Category Archives: Poets and their poems

Austin Kleon’s Blackout Poetry


At last something interesting you can do with a newspaper. Get a permanent marker and blackout all the words which stand in the way of an original poem. That is what Austin Kleon has done and he is very good at it. You can see other examples at his website .

It makes you want to try as well. I have and it isn’t as easy as it looks. Still I am looking forward to getting hold of my next in-flight magazine.

Would someone develop a technology which will allow us to do something similar to TV commercials ? Political speeches ? Billboards ?  Or condense those Hollywood movies which have no script but only special effects into five-minute-long works of art ?

The Poemarium (2)


Which of you owns that red moon, children ?

That is the entirety of a poem by Kobayashi Issa. It has the magic of successful haiku. It makes a pinpoint in the wall surrounding us and lets in a flood of surprising images and thoughts.  I by now have my own story sprung by these few words. Issa reaches a village at twilight, sits near the well to drink and wash, the children gather at a safe distance to watch the stranger. There is a tree nearby and a hill, and following it rising up the slope with one’s glance one finds the red rusty moon in the sky to which he points and asks the children whose toy is that ? Read more…

The Poemarium

I have set up a new site called “The Poemarium” at The idea is very simple. I intend to post one poem a day there from the books I have on my shelves. There won’t be any special order; as in an aquarium you won’t be able to predict which poem is  going to swim by next. I will always put up the original. If I have a  translation or can do a rough translation myself (prose or verse).  The translations  will be very uneven, the aim is just to allow you to get  a sense of the original and in general to increase the proportion of poetry on the Internet.

I shall still be posting poems I like on Sideways Station, but I will  giving priority to ones with a good translation or ones which I have something to say about and I will also try and read the ones which are in English. Eventually it would be nice to be able to listen a recording of the original for the poems in other languages as well.

Orhan Veli – Istanbul’u dinliyorum – I am listening to Istanbul

by Orhan Veli (1914- 1950) – English translation by Murat Nemet-Nejat from  I, Orhan Veli

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
First a breeze is blowing
And leaves swaying
Slowly on the trees;
Far, far away the bells of the
Water carriers ringing,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is passing by,
Birds are passing by, screaming, screaming,
Fish nets being withdrawn in fishing weirs,
A woman’s toe dabbling in water,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening,
The cool Grand Bazaar,
Mahmutpasha twittering
Full of pigeons,
Its wast courtyard,
Sounds of hammering from the docks,
In the summer breeze far, far away the odor of sweat,
I am listening.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
The drunkenness of old times
In the wooden seaside villa with its deserted boat house
The roaring southwestern wind is trapped,
My thoughts are trapped
Listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A coquette is passing by on the sidewalk,
Curses, sings, sings, passes;
Something is falling from your hand
To the ground,
It must be a rose.
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is flying round your skirt;
I know if your forehead is hot or cold
Or your lips are wet and dry;
Or if a white moon is rising above the pistachio tree
My heart’s fluttering tells me…
I am listening to Istanbul.

(Original poem)

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Önce hafiften bir rüzgar esiyor
Yavaş yavaş sallanıyor
Yapraklar, ağaçlarda;
Uzaklarda, çok uzaklarda,
Sucuların hiç durmayan çıngırakları
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Kuşlar geçiyor, derken
Yükseklerden, sürü sürü, çığlık çığlık.
Ağlar çekiliyor dalyanlarda
Bir kadının suya değiyor ayakları
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Serin serin Kapalıçarsı
Cıvıl cıvıl Mahmutpaşa
Güvercin dolu avlular
Çekiç sesleri geliyor doklardan
Güzelim bahar rüzgarında ter kokuları
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Başımda eski alemlerin sarhoşluğu
Los kayıkhaneleriyle bir yalı
Dinmiş lodosların uğultusu içinde
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Bir yosma geçiyor kaldırımdan
Küfürler, şarkılar, türküler, laf atmalar.
Bir şey düşüyor elinden yere
Bir gül olmalı
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Bir kuş çırpınıyor eteklerinde
Alnın sıcak mı, değil mi, biliyorum
Dudakların ıslak mı, değil mi, biliyorum
Beyaz bir ay doğuyor fıstıkların arkasından
Kalbinin vurusundan anlıyorum
İstanbul’u dinliyorum.


maggie and milly and molly and may

by e.e.cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

Listen to the poem

The Frog


What a wonderful bird the frog are—
 When he sit, he stand almost;
 When he hop, he fly almost.
 He ain’t got no sense hardly;
 He ain’t got no tail hardly either.
 When he sit, he sit on what he ain’t

(From the Rattle Bag, an anthology of poetry
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes)

Click on picture for frog calls

La Luna – The Moon

The Moon

by Jaime Sabines

You can take the moon in spoonfuls
or in tablets once every two hours.
It works as a hypnotic and a sedative
and also provides relief
for those who have an overdose of philosophy.
A piece of moon in your pocket
is a better charm than a rabbit’s paw:
it helps to find someone to love,
to be rich without anybody knowing
and keeps doctors and hospitals away.
You can give it as a dessert to children
when they can’t get to sleep,
and a few drops of moon in the eyes of the old
help to die well.
Put a tender moon leaf
under your pillow
and you will see what you would like to see
and always carry a little bottle of moon air
for when you feel you’re suffocating
and give the moon’s key
to prisoners, and the disenchanted.
For those sentenced to death
and those condemned to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precisely measured doses.

La Luna

por Jaime Sabines

La luna se puede tomar a cucharadas
o como una cápsula cada dos horas.
Es buena como hipnótico y sedante
y también alivia
a los que se han intoxicado de filosofía
Un pedazo de luna en el bolsillo
es mejor amuleto que la pata de conejo:
sirve para encontrar a quien se ama,
para ser rico sin que lo sepa nadie
y para alejar a los médicos y las clínicas.
Se puede dar de postre a los niños
cuando no se han dormido,
y unas gotas de luna en los ojos de los ancianos
ayudan a bien morir

Pon una hoja tierna de la luna
debajo de tu almohada
y mirarás lo que quieras ver.
Lleva siempre un frasquito del aire de la luna
para cuando te ahogues,
y dale la llave de la luna
a los presos y a los desencantados.
Para los condenados a muerte
y para los condenados a vida
no hay mejor estimulante que la luna
en dosis precisas y controladas

Escucha la poesía

(leído por Danilo Reyna)

Ten Thousand Lives

ko un

I often read that Ko Un is a very likely candidate for the Nobel Literature Prize, but very few of the people I know have ever heard about him. I first read about Ko Un in an article by Robert Hass in the New York
Review of Books
. I was so intrigued that I ordered Ten Thousand Lives immediately. Hass wrote that just the idea of 10,000 lives warranted
short-listing Ko Un for the Nobel Prize.

So what was this amazing idea? In 1980, during a coup d’état, Ko Un was imprisoned for political reasons and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment . He has stated that he was kept in solitary confinement in a cell so dark that he began to see people from his past coming to visit him or even people from history who he had never met. He resolved that if he survived he
would write a poem about every person he had ever met. Maninbo as it is called in Korean has now gone to twenty volumes. Ten Thousand Lives is a selection from this work.

The staggering thing is the idea that every person is worth a poem. Ko Un’s subjects are by turns comical, wistful, tragic, poetic and plain scary – they cover the whole range of human experience. His grand-father one day raging drunk, the next day “fresh water’s blood-brother” standing under the rain spouting from the eaves of his house; Sam-man’s grandmother, “…such a great storyteller […] We kids would glimpse the whole wide world in her blackberry-black eyes”; Chin-Dong who “… was always forgetting everything/as if gongs were ringing in his head. …”;Aunt Ye-bok with “a laugh like cold bean-sprout soup”; Man-Sun’s family, all so gentle and kind that even the smoke from their house rises gently and kindly; Chae-Suk, “the girl from the house by the well. […]so like the darkness left after the moon’s gone down. …”;  idle Do-Sop, age six, waiting for evening so he can count stars; and Man-Sun, whose “…face was a mass of freckles,/as if she’d been liberally sprinkled with sesame seed,/but her brows were fine, and her eyes so lovely/they made breezes spring up from the hills and plains…” who is taken away as a comfort woman.

There are thieves, heroes, brothers who love each other, brothers who hate each other, misers so stingy they try to borrow a hammer so as not to wear out their own one, people who smile all the time, people who laugh all the time, people who are cleaning all the time and people who keep their promises after everyone else has forgotten what they were.

I’m not sure I know what it would be like to read the twenty volumes of Maninbo (apparently the complete project will have twenty-five), but reading this selection I felt life and lives running like sand through my fingers.

Here is one of my favourites:

Plum Blossom

The house in Saet’ŏ where Omok lives

is only a tiny thatched cottage and yet

so spick and span,

lacking in nothing, be it

rice, barley, wheat, soy-beans, red-beans, maize,

sorghum, millet, or oats,

all the traditional five or seven kinds of grain and corn,

all there:

the most frugal household around.

Omok’s mother:

such a careful housekeeper

with her hair tidy in a bun,

her apron never off.

When she winnows the rice,

sesame, or millet, not one stray seed

escapes from the tossing.

Beside that house,

when winter is gone

and spring returns,

two plum trees

stand blooming,

so although the house is empty

when the two are out working in the field,

those trees make the house all brightness.

One fine day or other some lucky fellow

will come courting

and carry off Omok, so like her mother.

He’ll carry her off on his back,

on his back. I hope he gets sore feet.

Here are some more poems from Ko Un on this website.

You can read three more poems here:Words Without Borders .

And ten more here.

Ko Un has written an amazing amount of work, including poetry, novels and translations. There is a lot of information about him at this site