From the Druskininkai Poetry Festival: Daiva Čepauskaitė

(This translation of Daiva Čepauskaitė was done at breakneck speed in a bar at the Druskininkai Festival by the poet, myself and her translator Ada Valaitis. It had to be – I was there for little more than a day, and the festival was packed with wonderful poets, many (to me) unknown quantities.

Daiva was one such – a great reader of sparse mesmeric texts. This was the only one she read which wasn’t translated, so I persuaded her and her translator to attempt at least a literal over a beer and a glass of wine. The process was recorded until – almost – the final decision, when my sound card had a fit: I’ll see if I can’t post an edit shortly.

This poem hopefully stands as a brief intro to further entries on this fascinating festival – I’ve been aware that I haven’t had much time to post recently, and the next month isn’t looking exactly relaxed.)

I fitted in shoes
even in slippers
even in my footprints
I fitted in a doorway
between teeth and under an armpit
I fitted in a hat
with a whole nest of mice
with five naked babies
I fitted in a head
not always in a photo
sometimes they got cropped
I fitted in a pocket
next to last year’s chestnuts
I fitted in a palm
and there was still room
so that I wouldn’t fall out
I braced myself with my feet
sharp as buckwheat
I fitted on the tip
of my mother’s thumb
until she chopped it off
when the cleaver missed the chicken’s neck
I fitted in the gush of her blood
I hurt and I fitted
until it stopped
I fitted, I fitted
until I was quiet

About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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