New Wine in Old Bottles? Or Old Wine in New Bottles?
Friday, 28 July 2023 at 13:41
My podcast about working variations on Ovid's Metamorphoses for my collection Trans has just appeared on the Royal Literary Fund website. Click on the link for both audio and text versions.
I've just come back from a very fine holiday in the Baltic republics: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. At another time I might have continued up the coast to St Petersburg, but I think Russia is best left out of bounds at the moment. It's a pity as I've been translating a number of early twentieth-century Russian poets: Yesenin, Akhmatova, Pasternak and Khodasevich, and would have enjoyed practising my Russian, which over the last few years has been largely limited to Duolingo. I'm hoping the Russian poems will form part of a new collection of versions and perversions, joining poems from Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese and maybe one or two from Latin and Greek.
I've always thought that recasting poems from different languages and periods was important. My first degree was in comparative literature and much of it centred around Dante and Petrarch and the Italian influence on the English Renaissance sonneteers. An interest in French nineteenth century poetry led, eventually, to my most recent collections, RE:VERB and French Leave.
There were a couple of anthologies in particular that sparked my imagination about the possibilities of translation. Poem into Poem edited by Georges Steiner, and The Poem Itself, edited by Stanley Burnshaw. These are pretty venerable now and probably out of print, but well worth picking up second-hand. I remember Georges Steiner giving a lecture at Warwick. I think he managed to quote from French, German, Italian, Latin and Greek in the original in the first ten or so minutes. At least that's what I think he was doing. If, at the time, it wasn't quite all Greek to me a lot of it was. His book After Babel has a discussion on the difficulties of translating Lewis Carol into French. Mad but interestingly so.
On the other side of the coin, Christopher Logue didn't trouble to learn Greek before turning the Iliad into War Music and subsequent versions. Working from Pope and other translations, he recast the epic as something rather interestingly movie-like, an ancient Western perhaps.
French Leave launch
Wednesday, 28 June 2023 at 17:01
French Leave will be launched along with other Broken Sleep Books on Wednesday 29 June. There will be an online reading from 19.30 - 21.00. Tickets are availably for a small donation (at least £1).
Here’s a link to the event. Hope you can join us.
For more details of the book and some sample poems, please see the Broken Sleep website.
French Leave: versions and perversions
Friday, 9 June 2023 at 11:53
My latest collection is due later in June from Broken Sleep.
French Leave: versions and perversions features translations of and variations on French poets from Gautier to Apollinaire. It is a sort of companion volume to my most recent collection RE:VERB.
As well as famous names such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Verlaine it includes a number of voices, both male and female, who night also have existed (or possibly even did).
The Broken Sleep website allows you to peek inside.
Released 30th June, 2023 // 82 pages // 978-1-915760-16-6 // RRP £8.99
French Leave follows RE:VERB in which Cliff Forshaw recreated Rimbaud’s terrestrial adventures from the Hooligan Poet and Seer in bohemian Paris, through the years as a tough merchant and gun-runner in Africa, to his death aged thirty-seven in a Marseilles hospital. This new collection plays variations on the themes and forms of French verse from mid-nineteenth century Gautier and Gérard de Nerval, through Baudelaire and Rimbaud, to Valéry and Apollinaire on the eve of the First World War. Among the well-known figures, Forshaw invents further fin-de-siècle personae that might have existed, and possibly even did.
PRAISE for French Leave:
From Pound and Eliot to Derek Mahon, Marilyn Hacker and Rachael Boast, Anglophone poets have looked to France to take their art to school. In French Leave Cliff Forshaw does the same, with a dazzling bouquet of translations and ‘variations’ taking off from French originals. With Gallic esprit and polish, and a strong admixture of zest and sass, Forshaw’s versions range beyond canonical favourites into strange and enchanting territory. French Leave is no vin de table, but a vintage performance.
— David Wheatley
French Leave - launch reading
Friday, 9 June 2023 at 11:27
I'll be reading from French Leave: versions and perversions at the next Broken Sleep on-line book launch. Tickets for the reading are available at the link below for a small donation.
Writing about Animals: New Podcast
Tuesday, 25 April 2023 at 18:49
My Podcast The Writer and Nature has just appeared on the Royal Literary Fund website.
I recorded this podcast at home a few years back, in the early days of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn't get into the recording studio, but needs must, and it now reminds me of those odd lock-down times. There are one or two more recordings forthcoming at the RLF website.
Laforgue anthology: book launch
Tuesday, 28 February 2023 at 20:31
I've contributed two versions of French poems by Jules Laforgue to an anthology being launched this week.
The 180-odd pages of All Keyboards are Legitimate (Guillemot 2023), edited by Suzannah Evans contains translations,versions and variations on Laforgue by, among othersm Christopher Reid, Maurice Riordan, Gillian Allnutt, Mark Ford, Zoe Skoulding, Beverley Brie Brahic, Hart Crane, Angela Leighton, Niall Campbell, Harriet Tarlo, Douiglas Dunn and many more.
There is an online launch on Thursday 2 March. I will be reading live along with several other contributors, and there will be a Q&A after the readings. The event is free to attend, so please do sign up here: https://www.guillemotpress.co.uk/events/laforgue
The book is now available to order! Feel free to share this link: https://www.guillemotpress.co.uk/poetry/all-keyboards-are-legitimate-jules-laforgue-variations
Poems for Andrew Marvell
Tuesday, 8 November 2022 at 14:01
Companions of His Thoughts MoreGreen, poems for Andrew Marvell,
edited by David Wheatley has just appeared from Broken Sleep.
I've contributed some poems based around Marvell's Mower poems,
including a longish satire on what Marvell might have made of GM crops.
And as a taster, the first couple of stanzas of
"The Marvellous Garden"
If Man was made in the spit and image of God
then He Himself looks pretty odd.
Ditto the creatures Man has proudly bred
(the wilder ones he leaves for dead)
– experiments which cast, sooner or later,
harsh light on their manipulator.
And so our freaks of nature, deformed, unfit,
reveal a human Identikit
in whose dark mirror meddling Man may see
his road to Eschatology.
As Man’s best friend down from the cuddly surface
has been rejigged, improved, repurposed,
with crippled hips, short breath and weakened jaw,
docked tail, lopped ears and clawless paw,
so, as well as Fauna, the Flora too
is re-created, made brand-new.
Our trek from Genesis to Revelation,
now passes through these vast plantations
where patented monocultured GM crops
lay waste the forest and ancient copse.