Thursday, July 28, 2016

Neila, Evening Song: Last Poems of Yvan Goll Translated by Donald Wellman

Neila, Evening Song:
Last Poems of Yvan Goll
Translated by Donald Wellman
Spuyten Duyvil
New York, NY
Copyright © 2016 by Donald Wellman
93 pages, softbound, $15

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Unreal as mist in the silent machinery of night
Your face flies past with moon sails
O Neila, blue offering-smoke

The red songs of the father resound in your mouth
A golden animal horn of fervor
Announces you to fate

I hear rustling in your dark magic
The old seas of midnight
I know, you’re no daughter of man

Unearthly you, beyond blood
Neila, the scent of jasmine signifies you
When it announces the spirits of the deep

Thus begins Donald Wellman’s translation of Yvan Goll who straddled the worlds of German Expressionism and French Surrealism, whose life was disrupted and changed by Nazi Germany and bound to the intellectual scene of New York City.  Diagnosed with lukemia in 1945, he died five years later-- less known than other poets, nearly forgotten until Wellman’s excellent translation.

In “Death-Chemistry” we see Goll’s fear of death in its many manifestations. His work here combines the surreal with  anguish and tenderness and an inevitable slow ending :
In the alembic of the dream
You turn yellow red yellow
Fever blossom
And belladonna of anxiety
On the slopes of darkness

Blood’s night-chemistry
Reeling puss-cup
Dewy with tears
That drain her worn-out sleep

Breathe slowly you sick ones
At the wounded wall
Birds from ashes settle themselves on your hands
On your fragile fingers
The last day crumbles

For those who enjoy both expressionist and surreal poetry, Goll provides ample works for which Donald Wellman has provided inspired translations. As the blurb on the back cover states [Goll’s poetry] is “…a work of restless paranoia and gripping intensity.”  

To engage Goll’s work is to resurrect a poet whose work should not be forgotten and deserves its place not only among those who were forced from their native lands by the Nazis, but whose work outlives those who tried to destroy them.

Zvi A. Sesling

Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author,  Fire Tongue, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

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