Birnam Wood: El Bosque de Birnam by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona

You know how the sea smells of life,

how at times she spits a ferocious foam,

how she wails wild and rises

like an atavistic being, a primitive creature.


José Manuel Cardona

I know my Spanish isn’t anywhere good enough to fully appreciate José Manuel Cardona’s exquisite poetry, so it was with joy that I received the news of the publication of Birnam Wood: El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry; Bilingual edition, 2018) from Hélène Cardona along with a copy, her translation of her dad’s work. It has all the elements I most treasure in poetry. It is spiritually rich, vigorous, intuitive, conscious, disciplined and classic in its diction.  It delivers warp and weave of Western mythology and, given his roots, it’s not surprising that his work sometimes puts one in mind of the Spanish mystic poets of the Catholic Church: Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross … And who better to translate his work, than his own daughter, a literary translator and a poet in her own right.

Señor Cardona, poet, writer, and translator from Ibiza, Spain, died last year. In his early life, the Franco regime forced him into exile in France. Years later, when the socialists came to power in Spain, he was offered a ministry position, which was ultimately denied him by the still heavily embedded Franquist administration. He remained blacklisted for several years.

Señor Cardona was also an attorney and translator who worked most of his life for the United Nations.

Here with permission are two poems from this collection, a highly recommended read indeed, most valued.

Ode to a Young Mariner


        To my brother Manuel


The sea is a bride with open arms,

with stout rubber balls for breasts.

It is difficult to refuse her caress,

dry from the lips her brackish aftertaste,

forget her sweet bitterness.

Underneath her waters wails a rosary of dead

centaurs, watchmen of the shadows.

Handsome men, hard as anchors

from the chest of a barbarian god.           


It is difficult to refuse the call

of the sea, cover one’s ears,

grasp the neck with both hands

and become suddenly mute, or pluck out one’s eyes

and feed them to the fish. To ignore the gulls

and red masts and so many pennants,

and the ships arriving from unknown countries

and the ships departing for others

barely known, or perhaps for ours.


Because we carry within

like a blue keel or masts and spars

the marine bitterness of kelp,

the stripes on the back of fishes,

the tarry death

and our initials written in the sea.


Brother moving away to the bridge

like one more piece of our island,

the sea of mariners, your bride.

You know the smell of death

because you tread beneath a cemetery

that can be yours and you go brightly.


You know how the sea smells of life,

how at times she spits a ferocious foam,

how she wails wild and rises

like an atavistic being, a primitive creature.


We all carry death within written in furrows

like a name traced by the keel

of your boat in the sea. We are all sailors

of a sleeping bride with round breasts.


I don’t want to depart for the land,

to sprout like a eucalyptus branch

my eyes blinded by grass.

Wait for me, brother, when you anchor

your vessel in the sea you’ve loved.

No need to depart so alone, mariner

brother of a seaman gripped

by the earth’s open jaws.

From Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018), by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona

Oda a un joven marino

                       A mi hermano Manuel

El mar es una novia con los brazos abiertos,

con los pechos macizos como balas de goma.

Es difícil negarse a su caricia,

secarse de los labios su regusto salobre,

olvidar su amargor azucarado.

Bajo sus aguas gime un rosario de muertos

centauros veladores de las sombras.

Hombres hermosos, duros, como anclas arrancadas

del pecho de un dios bárbaro.


Es difícil negarse a la llamada

del mar, taparse los oídos,

agarrar con las dos manos el cuello

y enmudecer de súbito, o arrancarse los ojos

y darlos a los peces. Ignorar las gaviotas

y los mástiles rojos y tantas banderolas,

y los barcos que llegan de países ignotos

y los barcos que parten para otros países

que apenas se conocen, o quizá para el nuestro.


Porque nosotros llevamos adentro

como una quilla azul o arboladura

el amargor marino de las algas,

las barras sobre el dorso de los peces,

la muerte alquitranada

y nuestras iniciales escritas en el mar.


La mar de los marinos, vuestra novia

hermano que te alejas sobre el Puente

como un pedazo más de nuestra isla.

Tú sabes el olor que huele a la muerte

porque pisas debajo un cementerio

que puede ser el tuyo y vas alegre.


Tú sabes como huele el mar a vida,

como vomita a veces fiera espuma,

como salvaje gime y se rebela

igual que un ser atávico, criatura primitiva.


Llevamos todos dentro la muerte escrita a surcos

como un nombre trazado por la quilla

de tu barco en el mar. Somos todos marinos

de una novia dormida con los pechos redondos.


Yo no quiero partir para la tierra,

brotar como una rama de eucalipto

con los ojos cegados por la hierba.

Espérame tú, hermano, cuando ancles tu nave

en la mar que has amado.

No has de partir tan solo, marinero

hermano de un marino atenazado

por las fauces abiertas de la tierra

From Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018) by José Manuel Cardona, first published in El Bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular de Eivissa, Ibiza 2007)

Poem to Circe IX

Humanly I’m illuminated.

I’m amazed every day by the roaring

Song that overflows like erosive

Blackberry juice, by the joyful

And boisterous song of men.

Voices stretch like branches,

Footprints like branches, flesh

Kindred to my flesh, and life’s

Juicy wind ripens.

I reincarnate with their centuries old footprints,

Their secular voices, their joy

So often painful, like a sick

Child carried on one’s back.

Oddly it’s on this island, Circe,

I have the strength to live.

Here humanity is embraced and screams

Mixing laughter with its colors,

Speaking the same language with varied

Accents. Love’s display

Becomes a ritual we officiate.


We arrived and the miracle happened.

It was the sea and the wind in the bells.

We came from far, from years

Thirsty as dust, from humble

fishermen’s nets on barren shore.

We arrived and the miracle with us.

It has jumped into the net like a liquid fish

And it has multiplied for all

And we satiated ourselves, and all of us

We walk through the sand as one.

You see, Circe, the miracle occurs

Whenever man wants it. The search

That is the mystery of all things.

From Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018), by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona

Poema a Circe IX

Iluminado soy humanamente.

Me sorprendo a diario con el canto

Que ruge y se desborda como un jugo

Erosivo de moras, con el canto

Alegre y tumultuoso de los hombres.

Se distienden las voces como pámpanos,

Las huellas como pámpanos, la carne

Semejante a mi carne, y es el viento

Jugoso de la vida el que madura.

Reencarno con sus huellas de hace siglos,

Sus voces seculares, su alegría

Tantas veces penosa, como el hijo

Enfermo que se lleva a las espaldas.

Es en esta isla, Circe, donde siento

La fuerza de vivir extrañamente.

Aquí la humanidad se abraza y grita

Mezclando con la risa sus colores,

Hablando el mismo idioma con acentos

Variados. La evidencia del amor

Se transforma en un rito que oficiamos.


Llegamos y el milagro se produjo.

Ha sido el mar y el viento en las campanas.

Veníamos de lejos, de los años

Sedientos como polvo, de las redes

De humildes pescadores en mar yerma.

Llegamos y el milagro con nosotros.

Ha saltado a la red como un pez líquido

Y se ha multiplicado para todos

Y nos hemos saciado, y todos, todos

Andamos por la arena como un solo.

Ya ves, Circe, el milagro se produce

Siempre que el hombre lo quiere. La búsqueda

He ahí el misterio de todas las cosas.

From Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018) by José Manuel Cardona, first published in El Bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular de Eivissa, Ibiza 2007)

José Manuel Cardona

José Manuel Cardona (July 16, 1928 – July 4, 2018) is the author of El Vendimiador (Atzavara, 1953), Poemas a Circe (Adonais, 1959), El Bosque de Birnam: Antología poética (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007).

He was co-editor of several literary journals and wrote for many publications. He participated in the II Congreso de Poesía in Salamanca and belonged to the Cántico group.

He worked for the United Nations most of his life, in Geneva, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Belgrade, Sofia, Kiev, Tbilisi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Panama, among many places.

Hélène Cardona

Hélène Cardona is the author of seven books, most recently Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves, and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux); and Whitman et la Guerre de Sécession: Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb. Her work as been translated into 15 languages.

Publications include Washington Square Review, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Brooklyn Rail, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Asymptote, Drunken Boat, Anomaly, The London Magazine, The Warwick Review and elsewhere.

Acting credits include Chocolat, Jurassic World, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Mumford, and Serendipity, among many.


SUNDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Calls for Submission, Events and Other News and Information


Opportunity Knocks

REJECTED POETRY JOURNAL, poetry that doesn’t fit “is a place for those little lost poems that just don’t fit in. Poems that have been rejected a dozen times by even the worst lit mags. Poems that have been rejected by their crush. Poems that barely survived the editing process. Poems that didn’t get finished. Poems that not even the poet believes in. Poems will appear on RPJ intermittently.” This looks like a fledgling publication with a novel idea. It’s a blog type site – nothing wrong with that, by the way – and they’re using Tumblr. I don’t know how many people want to pub “Rejected Poetry” on their list of published poems. Link HERE.

OYSTER RIVER PAGES is preparing for its inaugural issues and invites submissions of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and visual art through 31 May 2017. Guidelines HERE.

ICON, Kent State University “is a poetry and art magazine that is published once each years, near the end of the spring semester. Submissions welcome from everyone. Details HERE.

ROGUEPOETRY REVIEW, punks write poems publishes four themed issues a year.  The theme for the spring issue is “Revival.” DEADLINES: Spring: January 31, Summer: April 30, Fall: July 31, Winter: October 31. Spring deadline is upon us, so hop to. You can submit electronically. Editors read on a rolling basis.  Details HERE. RoguePoetry Review is published by Punks Write Poems Press, LLC, which has a book publishing arm.

SAN PEDRO RIVER REVIEW publishes twice a year. The next reading period is July 1 – July 31 for poetry.. Details HERE.

GREEN LINDEN PRESS is a digital publication currently accepting submissions of poetry for Issue three, which is scheduled for publication on Solstice 2017. There is a $2.50 reading fee. Details HERE.

IMITATIONS FRUIT LITERARY JOURNAL publishes poetry and visual art. The deadline for the 2017 issue is April 1st. Details HERE.


HART CRANE MEMORIAL POETRY CONTEST (ICON, Kent State University) invites submission of two previously unpublished poems. Details HERE. The deadline is 4 p.m. on February 1, so hope to if you are interested.  You can submit electronically.

SEQUESTRUM LITERATURE AND ART Editor’s Reprint Awards for Poetry 2017 invites submissions of previously published work through April 30th. The entry fee is $15 and the winners will be announced in August. Winner award is $200 and publication in Sequestrum. Runner-ups are awarded $25 and publication. Details HERE.



7:00pm – Poetic Vibe
Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress Street, Troy, NY
Poetic Vibe is a weekly Poetry Open Mic with featured local and regional poets hosted by D. Colin in downtown Troy.

7:30pm – Poets Speak Loud – 12th Annual Tom Nattell Memorial Open Mic and Beret Toss
McGeary’s, 4 Clinton Square, Albany, NY
Poets Speak Loud is Albany Poets’ monthly open mic for poetry and spoken word with guest host Dan Wilcox. This month we celebrate the life and work of Tom Nattell and 12 years of Poets Speak Loud.

POETRY SLAM, INC. lists events around the country HERE.

WORLD POETRY DAY is March 31 this year. Detail HERE.


THE FREEDOM PRINCIPLE: EXPERIMENT IN ART AND MUSIC. “1965 to Now” exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Philadelphia. This large show links the legacy of avant-garde jazz and experimental music of the late 1960s (particularly within the African American arts scene on the South Side of Chicago) and its influence on contemporary art and culture. It continues until March 19, 2017. HERE is a slide show of the art included in the exhibit.

NANCY MITCHELL], Poet and Painter (by Nin Andrews), part of a series about poets who paint, Best American Poetry


FACEBOOK PRIVACY TIPS: How to shre without oversharing, Internet Citizen



MORE THAN SIXTY YEARS SINCE ORWELL’S 1984 WAS PUBLISHED and Amazon announced that since the election of the current administration (regime), it has become a best-seller. You can download the dystopian novel that was required high school reading in my day for free HERE. I’m guessing that Orwell would have liked to be proven wrong.


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51hlj5jhdkl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The recommended read for this week is Robert Pinsky’s Singing School, Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry. No rules or recipes here just learning by studying the pros. Charming. Fun.

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