XXX So I’m a Mystic, and Then?

by Erin Moure

XXX

Se quiserem que eu tenha um misticismo, está bem, tenho-o.
Sou místico, mas só com o corpo.
A minha almo é simples e não pensa.

O meu misticismo é não quere saber.
É viver e não pensar nisso.

Não sei o que é a Natureza: canto-a.
Vivo no cimo dum outeiro
Numa casa caiada e sozinha,
E essa é a minha definição.

XXX So I’m a Mystic, and Then?

If they accuse me of mysticism, alright, I’m guilty.
I’m a mystic. Now do you feel better?
But it’s only an act of the body.
My soul is simple and doesn’t think at all.

My mysticism is in not wanting to know.
It lives without thinking about living.

I don’t know what Nature is; I just go on about it.
I live where Winnett bends almost double, a little valley,
In a brick house, half a duplex in fact,
built by a man who lost his son at Teruel.
The neighbour beside me throws lasagna to the crows.
There. That’s how you can define me.

            	

Notes on the Poem

Sometimes profundity simply sneaks up on you, in the aftermath of a poetic investigation and the afterglow of an amused smile. That was what happened with this reader, taking on a fragment of Erin Moure's Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person, her delightful pas de deux with Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. First, what was the poetic investigation? Well, when you're confronted with poetry in a language you are unable to read and understand, does that disqualify you from reading and enjoying the translated portion that you do understand? Who better to comment in this context than Erin Moure herself. Not only has that been part of her work in poetry on an ongoing basis, but she tackles the subject very specifically in a recent series of meditations on and explorations of translation in Jacket2, an online publication that offers commentary on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. Moure's piece entitled “But do we need to know a second language to translate?” is also applicable to reading translated work, and in it she posits a surprising and alluring notion. For all practical purposes, then, can you enjoy "XXX So I'm a Mystic, and Then?" without being able to read the preceding "XXX"? Moure contends and the judges citation for Sheep's Vigil remarks on Moure doesn't just translate Pessoa, but uses his work as a starting point from which she takes off and navigates her own world - parallel to Pessoa's in some respects, diverging dramatically in others. It's fair to guess that the first two stanzas are close to the original, particularly: "O meu misticismo é não quere saber. É viver e não pensar nisso." and "My mysticism is in not wanting to know. It lives without thinking about living." But then Moure heads down her own path. She describes her street, her house, her neighbours. We know for certain that Pessoa wasn't discussing crows and lasagna in the original. It's in the whimsy of that detail that indeed, Moure has defined herself.

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