Wednesday 8 February 2012

Three Short Poems by Lörinc Szabó


Three short poems by Lörinc Szabó (1900-1957). I have translated some nine or ten poems by him and while I realise he is a major poet in Hungarian his language is something of a labour in English. The following three have something of the bite that is part of his voice, a kind of absoluteness if you like.

The second poem, I Love You, runs the enormous risk of sounding like a passionate platitude. It was the sweet and sour in line 5 that saved it for me, not just because of the joke of course, but because of the implicit sensuality.The body was suddenly close and present, and that persuaded me.

The body is even more intensely present in Reaction. It is snappy, intense and bitter, an epigram that has to be rhymed and sharply metered to have a chance of working.

Willow by the Lake

Under a vast sky it meditates, as if
wanting to haul in its own shadow,
bending and staring into the lake
not understanding what haunted echo
peeks from that other reach of blue
hanging upside down in deeps far below,
as if it saw the world above it drowning
and wanted to haul in its own shadow.

I love you

I love you, I love you, I reach for you
All day I look for you, seek for you
All day when you’re gone I’m in tears for you
I languish and fret for the love of you
I kiss you, the sweet and the sour of you
I kiss every minute and hour of you.

I kiss every minute and hour of you
My lips are still faint with the taste of you
I kiss the ground rich with the weight of you
I kiss the minutes you wait and I wait for you
I search far away as I seek for you
I love you, I love you, I reach for you.


I watched the comedy right through.
My hair greyed in the process.
It said each man’s a hooligan,
Each woman a psychosis.

My belly and mind have had enough
My mouth is bitter from it.
You want reaction, life? You rise
into my throat like vomit.

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