Sunday, December 04, 2011

Poems on the Net

I've been collecting poems for some time, initially writing them out by hand in the old days before computers, then typing them up and printing them out and putting them in a folder, and, most recently, copying them holus-bolus off the Net into a file on Evernote.  

There are two issues I haven't entirely sorted out in my head with regard to copying poems.  If it's for your own personal use, then you're not affecting the poet's livelihood anymore than you would if you read the poem on the Net, or in a library book.  At least as far as I can see (with a poem it's difficult to copy only the ten percent allowed from books, for instance). 

Gunter Eich
One of the issues is that if you copy a poem onto a blog like this one, there's officially a difficulty with copyright, because the poet doesn't gain anything financially from his or her work (though show me a poet who makes a living out of the craft and I'll be pleased to meet them). The other issue, however, is like the boot on the other foot.   A huge number of poets barely have an audience of any sort, even in these days of the wide dissemination of all sorts of written material.  To have your poem acknowledged by another writer (even if it is only a blog writer like me) is at least a way of getting a little more traction on your poem.  There are so many billions of poems in the world (everyone in the world could have at least a dozen or more to call their own if we distributed them evenly), and for a poem to be seen beyond its tiny print run in a book, or its appearance on a poetry site such as The Writer's Almanac (which is a great place to come across interesting poems  - and some that seem to me to be barely poems...but that's another issue) is an advantage to the poet rather than a disadvantage.  

So with that second argument in mind, rather than the first, I'm including the following poem by G√ľnter Eich in the blog.  It was published this translation in Angina Days: Selected Poems (the translator was Michael Hofmann - you can find out more about his translating here). 

I originally picked up this poem because I was looking for something that had the word trophies in it.  This served the purpose admirably.   The poem is called First of January. 

Only a calendar would start the day by talking about a new year,
the walls know damn well this isn’t the start of anything new.
Outside, as ever, the clouds blow past, light as hair,
and the wind rattles the windows with the same hands.
March and April will come, and eventually
a day will fill you with its endless hours;
along with the sky and the blown clouds
it will fall into your hands and your house.
Sometimes you catch your face at night in a mirror
obscurely filled with aging—
a faded envelope with unbroken seal,
stuffed always with the same script.
Every day is new and a jubilee,
but pain is a long way off ,
and of the celestial
the only one in your possession is the evening star.

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