„nobody need read it“

”Poetry seems to have been eliminated as a literary genre, and installed instead, as a kind of spiritual aerobic exercise—nobody need read it, but anybody can do it.”

Marilyn Hacker (b. 1942), U.S. poet and editor. As quoted in A Gift That Cannot be Refused, ch. 7, by Mary Biggs (1990). Said in 1983.

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D’oú viennent les mots?

by Vénus Khoury-Ghata

D’oú viennent les mots? de quel frottement de sons sont-ils nés à quel silex allumaient-ils leur mèche quels vents les ont convoyés jusqu’à nos bouches

Leur passé est bruissement de silences retenus barrissement de matières en fusion grognement d’eaux mauvaises

Parfois Ils s’étrécissent en cri se dilatent en lamentations deviennent buée sur les vitres des maisons mortes se cristallisent pépites de chagrin sur les lèvres mortes se fixent sur une étoile déchue creusent leur trou dans le rien aspirent les âmes égarées

Les mots sont des larmes pierreuses les clés des portes initiales ils maugréaient dans les cavernes prêtaient leur vacarme aux tempêtes leur silence au pain enfourné vivant

by Vénus Khoury-Ghata
translated by Marilyn Hacker

Where do words come from?
from what rubbing of sounds are they born
on what flint do they light their wicks
what winds brought them into our mouths

Their past is the rustling of stifled silences
the trumpeting of molten elements
the grunting of stagnant waters

Sometimes
they grip each other with a cry
expand into lamentations
become mist on the windows of dead houses
crystallize into chips of grief on dead lips
attach themselves to a fallen star
dig their hole in nothingness
breathe out strayed souls

Words are rocky tears
the keys to the first doors
they grumble in caverns
lend their ruckus to storms
their silence to bread that’s ovened alive