Peter Culley of mosses from an old manse pointed me to Zukofsky poems in Basque, translated by Anton Garikano. I hope one day to learn Basque, at which point I will be able to appreciate these versions; knowing little about the language and nothing about the poetic tradition, I have to take it on faith that

Kanta berri honen lerroak ez dira ezer
Baizik doinu bat ezereza betetzen guztiz
Harrizko bihurtua mutu baino gogorrago
Doinuaren irudia lerroari eusten.

produces to the attuned ear an effect even remotely similar to the lovely

The lines of this new song are nothing
But a tune making the nothing full
Stonelike become more hard than silent
The tune’s image holding in the line.


  1. God, that last line is gutsy and precise. No ambiguity about whether to pronounce the “g” in “-ing”, is there? Zukofsky, man… (shakes head in stupid wonder like a hippie listening to Jerry Garcia bootlegs)

  2. Yeah, if there were any justice Zuk would be a lot better known than he is.

  3. Yum.
    But is Zukofsky not well known? I was under the impression he’s talked of (but maybe not read?) much. The transcriptions from Latin he did with his wife are darling, as I’m sure you know.
    Oh good! There’s a couple on this page:
    Minister uetuli puer Falerni
    inger mi calices amariores,
    ut lex Postumiae iubet magistrae
    ebrioso acino ebriosioris.
    at uos quo lubet hinc abite, lymphae,
    uini pernicles, et ad seueros
    migrate. hic merus est Thyonianus.

    Minister wet to lee, pour the Falernian
    and gear me chalices, ah by bitterest,
    the law’s Postumia, you bet magistral,
    eh breezy kin a grape-loving breeziness.
    Adieus qualifying between water and
    wine are pernicious, let the odd serious
    migrate: high! pure the thing on us ‘s the wine god’s.
    Multos home es, Naso neque tecum multus homost qui
    descendit: Naso, multus es et pathicus

    Mool ’tis homos’ Naso, ‘n’ queer take ‘im mool ’tis ho most he
    descended: Naso, mool ’tis is it pathic, cuss.
    And this page has this transcription into English from a Basque newspaper, by Charles Bernstein:
    Eragozpena aundiya dezu
    ta da aundienetakua.
    Auxe, bai, dala gaurko egunian
    estali gabe zulua
    Olaku leku biar biarrezkuan
    izenbat on ona egin leiken,
    antxen bilduta zuri ta beltzak!
    Ez da gauz erraza neurtzen.

    Ears are poppin’ everybody’s dancin’
    to the Andalusiana.
    Ax, bat, delirious bobbing especially
    establishes gulled surfeit.
    O like a leaky bear’s Bar Mitzvah
    intent on owning, egging, lurking
    Anxious bickering surely taps ballistic!
    As the gauze errata neutralizes.
    Ooh, getting googlehappy, time to stop.

  4. The transcriptions from Latin he did with his wife are darling, as I’m sure you know.
    And by “a lot better known than he is,” I mean as well known as Ashbery and Merrill, not a well-appreciated cult figure (which I’m afraid is all he can be called). How many English majors could name two Zukofsky poems?

  5. xiaolongnu says

    Is he also responsible for the rendition of the text “Spem in alium” as “I was hoping for garlic?” We (visiting choral scholars) had fun cracking up the boys’ choir of New College, Oxford, with that one until we realized that for them to get the joke, they must have been a lot better educated than any of us were at twelve.

  6. Going a tad off-topic here.
    Check with the University of Nevada at Reno’s Basque Studies Program. It’s been a few years, but last I looked they had an introduction to Euskara and guides to Basque Language sites around the web.
    Hope this helps.

  7. Jeez, I can’t even name two Ashbery poems. But then I wasn’t an English major.

  8. Having provided a working version of the dead link in the post, I thought I’d add this charming example:

    Zenbat eta gehiago
      nork? munduak
    ni bilatu
      nolabait esan


    Original (title “1959 Valentine”):

    The more that
      who? the world
    seeks me so
      to speak

    the more
      will I

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