Canadian Translation Revives Classic Myths

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/canadian-translation-revives-classic-myths/

Norse myths enjoy a resurgence of interest these days. Contemporary films featuring the legendary hero Thor are box office blockbusters. The world of Middle-Earth featured in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is heavily influenced by the stories found in The Edda and readers will discover many familiar names. Those eager to explore the origins of these stories will not be disappointed this new translation of The Poetic Edda by Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds.

The Edda is a jewel in the treasure chest of human culture. As a collection of Scandinavian mythology and folklore largely uninfluenced by Christianity, it offers a glimpse into the popular imagination of Northern Europe from a bygone era. However, like the “long-gone gods” themselves, the imagery of these tales still echoes in the soul and influences culture today. The imagery of runes, magical hammers, frost monsters, dwarves, and rainbow bridges to different realms of existence once again have currency among audiences of all ages.

Jeramy Dodds is an award-winning Canadian poet with an extensive background and education in Norse Mythology. His translation of The Edda begins with “The Volva’s Prophecy” and the very first stanza is guaranteed to hook you and keep you reading long into the dark hours of the night:

Shush now, you sacred ones,
all creeds of Heimdall’s sons.
Cadaver Father, I’ll try to retell tales
of the ancients and the long-gone gods.

In addition to the mythical stories, you will also find a collection of The High One’s Sayings which, like the words of Confucius from the Far East, have a decidedly practical feel to them. Included is this passage which I found particularly resonant:

Even if it’s tiny, one’s own home
is best. Everyone’s a hero in his
own home. One’s heart bloodies
if he has to beg to eat at each meal.

Looking for a collection of bedtime stories to read with a Thor fan at home? Take a trip to the Children’s Library and find D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. The D’Aulaire book contains over two dozen tales told in simple prose alongside dozens of youthful and highly traceable pencil drawings. It narrates a range of old Norse myths from the birth of the first gods and giants to Ragnarokk, the Norse Armageddon where the gods die and humans inherit the Earth. Although written with children in mind, this book is an excellent introduction to Norse Mythology for readers of any age.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking to explore the classic epics behind the comic book blockbusters, look no further than the GPL!

“Your Checkout Clerk Is Not Alright”

Your checkout clerk is not “alright.”

But he wants you to believe him when he says that he is, when you ask that automatic non-question of, “How are you?”

Your checkout clerk is not “okay.”

But she stretches a smile across her face when she answers. She knows you don’t really want to know but she appreciates that you asked.

Your checkout clerk is not “just fine.”

But he means it when he says “thank-you.” He likes to be asked even though he doesn’t want to give an honest answer. You aren’t his therapist. He doesn’t have one.

Your checkout clerk does not care that you’ve been looking all over for a shirt like this.

She just hopes she isn’t working customer service when the sweatshop stitching falls apart next month and you’re trying to return it –without a receipt.

Your checkout clerk does not know whether your new thousand-dollar barbeque will work when assembled.

He knows he would have to work for a month to make the money you just spent in fifteen seconds. Besides, his housing complex doesn’t allow barbeques.

Your checkout clerk is not being grumpy to annoy you.

Her best friend committed suicide this week and she herself is about to go through her second abortion.

Your checkout clerk is not flirting with you because of your new hairstyle.

He’s being watched by his supervisor who’s checking off his “smiles per hour” on a clipboard.

Your checkout clerk does not understand why you’re so upset about the soda pop not registering for a dollar off as stated in the flyer –last week’s flyer.

She has a Master’s degree on International Development and spent her break reading about drought deaths in Africa.

Your checkout clerk did not get that skull tattoo on his arm against the wishes of his parents.

His parents didn’t care.

Your checkout clerk is not wearing her skirt that short because she is a slut.

She just wants attention. And she got it.

Your checkout clerk knows that you’re not likely to want to apply for the store’s credit card.

He gets in trouble if he doesn’t ask each and every customer.

Your checkout clerk did not come to work today with a cold just to give it to you.

She doesn’t get sick days.

Your checkout clerk is not being pushy.

He’s been told that if he doesn’t “up-sell” more he’ll be fired.

Your checkout clerk is not hung over.

She’s at the tail end of a double shift.

Your checkout clerk did not choose to work on this holiday.

He chose the short straw.

Your checkout clerk does not want your pity, understanding, compassion or anything else.

She wants a better job.

Your checkout clerk is not still in school.

And he’s not flattered that you thought he was.

Your checkout clerk does not have this job because she failed at something.

Something failed her.

Your checkout clerk does not do drugs.

He doesn’t have a drug plan.

Your checkout clerk did not have a “rough night.”

She hasn’t been laid in seven and a half months.

Your checkout clerk is not gay.

Though sometimes he wishes he was.

Your checkout clerk is not having “a nice day.”

But she means it when she says it to you.

“The Art of Drinking Coffee Slowly”

The Art of Drinking Coffee Slowly

 

I suppose the title

of this piece

prepares you to hear

one of two stories.

Perhaps you want to hear about

the worldly professional woman

in her late twenties

who perches on the balcony of her

chic, urban condo in downtown Vancouver.

It’s late spring, in the early morning.

Lush, blooms of purple clematis vines

surround her on bamboo lattices.

Hanging baskets full of

candy corn coloured nasturtiums dangling down lazily

in the cool morning breeze.

Perhaps she is single,

and happy

after years of yoga and meditation,

dog-earring dozens of self-help books, and

$8000 worth of psychotherapy.

She has done “the work.”

Or perhaps she has a lover sleeping inside,

replete and sated in

a nest of Egyptian cotton bed sheets,

he drapes one muscular arm over a smooth chest and taunt stomach,

the other behind his head, fingers entwining in

messy chestnut locks.

Either way she sits like a purring cat

on her balcony at the top of the world,

at the edge of western civilization.

Freshly showered and confident, she lounges

on a voluptuously cushioned, wooden chaise

and watches the day roll slowly toward her.

She holds a beautifully crafted

ceramic mug full

of coffee inside that gently warms her skin

through the fabric of her plush bathrobe.

Perhaps the coffee is nothing but the finest

single-origin, shade grown, organic,

fair-trade, naturally decaffeinated,

lightly roasted and freshly ground

elixir that could possibly be created

by any means on earth.

Black, of course.

Coffee that fine is only spoiled by augmentation.

She read once that how you live your life

is reflected in how you take your coffee.

If you are sitting in a university office,

or swish downtown café,

perhaps that is the story you want to hear.

 

On the other hand…

 

Perhaps you want to hear about

the grizzled and weary old man

hunched over a grimy linoleum table

in an all-night diner at 3am.

It is the dead of winter and

a brutal Thunder Bay blizzard rages outside

the thin and frosty windows.

He sits alone

with a few other lost souls

scattered at other tables,

all looking hastily about at one another

like a pack of starved dogs.

Perhaps the shelter was full

or closed.

Perhaps, once upon a time,

the man started drinking when

his wife died of cancer

or left him for another man.

Perhaps he lost his job at the factory when

he came to work hung over and

crushed his hand in a press.

Perhaps he’s never been kissed.

Either way he sits hunched over

a cup half empty

styrofoam with beige slurry,

more sugar and cream than coffee,

sipping slowly and savoring

the quickly dispersing warmth

in his arthritic hands.

His mind weighs his body’s need

for caffeine and calories

with the need to drink it slowly.

Once the weighty waitress in the hairnet,

glowering like a gargoyle from behind the counter,

sees that he is finished

he will either have to

pay and leave or order something else.

He has no money for anything else.

Perhaps no money for the coffee he sips.

If you are in a similar diner

reading this piece

maybe that is what you expect.

Perhaps that is how you read

 

The Art of Drinking Coffee Slowly

“Perfect Gray”

I spent all my time today

searching for the perfect gray

that says what I want to say

—enfolds me in every way

—doesn’t cry “come out and play,”

—keeps the wicked world at bay,

—doesn’t see the need to pray.

 

Bones of concrete turn to clay

sinking in the perfect gray,

a blood-warm bath ends the day

while candle-lit shadows play.

 

Time appears to hold no sway

though clocks still tick-tock away

hours pile on the day and

flesh still slides toward decay.

 

Thoughts get slow —a drunkard’s sway—

from wine coloured perfect gray.

Yet all is clear in a way

on roads paved in perfect gray—

no turns, traffic —all one-way—

cruise-controlled, no tolls to pay.

 

Eyes of lead keep dawn at bay,

seasoned sheets welcome my stay.

 

Think I’ll spend another day

searching for the perfect gray.