Issue > Poetry
Cyrus Cassells

Cyrus Cassells

Born in 1944, Francesc Parcerisas, the author of 14 volumes of poetry, including Still Life with Children, Triumph of the Present, and The Golden Age, is considered the premier Catalan poet of his generation—a “miracle generation” of poets who came of age as Franco’s public banning of the Catalan language came to an end. He is also a masterly, award-winning translator of an impressive array of significant international writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Doris Lessing, Cesare Pavese, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Rimbaud, Susan Sontag, William Styron, and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. Among his numerous translations from French, Italian, and English into Catalan, he is most famous in Catalonia for his translation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Cyrus Cassells's sixth book, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award and the Texas Institute of Letters Helcn C. Smith Award. His honors include a Guggenheim fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and a Pushcart Prize. A professor at Texas State University, he is the translator of Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas. His translations of Catalan and Italian poetry have appeared in several anthologies and magazines.

Cassells's essay on translating Parcerisas is available in this issue's Essay section.

Snowy Cemetery

(Translated from the Catalan )

Thick snowflakes fall,
hushing everything,
hushing the girl who's been
digging at the cemetery,
hushing the ground, which she didn't realize
was the earth of a graveyard,
hushing the candles' tiny, flickering animas,
shielded with aluminum foil.
The icy wind's inescapable as it reaches
chafed fingers, matrons' prayers,
and glinting shovels
of gravediggers in hoary scarves
tamping the end.
Here memory evokes
a timid, cloudy warmth,
like the heat of a corpse you're not sure
you ever succeeded in loving.
The snow's everywhere at once,
even within you: a deep down white.
Like a love that refuses to die,
because it remains
glued, staunch under the rim
of the brute, mud-cloaked
rock of life.

To Keep Watch over Our Language

(Translated from the Catalan )

In order to say
cobblestone, cemetery, glacier,
to pair winter with mimosa,
love with a poppy's burst,
to convey you and I,
defusing the words them and ours,
we keep watch over our language.
To go on adopting the stubborn will
of oars breaking the water,
to restore clarity to the dawn,
learning to discern yes from no,
we safeguard our language,
for those now absent,
for the time when we ourselves
won't be here,
so there will never be a prison
or a muting of our voices
to prevent us from saying
olive tree, welcome, sea, freedom.

                  January 2018


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