The more we educate ourselves about other cultures, the more we understand one another. We then don’t look at “the other” or “the foreigner” in fear. People usually fear what they don’t understand. And by understanding where we come from we all get to know ourselves.
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.
—José Manuel Cardona
There’s something about Spanish poetry, this particular poetry, where nothing appears lost in translation. Its bold, declarative tone, elevated content, mystical moments, contemplation, and fire show through in Spanish and now English. Especially memorable are the 20 poems to Circe. —Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books
Cardona’s collection harnesses the power of nostalgia in the Greek sense, a longing for home, to shine through the sadness of some of its poems to remind readers that “in the sunrises / memory comes back to” us, and we are richer for it. Hélène Cardona’s translation of her father’s poetic anthology imbues the same reverence to the Old Masters of world literature, among them Homer, Góngora, and Shakespeare—from the last of whom the collection takes its title—into the fabric of its English lines as the originals show. —Jordi Alonso, World Literature Today
In years, I have not read a poetry more expansive, gripping, and beautiful for the true music of language. I have been enthusiastically revitalized by the recent encounter with the poetry of José Manual Cardona, masterfully translated by his daughter, poet Hélène Cardona. In her hands, Birnam Wood sings to us in a rendering that is lush and passionate. —Rustin Larson, The Iowa Source
Cardona is a deeply engagé poet embodying human suffering in Spain as elsewhere. A spirited, inspired translation by José Manuel Cardona’s daughter, the polyglot American poet Hélène Cardona. —Margaret Saine, California Quarterly
Hélène Cardona has produced a very fine translation in ‘Birnam Wood’, a collection of her father’s poetry of travel and experience, the Ibiza poet, José Manuel Cardona, rich in language, metaphor and imagery. A lovely book and a must for students and poetry-lovers alike. —Fred Johnston, Galway Western Writers’ Centre Hélène Cardona is a seasoned translator. She has provided a service in sharing her father’s work with us in English, shedding additional light on that generation of Spanish poets who were forced into exile from their country. She lets us feel the pain of distance and separation as well as of life in new places. —Don Cellini, The Ofi Press Magazine
Birnam Wood by Spanish poet José Manuel Cardona, and translated by his daughter, Hélène Cardona, is a collection of his absolute best work.
—Isabelle Kenyon, Fly on the Wall Poetry
Poem to Circe XIX, The London Magazine
There is quite a deep sense of both belonging and not belonging, more of not belonging, and that is very clearly expressed in many of the lines in this collection; but José is not someone who is struggling to belong, through his poems. He has instead found a home in not belonging — the beauty of it. —Jayant Kashyap, Only Humane
by Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac
Translated by Hélène Cardona
Beyond Elsewhere is a hauntingly beautiful narrative poem, a dance that at once touches on the universal and uniquely personal. With his debut collection, Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac establishes himself as one of French poetry’s most innovative new voices. His writing is lyrical, masterful, exquisite, an opening into the elusive, affirming the absolute necessity of listening to the world. Beyond Elsewhere is a symphonic poem with boundless language, where past and present meet.
Winner of the Pinnacle Book Award for Best Bilingual Poetry Collection, a Julie Suk Honor, Finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award and the 2019 International Poetry Book Award
Named Best Translation in the Washington Independent Review of Books
Birnam Wood /
El Bosque de Birnam
JOSÉ MANUEL CARDONA
Translated by Hélène Cardona
A bilingual collection in English & Spanish
Birnam Wood is one of the most impressive collections of poetry I’ve read in recent years. It is a work that can sit easily beside Seferis’s great poems of exile and return, or beside Elytis’s gigantic sequence of the Albanian campaign. This is Europe yearning: ‘Exalted were you in my dreams,/ Almost inaccessible like an island/ Sought and sought for years.’ —Thomas McCarthy, Poetry International
These are poems of solid classical diction, keenly aware of the rich traditions that precede it, where mythology, travel and personal memory represent starting points for erotic and metaphysical reflection. —Andrés Neuman, from the Preface José Manuel Cardona’s Birnam Wood is a superb account of his travels around the world in the service of poetry. —Christopher Merrill
Cardona is an essential twentieth-century Spanish poet. His poems journey toward an ever-receding home. —Marsha de la O
The lush and mystical poetry of José Manuel Cardona’s Birnam Wood is firmly rooted in the world of classical mythology as a means of articulating what is human and timeless. —Blas Falconer
Hélène Cardona’s translations are revelations of language and image, a voice dipped in clear water and wrung through her careful hands. —Dorianne Laux
Like the great Spanish poets of his time, he takes from 16th and 17th century poets, from Saint John of the Cross to Luis de Góngora to Antonio Machado and Federico García Lorca. —Willis Barnstone
Birnam Wood is a spell-binding, spell-bound book. José Manuel Cardona was one of many Spanish intellectuals exiled by the Franco government, and the poems reflect the anguish and longings of the exile, embodied most powerfully in the figure of Odysseus.
—Sidney Wade, The Los Angeles Review
When you take down a book by a master poet like José Cardona you are, while reading his work, reliving, at least for a short spell, the magic of the great moderns and ancients. Hélène Cardona’s translation of her father’s work must be the crowning achievement so far in her own poetic career. For he reads in English as poetry, not as mere translation. I can’t offer better praise than this. —Peter O’Neill, Levure Littéraire.
Cardona offers implacable, sublime juxtapositions of language which defy categorization. Birnam Wood is a paean to the importance of awe to human survival. With its roots firmly planted in classical mythology, Birnam Wood leaps into the air time and time again and absorbs itself thoroughly in the mystery of returning to earth. Birnam Wood is inexplicably suspended between mortality and immortality; groundedness and blind faith; past and future; courage and fear—it is a song for the ages, fascinating anew with every turn of an eclectic, sirenic page. —Rich Follett, Readers’ Favorite
La poesía de José Manuel Cardona, Periódico de poesía, an essay by Hélène Cardona
Poemas, Periódico de poesía
“One never loses one’s roots, even when living abroad. My real homeland has been Ibiza and I have always maintained bonds with it, like my friendship with the poet Marià Villangómez.” —José Manuel Cardona
Beyond Elsewhere by French poet Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, and translated by Hélène Cardona is a wonderfully lyric, mesmerizing poetic meditation on desire, love, the soul, and spirituality. Beyond Elsewhere defies definition, hovering in that physical space somewhere above us, just beyond reach, but visible in a breathless lyrical cloud. As Arnou-Laujeac states: “I now know human passion is exclusive, symbiotic, psychotropic, but that the key is the spell eluding it, the time that tears it to pieces.” Arnou-Laujeac’s poems are psychotropic — a beautiful new voice in poetry. —Victoria Chang
“This is the absolute dawn,” Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac declares in the final pages of Beyond Elsewhere, a dazzling hymn to the currents of desire that shape each individual life. This is a testament to the ways in which love lights an invisible path to the morning when “Everything here is an Elsewhere.” Do not miss the chance to take this exhilarating journey. —Christopher Merrill
Beyond Elsewhere is a breathless testament to the transcendent power of love, ranging as it emerges from the poet’s pen, from the attraction between individuals to the diffuse but unmistakable connection between the soul and the universe from which it emerges and for which it serves as a kind of holy mirror. Cardona’s translation captures Arnou-Laujeac’s fervor in this series of prose poems that have captivated the attention of the French literati.
—World Literature Today, May 2017
Beyond Elsewhere by French poet Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, and translated by Hélène Cardona, creates a new mythopoetic language of transformation.
French author Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac’s poetic narrative is just exquisite – enough said. —Andrew Singer, Trafika Europe
This incandescent metonym of light is, writ small, a marriage of eastern and western wisdoms — a Bildungsroman describing the arc of a young man’s journey from innocence, through passion and despair, to the great clarity of spiritual understanding. Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac’s intensely visual account, clothed in lyrical image and visionary flame, in Hélène Cardona’s transcendent translation, easily carries us along in his brightly burning chariot in quest of the Divine. —Sidney Wade
Hélène Cardona’s new translation confirms again her exquisite powers and imagination in turning Arnou-Laujeac’s amazing work into an English classic. She X-rays the original, and comes out with an inner picture faithful to beauty and the author’s flowing dexterity. Her singing flare illumines the English version, which is now the original. Discover Hélène’s invitation to voyage. —Willis Barnstone
“I Wander in the Desert of the World:” Gabriel Arnou–Laujeac’s Prose-Poetry on Exile and the Search for Fulfillment
In Arnou-Laujeac’s Beyond Elsewhere – through Hélène Cardona’s interpretative efforts – we find a lyrical narrative that is soaked in a saddening sense of loss, of exile and set alight by a persistent, gloriously hopeful search for the ineffable, the absolute.
Stylistically spontaneous and thematically deep, Beyond Elsewhere is a challenging read. Arnou-Laujeac effortlessly distills whole schools of knowledge in short verses and phrases.
Ce que nous portons
by Dorianne Laux
Translated by Hélène Cardona
Les poèmes de Dorianne Laux sont sensuels, passionnés, ancrés dans la terre et la vie de tous les jours ; ce sont des prières, des témoignages de rites de passage. Ils parlent de la maternité, du travail, de fraternité et d’amour. Elle nous dévoile des histoires terribles, des douleurs et joies profondes, ainsi que des actes de bonté et de rédemption. Pour Dorianne, “grâce à la poésie, nous restons conscients de l’importance de nos vies individuelles.”
What We Carry (Boa Editions) was a Finalist of the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Dorianne Laux’s poetry is a poetry of risk; it goes to the very edge of extinction to find the hard facts that need to be sung. What We Carry includes poems of survival, poems of healing, poems of affirmation and poems of celebration.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it. —from Dust
Il en est ainsi parfois —
Dieu vient à ta fenêtre,
tout de lumière éclatant, avec des ailes noires,
et tu es juste trop fatiguée pour l’ouvrir. —from Poussière
Interview with Dorianne Laux in Plume
Ce que nous portons ? De la nostalgie, des regrets, des envies, des parfums de bonheur, des chagrins enfouis… « Quelque soit le chagrin, son poids/nous sommes obligés de le porter ». Il faut lire Dorianne Laux pour s’en convaincre — s’il en était besoin.
Le vrai amour… la seule chose qui compte, qui reste, « que nous portons », plus que nos cœurs, nos corps, plus que nos idées, idéaux, combats, plus même que la vie et la mort, que nos proches ou nos perdus de vue, la trace de notre lien, de notre vérité intime, inconsciente, universelle, absolue – notre humanité.
Voici maintenant un livre qui porte, telles des nouvelles en puissance, les aventures quotidiennes d’une fée déguisée en personne-tout-le-monde : Dorianne Laux, traduite par Hélène Cardona… La fascination vient de l’immédiateté du réel, mais d’un réel qui se suspend. À force de l’avoir subi, vous êtes préparé à l’avènement. Car voilà, ce qui arrive dans ces poèmes, c’est que la narration s’arrête subitement… ou non, plutôt elle glisse… Et c’est cette suspension qui fait le vrai événement, cet étonnement, qui crée le miracle que nous raconte la poète, à savoir, l’inénarrable moment de prise de conscience de l’envers du décor…
Whitman’s Civil War
Whitman et La Guerre de Sécession
co-translated by Hélène Cardona and Yves Lambrecht
International Writing Program, University of Iowa
The Civil War Writings retrace Walt Whitman’s writing and service as a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War
With commentaries by Ed Folsom and Christopher Merrill, which explore how writing and image can be used to examine war, conflict, trauma, and reconciliation — in Whitman’s time and today.
Translations in Literary Journals
I also cannot get the words of Christiane Singer out of my head. In her essay, “The Feminine, Land of Welcome,” translated from the French by Hélène Cardona, she writes to women, “stand bewitched and ready to leap: the queen, the sister, the lover, the friend, the mother—all those who have the genius for relationship, for welcoming. The genius for inventing life.” She highlights the danger of defining women only by their commonalities, as well as the horrors that could have come to pass—and could still—in a world without women. Their absence would be powerfully felt, even in comparison to situations in which they are already roundly ignored or discredited. —Madeline Jones, Asymptote Blog Editor
ARTHUR RIMABUD – CHARLES BAUDELAIRE – ALOYSIUS BERTRAND
Skin has its aroma, its murmur,
Its fiery color and mystery.
Thus love begins with the skin,
With dark hair, and penetrates
Like a bull horn, to the bones.
To the bones, Circe, you’ve penetrated,
Into my deep bones that proclaim
The vertebrate pain of the species.
I open my blood in love and offer it to you
—José Manuel Cardona