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Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam – A poetic anthology

José Manuel Cardona (Translated from the Spanish by Hélène Cardona)

ISBN: 978-1-912561-18-6

Page Count: 94

Publication Date: Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cover Artwork: "October" by Jacquie Gouveia


About this Book

Praise for Birnam Wood

These are poems of solid classical diction, keenly aware of the rich traditions that precede it, where mythology, travel and personal memory represent starting points for erotic and metaphysical reflection.
Andrés Neuman
author of Traveller of the Century


“It’s possible things are not/ as we wished them to be,” José Manuel Cardona writes in Birnam Wood, a superb account of his travels around the world in the service of poetry. Exploring the consequences of the fact that “Only man is capable of destroying/ what he never created/ and he along believes belong to him,” he creates a rival system of belief, which depends upon his vivid imagery, sophisticated ear, and wisdom borne of experience, all of which his daughter, Hélène, a gifted poet in her own right, has gracefully preserved in her translations. This selection of his poems, spanning the length of an illustrious career, are everything we might wish them to be.
—Christopher Merrill
author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood


Birnam Wood embodies the self in the world of myth with its attendant themes of tragedy and fate.  If the water of exile is longing, the cup brims over in these sun-shattered works of diaspora.  Cardona is an essential twentieth-century Spanish poet. His poems journey toward an ever-receding home. 
—Marsha de la O
author of Antidote for the Night


The lush and mystical poetry of José Manuel Cardona’s Birnam Wood is firmly rooted in the world of classical mythology as a means of articulating what is human and timeless. 
—Blas Falconer
author of The Foundling Wheel


From the ghostly amphora that languish at sea bottom “like soft fish that escaped/ the potter’s greedy love” to the impulse “to tell how yesterday’s solitude was”, Hélène Cardona’s translations are revelations of language and image, a voice dipped in clear water and wrung through her careful hands. 
—Dorianne Laux
author of The Book of Men


In the best tradition of the Poets of 1927 (including Cernuda and Lorca) and postwar Spanish poetry, José Manuel Cardona, mellifluously renders a typically fine sonnet in his imperially lovely Birnam Wood. Like the great Spanish poets of his time, he takes from 16th and 17th century poets, from Saint John of the Cross to Luis de Góngora to Antonio Machado and Federico García Lorca. In his lyrical poem to the painter Pedro Bueno, he reveals his command of the sonnet as well as his own daring paradoxical modernity:

You pushed the rigor of a limitless art
  to unfathomable mysteries
    opening to the color white the singing
 
    the Chimera never dreamt.
    Occult light, impenetrable aromatic smoke,
  in your paintbrush hands, solitary passion.

—Willis Barnstone
author of Mexico in My Heart: New and Selected Poems


Author Biography

José Manuel Cardona is a poet, writer and translator from Ibiza, Spain. He is the author of El Vendimiador (Atzavara, 1953), Poemas a Circe (Adonais, 1959), and El Bosque de Birnam: Antología poética (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007), published as a tribute by the government of Ibiza.
He co-founded and co-edited several literary journals, among them Luna Negra, with José María Rodriguez Méndez, and Atzavara, with Francisco Galí, and wrote for many publications (Cántico, Ibiza, Isla, Eivissa, Caracola, Arkángel, Alcaraván, Poesía Española, Azemar, Alfoz, Trilce, La Calandria, Aljaba, Mensaje, among others). He participated in the II Congreso de Poesía in Salamanca and belonged to the Cántico group.
The Franco regime forced him into exile in France. Years later, when the socialists came to power in Spain, he was offered a ministry position, which was ultimately denied him by the still heavily embedded Franquist administration. (He remained blacklisted for several years). 
He holds PhDs in literature and humanities (University of Nancy), and political sciences (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva). He wrote his thesis on the Mexican revolution at the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica de Madrid and is an attorney (University of Barcelona). 
He worked for the United Nations most of his life, in Geneva, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Belgrade, Sofia, Kiev, Tbilisi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Panama, among many places.


About the Translator:

Hélène Cardona is the author of seven books, most recently Life in Suspension, Dreaming My Animal Selves, and the translations Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux); and Whitman et La Guerre de Sécesssion: Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb.
She has translated Rimbaud, Baudelaire, René Depestre, Ernest Pépin, Aloysius Bertrand, Maram Al-Masri, Eric Sarner, Jean-Claude Renard, Nicolas Grenier, Christiane Singer, and John Ashbery. Publications include Washington Square Review, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The London Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Drunken Boat, Anomaly, Asymptote, and The Warwick Review
She worked as a translator/interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris, received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, the 2017 International Book Award in Poetry, the 2017 Best Book Award in Poetry, the 2015 USA Best Book Award in Poetry, 2 Pinnacle Book Awards for the Best Bilingual Poetry Book, and 2 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards in Poetry. 
Hélène has served as a judge for the 2017 Jacar Press Full Length Competition, the 2016 PEN Center USA Translation Award, the 2015 Writer’s Digest Challenge, and the 2014 Rabindranath Tagore Award. She co-edits Plume, Fulcrum, and Levure Littéraire.
Acting credits include Chocolat, Jurassic World, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Serendipity, Mumford & more.


Read a sample from this book

Poema a Circe III

Tampoco tú eres mía aunque te amo.
Eres como la tierra, como la isla.
Con nadie te comparto, amor, con nadie.
Yo no puedo decir: aquello es mío.
Esta isla donde amamos no es de nadie.
Lo que se debe a alguien no es de uno.
Y lo prefiero así, porque el amor
Es cual lengua de fuego o universo
Desparramado en vid por todas partes.

La carne es lo ulterior, la brasa misma,
Lo que se busca y ama y estercola.
Fugitiva verdad de luna opaca
En arañazo cruel de zarza ardiendo
Despertando al misterio de las manos,
Al tacto de la boca y a los besos.

Circe, carne eres tú, tierra fecunda
Como la que no tengo en esta isla.
Cierro la palma y el puño y la semilla
Entierro bajo tierra roja y blanda.
Paseamos la tristeza mano a mano.
La carne es un mastín para la sed
Con pámpanos de nata como senos.
Curvo alfanje con filo de cristales
He de abrirme la sed y vaciarme.
Poem to Circle III

You are not mine either even though I love you.
You are like the earth, like the island.
I share you with no one, love, no one.
I cannot say: that is mine.
This island where we love belongs to no one.
What is owed doesn't belong to anyone.
I prefer it this way, because love
Is that language of fire or scattered
Universe in vine everywhere.

Flesh is subsequent, the very embers,
What one looks for and loves and composts.
Fleeting truth of an opaque moon
Cruelly scratching the burning bramble,
Awakening to the mystery of hands,
The touch of the mouth and kiss.

Circe, you are flesh, fertile land,
Like the one I don't have on this island.
I close the palm in fist and bury
The seed beneath soft and red earth.
Sadness and I walk hand in hand.
Flesh is thirsty as a mastiff
With vine shoots of cream for breasts.
A crooked swordfish, crystal sharp,
I must open my thirst and empty myself.



Oda a un joven marino

A mi hermano Manuel

El mar es una novia con los brazos abiertos,
con los pechos macizos como balas de goma.
Es difícil negarse a su caricia,
secarse de los labios su regusto salobre,
olvidar su amargor azucarado.
Bajo sus aguas gime un rosario de muertos
centauros veladores de las sombras.
Hombres hermosos, duros, como anclas arrancadas
del pecho de un dios bárbaro.

Es difícil negarse a la llamada
del mar, taparse los oídos,
agarrar con las dos manos el cuello
y enmudecer de súbito, o arrancarse los ojos
y darlos a los peces. Ignorar las gaviotas
y los mástiles rojos y tantas banderolas,
y los barcos que llegan de países ignotos
y los barcos que parten para otros países
que apenas se conocen, o quizá para el nuestro.

Porque nosotros llevamos adentro
como una quilla azul o arboladura
el amargor marino de las algas,
las barras sobre el dorso de los peces,
la muerte alquitranada
y nuestras iniciales escritas en el mar.

La mar de los marinos, vuestra novia
hermano que te alejas sobre el Puente
como un pedazo más de nuestra isla.
Tú sabes el olor que huele a la muerte
porque pisas debajo un cementerio
que puede ser el tuyo y vas alegre.

Tú sabes como huele el mar a vida,
como vomita a veces fiera espuma,
como salvaje gime y se rebela
igual que un ser atávico, criatura primitiva.

Llevamos todos dentro la muerte escrita a surcos
como un nombre trazado por la quilla
de tu barco en el mar. Somo todos marinos
de una novia dormida con los pechos redondos.

Yo no quiero partir para la tierra,
brotar como una rama de eucalipto
con los ojos cegados por la hierba.
Espérame tú, hermano, cuando ancles tu nave
en la mar que has amado.
No has de partir tan solo, marinero
hermano de un marino atenazado
por las fauces abiertas de la tierra.
Ode to a Young Mariner

To my brother Manuel

The sea is a bride with open arms,
with stout rubber balls for breasts.
It is difficult to refuse her caress,
dry from the lips her brackish aftertaste,
forget her sweet bitterness.
Underneath her waters wails a rosary of dead
centaurs, watchmen of the shadows.
Handsome men, hard as anchors torn
from the chest of a barbarian god.

It is difficult to refuse the call
of the sea, cover one's ears,
grasp the neck with both hands
and become suddenly mute, or pluck out one's eyes
and feed them to the fish. To ignore the gulls
and red masts and so many pennants,
and the ships arriving from unknown countries
and the ships departing for others
barely known, or perhaps for ours.

Because we carry within
like a blue keel or masts and spars
the marine bitterness of kelp,
the stripes on the back of fishes,
the tarry death
and our initials written in the sea.

The sea of mariners, your bride,
brother moving away to the Bridge
like one more piece of our island.
You know the smell of death
because you tread beneath a cemetery
that can be yours and you go brightly.

You know how the sea smells of life,
how at times she spits a ferocious foam,
how she wails wild and rises
like an atavistic being, a primitive creature.

We all carry death within written in furrows
like a name traced by the keel
of your boat in the sea. We are all sailors
of a sleeping bride with round breasts.

I don't want to depart for the land,
to sprout like a eucalyptus branch
my eyes blinded by grass.
Wait for me, brother, when you anchor
your vessel in the sea you've loved.
No need to depart so alone, mariner
brother of a seaman gripped
by the earth's open jaws.




Copyright © José Manuel Cardona & Hélène Cardona 2018

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