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At the Locks of the Void: CotranslatingAime Cesaire I first discovered Aime Cesaire in the second issue of Jack Hirshman's tiny Hip Pocket Poems, 1960. Cesaire's prose poem, "Lynch i," since edited out of the 1948 Soleil cou coupe (Solar Throat Slashed), was translated by Emile Snyder, a French transplant who was an early translator of Cesaire. The poem sank into me like a depth charge. Emile's translation was adequate, but a close scrutiny of it and the original text revealed that he simplified a few of the poem's erudite words and tropes, so I retranslated it in 1995 during the O. J. Simpson trial. Here it is: Lynch i Why does the spring grab me by the throat? what does it want of me? so what even if it does not have enough spears and military flags! I jeer at you spring for flaunting your blind eye and your bad breath. Yourstupration your infamous kisses. Your peacock tail makes tables turn with patches of jungle (fanfares of saps in motion) but my liver is more acidic and my venefice stronger than your malefice. The lynch it's 6 PM in the mud of the bayou it's a black handkerchief fluttering at the top of the pirate ship mast it's the strangulation point of a fingernail up to the carmine of an interjection it's the pampa it'sthe queen's ballet it's the sagacity of science it's the unforgettable copulation. O lynch salt mercury and antimony! The lynch is the blue smile of a dragon enemy of angels the lynch is an orchid too lovely to bear fruit the lynch is an entry intomatter the lynch is the hand of die wind bloodying a forest whose trees are galls brandishing in their hand the smoking torch of their castrated phallus , the lynch is a hand sprinkled with the dust of precious stones, the lynch is a release of hummingbirds, the lynch is a lapse, the lynch is a trumpet blast a broken gramophone record a cyclone's tail its train lifted Written for the 1998 Lecture Series at La Maison Francaise of Columbia University, and read there on November 11. The lecture was first published in New American Writing, sum mer 2000. It was reprinted in Pores #i, 2001, a web magazine edited by William Rowe,published by Birkbeck College, University ofLondon. 132 C O M P A N I O N S P I D E R by the pink beaks of predatory birds. The lynch is a gorgeous shock of hair that fear flings into my face the lynch is a temple crumbled and gripped by the roots of a virgin forest. O lynch lovablecompanion beautiful squirted eye huge mouth mute save when an impulse spreads there the delirium of glanders weavewell, lightning bolt, on your loom a continent bursting into islands an oracle contortedly slithering like a scolopendra a moon settling in the breach the sulfur peacockascendingin the summary loophole of my assassinated hearing. In its "logic of metaphor" chain reaction, its linking of social terror with the violence of sudden natural growth, and its sacrifice of a male hero for the sake of sowing the seeds of renewal, "Lynch i" is a typical and very strong Cesaire poem of the late 19405. For years I didn't know what to make of it, yet its strangeness was mesmerizing. It seemed to imply that for the speaker to suddenly inhale deeply,to offer himself to the wild, wasto induct the snapping of a lynched neck. Erotic aspectsof the poem came to mind in the 19705 when I sawthe JapanesefilmRealm of the Senses, in which the sex-addictedmalelead makeshis partner choke him to wring the last quiver out of his orgasm. At that time I started to read Cesaire at large bilingually and determined that he was a poet of extraordinary importance, and that he had not been translated aswell as he might be (at that point only around one-third of his poetry had been translated at all). I decided, as I had with Cesar Vallejo in the 19705, that the best way to read Cesaire would be to translate him, since the anriphonal traffic of translation, for me, opens up a greater assimilative space than monolingual reading. I will havemore to sayabout this later. In 1977 I received a CaliforniaArts Council "Artists in the Community " grant that involved my teaching poetry for a schoolyear in the predominantly...


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