Monday, November 03, 2003

I have never read anything by J.M. Coetzee, but it is clear I will not be able to go on ignoring him much longer. His latest "novel," Elizabeth Costello, sounds remarkable; I just read a review of it in The New York Review of Books. And in the same issue there's an extraordinary poem that he translated from the Dutch:
Cees Nooteboom

We know poetic poetry the common dangers
of moonstruckness, bel canto. Embalsamed air, that is all,
unless you turn it into pebbles that flash and hurt.
You, old master, polish the pebbles
that you fling to bring down a thrush.
Out of the world you cut an image that bears your name.
Seventeen pebbles for arrows a school of deathly singers.
See by the waterside the track of the poet
on his way to the innermost snowland. See how the water erases it
how the man with the hat inscribes it again
preserves water and footprint, capturing the movement that has passed,
so that what vanished is still there as something that vanished.

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