friday roundup with apprenticeship, loss, and servitude


Lot embriagat per les seves filles (detall), Rutilio Manetti, oli sobre tela, 157'5 x154'9 cm. Museu de Belles Arts de València. (wikimedia)

Lot embriagat per les seves filles (detall), Rutilio Manetti, oli sobre tela, 157’5 x154’9 cm. Museu de Belles Arts de València. (wikimedia)

Well, it’s official: The blogosphere is now the domain of grandmas.

I know this because I’ve been watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and there’s a commercial about a car with wifi, and somebody’s grandma is sitting in the car and says, “I can update my blog from here?”

But I just keep blogging from time to time, though our attention spans shrink; though it’s a grandmotherly thing to do. Because it comforts me, and helps me think, and because I love to Spread the Poems.

Moving on:

as an apprentice  I have always considered the writing life an apprenticeship. I learn at the feet of other poets by reading their work and trying out their moves. This is also known as imitation. I confess, I even have a file in my file cabinet called “Imitation.” This week, a friend shared a quote on Facebook that really resonated with my experience of poetry as apprenticeship and how we learn from imitating the work of other poets:

“At some point as an apprentice, you realize that you might finally possess enough skills to fashion a reasonably passable imitation of the artist whose work has inspired you, but something other than ability prevents you from achieving the perfect fake. The thing that will keep getting in your way will be your own voice. Ironically, then, in trying to write like the poets whose work I loved, I learned to write like myself.” — Kathleen Graber

the specific art of loss  The last time I translated poetry, it was 1989:

Córdoba, lejana y sola    (Córdoba, distant and alone)

That’s Lorca, although I didn’t know it in Spanish III, junior year of high school (Le Sigh). So, as I said, I don’t work in translation, but I’m interested in it — in how translators select the right words to faithfully render another poet’s work. I also think it’s interesting to think of any poem as a translation — the translation of an experience and/or emotion into words. We set out to do the impossible: to express things that defy expression. I’ve been reading John Felsteiner’s translation of Paul Celan‘s work, and something he wrote in his translator’s note snagged in my mind:

“(W)hy not think of translation as the specific art of loss, and begin from there?”

I love this idea for translation and for the attempt to translate experience into words in a poem. If we give over to this endemic loss, what might that open up in our work?

“and I am its servant” Every now and then I come across a poem (or a book) that says to me: “You will now be my servant. You will sit at my feet and learn. You will be moved by me forever. I am now your companion for life.” I came across a poem like that this week, thanks to the fantastic Francesca Bell, who shared it on, yes, Facebook.

It’s by Chana Bloch who I happen to know just celebrated her 75th birthday (um,yes, Facebook). Here, Reader, is:


A FUTURE by Chana Bloch

A sharp wind
pries at the doorjamb, riddles
the wet sash. What we don’t say
eats in.

Was it last week?
We sat at the fireplace, the four of us,
reading Huck Finn. I did the Duke,
you the Dauphin, the kids
tossed pillows in the air.
We owned that life.

There’s a future loose in my body and I
am its servant:
carrying wood, fetching water.

You spread a hand on my stomach
to feel the dark
The hand listens hard.

And the children are practicing
pain: one finger, quick!
Through the candle flame.


And speaking of 1989, this poem was first published in Poetry in the May, 1989 issue.

That’s all for me today. I’m giving myself the gift of a few hours off to meet up with a friend. And it will involve pain au raisin. Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading. Your loving,


4 thoughts on “friday roundup with apprenticeship, loss, and servitude

  1. Molly, you’ve made me laugh & think. And I love the Chana Bloch poem. Your roundups have quickly become the thing that makes my Fridays. Thank you! (Well, your roundups & the Friday latte I allow myself on the way to my youngest’s music class…so hard to replicate the sweet spots of the working week when one’s working week is spent with small children!)

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