Graywolf is just about to publish EDWARD HOPPER, a book of poems by the contemporary Catalan poet Ernest Farres (imagine an accent over that e, which my keyboard doesn't want to provide you). Farres has written an entire volume of poems based upon Hopper's paintings, and Lawrence Venuti's translation of them has been chosen by Richard Howard (himself a superb translator) as winner of the Robert Fagles Translation Prize.
The brilliant strategy of Farres' poems is to spend very little time describing the image which has triggered the poem; he wants to enter into the inner life of the painting. In this moving, deeply disconsolate poem he does what no painting can do: move in time. The result is a kind of spiritual x-ray of the picture in hand, one that sees deep into Hopper's darkness.
HOTEL ROOM, 1931
At the hotel a woman in her underwear
pores over a train timetable. An hour later,
in low spirits and bone-tired,
she'll start to pace around the room
leaving a fruity fragrance in the air
that reeks of mustiness.
A week later there'll be no
tangible results. A year later
she'll be the object of caresses.
Another four and no lullabies.
Another ten and the delicate balance
between youth and age will be gone.
Another twenty and she'll cling
to an expansive ethics of listlessness
and Triumph of the Will.
Another century and nobody's
going to remember a thing about her.
In two centuries there'll be
no polar ice caps. When five
billion years go by,
there won't even be a sun.