Featured Poem

The Blacktip Ragwort

Foreword

In London, toward the middle of the Second World War, around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the pink-berried willow and the yellow ragwort began to proliferate in the craters made by bombs. 

Some even claimed to have numbered the blacktip ragwort there. But nothing precise allows us to support such a claim. 

It’s exactly because that particular variety – naïve and as if mournful symbol of disaster – was born of a collective imaginary that it emblazons this collection. For doesn’t it link spontaneous storytelling to poetic expression, the defiled place to photographic properties, the dangers that lie in wait for us to our impulse to escape? Oh, so many echoes of a north where the light hasn’t been able to lose its love of darkness.

Paternoster Row
(London)

The blacktip ragwort and the pink-berried willow
Besieged this place,
After the blitz and its echo of soot.

From the dome turned pyx flows out
A lake wherein to mirror the world.

Let my words be a creel.

Southwick Street
(London)

Before colours and curves
Was the straight line that nature ignores,
The white unworthily reflected by snow.

Before the Creation and its great churning
Only the sketch prevailed.

If I pondered the lesson of your design,
House in Southwick Street,
I would have the conceptual rigour
To put being and beings in their places,
I would weigh no more than a shadow
Or than my breath fused with yours
Beneath windows denying the world exists.

Westminster
(London)

On these upright chessboards
Jamaican ladies,
A king takes your rook,
Loses you a Black Angel.

There’s no further opening,
Mischievous guardian of chess.
Beneath your closed eyelids
The street lets loose its bulldogs.

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About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Poet:
Guy Vaes
Translator:
Philip Mosley
Original language:
French
Issue:
2017 Number 1 - Songs of the Shattered Throat

About the author

Original poet

Guy Vaes

GUY VAES (1927–2012) was a Belgian author whose magic realist fiction also drew on modernist psychological investigation and o...

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Translator

Philip Mosley

PHILIP MOSLEY is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. He h...

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