GOOD THINGS FROM DOWN UNDER.

Australian poet Peter Nicholson sent me a link to Blesok, a bilingual online literary magazine from Macedonia (I assume the title is the Macedonian equivalent of Serbo-Croatian bl(ij)esak ‘flash of light’); if you click on the македонски link at the upper right, you get the journal in Macedonian. And among the many writings on his site I found a reference to Gwen Harwood, of whom, despite the fact that (according to Wikipedia) she “is regarded as one of Australia’s finest poets” and “her work is commonly studied in schools and university courses,” with typical Yank ignorance of the Australian poetic scene I knew nothing. There doesn’t seem to be much by her online, but I found “Barn Owl,” which I like a lot:

Daybreak: the household slept.
I rose, blessed by the sun.
A horny fiend, I crept
out with my father’s gun.
Let him dream of a child
obedient, angel-mind-
old no-sayer, robbed of power
by sleep. I knew my prize
who swooped home at this hour
with day-light riddled eyes
to his place on a high beam
in our old stables, to dream
light’s useless time away…

Its music reminds me of Theodore Roethke, a poet I’ve never lost my fondness for. (Compare the start of Roethke’s “The Voice”: “One feather is a bird,/ I claim, one tree, a wood;/ In her low voice I heard/ More than a mortal should;/ And so I stood apart,/ Hidden in my own heart.”)

Comments

  1. Re: typical Yank ignorance of the Australian poetic scene
    As opposed to typical Australian ignorance of the Australian poetic scene, you mean? There might be some demographics within Australia among whom she is well-known, but claims that her (or anyone else’s) work is commonly studied in schools should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  2. Gwen Harwood was one of the set authors in the New South Wales Higher School Certificate’s English course, in the unit ‘Change’.
    Many high school students would have had to study her work whether they liked it or not, since English was a mandatory subject in NSW high schools.

  3. michael farris says:

    “I assume the title is the Macedonian equivalent of Serbo-Croatian bl(ij)esak ‘flash of light'”
    You have to assume on the basis of Serbo-Croat? The Polish cognate is błysk, isn’t there a Russian one?

  4. Oh, sure, but SCr is closer to Macedonian. It’s Russian blesk.

  5. Great poem, thanks!
    (I think you have a stray apostrophe in the last paragraph…)

  6. Fixed! And thanks; it doesn’t look good for a copyeditor to have stray apostrophes lying around…

  7. John J Emerson says:

    Don’t the other copyeditors swarm him and peck him to death if they see that? It’s a good thing that you’re among friends.

  8. I once had to hold off half a dozen feral editors with nothing but my bare hands and a battered copy of Words into Type. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but my life flashed before my eyes. And I kept looking for misprints in it, which distracted me from my life-and-death struggle.

  9. The poem or the lyrics lines are very touching and it has a inner meaning which can’t be understood if we read leisurely. So, read it again to get the meaning.
    ______________
    mousami

  10. Charles Perry says:

    Macedonian is basically a dialect of Bulgarian (however much this idea infuriates Macedonians). I don’t have a Macedonian dictionary but my ancient Anglo-Balgarski Rechnik gives as one of the definitions of “flash” blesak (with the Old Bulgarian e which is now pronounced as ‘a before a back vowel; the a in the second syllable — should be written with a circumflex, but this comment format doesn’t allow diacritics — is the conventional way of Romanizing the soft yer, pronounced in Bulgarian as schwa).

  11. I once tried to obtain a basic language primer or even a phrasebook in Macedonian for a trip that never came off. There hadn’t been one published recently, and none was available, I suspect because of the political disagreements over the language–in that region apparently language is a factor in determining ethnicity and therefore political borders.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_views_on_the_Macedonian_language

  12. David Marjanović says:

    should be written with a circumflex, but this comment format doesn’t allow diacritics

    Nonsense. What you talked about is â, and what you actually mean is ǎ.

    Macedonian is basically a dialect

    Not just one!

    in that region apparently language is a factor in determining ethnicity and therefore political borders.

    Not just apparently, and not just in that region.

  13. A.J.P. Crown says:

    David, much as I hate to reveal my ignorance how should your name be pronounced? Is it (in Brit. Eng.) Mar-yah-no-fich? Is the ć common in S. German and Austrian names?

  14. I too am curious as to how you pronounce your name, and am grateful to Kron for asking.

  15. Siganus Sutor says:

    I for one would say “mar-ja-no-vitch”, with a soft -j, but what do I know about names from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, eh? I just live down under the sea, in a octopus’ garden in the shade.

  16. Charles Perry says:

    David, I have seen the Bulgarian er gol’am spelled with a circumflex a (e.g. David Meladenov, Balgarski Talkoven Recnik), but I am not surprised to hear that a micron is also used. For that matter, Daniels and Bright’s “The World’s Writing Systems” (Oxford, 1996) uses a tilde, p. 703. Which sort of splits the difference, or straddles the fence.

  17. A.J.P. Crown says:

    As usual, I’m not sure how we got on to the Hapsburgs in under fifteen comments when the original topic was Australia (i.e. not Austria).

  18. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I mean the connection is obviously Macedonia, but the Hapsburg Empire takes up a lot of space here in relation to its…I don’t know: something or other, political influence probably. Not that I’m complaining, you understand. Would life be worth living without the croissant, the Sachertorte, the Linzertorte Wittgenstein, the Hungarian sausage and so on? I think not. Not to mention Karl Kraus, Freud, Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner, music. Then there’s Orson Welles as Harry Lime, am I getting carried away, perhaps? He’s not strictly Hapsburg.

  19. A.J.P. Crown says:

    By the way the Linzertorte Wittgenstein is not an old Viennese confection, it’s just missing a comma.

  20. Nonsense, it’s a vivid description of the state of the philosopher when he was full of jam.

  21. John Cowan says:

    We now know that David expects his name to be pronounced by the rules of whatever languge he’s being addressed in, and that his first name was chosen specifically for that purpose, being one of the most portable names in the world (well, not compared to Muhammad, of course).

  22. January First-of-May says:

    but I am not surprised to hear that a micron is also used

    I, in turn, am surprised to find out that “micron” is apparently an alternate term for “breve”. (Wikipedia and Wiktionary confirm.)

    As for the name “Marjanović”, as far as I’m aware, it’s supposed to be pronounced exactly as it’s spelled – or, in an English approximation, roughly “mar-YA-no-vich”.
    No idea how it is actually pronounced, though (at least, in Austria – or wherever David actually lives – as opposed to the former Yugoslavia).

     
    EDIT:
    well, not compared to Muhammad, of course

    Even beyond that; all three Abrahamic religions share the legend of David. The Islamic versions of the name are conflated on Wikipedia under Daud.

  23. John Cowan says:

    He’s in France the last we heard, where they unhesitatingly say “Marzhanovik”.

  24. David Eddyshaw says:

    I recall reading somewhere that the popularity of the name “David” among gentiles in Britain (and thus eventually among anglophones in general) may reflect some similar-sounding Celtic name which got assimilated to that of the Biblical king. Can’t find anything to support this now though.

    Neither of the Welsh forms (Dewi, Dafydd) looks like anything more exotic than a borrowing or adaptation of “David.”

    Perhaps it’s just the effect of two Scots kings and a Welsh bishop.

    Georgia had several King Davids, so perhaps this is merely yet another solution in search of a problem.

  25. As usual, I’m not sure how we got on to the Hapsburgs in under fifteen comments when the original topic was Australia (i.e. not Austria).

    Most commenters are heavily focussed on Europe, with an emphasis on Russia, Central Europe, and the Balkans. Fortunately we now have someone who can divert discussions to Africa.

  26. Trond Engen says:

    Davis E.: I recall reading somewhere that the popularity of the name “David” among gentiles in Britain (and thus eventually among anglophones in general) may reflect some similar-sounding Celtic name which got assimilated to that of the Biblical king. Can’t find anything to support this now though.

    It’s the kind of explanation that get easily transferred from one name (say, John) to another.

  27. “Macedonian is basically a dialect of Bulgarian”

    or is it that Bulgarian is a Turkic language and what they speak in the Republic of Bulgaria is actually a dialect of Macedonian?

    or is it that Macedonian is actually related to ancient Greek and what they speak in the Republic of North Macedonia is [argh]??

  28. Never heard of Gwen Harwood, but then it’s a while since I was in high school.

    Clive James, on the other hand, I’ve heard of.

  29. PlasticPaddy says:

    Re David in Irish, see
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A1ith%C3%AD
    I do not know about Welsh.

  30. Marjanović

    There is a Serbian singer called Ђорђе Марјановић/Đorđe Marjanović (in Russian).

    I wonder how people pronounce Karakasevic of the Charbay Distillery. I guess it’s from the Turkish ‘kara kaş ‘black eyebrow’.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    He’s in France the last we heard, where they unhesitatingly say “Marzhanovik”.

    …thus illustrating how graphemic the French spelling system is: almost always, there’s only one way you could possibly pronounce a written word you’ve never seen before.

    I lived in Paris till 2010, then in Vienna for a year, and in Berlin since 2012. As they say, follow the money.

    In German, my last name comes out as close to right as people can do: the r tends to disappear, and if it doesn’t, it comes out as uvular; the ć comes out as a generic [tʃ].

    I don’t know the pitch accent myself, but whatever it is, it’s on the third-to-last syllable as usual, and that’s widely known in German-speaking places through recent immigration and through folks who ended up in the news a lot in recent memory.

    There is a Serbian singer

    There’s a website that constantly asks me to confirm whether medical papers by various Marjanović or even D. Marjanović are by me (they were all written when I was minus 10 to minus 20 years old). There’s also a former Croatian minister of the interior, a few more in the Viennese phonebook (back when phonebooks still existed lo these onescore years ago) and so on.

  32. AJP Crown says:

    In German, my last name comes out as close to right as people can do: the r tends to disappear, and if it doesn’t, it comes out as uvular; the ć comes out as a generic [tʃ].

    That’s what I would try for nowadays. DAHfid took me maybe ten years to mentally adjust to but recently it’s become automatic. I suppose now you’re going to confess that “David Marjanović” is just a nom de Chapeau and you’re really Nigel McClintock from Epsom.

  33. John Cowan says:

    Fortunately we now have someone who can divert discussions to Africa.

    And you have me, who can divert them to anywhere, including parallel universes.

    even D. Marjanović

    This business of just using initials is deeply stupid: see the D. Stampe case.

    Nigel McClintock from Epsom

    No, from Salz!

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    There’s a website that constantly asks me to confirm whether medical papers by various Marjanović or even D. Marjanović are by me

    I never get misidentified, on account of being (AFAIK) the only David Eddyshaw anywhere ever.

    All Eddyshaws/Eddishaws/Eddershaws belong to the same family (the name having arisen as a once-off error in the eighteenth century, presumably caused by a stray cosmic ray), and the spelling with -y- originated only with my own great-grandfather (who did, however, have a lot of descendants.)

    Spelling has not been a highly valued skill among my paternal forebears and kindred. I prefer to attribute this to aristocratic disdain for rules meant for little people (rather than bucolic ignorance, say.)

  35. AJP Crown says:

    from Salz!
    Oh, well played.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Plastic:

    Thanks for the Irish. That might be part of what I had confusedly been trying to remember.

    I have (now I think of it) encountered Welshmen called “Teifi”, which is said to be from the river of that name; but I don’t know the origin of the river-name either. In any case, it looks rather too remote in form to be a plausible candidate for Davidisation.

  37. PlasticPaddy says:

    @david eddy
    I had thought the name Dai might correspond to Daithi in Irish. But Wikipedia has it as short for Dafydd.

  38. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve always supposed it’s from Dafydd, which is actually not pronounced all that differently; both f and dd are frequently hard to hear or lost outright in speech when not word-initial.

    I am in fact called Dai in Real Life by everyone apart from my blood relations, including my wife and in-laws (my children call me Dread Sire, naturally.) I don’t object to “David” (except from people who imagine they can be on first-name terms on the basis of mere casual acquaintance), but I tend not to realise that people are talking to me when they use it. “Dave” is right out.

  39. John Cowan says:

    Testy David (with Sibylla, I suppose).

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    Indeed. Solvet saeclum in favilla (unless we good guys can turn things around by the 12th inst.)

  41. David Marjanović says:

    DAHfid took me maybe ten years to mentally adjust to but recently it’s become automatic.

    Oh, only my grandma’s friend (dead for over 20 years) ever pronounced me with /f/. Everyone else uses /v/.

    This business of just using initials is deeply stupid

    And then it usually turns out the papers didn’t use just initials! Often the first name is Dragan (which, incidentally, happens to mean the same).

  42. John Cowan says:

    I am glad to say I fully expect the arrival of the 1st prox. on schedule regardless of all human follies.

    Lynneguist today posted a link from her latest blog post to her 2018 piece on the Great American Verbal Inferiority Complex, which is about how Americans think that (a) good English is a matter of following explicit rules, and (b) it is the British who are the custodians of these rules. Also today, by “what Men call chance”, I noticed the word vomit in a journal publication by one Mr. Eddyshaw and realized how unlikely such a blunt (though not actually Saxon) word would be in a similar publication by an American, who would tend to favor the Greek-derived emesis. Hmmm.

  43. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have no memory of this at all. It may be my evil twin brother. Again.

  44. John Cowan says:

    Alas, the article says “David Eddyshaw”, and you have proclaimed this name to be uniquely identifying.

    When Dr. Jekyll changes into Mr. Hyde, that is a strange and mysterious thing. Are they two people taking turns in one body? But here is something stranger: Dr. Juggle and Dr. Boggle, too, take turns in one body. But they are as like as identical twins! You balk: why then say that they have changed into one another? Well, why not: if Dr. Jekyll can change into a man as different as Hyde, surely it must be all the easier for Juggle to change into Boggle, who is exactly like him.”

    —Ronald de [not D., as I first wrote] Sousa

    Everyone else uses /v/

    Except Stu, once.

  45. Is the ć common in S. German and Austrian names?

    This is a sign of relatively late arrival. As early as 100 years ago, such surname would have been Germanized to Marianowitz.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    Possible. There are also names in -witsch.

    The vast majority of names that keep ć or at least c indeed came in no sooner than the 1960s.

    *scrolling up*

    Never encountered a /f/ in it. Words more exotic than Nerven never get /f/ for [v] in German.

    (…And Nerven has /fː/ for those who make the distinction, because /f/ is so rare. But I digress again.)

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