“Flesh-back,” by Guy Goffette, translated by Marilyn Hacker (published in Poetry London, No. 46), transmogrifies beer into gold and urchins into avenging angels. It speaks in the language of the urbane sophisticate, but rekindles the color of the back-alley brawls of beggars. I am glad that it was part of a longer piece, for it doesn’t seem like enough in and of itself to do justice to its theme, although the individual details are well wrought. I especially love the image of the light, entering into the domain of the dark, the bar, the café, and turning the liquor of despair into the liqueur of hope, a straw-colored ray that brings the heavens to earth, the sky to the asphalt.

Of course the problem with translation is that all sonic effects and matters of form and function are difficult to attribute to author or translator, but in the end, I suppose, it doesn’t really matter. This poem, though perhaps a different poem from the one written by Goffette, is its own entity and can stand alone. So it is not out of place for me to talk about the interesting internal rhyme of cafés/ray’s and urchin/in and shit/shit, rhymes, which do seem to be thematically appropriate, highlighting moments of contrast and of completion. The alliteration is also enjoyable, and it makes one appreciate the skill of a master translator who pays attention not merely to the sense, but to the sound.

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