Home > Translation > Two Poems by Blaise Cendrars

Two Poems by Blaise Cendrars

April 14, 2011

translated by Dick Jones

 

Chinks

Sea vistas
Waterfalls
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
Glazed sun
High burnished heat
Glistening
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.

* * *

Journal

Christ
There goes another year in which I haven’t thought about You
Since I wrote my penultimate poem Easter
My life has changed so much
But I’m the same as ever
I still want to become a painter

Here are the pictures that I’ve done displayed here on the walls this evening.
They reveal to me strange perspectives into myself that make me think of You.

Christ
Life
See what I’ve unearthed

My paintings make me uneasy
I’m too passionate
Everything is tinted orange.

I’ve passed a sad day thinking about my friends
And reading my diary
Christ
A life crucified in this journal that I hold at arm’s length.
Wingspans
Rockets
Frenzy
Cries
Like a crashing aeroplane
That’s me.
Passion
Fire
A serial
Diary
No matter how much you try to stay silent
Sometimes you have to cry out
I’m the other way
Too sensitive


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Editor’s note: In four months of trying, we were unable to contact the current copyright holders of the French originals (“Trouees” and “Journal”). We will of course be happy to accommodate their wishes should they ever decide to contact us.

Cendrars' portrait by Amadeo Modigliani (1917)

portrait of Cendrars by Amadeo Modigliani (1917)

The iconoclastic poet and novelist Blaise Cendrars (Wikipedia page) was born Frédéric Louis Sauser in Switzerland in 1887. After fighting in the First World War he travelled extensively, drawing on (and embellishing considerably) the experiences that he had around the world for his surreal documentaries in verse and prose. Cendrars’ best-known poem is the epic La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, which documents in vivid, sometimes dreamlike detail his journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway at the time of the Russian Revolution. His two novels Sutter’s Gold and Moravagine have been translated into twenty languages. Blaise Cendrars died, celebrated throughout France, in 1961.

*

Initially wooed by the First World War poets & then seduced by the Beats, Dick Jones (blog) has been exploring the vast territories in between since the age of 15. Fitfully published in a variety of magazines throughout the years of rambling, grand plans for the meisterwerk have been undermined constantly either by a Much Better Idea or a sort of Chekhovian inertia. So Dick Jones has no prize collection to his name; he has masterminded no radical creative writing programmes in a cutting edge university department; he has edited no recherché poetry magazines with lower case titles. However, 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.

  1. Alex Cigale
    April 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks, Dick! Powerful reminder of where Frank O’Hara learned his chops!

  2. April 15, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Lovely to be introduced to these. And yes, like Alex, seeing the hints of O’Hara was a nice bonus. (Props, too, to the qarrtsiluni editors for timing this right before this Easter — extra resonance for those of us taking stock of what we not yet are.)

  3. April 15, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Absolutely loved these both, Dick, and a great choice of two to offer here. Thank you – I don’t know Blaise Cendrars’ work and you’ve made me want to read more.

  4. Christina Pacosz
    April 15, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Blaise Cendrars poem “Shadow” is a fine children’s book also. I used the poem and its illustrations – by Cendrars? I can’t recall now and the book is on the next floor – with great sucess in the elementary grades in the schools I visited both as a South Carolina Arts Commission poet in the schools and as a Visiting Artist in North Carolina. Having a shadow or not was something everyone could relate to.

  5. April 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Altogether fascinating, including the Modigliani portrait, Christina’s comment and not least your wonderful bio Dick!

  6. April 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Many thanks to all for the reception given!

    Alex and Peg, I don’t know whether BC ever liaised with any of the Beats but he was a great pal of Henry Miller’s so paths may have crossed.

    Happy to have ushered him in, Beth. I’ve translated his ‘La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France’, mentioned in the BC introduction. I’ll email it to you.

    The illustrations will be the Marcia Brown ones, I would guess, Christina.

    The biog was my best attempt to make a virtue out of necessity, Lucy!

  7. Jean
    April 17, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I really love these: so quirky and immediate and surprising, colloquial but still lyrical.

    A huge and frustrating loss not to have the original alongside, though.

  8. Not Nick
    April 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I agree with you, Jean, and as a private citizen unaffiliated with the magazine I do not think anyone connected to the magazine would be liable for any kind of IPR abuse if I were to post the following two links:

    http://www.jehat.com/Jehaat/Fr/Poets/Blaise+Cendrars.htm
    http://www.poetica.fr/poeme-178/blaise-cendrars-trouees/

  9. April 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Well done! I’m not familiar with “Chinks”–I guessed it was one of the Dix-Neuf poemes elastiques that I was forgetting, but it doesn’t appear to be. It was great fun reading “Journal” since I’ve translated that myself. Love Cendrars, & as I said, fine renditions.

  10. alex cigale
    June 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Here are Cendrars by Christina Viti, from Modern Poetry in Translation. This and the next seven pages! (click NEXT ITEM upper right-hand corner.) http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=13055

  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm
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