Poetry Parnassus: The Bungle-Man (Palau)

Poetry Parnassus is a project of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. It ran from June 26 to July 1, featuring 145 poets from around the world. Here is the Guardian’s interactive map, where you can click on a country and read its poem. I will be posting them on a semi-regular basis until they’re done.

The Bungle-Man, by Anonymous (Palau)

the bungle-man
with crewless brains:
like the boat-bob
from Ngerechemai
who tagged
the where-is
of his fishtraps
with a cloud.

• Translated from the Paluan

• ‘The Bungle-man’ from The Song Atlas: a book of world poetry, ed. John Gallas (Carcanet Press, 2002)

One of the joys and perplexities of reading poetry from cultures with which I’m unfamiliar is that I’m never quite certain in what sense they’re using a word. So with “bungle,” which I’m assuming has something to do with clumsiness or ineptitude, but may have connotations only a Palauan would understand. The poem suggests that beyond the scientific world-view, there is an intuitive grasp of reality, a “where-is” that laughs at science.

See what just happened? I wrote more words about what seemed to be a simple poem than there are in the poem itself. And the poem rises serenely above it all.