braiding the noontime with these solitudesartisans of light keep watchat the crossroads of nailswouldn’t i have already called you to accountfor a land so full cicadas bear your fiery armorinto the dazzling atmosphere of the glarefarther beyond the sugar townsin the sundays of their smallnessthese are the fibers of terrorand me i could play the harpon the mane of their distancelike the athlete at the centerthe screwed-in lightdeath raises up the nightsspent in renunciationnight knocked in the maternity of its minddeposits in the vultures’ births its dense silenceas searing as thickas the time of contemptthat surrounds the ivy the moment it rainsthe time the vellum’s happy with the smooth thoughtforbidden daysi use my memory to track back the edge of your knives
Translation copyright © 2018 by Heather Green
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Tristan Tzara (1896–1963) is best known as the cofounder of the Dada movement and author of many of its most influential poems and manifestoes. After the peak of the Dada movement, he had a contentious affiliation with Surrealism and remained a prolific lyric poet for the rest of his life. Tzara was born and raised in Romania, where, because of his Jewish identity, he could not own land or hold a passport. In 1915, he moved to Zurich and began to write in French and perform in the Cabaret Voltaire. In 1919, Tzara brought Dada to Paris, where he lived almost continuously until his death, writing and working as an art and literary critic, activist, humanitarian, diplomat, journalist, and playwright.
Heather Green’s translation of Tristan Tzara’s Noontimes Won received the Hemingway Prize from the French Ministry of Culture. In 2017, Goodmorning Menagerie released a handmade edition of her translation of Tzara’s Guide to the Heart Rail. Her own poems are forthcoming in the Bennington Review and have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Everyday Genius, the New Yorker, and elsewhere.
In Noontimes Won, Tristan Tzara floods the pages with a torrent of images. In Heather Green’s translation of Tzara’s 1939 collection, in cosmic imagery beside communist imagery, we see Tzara’s peripatetic mind haunted by the death and destruction he’d witnessed in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Unpunctuated lines move like gears, one phrase turning into the next in a relentless forward motion. By contrast, the voice, at times halting and desolate, is made of a profoundly human doubt.