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The Alternate Poetry Movement

Outcomes and dealing therewith.

Accept! may be more revolutionary than Refuse!
I have read one (translated) book of Nobel Laureate, Wislawa Szymborska's poetry. She gives me the impression of indulgent humour - women cleaning up after men - and of continuity, with season-like variability... riverine flow... the steppe in all directions rolling to infinity.

Whether it is thoughtless muddy boots or thoughtless slaughter, women will tidy up the mess, again.

Her last stanza reminded me immediately of Basho's famous memorial to the Fujiwaras; and he in turn cites a passage from Tu Fu.

I first saw Basho's haiku in a collection of anti-war polemic, accompanied by a wonderful sumi-e sketch of a shattered helmet with young rice growing up through it. Robert Aitken argues that it is not a lament, rather a profound observation : since battle is the world-dream of warriors, lush grass is the natural outcome of warriors' dreams. I seldom agree with Aitken, but in this case I think he is right. I have, probably unfairly, shifted the meaning of Tu Fu to reinforce this interpretation.

Caesar is not generally regarded as a poet. Sometimes, though, his cynical - or blunt, take your pick - observations have crude poetical honesty.





The End and the Beginning


After every war
someone's got to tidy up.
Things won't pick
themselves up, after all.

Someone's got to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.

Someone's got to trudge
through sludge and ashes,
through the sofa springs,
the shards of glass,
the bloody rags.

Someone's got to lug the post
to prop the wall,
someone's got to glaze the window,
and set the door in its frame.

No sound bites, no photo opportunities
and it takes years.
All the cameras have gone
to other wars.

The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railway stations, too.
Shirt sleeves will be rolled
to shreds.

Someone, broom in hand,
still remembers how it was.
Someone else listens, nodding
his unshattered head.
But others are bound to be bustling nearby
who'll find all that
a little boring.

From time to time someone still must
dig up a rusted argument
from underneath a bush
and haul it off to the dump.

Those who knew
what this was all about
must make way for those
who know little.
And less than that.
And at last nothing less
than nothing.

Someone's got to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at the clouds.


--- Wislawa Szymborska
--- tr Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh





states shatter
mountains and rivers remain
midst castle ruins
in springtime
grasses and trees grow green


--- after Fujikawa Fumiko's translation of Tu Fu





grasses flourish
in the ruins
of warrior's dreams


--- Matsuo Basho





In twenty years, we will be fighting here, again.


--- Caius Julius Caesar





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