Here is a selection of poems entered into the poetry competition, which ran from 15th to 20th June 2015.
The challenge was to translate the final image in the translation chain of ‘Still’ by Domingo Martínez back into poetry. We were looking for a translation of the image, which would also be as close as possible to Denise Riley’s original poem, which was only unveiled to participants after the deadline.
Below are the original poem and Domingo’s translation. Enjoy reading the excellent entries we received and comparing them to the two works. The competition was judged by Ricarda and Maria-José together with Bryan Eccleshall, Katarina Kelsey, Sharon Kivland, Domingo Martínez, Denise Riley and Sam Treadaway. This was by no means easy nor was it a unanimous decision, but we did arrive at a clear winner: The poem by Danielle Emtage.
The soul draws breath – hold – release.
A memory spent. Reflect. Unease
your hand from the hold on your heart in the heat
of the moment.
The hand draws out. A photograph.
A memory found, all too hard
is the hold of the hand on the heart in the heat
of the moment.
Still is the night, rage is the soul.
Pain is the shape of the hole in my whole.
The heart in the hold of the hand is a fix –
temporary treatment for an infinite mix
of blue and of red, of ice that I bled,
of hell that I cried while wishing the dead
Still is the night and still I cannot.
Neither can X nor Y nor God.
Still is the night, and still must my soul
be still, learn to relinquish the hold.
I chose to focus on an overall emotional response to the image, attempting to evoke with the poem a similar response in a reader as the image did in me. Some physical details including objects and colour were taken as literally as they were presented, with context being inferred and imagined.
today could be about the word ‘wrist’
wrist silent double-u silent whisper
the way the sound wrist echoes
risk is each wrist doubled
you ask have you ever
seen the dark turn
turn the dark seen
have you ever you ask
is each wrist doubled risk
the way the sound wrist echoes
silent whisper silent double-u wrist
could ‘wrist’ be about the word today
Here is an explanation of the process that brought about this poem. I wrote down my first impressions of the artwork – orange neon, wrists – before sculpting them into a triangular form, with the second half a blurred reflection of the first. The poem became an arrow pointing to the word ‘wrists’, just as the artwork is an arm pointing to an image. The artwork had been ‘translated’ into a poetic form.
I am transported back
To that room
A room with a view
Two windows frame the view
Trees silhouetted against the skyline
With an indigo sky
Silver birch trees
Within and without
The bark highlighted by moonlight
Stark drawings on white paper
Piercing the dark exterior
With three drawn hands
Hands reaching out
A parent and child
Hand in hand
A silvery blue leaf
As a Fairy
Memories of childhood abound
Bunches of honesty
Exterior becomes interior
Beyond the trees
Translation note: after enlarging the image and studying it I wrote down everything I could see and my thoughts. I then arranged and expanded those words into a poem.
The Tale of Illusion
Will you give me your hand?
I hold it tight,
Pressed up hard
against this night,
I am this; midnight blue,
Shadows mutter, deny
deceiving the timid light.
The trees dream things
they cannot see,
Beyond the far-slaked
and ghostly chimneys,
And wristed clenched
your hand I cannot free,
Like these fluttering,
such thoughtful stance,
Our fires of future hopes
stoked and balance,
Curl, rise above Tyche’s stage
upon this we chance,
This scene will pass
whilst we still dance.
Your hand grips me in fear, (like teeth
clenched against the dark),
We surrender our turn, (as light will turn),
let intention make her mark.
The evocative image, No title by Domingo Martínez (2015) suggested a number of different narratives to me. It is a wonderfully rich image to translate into words; set against a staged backdrop with its dramatic upward lighting.
The relationship of the people in the left hand corner leads your eye upward towards the image of the relationship of the hands in the top right hand corner. And the hands are so prominent in the image, both clenched and gently clasping, connecting all parts of the image as a whole. It reminded me of Rumi’s poem, When I See You, and freedom from his ‘secret self’. All together this started a dialogue for me, ultimately resulting in this poem I named, The Tale of Illusion.
Humans like to hold on to things;
Memories especially – photos take us back to simpler times.
We also like things that are more present
like a person, a lover, a friend, a relative.
We hold on so tight,
fearing their absence more than anything.
But we must accept the inevitable impermanence of everything.
Trees lose their leaves
and birds lose their feathers.
Let’s just enjoy being together.
I interpreted the image to be about holding on because of the focus on hands– one gripping the other and one holding a photo. But the trees surrounding the pencil drawings create a juxtaposition of holding on and letting go, because whilst the humans are trying to hold onto things, trees lose their leaves all the time. Thus my poem is about enjoying the moment but accepting that you can’t hold on to things forever.
Worthless are hands, with nothing to hold,
Empty, useless, yielding to cold,
Even the unborn child reaches out,
Pressed fingertips against red iron mould.
For what better sensation is there,
Than the warmth of another’s touch?
Anchor of flesh, a stronger grip so rare,
Man’s gravity to another, two towers in prayer.
In my poem, I try to capture the importance of human contact. The image of the hand gripping a wrist made me think about our urgent need to be with people and how this is instinctive. I tried to create this image with the idea of an unborn child, already trying to reach out in the womb for another hand to hold. There is no stronger bond than that which can be felt between two people.
The hither and thither side of a window
As the light of a notepad unframed
Are first subject to the light
Of hithering or thithering.
. Notebook paper is still as a tree as .
Treated timber is still as a tree:
Examples of derivation.
Notebook paper is still as a tree as
The hand with which the wood is treated . .
Or with which the pencil is applied are
Still as hands with which we have held.
The hand with which the wood is treated
First wish to typographically recreate the leftward-downward trajectory of the image. I have relied on ‘as’ to translate the analogical aspects of the image: the touching of the paper and of the drawn hands, paper and wood, timber and wood, window frame and notepaper.
I try to use ‘as’ to articulate the tension between interconnectedness and the necessity of framing interconnectedness — a strategy often deployed by Wallace Stevens.
Hand Me Downs
After you’ve had your fill,
You hand me down your past.
Trapped by this armory of ideas,
Escape is nonetheless inevitable.
Crossing margins; edgeless; timeless;
New landscapes forged through
Wordless rituals of creation.
. After you’ve had your fill,
You hand me down your present.
Fatherly protection or living manacle?
Vice-like; thickly unyielding;
Unwilling now to let go into that
Soft release that welcomes,
One-by-one, my unfolding digits.[/column].
After you’ve had your fill,
. . After you’ve had your fill,
You hand me down your future.
Cold image upon cold image;
Accumulated simulacra; reproductions;
Yet oblivious ‘still’ to nature’s hidden toll.
What then of this second-hand world?
Should we be more grateful?
After you’ve had your fill,
Notes on translation:
The poem translates a tension between ‘still’ and its absence: dis-ease over our inherited ‘second-hand’ world of ideas (& creativity) (v.1), life chances (v.2) and nature (v.3). Visual cues include ‘God’s hand’ stretched over pages, clasped hands, blue (cold) and red (hot) lighting on trees and dark background (global warming). Reference to past, present and future echoes media employed (from pencil and paper to ‘digit’-al). The poem is read from left to right, mirroring my reading of the image itself.
Molly De Dios Fisher
“My hand I do it because I care The elements, my darling, are dangerous — “But mamma How can I know if that leaf is no good? Let me get down and dirty
Toughen me up What about the story It all sounds so fun — “My darling, When I hold you back
Which learnt from my mother’s hand
And my husband’s hand
And the hands on the clock
That tick away
Making me more tentative with every touch
Knows more than your hand,
Your Innocent hand,
A hand not yet programmed
Not to touch what you do not understand.
Because I love you
And as you do not listen I must hold you back,
Protect you from the earth
As my mother held me back from the fire.
Let me breath
Let me live
Let my fly
A life cooped up, scared
Is not a life but a lie
Dad’s i-pad is boring
I’ve played all the games
After hours and hours
They all seem the same
When that stiff white lettuce
Fresh in from Tesco
You feed me as food.
Let me have fun
Role around in the mud
Skip, jump, run
Get a bit hurt
Cuts and bruises galore
And I’ll be ready for more
What about the stories
That Auntie Deidre told
About how your parents turfed you outside
Be it hot be it cold
Only to come home for tea time and bed
The day of adventures spinning around Inside your head.
From when you were nine-years-old
And the field full of cows
Chased you onto the road
And what about the time you played by the brook
And the tree swing broke
And Jack Bullard fell with a splash
And you all got soaked
‘The good old days’ as you say
So why won’t you let me
Go outside and play”
I am linked to you in ways that you could not
When I grasp your hand
It is the chord
That can never be cut
Just as I once was to you,
You are now to me
My oxygen, my blood supply, my energy.
One day you will be old enough
Spread your wide wings,
Breath. Live. Fly.
Fly from the nest high into the sky.
And then when you have kids of your own
You can let them skip, jump, run
But for now times have changed
Trust me on this, my darling son.”
I do it because I care
The elements, my darling, are dangerous
How can I know if that leaf is no good?
Let me get down and dirty
Toughen me up
What about the story
It all sounds so fun
When I hold you back
The dominant hand on the sketch is wearing a wedding ring and a watch, which I have interpreted as the hands of a modern day married mother holding her son’s hands back from the leaf, imitating her own mother’s actions. The younger generation seems blander with more rules restricting children from going out and discovering even the most harmless things. Just as the mother has the dominant voice in the image and I gave her the strongest voice in the poem.
Different tone for mother and child. Child voice inspired by Doctor Seusse
Never been a mother or young boy. Risk not having believable voices, but wanted to use the dialogue to convey ideas.
I was thinking of this kind of experience of an existence in which you have your memories in several pieces of papers which form a kind of holistic whole, that is an image. Also, I was wondering, how this perfect image is actually just a part of what is out there. How you would make sense of the world.