Anna Crowe is a former artistic director of StAnza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival. Publications: Skating Out of the House; Punk with Dulcimer (Peterloo, 1997, 2006); Figure in a Landscape (Mariscat 2010, Callum MacDonald Memorial Award, 2011, PBS Pamphlet Choice, published in Catalan/English as Paisatge amb figura (Ensiola 2011). Translations: Tugs in the fog, (poems by Catalan poet Joan Margarit, Bloodaxe 2006, PBS Recommendation); Strangely Happy (Joan Margarit, Bloodaxe 2011); Six Catalan Poets (Arc 2013). With Joan Margarit, poems by RS Thomas (Proa, June 2013, in Catalan/English); Peatlands, poems by Mexican poet, Pedro Serrano (Arc 2014). Awarded a Travelling Scholarship by the Society of Authors, 2005.
Putting back the clock – a slight adjustment
i.m. my father, Desmond Crowley
Each time the sharp bends and
high walls of Kilmaron shoulder us off,
your question quavers from the back:
Is that some big estate? You’ve no cause,
Dad, to be tugging familal forelocks.
You were aye boasting how the Crowleys
were tenant farmers of Lord Beresford
of Woodhouse, Co Waterford, but
you never told yourself or us the whole
story: how, in a time of rack-rents,
for a sum of eight pounds,
George Crowley, his pregnant wife and nine children
were evicted from Glen Farm,
the furniture smashed or auctioned off.
Someone took a photograph:
the family stand lined up before the house,
neat in boots and hats, older children
hanging their heads, small ones wide-eyed;
polished table, chairs, cupboards, brass
bedstead, clock, wash-stand and ewer, cups
and saucers, are scattered about on the grass.
Thomas Walsh bought the clock,
and though forbidden, neighbours took the family in.
George broke stones for twenty years.
When the IRA drove Beresford’s cattle off
and moved the family back,
didn’t Tom breeze in to hang
the clock on the kitchen wall?
How did you come to forget that?
A Moment of Calm
after Max Ernst
It is that particular time of day in the garden:
clouds bundling up their crumpled linen,
the sun going down golden, somewhere out of sight,
and the moon rising, huge and pale as a lump of suet.
The conifers are combing the last of the light,
tips of branches so precisely etched, black and viridian
against a rose-blue dove-grey lemon sky,
they might be illustrations of fractal geometry.
Birds of day deliver their last electric statements.
Before the night-owls quit their tenements
and the bottle-green, splintery shindig starts,
there is only the wind gusting in small sighs,
then a ground-bass you recognise
as the jumpy percussion of your heart.
Born in Catalonia in 1938, and all his life a practising architect, Joan Margarit is a Catalan language poet and, arguably, Spain’s most widely acclaimed poet. The author of more than twenty full collections, and the translator of Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Bishop and RS Thomas, he has been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Hebrew and English. Tugs in the fog, Bloodaxe 2006, was a PBS recommendation. A second volume in English, Strangely happy, was published by Bloodaxe in 2011. In 2008 he received the Premio Nacional de Poesia del Estado Español, Spain’s highest literary award for non-Castilian writers, as well as the Premi Nacional de Literatura de la Generalitat de Catalunya. A third volume from Bloodaxe, Love is a place, will be published in the autumn of 2016.
The heaviest hour
In the window there is the morning-star
shining steadily in the black sky.
The bar below has not yet opened,
and all that can be heard are the mild waves
and the sad, timid song of the first bird.
I have gone on being solitary like all those
who have never loved their mistakes.
As a young man, the biggest one I made
was not imagining to myself that soon
would come unknown cruelties.
And it’s this they speak of, the slow waves.
A train can be heard passing above the roof tops,
over the iron bridge that crosses the village.
A cry of despairing love.
A sad tenderness that’s departing.
Joan Margarit, Love Is a Place, forthcoming from Bloodaxe, 2016
Translated from the Catalan by Anna Crowe