Hélène Cardona

Birnam Wood/ El Bosque De Birnam by Jose Manuel Cardona – Translated by Hélène Cardona

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By Mark Eisner

This book is a forest of love, the richness grown from the shared familiar roots in the fertile Spanish soil of poetry, then spread around the world.

This remarkable forest is a trove of love, grown from shared roots, originating in the fertile Spanish tierra de poesia. The love of a daughter translating her father’s words for all eternity, published just at his death. A renaissance man, and his daughter, a renaissance woman, all of their wonders, all of their life, all of their art now fused together even more through the act of translation. Both have placed their lives in the service of poetry, and it shows. José Manuel’s poetry is informed by the generation in Spain just before him –– Lorca, Machado, it’s evident in the flavors he evokes –– but he takes the baton to create his own voice, inspiring and insightful voice, propelling yet grounding, salted by his experience in political exile.

Above all, “Ode to a Young Mariner” moved me the most, its qualities emblematic of what makes this book work so well. The poem dedicated to the poet’s brother, who at the same time is the translator’s uncle –– movingly and convincingly so that it rowed my heart with warm, resonating, lingering strokes: the endearment and respect for a sibling, the duty as a mariner like the duty as a poet, the reverence that roots this family, the love that lights the words, the woods of this book.

And what a treat for those who don’t read Spanish to be able to have this collection of this truly special poet’s work finally available, accessible for their easy enrichment.

You can find the book here: https://amzn.to/2w8e5kV

Mark Eisner has spent most of the past two decades working on creative works related to Pablo Neruda. They include Neruda: The Biography of a Poet (Ecco, 2018), a finalist for the PEN/Bograd Weld Prize for Biography. He also edited and was one of the principal translators for The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (City Lights, 2004) and is currently producing a documentary film on the poet. A bilingual anthology of Latin American Poetry in Resistance Eisner co-edited is forthcoming  in 2020. More info at www.markeisner.net.

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Howling Enigma by Rustin Larson

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By Hélène Cardona
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Rustin Larson’s Howling Enigma begins with a cornucopia of fruit and flowers amid the snow filled landscape of Iowa, where “Beowulf lives.” He describes it at times welcoming, in bloom, with “herbs / the Gerber daisies, the fall violets, the dandelion greens” and “mulberry seedlings,” and at times stark, with “pale frost on the window,” “the snow’s endless and cascading curtain” and where “sitting / in the sun is just a fantasy. / It’s six above zero.”\
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A deeply moving tribute to his parents and ancestors, this is a haunted collection where Larson spends “time with those who have gone on before me.” Memories, photos and dreams bring his kin back: “I still talk to my father in dreams. / Sometimes I see my mother from a distance.” Emotions are sparse yet hit you hard: “My grandmother hugged me / the way a mountain hugs stone.”
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Like a leitmotiv, underneath it all, solitude.
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“I wind up in places
that just seem to underline
the nature of solitude.”
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And what a treat for the reader to share Larson’s solitude, which echoes Rilke:
“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”
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Larson has gifted us a book of mournful love, filled with nature and animals, a far-reaching goodness that permeates all in spite of the darkness he embraces.
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GOLDEN BUDDHA
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You are Golden Buddha. You are the light
Of the world. I say this in my head to
Everyone. A fine electrical night
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Hums with water, carbon molecules, through-
Out the Eastern Seabord. Computers fail
In the morning, a cool day, a brilliant blue,
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For miles. I don’t see you much in the pale
Light. You are my other soul. In the night,
We lie next to each other for hours: ale
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Bottles, groves of trees dripping with light,
A waterfall lit by lanterns: babies
Cry in their own language lit by the tight
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Hooks and loops of alphabet, flower dyes
Soaked to color the body, soul, and sky.
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Such an ode keeps the darkness at bay.
“At night, I sit on my lawn an stare into the darkness.”
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Larson’s poems are bridges, hovering between the living and the dead, light and dark, where the past and the future are intertwined, and a guitar plays in the background. Like Berryman’s ghost, Larson casts a spell with poems full of “imagination, love, intellect—and pain.”
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The poet’s meticulous observations of his surroundings and every day life, such as the “patterns in the wind” read like tender – at times disquieted – unfolding stories, his vast spirit and benevolence permeating everything.
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Naomi Shihab Nye wrote that Larson’s words “always ring true” to her. They do. There is never a false note in Larson’s poetry. They slow time to a more propitious pacing, acting as a balm. What a wondrous meditation, from which the reader returns soothed, and vibrant.
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You can find the book here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/howling-enigma-rustin-larson/1128895309

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Hélène Cardona is a poet, actor & translator, the author of 7 books, including the award-winning Life in Suspension and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb. She wrote her thesis on Henry James for her masters in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University, and worked as an interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. She has contributed to The London MagazineWashington Square Review, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Brooklyn Rail, Asymptote, The Irish Literary Times, Los Angeles Review, The Warwick Review & elsewhere. http://helenecardona.com/