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This is an excerpt of a poem by Eugenio Montale (1896-1981), translated by Robert Lowell (1917-1977). Lowell’s translation has been questioned because it does not match up accurately with other more literal translations, but I think it’s the translator’s duty and, naturally Lowell’s own craft, to interpret, rather than to simply produce the literal translation. In any case, I find it lovely.

The Eel

The eel, the North Sea siren,
who leaves dead-pan Icelandic gods
and the Baltic for our Mediterranean,
our estuaries, our rivers–
who lances through their profound places,
and flinty portages, from branch to branch,
twig to twig, thinning down now,
ever snaking inward, worming
for the granite’s heartland, threading
delicate capillaries of slime–
{…}
the eel, a whipstock, a Roman candle,
love’s arrow on earth, which only
reaches the paradise of fecundity
through our gullies and fiery, charred streams;
{…}
and a tree, where my carved name quivers,
happy, humble, defeated–
or, perhaps only for the phosphorescent wake
of your almond eyes
for the craft of your alert panic
{…}
if they likened you to the blonde lioness,
to the avaricious demon of the undergrowth,
{…}
it is perhaps because the blind
have not seen the wings
on your delectable shoulder-blades
{…}
if they can only think of you
as a weasel or a woman,
with whom can I share my discovery,
where bury the gold I carry,
the red-hot pot-bellied furnace raging
inside me, when leaving me,
you turn up stairs?

****************************

Doesn’t that make you want to go for a night swim? Shiver me timbers. I do.

Oh, boy. It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m already writing under the influence. We begin 2014 under the influence of the “Supermoon,” a New Moon in Capricorn on Jan. 1st. It’s the first of two Supermoons (and two New Moons) in January, which is pretty awesome. I say, “awesome,” because the moon will be super close and its effects, tidal –lunar, emotional, what-have-you, will be awe-inspiring for many.

Tomorrow I join eight other poets from around the country (globe?) to write 30 poems in 30 days of January as part of Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Challenge. The challenge is twofold: 1) it pushes the poets to write a poem each day for a month, marathon-style, and 2) it engages readers of poetry (and those newish to poetry) in a variety of styles and voices–with the goal of prompting readers to support the literary wonder, Tupelo Press, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in California. Readers can support the poets, including me, by doing one of two things: 1) donate to Tupelo Press or 2) subscribe to one of its fine publications. There is a whole catalog of poetry journals. Think of it like community-supported agriculture since poetry is organic–grown from the fruits of our labors. (Was that terrible? I’ve been problematically punny this week.) Well, some of you have run marathons, biked/hiked/paddled/stroked through triathlons, and I have marveled at your feats. I’m not built for speed but I will endeavor to create a new freshly “baked” poem each day in January for this cause. Please support my fellow poets, whose work will appear, along with mine, at this blog:  (30/30 Project). I will post my updates on Twitter @StrangeWetlands and the daily poem here on my blog, too. Thank you for your support. Please cheer me on if I get cranky and hit writer’s block. Blame it on the moon.

~Leah

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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