Jack Foley






J F translated these universal Poets:








Ma vie, ma vie, ma très ancienne

Mon premier vœu mal refermé

Mon premier amour infirmé

Il a fallu que tu reviennes


Il a fallu que je connaisse

Ce que la vie a de meilleur

Quand deux corps jouent de leur Bonheur

Et sans fin s’unissent et renaissent.


Entré en dependence entire

Je sais le tremblement de l’être

L’hésitation à disparaître

Le soleil qui frappe en lisière


Et l’amour, où tout est facile,

Où toute est donné dans l’instant

Il existe, au milieu du temps,

La possibilité d’une île.



—Michel Houellebecq (1956—)




My life, my life, my ancient—

My first desire badly healed

My first (oh so infirm) love

It had to be you’d be revealed


It had to be that I would know

What of this poor life was best

When bodies play out their happiness

Unite, are reborn—an endless quest.



I know the trembling of being

The hesitation to disappear,

The sun in the forest playing.


Where love goes well,

Where all is given instantly, loudly or silent—

There exists         (in the middle of the flow of time)

The possibility of an island












A Louise aussi de Lyon et d’Italie


O vous mes nuits, ô noires attendues

O pays fier, ô secrets obstinés

O longs regards, ô foudroyantes nues

O vols permis outre les cieux fermés.


O grand désir, ô surprise épandue

O beau parcours de l’esprit enchanté

O pire mal  ô grâce descendue

O porte ouverte où nul n’avait passé


Je ne sais pas pourquoi je meurs et noie

Avant d’entrer à l’éternel séjour.

Je ne sais pas de qui je suis la proie.

Je ne sais pas de qui je suis l’amour.



—Catherine Pozzi (1882-1934)




NYX  [NIGHT—Ancient Greek Goddess]

for Louise, also from Lyon and Italy


O you, my nights, O long-awaited black-

ness, O proud country, O obstinate sec-

rets, O long looks, O thundering clouds

O flight beyond skies—closed—


O great desire, O scattered surprise

O beautiful journey of th’enchanted sprite

O worst evil, O grace that flies

O open door through which no one takes flight


I do not know why I die today

Before th’ eternal rest above.

I do not know for whom I’m prey

I do not know for whom I’m love.











Archaïscher Torso Apollos


Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,


sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.


Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz

unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;


und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.





—Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)




Literal translation with echoes:


Archaic Torso of Apollo


We cannot know the fabulous head

We cannot know the fabulous head

Where the eyeapples ripened. Yet

Where the eyeapples ripened. Yet

The torso burns. A candelabrum

The torso burns. A candelabrum

In which gaze glows,

In which gaze glows,

Blinding. And the soft turn

Blinding. And the soft turn

Of the loins—where genitals

Of the loins—where genitals

Burn, and procreation flares.

Burn, and procreation flares.



Nothing but destruction, fragment, defacement, stone—

Nothing but destruction, fragment, defacement, stone—

Not the wild animal’s fur we feel.

Not the wild animals’ fur we feel.



This star would not have burst forth,

This star would not have burst forth,

Raging with light

Raging with light

Until: There is no place that does not see you.

Until: There is no place that does not see you.


You must change your life.



Homophonic translation:


Ach, Kaiser’s Torso’s Apollo’s


Fear Cantor’s nick, sign underhearted, hopped!

Dare in D. Ow, gain ape full, rife then harbor.

Sign torso. G/luck, knock, we find candelabra,

In dame sign show ’em, or view rook, disrobed.


Dick hailed and glanced. Sons countered, nicked their Bug.

Her breast Dick blended, and in rising drew hens.

Whirr lending conked Nick, whined at freckled gain.

Sue Daner’s mitt,—she the lawyer’s drug.


Suns donned diesel; Stein insults and curtsies.

Underwear, Schultz! Torn church sics Tigger’s—hurts,

And film, Mort—Nick’s so he robbed a fella,


And break, Nick, out of all Stein’s Random,

Outs wheee as stern: then dad is kinda stellar.

He, Dick, Nick say it: Dumas’ sign:

May-be end him!












Jack Foley has published 15 books of poetry, 5 books of criticism, a book of stories and sketches, and a two-volume “chronoencyclopedia,” Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry 1940-2005. He became well known through his “multivoiced” performances with his late wife, Adelle, who was also a poet; many of these can be seen on YouTube. His radio show, Cover to Cover, airs every Wednesday on KPFA-FM in California. In 2010, Foley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Berkeley Poetry Festival and June 5 was proclaimed “Jack Foley Day” in Berkeley. His selected poems, Eyes, appeared from Poetry Hotel Press in 2013. His most recent books are The Tiger & Other Tales, a book of stories, sketches and two plays; Riverrun, a book of poetry; and Grief Songs, a book documenting his grief at the death of his wife, Adelle. He has begun to perform poetry with his new life partner, Sangye Land.



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