing on broadband gave me rapid access to the now burgeoning poetry sites. Here the clunky but comprehensive Electronic Poetry Center was enormously useful, providing links to the growing number of e-mags and also to the burgeoning poetry workshops. I joined two of the latter, one a multi-channelled come-one-come-all community in which effete sonnet-eers shared cyberspace with agonised goths, the other a jittery, nitpicking group of high-achieving monomaniacs seeking validation for their oeuvre.
Flitting between the two brought little creative satisfaction, but what it did provide was a degree of interaction and this was enormously exciting. Suddenly, after years of scribbling first drafts into scruffy notebooks, the final incarnations of which efforts only saw light of day when under the withering scrutiny of little mag editors, fresh work in progress was receiving the attention of my peers. Although there was a powerful sense of rivalry and general muscle flexing on the site, decent criticism was offered too and I lingered for a while and indulged the novelty of the slow motion dialogues. The process of submission of text and leisurely response was like a protracted game of chess, two players leaning over a complex board analysing the display before making a considered move.
But in the final analysis it all became a little too arid and cerebral for me. Jokes and asides were judiciously ignored in the pursuit of critical excellence and, jaded and feeling a little fraudulent in such arcane company, I dropped out one long rainy afternoon and floated off into cyberspace. I was unclear as to what it was that I hoped to find, but the potential for a much more broadly based interactivity seemed to me, in my ignorance, vast and untapped.
And so, much in the manner of the exobiologist exploring the cosmos, I guess I was looking for signs of parallel life — kindred spirits inhabiting some deep space archipelago, opening up the lines of communication and, in the best tradition of the sci-fi romance, all speaking the same language as me.
Which is how I discovered the phenomenon of the weblog. I’d heard of ‘blogs’, of course, but the notion of the online diary recording in minute quotidian detail the life and times of a Media Studies student or a post office clerk held little appeal. What I found was exhilaratingly different. By chance, my first encounter with the blog in action was via Salon, the liberal news and views clearing house, which, in 2003, still hosted a substantial blogging community. Scanning through a cross-section of the blogs on board, I marvelled at the extraordinary variety of topic and treatment and signed up.
Had I had the ghost of an idea of the struggles ahead in trying to master the diabolical complexities of the Radio Userland software, I might never have set down the foundations of the Patteran Pages. But with lunatic persistence I persevered and so began the steep uphill ascent that — in between major Sisyphian descents — comprised the final rite of passage in my IT education. For three years the Patteran Pages operated from the security of the Salon Blogs community. A blog platforming homebrew poetry alongside bits of splenetic political commentary and items showcasing the juvenile humour of its proprietor found plenty of elbow space amongst the Salon misfits. Firm friendships were forged and a powerful sense of mutual endeavour prevailed.
But eventually the gasket blew in my RU engine room and when Lawrence, the overworked and under-appreciated Salon Blogs techie, finally nursed it back into life, I still couldn’t upload pictures. So I ventured forth into the wide-open spaces outside the Salon stockade, choosing Typepad as my new host. Which is where I have been more or less comfortably ever since. Within a few months of my departure from the Salon blog community, Salon announced that they were discontinuing blog hosting and a diaspora followed. I have retained contact with a handful of my erstwhile comrades, but links to the majority of blogs on my sidebar have been made since the move.
I’m now in my sixth year of blogging. I can work within the flexible and largely user-friendly procedures of the Typepad format with confidence, but in some ways I regret the rapid advance of template technology. Having begun to master HTML in order to deal with the eccentricities of Radio Userland, the off-the-shelf technology of Typepad has made me lazy. Where I might have further advanced my IT skills by exploring design possibilities, my concentration is now entirely on content with the emphasis being on the presentation of my own poetry.
Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Long and strange indeed, but exciting, enriching and fruitful too. At a time of life when many are contemplating not a lot more than consolidating what they’ve already got, I find the daily adventure of blogging — the devising, the sharing, the research, the reading, the interacting — revitalising and energising. Most of all, it has provided, and continues to provide, a powerful stimulus to my writing. Everything I write goes into the notebook first; I never compose straight onto screen. But there exists a continuum of creativity now whereby from the privacy and seclusion of the first scribbled elements of a poem, a route is followed through the portals of the keyboard, the computer and the router into the wider world. Way outside the scope of my wildest sci-fi dreams back in the far-off days of ‘Poems — 1960 Until Whenever’, but cherished beyond measure now.