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   Jacket 32 — April 2007        link Jacket 32 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

   Feature: The Poetry of Response link Contents List

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Oana Avasilichioaei and Erín Moure:

C’s Garden

Fără titlu, fragment dintr-un poem neterminat

Iarba ochilor tăi, iarbă amară.
Flutură vânt peste ea, pleoapă de ceară.

Apa ochilor tăi, apă iertată.

                                                      Paul Celan

Untitled fragment of an indeterminate poem

Your eyes in the grass, bitter grass.
The flute winds past, windlass of wax.

Apt are your eyes, apt and uncertain.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. by Elisa Sampedrín

Untitled, fragment from an unfinished poem

Your eyes‚ grasses, bitter grass.
Wind tremors above, the wax eyelid.

Your eyes‚ waters, forgiven water.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. Oana Avasilichioaei from Romanian

Sen título, fragmento dun poema inacabado

Os teus ollos, herbas, herba amarga.
Trema o vento por arriba, a pálpebra de cera.

Os teus ollos, augas, auga perdoada.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. E.M. from the English of O.A.

from fragment, untitled

Water, given for waters, eyes your eyelid.
Wax the above tremors, wind grass bitter, grasses, eyes

your poem unfinished, an

                                                      Celan Paul, reversed by S.E. from the English of A.O.


Wind’s tremor at your eyelid, opens it.
Do you see yet the grasses? Bitter
for no one who harvests them, and it is only we
harvesting them in this field, winnowing their tiny wild grains,
lying still.

Paths out of the factories, we hear but can’t see them.
Even the dogs of early evening won’t scent us. That quiet.

Your poem unfinished, your eyes’
waters bearing glints of light and soft tenacious loam.

Palm outward, I touch your face.

                                                      translept by E.M. from the English of O.A.

Fragmentary, a poem incapacitated

Bone your eyes’ herbs, herbs sea-bitter.
Wind-quake at water’s arrival, palming the sky.

Bone your eyes, an aquarium, an aquarium lost.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. O.A. from the Galego of E.M.

Fragmentado, un poema minusválido

Ósos os teus ollos de herba, herbas tan amargas có mar.
O vento treme á chegada da auga, palmando o ceo.

Ósos os teus ollos, un acuario, un acuario extraviado.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. E.M. ao galego do inglés de O.A.

Fragment, a missive

And so
I took the temperature of your eyes
and saw
how they were steadying mine.

Ollos amargos smell of sea
salty brine lighthousing seaward

blue  azul  albastru  blue
dentro dun acuario

sky      a hovering bird


                                                      translept by O.A. from the Galego of E.M.

Invalid pigment

Since that first earthquakewatercolour palette tremors the field.

Luminous pupils lost, lost in an aqueduct.

                                                      Paul Celan, tr. O.A. from the Galego of E.M.


It was as if i had carried smoke
Smoke is what i carried.
It was as if i had carried light
Light is what i carried.
It was as if i carry the small noises from
            the centre of night, the street at night in summer,
at the hour when everyone has vanished
but you, but you,
and the green coast you lift wide and long, laughing
solar, lunar,
you lift it higher and i am laughing too
and you descend closer
at the hour before dawn begins to lift the sky again
to press smoke to me,
to press light to me.

                                                   poemleap by E.M. for O.A.
                                                  (where the eyes of Celan give way to the coast)

(anywhere in the poem, without warning to the other reader):

‘i went out onto the balcony and watered the flowers’

‘your instance hovering bird’

‘and came home and went directly to the garden’

‘during which the sky broke and released a tremendous amount of rain’

‘which i’d never seen in time’s garden’ PC

‘we’ll slowly unfasten glass doves’ PC

‘and we’ll go fieldwards from the garden’

‘your eyes and the way your hair fell and just wanting to keep this moment’

‘rhubarb is utterly changed for me now’

‘first the field tomorrow where we could bring Agamben’

‘in the sky to us now of garden and field’

‘then you can pick rhubarb from this very garden’

‘for every stained petal you extinguished a torch’ PC

‘it’s beautiful this doubling, this freeing and dislodging of time’

‘and all our markings and intense heightitude’

‘i went in the garden and put poles around the tomatoes so they have something to lean on’

‘i am ever so tentative when giving you clues’

‘footpath ungrammatical now’

‘then you can pick rhubarb from this very garden’

Untinted, unended, fragment emits the poem

I was out in the tall grass, I … … . (illegible).
The wind went past me wearing a flute, I sat down in… . (illegible).

I waited and my heartbeat rose… ..  (ochii tăi

o potecă)

Untitled, fragment from a text of grass

In the intimacy of the i, a theatre.
In the intimacy of an eye, another
eye bearing its reflection.
In this reflection the tremoring bone.
In the bone, love.
In the love, unfinished.
In the unfinished, the fragment written determinately
with the grasses of a former spring.
In the grasses, which are also eyelids
and thus the intimacy.

To continue, simply, tempts the in.
Though lacking in skill, word words to word.
In the i, voices improvise.

(signatures vanish)

Seize Garden (II)
‘In the non-place of the Voice stands not writing, but the witness.’
Giorgio Agamben, What Remains of Auschwitz

EM, or OA: To let two voices, bodies, meet and resound, in a room, in real time, in the present. In the present of the page or screen. Two people, two voices, familiar but foreign, interact in a simple flow, bodies visible, for the hands speak too, the knees speak, the postures of the two bodies – incorporations seized up, unseizing. The way these bodies wear skins, clothes, the way the voice clothes the body, the way the air extends upward to contain the voice, and outward, the voice touching and resounding off the place of the audience and back to the stage and speakers, inventing and erasing at the same time.

We exist in space as volume, as resonance, and enact somehow with the work of a powerful poet – Paul Celan – whose work speaks to us now from a time beyond conflagrations, from the exact moment of a conflagration. And we desire to enact, as Giorgio Agamben hints, the splitting of the I against itself, against its subject – multiplying the poem so as to enlarge its space, explode it open, accelerate it, embody the space of what might be called ‘testimony’ without ever reducing this ‘present’ to ad jure ‘presence,’ enacting thus the differend of Lyotard as well, across our differentiated voices and bodies and across the text of someone ‘not us’ whom we are absorbing, collapsing time.


Over months already, we translate and retranslate an unfinished poem of three lines by Paul Celan, untitled, practically unwritten, from the original Romanian to English and through Galician and back to English, exploring the movement in English as the poem shifts, flares up, burns, transforming both us and idiom as it passes through us and we through it. As we continue, the poem pulls sideways, opens to other lexicon, is traversed by phrases from outside the poem, returns to his poem, then tears free into a lexicon only it can imagine. We watch language and translation ‘take place’ in the act of performance itself, the performance of the page, of the writing hand, of the voice, of the body. Page and stage, hand and voice become a threshold where breath animates language. We question, we address by enacting: How does silence function across translated texts? How does it exist across the threshold between the poems, how does it voice itself in one poem and the next, from one poem to the next? How does the page speak this? The poem is ours, is hers, is hers, is Paul Celan’s, and this, all at once, and ever.

The sequence is now a script, a generator of language. The movement of our voices through the words, the unpredictable ways our bodies enact the text, the audience’s response when we read it, the vulnerability and febrility of co-composing  ‘live’ what is already doubly and triply composed stir us further and awaken more movements in the poem.

Its performance is part of the composition, for we enact the original as multiple always and poetic practice as ‘originating’ constantly, with ‘origin’ an unstable place, incapable of being original, being ever multiple, and ‘authenticity’ a labile notion.

Our performance of the text enacts our own experience of working not just through a ‘me’ as author but through and across a ‘we’ that also fabricates the ‘me’s, in which each ‘I’ cannot fail to participate. Each ‘I’ acts, donning many roles, making any notion of the autonomy of the author unviable.

To cross boundaries of language is an incorporated act (tongue, throat, hand, eye). Bodies, speaking, affect the language spoken, and the combination of languages. The embodied voice reacts to the presence of the audience and the other and is influenced by this presence.  There is the role of surprise, as we listen to each other, surprise of sound, cadence, and of our own embodiment faced with that of the other. And so the space of the poem becomes a garden, a field, constantly renewing itself; the act of listening, an act of watering.

What does ‘foreign’ mean? In translation, even the target language is always already foreign. OA writes in English, though to her it is a foreign language. English is EM’s first tongue, but to her it has never felt natural. EM at times has to translate what she has to say to OA from Galician, while OA inhabits Romanian like her own skin and thus knows it much less than English, which she wears like clothing that she sews, and feels its texture, its fabric, smells its scent,  selects its stitching.

We talk, utter, move, provoke each other with text, voices, our different ideas about text and origin and voice. In enacting a translated text in ways that allow the aleatory to enter, the poem can recreate or co-create the array and disarray, the differend, of the moment of reception-composition-translation itself.

And let the reader of the page, too, perform it, in reading. Be compelled to do so.


OA, or EM: The interest in translation is not in excavating/uncovering the already-written, but rather in exploring its multiplication/conflation in the present. How to enact this layering in language, in the text, in time in the text? How to risk in the text? How to layer language, lexicons, time, place, other texts? What does it mean to signature, to name? There is authority in that, but the authority is also vulnerable. How to make authority vulnerable or infuse vulnerability with authority? How to feel freedom and belonging in non-belonging, and how does this relate back to time, to the experience of time? How to liberate the present from itself?

Oana Avasilichioaei

Oana Avasilichioaei (Canada); Montréal poet and translator. She has published several chapbooks, including The Dictator’s Garden (2003) and Close Your Eyes (Delirium Press, 2005), one book of poetry, Abandon, (Wolsak & Wynn, 2005) and a collection of translations from the Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu, Occupational Sickness, (BuschekBooks, 2006). One or her Stanescu translations is part of a suite of broadsheets, Under Strange Sail, to appear from Barbarian Press. Excerpts from a work just completed, feria: a poempark, have appeared in several journals, and she has given readings, performances and talks in Canada, USA and Slovenia. She is currently collaborating with Erín Moure and Elisa Sampedrín on dialogic works involving translation from and to Romanian texts by Paul Celan and Nichita Stanescu, and working on a new project of her own poetry that explores and entangles the language of fairytales.


Erín Moure (Canada); poet and translator from French, Spanish, Galician, Portuguese to English. The most recent of her 13 books of poetry: O Cadoiro (Anansi, 2007); Little Theatres or Teatriños (Anansi, 2005); O Cidadán (Anansi, Toronto, 2002). Her translation from the Portuguese of Alberto Caeiro/ Fernando Pessoa’s O Guardador de Rebanhos, entitled Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person (Anansi, 2001) was a finalist for the Griffin Prize, as was Teatriños. She has also published chapbooks of the work of Andrés Ajens (Chile) and Chus Pato (Galiza), as well as three works from the French of Nicole Brossard translated together with Robert Majzels. She is currently working on a series of collaborations with Montreal poet Oana Avasilichioaei, and has started a new extended work of her own, entitled O Resplandor. She lives in Montreal.

Erín Moure