Helene Cardona's translation of Jose Manuel Cardona's poetry - Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam - awarded Best Translation in the Washington Independent Review of Books...
by José Manuel Cardona (Translated from the Spanish by Hélène Cardona)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
author of Mexico in My Heart: New and Selected Poems
Birnam Wood is one of the most impressive collections of poetry I’ve read in recent years.
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