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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories discusses...

War Death Poems

with Gary Inbinder and Michael E. Lloyd

[Gary Inbinder] Excellent translation! Here's something else for comparison: Randall Jarrell's “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.”

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Alas, he violated our “dead narrator” rule. ;-)

[Don Webb] Thank you, Gary! Randall Jarrell can overstep our “dead narrator” guideline any time he wants. Others, well, they have to earn the privilege.

I notice that Jarrell uses only one pair of rhymes. The contrast between life as a dream and death as waking is strikingly unusual. The “nightmare fighters” also come out of a dream, but it’s a bad one...

[Michael E. Lloyd] Hi, Don,

A fine translation of the Rimbaud poem!

You say of Jarrell’s poem: “The contrast between life as a dream and death as waking is strikingly unusual.”

It is indeed striking and, though unusual, it’s certainly not new. The title of Calderón’s 1635 masterpiece La vida es sueño, which has been called “the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama,” is precisely “Life is a Dream.”

Amongst other themes, it plays — by means of the cruel imprisonment and deception of a Prince by his own father — with the dominant Catholic Church’s message of Man’s brief time on Earth being an illusion and of real life only beginning after death.

[Don W.] Thank you for the kind words about the translation! Coming from writers of your and Gary’s talent and knowledge, I consider it high praise indeed. And I admit that my “challenge” to the “translators of the world” is somewhat ironic.

Calderón‘s play certainly has a lot to recommend it: free will vs. fate, dream vs. reality, father vs. son... It gives Sophocles a run for his money.

As for the religious perception of “real” life beginning only after the “dream” life of this world, we may find it hard to understand today, when life insurance is a profitable business. In the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, the distinction was often the most comfort anyone had.

By the way, a note to contributors about dreams and reality: It’s perfectly okay to send us stories depicting a character suffering from delusions. But remember our rule: one must not induce the same state of mind in the readers!

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Inbinder,
Michael E. Lloyd, and Don Webb

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