Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 28 May 2018

  • Poem


    I let him come. 
    He sneaks on tiptoe 
    right up to my ear; 
    under its ribs my heart 
    quivers, quickens 
    as the excitement mounts: 
    first the forest appears, 
    then the woodland-sequel, 
    more mist than snow to the touch – 
    from the new poem’s 
    very first line the paper sucks up 
    every waif-word 
    and an ugliness steals in, 
    a cunning hungry thing 
    crouching there incognito, 
    pretending to be tame and yet so wolfish 
    that he’s the kernel of light 
    and then the noise of its cracking; 
    he’s lithe on the path, 
    doubling back on himself, 
    running with the pack, loping alone; 
    pussy-footing through the night 
    he trails moonlight behind him 
    like a mink coat. 
    I feel him when the hairs on my skin 
    lift, and in the delicious dizziness 
    of my private pulse – 
    in the midst of my writing, in my dream-life, 
    I slip all his clothes slowly off 
    and slide him down beside me. 

    by Maria Teresa Horta; translated from the Portuguese by Lesley Saunders. You can read the original poem on the Stephen Spender Trust website.

    News from the Centre: this Friday at 7pm, we are delighted to welcome the distinguished Canadian poet Richard Harrison to Oxford. Richard is a multiple award-winning poet, essayist and editor. His latest collection, On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood, was awarded the 2017 Governor General's Award for Poetry. You can find out more and buy tickets for the reading via our website or on the door at the Society Cafe.

    The Poetry Centre has just launched its 2018 International Poetry Competition! Open until 6 August, the competition has two categories – Open and English as an Additional Language – and this year is judged by the highly-acclaimed poet Kayo Chingonyi. You can find full details and enter here.

    This week’s poem was the winner of the 2016 Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation, and the 2018 Prize is currently open for entries until 6 July. Translate any poem from any language, ancient or modern into English, and be in the running for a cash prize and publication by the Stephen Spender Trust. There are three categories: Open, 18-and-under, and 14-and-under. The judges this year are Margaret Jull Costa, Olivia McCannon, and Sean O’Brien. You can find more details on the Trust’s website.

    Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Nominy-Dominy (Two Rivers Press). She is currently working on a book of translations of selected poems by Maria Teresa Horta, one of the most revered poets of modern Portugal who has published more than twenty volumes of poetry over a lifetime’s writing career. Horta was born in 1937 and was writing before and during the revolution against the fascist Estado Novo regime; her early work was banned for being ‘an outrage to public morals’. She is renowned for her novels, short stories and journalism, but considers herself a poet first and foremost. As this particular poem indicates, Horta’s work has a syntactical compactness coupled with a psychological passion, even wildness, which makes translation a deeply pleasurable challenge. The book of selected poems in English translation, Point of Honour, will be published by Two Rivers Press in the spring of 2019. You can hear Lesley read the poem and find her reflections it on the Stephen Spender Trust’s website.

    The Stephen Spender Trust was established in 1997 to honour Stephen Spender’s achievements as poet and translator of poetry, and as champion of the rights of creative artists and writers to free expression. Founding members who have since died include Valerie Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Czesław Miłosz, Harold Pinter and Natasha Spender. Inspired by Stephen Spender's literary interests and achievements, the Stephen Spender Trust aims to widen appreciation of the literary legacy of Stephen Spender and his contemporaries and to promote literary translation. You can find out more on the Trust’s website.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.