Penguin is publishing five (!) new Borges books this year. While three promise great things at a later date, collecting classic and unpublished essays on Argentina, Writing and Mysticism, the first two are already out, collecting his sonnets and his poems about night and darkness. For Borges, growing up with the knowledge that, like his father, he would eventually go blind, darkness is both threatening and perversely comforting – eventually the day will become the night, and all things will end.
Harpers published "Sonnet for a tango in the twilight" here (subscribers only, unless your eyesight can overcome low-res thumbnails), but the publishers released another sonnet, "Music Box", as a teaser.
Music of Japan. Drops of slow honeyNo such teasers are available for Poems of the Night, but the book's pitch informs me that the translators include W.S. Merwin, Alan Trueblood, Christopher Maurer, and my personal favourite, Alastair Reid. Both poetry books are dual-language, with parallel text – helpful if someone gives you "horrifying" for "atroz", and you just know that "atrocious" would scan better. Having different translators offers mixed blessings – the reader is exposed to a range of quality English-to-Spanish scholarship, but the potential to compare poems translated by a range of individuals is limited. Atroz.
Or of invisible gold are dispersed
In a miserly way from a water clock,
And repeat in time a weaving that is
Eternal, fragile, mysterious, and clear.
I fear that each one may be the last.
It's a past coming back. From what temple,
From what fresh garden in the mountain,
From what vigil before an unknown sea,
From what shyness of melancholy,
From what lost and ransomed afternoon
Does its remote future come to me?
I cannot know. No matter. I am
In that music. I want to be. I bleed.
I picked up on the theme of night and day – or specifically, dawn and twilight – in last year's thesis, though in favour of proving a point, I focussed primarily on his earlier poems. I'm very interested in the contents of Poems of the Night, but in the meantime, here's something of an extract from the thesis, examining the tension between night and day, as mediated by the streets of Buenos Aires. The image of Borges the flâneur, writing the streets he would soon no longer be able to see, percolates through the early poems, particularly those in the collection Fervor de Buenos Aires: