Karen McCarthy Woolf‘s Hoxton Stories are vernacular poems of her grandfather’s experience growing up in the area. Here is featured, Guy Fawkes Night, taken from Modern Poetry in Translation Dialect of the Tribe. I have written poems taken from my Father’s verbatim experience of living within the pages of Angela’s Ashes, (for him it was Glasgow) but never thought of it as translation. But thinking about it, that is what it is; maybe not in the literal sense of how we understand translation as a foreign language, but in the vernacular sense. Translation is more than understanding or comprehending, it is about empathizing with, not only people’s experience but their culture. This is summed up in the final beautiful and direct words of her grandfather, ‘So what d’ya reckon about that one then?’ Well, what d’ya reckon?
Karen has recently published “An Aviary of Small Birds.”
|Guy Fawkes Night from Hoxton Stories
What you haf to imagine is a nah-sty, stinky
dockers, barra boys the lot, all living a dire
in the world though poverty was rife,
in these tenement houses, flat top roof
in the middle and three rooms down with a yard
Right, so it’s Guy Fawkes night and these days
There was about eight kids including me
and Jimmy Webb was a right little tea leaf
which was a little general shop that sold fags
So Jimmy’s been in and grabbed an ’andful
they called ‘em and they woulda cost an ’alfpenny
goin’, an we’ve tied about five o’these flashguns
on the fire for a mo’ so as to light the end,
he coulda blown ’is whole bleedin’ arm off.
and she was rough, she lives downstairs. So Jimmy’s
Well, within seconds there’s a huge great bang!
through the air, missed us by inches as we rushed
She was covered in bleedin’ soot from ’ead to foot!
and her dinner’d been blown right across the kitchen.
so we all scuttled down our trapdoors that went
with the air of innocence all over us.
Sammy Ruff, Billy Ruff and Bobby Ruff
down the docks and one of ’em was a garman
that blew their mum right across the room
That was Wilmer Gardens, where we lived in ’Oxten.