Poem at the New Year

To mark the coming of the New Year, Rebecca Kosick, Lecturer in Translation Studies, reads a poem by John Ashbery.

Of her choice of poem, Rebecca Kosick said:

I chose ‘Poem at the New Year’ to honor the great American poet John Ashbery, who died in 2017. I admire how this poem draws together the many, at times contrasting, significances of a new year’s arrival—there’s melancholy but also the promise of new chances. There’s the feeling of being outside of time alongside the feeling of time’s passing. There are questions about the everyday and questions about the far away. Though Ashbery’s poetry can be challenging, I appreciate how this poem allows these contrasts to coincide and how it invites the reader to question and wonder along with it.

Dr. Kosick is the new co-director of the Bristol Poetry Institute. Her research focuses on 20th century and contemporary poetry and art in hemispheric America, with interests in word and image studies, experimental approaches to the practice and theory of translation, and materialisms old and new. She is currently at work on a book project entitled Word, Image, Object: On the Matter of Poetics in Hemispheric America.

Further information

‘Poem at the New Year’, 1992, in Hotel Lautreamont, copyright © 1992, 2017 by John Ashbery, All rights reserved, Published in the UK by Carcanet, Used by arrangement with Georges Borchardt Inc. for the author’s estate.

Another way for poems to speak

Over the past month, ‘Poems for…the Wall’, hosted by the Bristol Poetry Institute, held an exhibition at Beacon House. The following is a reflection on the exhibit by Rogan Wolf.

A busy gathering place for students, staff and visitors from all over the world is not where you’d normally expect to find an exhibition of poster-poems.

But if all those poems were bilingual, with many different languages represented, written originally by poets often famous in their own countries? That might be quite an eloquent statement, quite apart from what the words themselves were saying.

The collage of photographs here records a small exhibition of bilingual poem-posters that has recently been showing in a public setting managed by Bristol University. The exhibition went up under the stewardship of the university’s Bristol Poetry Institute.

Half way up the collage, towards the left, you can see a background photograph of all the poems together displayed on the wall. Four of them are printed on paperboard at A3 size, the rest on card at A4 size.

Although they are too small to be read here, it may be of interest to note that there are ten different languages represented in the group picture : Arabic, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Punjabi, Tigrinyi.

I have slightly enlarged five of the languages for this collage : Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and two ages of Mandarin. One of the Mandarin pair  – by Gu Cheng  – was written approximately a thousand years after the other – by Li Bai. And the poem by Li Bai was almost certainly painted, not written.

And when Li Bai positioned his letters, he started at the top and from the right and his eye ran downwards and leftwards. By the time Gu Cheng was writing, a thousand years later, he saw his writing in the same way as the westerner does – horizontally and rightwards from a margin on the left.

And for those Westerners who don’t know, please note that the Arabic and the Hebrew you can see in the picture above here are both written and read from the right.

The poet David Hart once said of the “Poems for the wall” project : “we have the chance here to open people’s lives to each other.”

Further information

For further information about the Poems for…the Wall project see: poemsforthewall.org. For more on the collaboration between the BPI and Poems for…the Wall see here.