Thursday, December 3, 2015

Which hat? (from Slovenia)

     For a long time I have highly valued the work of Eastern European poets -- including Wislawa Szymborska, Miroslav Holub, Nichita Stanescu, Nina Cassian -- and have been pleased to find mathematical imagery in their work.  Early in November I had the privilege of attending a reading at the Goethe-Institut Washington that featured Slovenian poet Aleš Šteger -- born in 1973, winner of many awards, and described as the most translated Slovenian author of his generation.  A fun event -- from which I give you one of his slightly-mathematical offerings.

     Hat     by   Aleš Šteger (trans. Brian Henry)

     Who lives under the hat?
     Under the hat, which are three?
     Three hats. 

     Three, which are one.
     When brows meet.
     When brims twist blackly.

     In the midst of distant music
     A black ribbon and plume flutter.
     Guess!  Guess!

     Under which does a little hope crouch?
     Under whom does hollow fear grow?
     Where is half the world hidden?

     The first half thinks you.
     The second is on the slide of oblivion.
     The third dreams the other two.

     Three halves of one hat.
     None changes the mind beneath him.
     Only the heads are changed.

     Three heads, three hats.
     They spin slowly into dawn.
     You uncover.  One alone.

     Šteger's poem "Hat" is on my shelf in his collection The Book of Things:  Poems by Aleš Šteger, translated by Brian Henry, BOA Editions, 2010.

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