Geoffrey Brock

... translating John Burrasca
Other People’s Dreams (Five Erasures)

1.Weigl’s Dream

I struggle,
and impatient,
the light of the Buddha
a white bird


2.Vaculík’s Dream

Birds of prey perched in the trees.
Feather-shaped holes above the meadow
under the trees. She was already dead.
I dreamt I was climbing my incomplete notion
of her right, skirt-covered, thigh. I gradually discover
all the things I should tell her. She was recovering
the way grass does after a trampling. 

3. Chandra’s Dream

Leaving me
still asleep,
under the stilled blade,
my mother
roams the shadows.

4. Debeljak’s Dream

Children have hardened
from the monotonous waiting, bend
toward the geometry of granite.
Behind the closed window
a stretched sound, narrowing
like the pupil of an animal
into longing.The smell of cinnamon.

5. Belieu’s Dream

and the human-headed lion
pooled at the tender part
of each organ
that’s taken from us
to make it whole.

A note on “Other People’s Dreams”

Burrasca’s erasures were all recorded in his notebooks in Italian, even when, as in the series presented here, which he sent me in 1994, his sources were English. Thus, instead of simply translating his Italian, I tracked down his sources, which were all poems that appeared in journals he read in 1994, in order to recover the relevant snippets. In a sense, then, these “translations” might be regarded as the original erasures and Burrasca’s Italian originals as the translations.

His sources were: Bruce Weigl, “Fever Dream in Hanoi,” from TriQuarterly 90 (1994); Ludvík Vaculík, “The Czech Dreambook,” Trafika 3/4 (1994); G.S. Charat Shandra, “Shadows and Dreams,” from International Quarterly (vol. 1, no. 2, 1993); Aleš Debeljak, “Biography of Dreamtime,” from Trafika 3/4 (1994), and Erin Belieu, “The Dream, After Surgery,” from The Journal (vol. 18, no. 2,1994). 

Geoffrey Brock

Geoffrey Brock is, most recently, the author of Voices Bright Flags, the editor of The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry, and the translator of Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium. He teaches at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

John Burrasca

John Burrasca (1970–1998) was born in Florence, Italy, to an Italian father and a Jewish-American mother. He moved to the US to attend college at Penn, and became obsessed with erasure poetry during a course he took from Bob Perelman. (It was in that course that we met.) From then on, he wrote nothing but erasures, which he produced, or reduced, from nearly everything he read in the last decade of his life. He died in a single-car accident at the age of 27.