Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Great Regulars: In "The Eel" ("L'anguilla") from his third collection

La bufera e altro (1956), Montale celebrates the tenacity of life. In Italian, the muscular strength and flexibility of the eel is evoked partly by the gathering slide of noun phrases rolling over each other. But [Robin] Robertson's version--from his collection Swithering (2006)--makes sparing use of main verbs to draw the reader forward: the eel "leaves behind the Baltic" at the beginning of its journey; is first glimpsed when "a dart of light . . . ignites her glimmer"; becomes transfigured into the female creative principle--"she is the green spirit . . . she is the spark"; and finally, as a woman--"can you not see/that she is your sister?"--turns her iridescent, life-giving eyes on the world that men have "mired in mud".

[by Robin Robertson]

The Eel

after Montale

from The Times Literary Supplement: Poem of the Week: "The Eel"


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