Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Poetry Collection TIGER FUR - A Friendship Between Poet & Translator

Christal Cooper

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The Friendship of Poet Salgado Maranhao and Translator Alexis Levitin:
The Impossible Translation of Tiger Fur from Portuguese to English Through Friendship, Language, & Love

     On October 6, 2015 White Pine Press http://www.
/catalog.php?id=280 published the bilingual Portuguese-English collection Tiger Fur written in the original Portuguese by Salgado Maranhao https://
com/Salgado-Maranhão-730706050352609/, translated to English by Alexis Levitin Introduction by Alexis Levitin, Afterward by Antonio Cicero Above Top Right 
http://antoniocicero.blogspot.comwith jacket cover art by James Fitzgerald. Above Bottom Right 
Tiger Fur was first published in the Portuguese in 2009 by the title A Pelagem da Tigra.
Professor Luiz Fernando Valence, left formerly the chair of the Department of Portuguese at Brown University, introduced Alexis and Salgado to one another.  In an interview, Luis described that introduction. 
“I had the pleasure of bringing Salgado Maranhão and Alexis Levitin together during ”A Moveable Feast,” a festival of poetry in Portuguese, held at Brown University in the spring of 2007. That introduction was far from fortuitous. I had known and worked with Alexis since the early 1980s, and had always been impressed by the combination of precision, elegance, and creativity displayed in his superb translations from the Portuguese, both in prose and in verse. And I had been an early admirer and, indeed, the first person in the United States to have taught and written about Salgado’s poetry. I believed that it was high time Salgado’s poetry became available to English language audiences. And I was convinced that only a translator with deep sensitivity to the nuances of both Portuguese and English poetic language would be able to do justice to the intricate syntax and imagery that is the hallmark of Salgado’s poetry.”
In an email interview with Chris Rice Cooper, Alexis right in April 2015 described their friendship as a decade of good will, collaboration, poetry, language and understanding one another’s home country and its culture. 

“In 2012, I spent 90 days driving all over the country with Salgado left in New York October 2017 and we never had an unpleasant interlude. He is companionable, relaxed, and wise, an excellent combination. Cementing our strong personal feelings for each other is our shared love of poetry and our shared feeling that the music of language is the living heart of real poetry.”
 Alexis translated Salgado’s works Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur from Portuguese into English through his friendship with Salgado, observing Salgado’s personality, the way he spoke the Portuguese language, both verbally and on the written page, and with the support of his friend Valente.
“I found Salgado's poetry very difficult at first and would not have dared to try to translate his work without the fervent support and encouragement of Prof. Luiz Valente of Brown.”
The poem that compelled Salgado into writing Tiger Fur was a poem about his ex-wife called “Boundary Five/War Heads” from his earlier poetry collection Blood of the Sun.
On April 19, 2016 both Salgado and Alexis conducted a Portuguese and English poetry reading from Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur at Lake Community College in Eugene, Oregon. Above Left.
 During the reading Alexis described Tiger Fur as a poetry collection trying to explain the possibilities and impossibilities of passionate relationships.  He further stated that the attempt to explain these passionate relationships is not found in the passion itself but in the words that describe the emotion that deal with the passionate relationship.  
These words of emotion in the passionate relationship can be described as a form of light that burns or heats, or leaves some kind of mark:  ablaze, amber, beam, blaze, branding, burning, burst, carved, chiseled, combustion, enflames, engraved, fever, fire, flame, flash, furnace, fused, glitters, halo, illuminated, lava, light, lightning, magma, meteor, moonlight, plasma, pulses, rays, scanning, scar, shimmer, smoke, spark, stars, sun, sunlight, tattooed, etc. Above left Graduation of Fire attributed to Rene Magritte in 1939. FU
       This passionate relationship itself could refer to humanity and the elements of the earth; two people in love; language; elements of the cosmos and earth; animals; and the mythological god Eros. 

Humanity and Elements of the Earth
Alexis stated at the poetry reading that his brother chides him on his chosen life of a bachelor and questions why he chooses impossible women.  Alexis’s response to his brother was that he built his life on impossible women:  I am the sailor who loves the horizon.”
        When Alexis stated this quote he was specifically speaking of the title poem “Tiger Fur” but it could be applicable to “Pre-Logos 1” where the speaker of the poem is awed by the horizon. Right Photoshopped by Chris Rice Cooper. 

Terror, lightning, fog
an ambiguous landscape
before my eyes. 

Two People In Love
       In “Sea of Flames 1” the speaker of the poem speaks of his need for his ladylove even before he meets her. When he finally sees her, the pupil of his eye literally goes through a transformation along with his libido.

or the flagrant moment (the flirtations look!)
in which the pupil
coagulates the gesture, the gestation.

       The poetry collection Tiger Fur sings and sites words of passion to language itself. 

what makes the lyric fertile (beneath
splinters of immutable
moons) I sing
to the sundered solitary heart.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves 1.”
Elements of the Cosmos (the sun) and Earth (lake)

By attachment, there will follow, to the
intimate lake (of mirrors)
this sun that breathes
stilettos, that lays waste
within, carnivorous
as a kiss.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves. 3.”

      There are numerous animals mentioned in these poems: dragonflies, dogs, birds, dinosaurs, jackals and serpents but the one animal that tops the list is that of the tiger which is depicted in numerous poems throughout the collection. Right Attributed to Marlene Thyssen CCB2.5

a sharper’s shimmering coat—
eyes that flow with couplets of light
and a blade beneath the fur in which it hides.

Excerpt, “Claws in the Iris”


Could it be the work of Eros
that has set the desert
there before us?

Excerpt, “Sea Drift VIII”

The last three lines of the poem “Tiger Fur” describe the impossibility of humanity trying to understand the impossibilities of these passionate relationships.  The last three lines could also be a warning to humanity to quit trying to figure out the impossible and just marvel and be in awe of the impossible. 
If we keep on trying to figure it out, as the last three lines state, we will only experience exasperation, dissatisfaction, and humiliation. Right The Lovers attributed to Ralph Magritte FU

The tracks, no more, of some forgotten tale
of treasure that bewilders us and takes us in,
so winning it we only win chagrin.

Instead the mantra of Tiger Fur can be found in “Solitude,” where we are told to always have our own individual beginning, different from every one else’s.

Mine is just a beginning
no footsteps to be followed.

We as individualas have our own impossibility, our own awe that can never be explained but forever will amaze, just like the words that describe the impossibility.

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