I’ve written quite a bit about Borges lately, exploring books by and about him; and for the 1944 Club club I was able to read his “Ficciones”, which was a great joy. So when we decided on 1976 I had a look to see if there were any works by the great man from that year, and although there was no fiction I could find, he did publish a poetry collection called “The Iron Coin”. Now, I’ve read plenty of Borges’ prose but none of his poetry as far as I can recall, so this seemed an ideal book to explore for the club. Unfortunately, I don’t have the full collection, but I do have a book of his “Selected Poems” which does feature some from “Iron…” so I figured I would take a look at these to see what Borges poetry is actually like.

The anthology I own is a dual language one, and it contains eleven poems from “The Iron Coin”, plus Borges’ prologue; this in itself is fascinating reading with any number of provoking comments jumping out at the reader:

The steely music of the Saxon language is no less agreeable than the delicate musings of the Symbolists. Each subject, however, occasional or thin, imposes on us its own aesthetic. Each word, though weighed down by the centuries, opens up a blank page and posits the future.

The actual verses themselves are rendered by a variety of translators (indicated by initials) and range over history, authors, composers and Borges’ father, amongst other, and are short but beautifully written. I guess these were all dictated to one of his various amanuensi, and there are some really affecting lines in the works. A few quotes might give you a flavour of what I’m talking about:

The sea was always his. By the time his eyes
First took in the great waters of the high seas
He had already longed for and possessed it
On that other ocean, which is Writing.
(from “Herman Melville”)

I have committed the worst sin of all
That a man can commit. I have not been
Happy. Let the glaciers of oblivion
Drag me and mercilessly let me fall.
(from “Remorse”)

“You are Not the Others” is also a powerful piece of work but you need to read the whole poem so I encourage you to search it out! 😀

Via Wikimedia Commons

Borges’ poetry is the kind I respond well to, with an immediacy and also with beautiful imagery and wordplay. Having read this selection from “The Iron Coin” I’m now not only keen to dip into more of my selected volume, but also wonder if the individual collections are available in full. Certainly Borges was an amazing wordsmith who could turn his talents to all forms of writing and reading these poems has been one of the pleasures of the #1976Club! 😀