The soft sun passes
over the still copse that sinks
into a long death
as if it wasn’t
the Father Sun. Fragrant
are the last ripened fruits.
Silent are any birds remaining.
everything wants to be the air…
The leaves fall looping
and rest at the foot of the tree.
(tr. Patrick Loughnane)
Uxío Novoneyra (1930-1999) was born on this day in Seoane do Courel in the province of Lugo, Galicia.
It is a place just like that of his birth which Novoneyra evokes in this (and indeed most) of his poetry.
Though often quite brief, space and silence are important element of his work. And the few words he does arrange on the page, almost as a musician would with sounds in the air, reflect the environment of which they speak through its place names and regional dialect. Language for the poet was:
“o único sitio onde seguen vivos os antepasados, a única forma audible de supervivencia”
(“the one place [our] ancestors remain alive, the only audible form of survival”).
In this poem, time can be observed alongside place in both subject and language. Its autumnal scene hints at its passing around the speaker: the day ending with the setting of the sun; the season with its last birds, fruits and leaves.
But it is not merely a poem of endings. If language is the one place our ancestors live on, then there is surely a sense of continuity in his words. The leaves may rest at the foot of the tree now– but they will again roof the quiet copse, beneath a rising sun.
A helpful interpretation for this gloomy January night, then: this darkness of winter will not last forever.
(One note: consider reading the original– even if you haven’t a word of Galician. Little can be done to translate the richness and beauty of Novoneyra’s poetry in any other language, least of all its sounds).