"Meaty mixture of lies..."
The thrust of Wallace Stevens' poem "Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself" is often repeated as the hard nugget of a quote from William Carlos Williams' poem "A Sort of a Song": "No ideas but in things." If ever a poet's method could be distilled into five words, it is this. In the newest BOA translation, The Book of Things, (translated from the Slovenian and with an Introduction by Brian Henry), Aleš Šteger simultaneously adopts and discards this poetic advice. Each poem in the book is built around a single, simple noun (or "thing"). For example: Egg, Knots, Stone, Grater, Chocolate, Bread, Hand Dryer, Knives, Aspirin, Salt... In this way, Šteger hews closely to the notion of making poetry from the common "things" of our lives. However, once his subject is secure, Šteger launches into associative flights that make it clear that the noun, the object, the thing, is merely the start of his creative process. As translator Brian Henry writes in his Introduction: "In Slovenian, the poems in The Book of Things employ subtle sound play, puns, doublings, and echoes, which I have tried to transmute into English on a comparable linguistic scaffolding. Of course, the ideal translation of these poems would not be other poems, but the things themselves." Indeed. Here is one my favorite poems from The Book of Things that takes a carnivorous subject for it's leaping off point: Sausage. While it may not be an actual sausage, or even the original Slovenian version of Šteger's poem, it is a wonderous creation in its own right. Sausage Did you see? Two hundred thousand frankfurters Demonstrated for workers’ rights. Six million kosher salami gassed in the second world war And a million hot sausages murdered fifty years later in the Balkans. But at the same time, concern. The number of obese mortadella is rising. It is necessary to take immediate steps against gonorrhea in the blood sausage. And ooooh, some special sausage in a mini skirt. And look at that Hungarian in high heels. Her stitch and wonderbra. Meaty mixture of lies, fears, faltering and hope. But why love, this frightening concept? Is your stomach rumbling again? Come, put it in your mouth. Between the anus and the mouth the appetite of a body for a body. Bulimic mass, caught in the bowel of language. Hurt it. Take it. Let the words burst between your teeth. [caption id="attachment_998" align="aligncenter" width="157" caption="BOA poet Ales Steger. Photo by Joze Suhadolnik."][/caption]
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