Tuesday, September 2, 2014

With its Banners of Bereavement, its Bastions of Basalt

An eerie, decadent poem by Stuart Merrill, with my attempted translation. Any criticism is welcome!

par Stuart Merrill

Or ce sera par un pays de crépuscule
Où le soleil de pourpre, au ras des horizons
Qu'exhaussent des volcans fauves de floraisons,
Présagera les jours lourds de la canicule.

Un fleuve de flamme y déroulera ses flots
Entre les archipels de lotus et la grève.
Où la vieille Chimère, en l'âpre rut du rêve,
Tordra d'un vain essor ses flancs gros de sanglots.

Parfois, carène noire et cordages funèbres,
Une galère, aux pleurs des tambours et des voix,
Exaltera, le soir, sur sa poupe en pavois,
Le simulacre d'or d'un monstre des ténèbres.

Puis déferlant sa voile au vent des mauvais sorts
Et battant les lointains de l'écho de ses rames
Sur un rythme barbare et bas d'épithalames,
Elle appareillera, pesante d'enfants morts,

Vers la Cité d'amour et de grande épouvante
Dont on ne dit le nom qu'avec des sacrements,
De peur de trépasser en les impurs moments
Où son désir d'enfer hanta l'âme fervente ;

La Cité qui là-bas avec ses étendards
De deuil, ses bastions de basalte et ses morgues,
Leurrera de ses voix de théorbes et d'orgues
Les pas las des Damnés et leurs regards hagards.

Et quand viendront les jours lourds de la canicule,
Les volcans, éclatant en fauves floraisons,
Feront hurler d'horreur, au ras des horizons,
Sodome, la Cité Rouge du crépuscule.

by Stuart Merrill.
Chez Léon Vanier, Paris, 1891. 

A High Cold Star

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers.

Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: "Yes, but I love myself."

A high cold star on a winter's night is the word he feels that she says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation.

-- Stephen Crane, "The Open Boat," 1897.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beautifully described, erotic and just ever so slightly disturbing

Writer Tim Jeffreys has posted a review of my science fiction novella, All Roads Lead To Winter.

What I really wondered, after discovering what the story was about, was whether the author could pull this off convincingly. In my experience, it's one thing to have a weird idea as a writer, but quite another to get the reader to buy into it. I have to say that I was totally convinced by this tale....

There's a depth to the writing that lifts this above being a mere curio... and the characters were well drawn with clear motivations. Mark Fuller Dillon is a talented writer, one to watch. I can't wait to get stuck into his short story collection.

The full review is available at Goodreads.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Welcome to Midlife Crisis. Please Keep Off the Lawns.

Here I am, lost and confused by life, but I accept my confusion. I feel as if I had stepped off a train at the wrong town, in a purple summer dusk with an orange moon perched on the hills and the pines. The houses are elaborately tall, teetering blocks of pseudo-Queen Anne locked at the ends of narrow yards by thorn-mazes of wrought iron, but they stand there black and, as far as I can tell, empty... as empty as the lanes.

I could stay here for a long time and stare at the houses, confident that nothing would stare back, but I want the next train to pass by, and soon. I have to go somewhere.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Buck Stops Here

Without warning, on the day I turned 50 years old, I began to write sonnets.

Sonnets have a great advantage over other forms of writing: they are strict. Despite the small freedom of variation in the rhyme schemes, they present a steady wall of rules.

Many people object to rules of writing, but I appreciate them. For the most part, I write short stories, and as H. E. Bates has pointed out, "The basis of almost every argument or conclusion I can make is the axiom that the short story can be anything the author decides it shall be." The drawback of this freedom is the subsequent inability to know if a story has been sufficiently well-crafted to communicate with readers. I worry about this, because my stories are self-published, and all responsibility for their clarity or vagueness must lie with me alone. As Truman would say, "The buck stops here." If my stories fall apart, the fault is mine.

My sonnets, on the other hand, follow tradition. At the end of the day, I might not be certain about the constantly-shifting ones and zeroes of the stories filed away on my hard-drive, but I do know that a sonnet can be nothing else.

I need that certainty. There it is.