Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam – A poetic anthology
|José Manuel Cardona (Translated from the Spanish by Hélène Cardona)|
Page Count: 94
Publication Date: Thursday, February 22, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Copyright © José Manuel Cardona & Hélène Cardona 2018
Review: Peter O'Neill reviews Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam for Levure Littéraire: A Family Business (July 2018)
A Family Business
So, the overture of Latinate vowels ascends.
And, so the daughter of the Master Spanish poet translates.
Each line put down, hard won, and so deliberated with all of the full adjudicative sympathy of the science, by both.
Bruñida/burnished was one of Baudelaire’s favourite verbs, Les Fleurs du Mal is full of the burnished bodies of women. There is this to consider, but there is also the voice of honeyed experience. These opening four lines are taken from the very first poem Circe II, one out of a whole cycle of poems devoted to the Homeric muse, who kept Odysseus from Penelope for several years, while turning his poor sailing companions into pigs by her magic. Hence, the reference to Baudelaire. For Circe, the goddess, is but woman eternal, fashioned out of the great tapestry of human experience, and José Manuel Cardona, like Baudelaire and no doubt Homer before him, has come but to inscribe the pain.
Review: Rustin Larson reviews Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam for The Iowa Source: José Manuel Cardona’s “Birnam Wood” (June 2018)
When I was in my early twenties, my fellow students and I feverishly employed ourselves to the production of a campus literary magazine. We were fuelled by visits from poets like Robert Bly, Marvin Bell, and John Logan who came to read to us in the campus lecture hall. Especially mesmerizing was Robert Bly, whose journal The Seventies introduced our young minds to translations of poets like Rilke and Tomas Transtromer. Especially popular were the translations from the Spanish: Fredrico Garcia Lorca, Cesar Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, and Blas de Otero. What excited us about the poems from the Spanish? Bly said, “We accept tons of dull poetry, and no one looks for an explanation of why it is dull.” The poets translated from Spanish were not dull. They, in Bly’s words, “loved the new paths of association” and their leaps were the fuel that we as young poets adored and consumed like addicts.
In a similar vein, now that I’m slightly older, I have been enthusiastically revitalized by the recent encounter with the poetry of José Manual Cardona, masterfully translated by his daughter, poet Hélène Cardona.
José Manuel Cardona is a poet, writer, and translator from Ibiza, Spain. The Franco regime forced him into exile in France. This exile informs much of the spirit in this book. The original Spanish language is printed face to face with Hélène Cardona’s English translations. In her hands, El Bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular d’Elvissa, 2007) or in English, Birnam Wood (Salmon Poetry, 2018) sings to us in a rendering that is lush and passionate.
My favorites in the book are the Poems to Circe, where the young exiled poet, full of passion and longing, envisions himself as a modern Odysseus, swayed by his personal enchantress, at once person and country, who is seen everywhere, in the sea, in the sky, and on the earth. In years, I have not read a poetry more expansive, gripping, and beautiful for the true music of language.
Amazing verbal gems abound in these poems, but so does a clear vision, so does a searing consuming energy. You cannot leave these poems behind unaltered; you cannot leave them without feeling your own exile, without hearing your own island, your country, call out to you.
Here I present “Poem to Circe XIX” as a sample:
I did not come to put things in order,
Review: Margaret Saine reviews Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam for California Quarterly (June 2018)
José Manuel Cardona, a voice from afar. Birnam Wood, poignant and sad, yet celebratory, of life, of love, of art. Friend of Luis Cernuda and a whole generation of Spanish poets and artists before him, exiled by Franco’s Civil War, Cardona left Spain during the early Franco dictatorship. His obtaining doctorates at universities in Nancy and Geneva, and later working for the United Nations in many of the world’s capitals, did not mitigate what was ultimately to become a life of exile. Starting to write poetry and collaborating at poetry journals in the fifties, Cardona is a poet deeply imbued with world poetic traditions, with Pound, Rilke, Hölderlin, Vallejo. Yet despite exile, Cardona is and remains a deeply Mediterranean, Spanish poet:
The anthology Birnam Wood was first published in Spanish as El Bosque de Birnam in 2007 by the government of Cardona’s native island of Ibiza. It is thanks to José Manuel’s daughter, the polyglot American poet Hélène Cardona, that it has now seen the light in English, in her spirited, inspired translation.
Unlike Ulysses, who according to Homer shunned Circe as sorceress, Cardona dedicates some wonderful love poems to her, whose eyes he apostrophes as the “astral gaze of [a] blind sphinx.” An entire poetic cycle of 1959 is entitled “Poemas a Circe”:
He not only compares the loved woman to the earth, but she becomes, she is, the earth herself:
But ultimately, even in Circe’s arms, the poet remains a stranger, at home and abroad. And from Circe’s arms, he is propelled toward travel, toward foreign lands, and into exile:
Like that other poet diplomat in Rangoon, writing “Residence on Earth” several decades before him, Cardona is a deeply engagépoet embodying human suffering, in Spain as elsewhere:
Overall, José Manuel Cardona’s vision of humanity remains bleak, which is not surprising, given the times that were his to live in. In the major poem of 1995, “El Embeleso,” [The Spell], he writes, evoking Plato, Hobbes, and their ilk of humankind’s pessimists:
Yet with the very word of “fleeing”-- of people being forced into times of exile by times of war and civil war—José Manuel Cardona suggests a parsimonious note of hope for future generations: Humans, take heed, and reform!
And this he means, may be possible largely, thanks to the gift of poetry.
Review: Don Cellini reviews Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam for The Ofi Press Magazine (May 2018)
Hélène Cardona has done what few translators have the chance to do: she has translated the work of her own father, José Manuel Cardona. In this book Cardona presents his readers with poems on the human condition: love and loss, as well as exile and the diaspora.
Hélène Cardona is a seasoned translator, having already completed translations of authors such as Rimbaud, Baudelaire, René Depestre, Ernest Pépin, Aloysius Bertrand, and others. She has provided a service in sharing her father's work with us in English, shedding additional light on that generation of Spanish poets who were forced into exile from their country. She lets us feel the pain of distance and separation as well as of life in new places.
Review: Fred Johnston reviews Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (April 2018)
Hélène Cardona has produced a very fine translation in Birnam Wood, a collection of her father’s poetry of travel and experience, the Ibiza poet, José Manuel Cardona, rich in language, metaphor and imagery. A lovely book and a must for students and poetry-lovers alike.