a site by John Cobley

a coppice gate


Welcome to A Coppice Gate, a non-profit site that explores music, poetry, drama and art.


Sharing. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my interests with friends and like-minded acquaintances. This website will be dedicated to sharing aspects of music and writing that have moved or interested me.


As this site develops, it will cover jazz, modern classical music, poetry (especially  Russian), drama (stage, film and television), art and photography, and writing (novels, magazine articles, reviews).


I hope to be able to stimulate you to explore some of the topics I will write about. And I look forward to feedback.


John Cobley

Most Recent Articles

Norma Winstone’s Somewhere Like Home: Must-Have Album #4

Part of a series recommending jazz albums

    Norma  Winstone’s Somewhere Called Home is not for those who think that “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” All eleven tracks are slow, sometimes almost rhythmless. Rubato is probably the best word here.  This 1987 ECM album features three English jazz musicians at the peak of their careers and at the top of their form. Vocalist Norma Winstone, the leader, had been performing for 20 years in the UK with such musicians as Joe Harriott, Mike Westbrook, Ian Carr, Michael Gibbs and Kenny Wheeler. For this album she chose a wide variety of ballads: two standards (“Tea For Two” and “Out of this World”), three compositions by contemporary British jazz musicians, two by South Americans, one by an American, one from a 1953 movie (Lili) and one by Bill Evans. All nine tracks have been carefully planned but still leave plenty of room for improvisation. Winstone herself wrote lyrics for four of the compositions.

Tyutchev's "When...": A Warning to Grumpy Old Men

Translation of a Tyutchev poem, with an introduction

   Basically, this Tyutchev’s poem is a warning to grumpy old men. It is written in five quatrains with abab, cdcd, etc. rhyming. The poem is notable for its repetition of  “from” five times in the last four stanzas—all of them starting lines. None of the translations I could find is faithful to this repetition, except for Eugene Kayden’s very loose translation in his Poems of Night and Day. And in this translation Kayden replaces “from” with “by”: “I pray we’ll keep ourselves untainted by…” instead of  my “Save us then, good genius, from.”

Lorand Gaspar: Extract from The Aegean Sea

Translation of an extract from Lorand Gaspar's The Aegean Sea

   EARLY MINOANThe hand spells out to the drowsiness of the rocksthe names and rhythms for an incantation. And this voice drawn from the opaque is so clear,the throat so simple that it opens what matters,that the hand trembles on the grooved slopes.Leaning against the night, it pauses again,so many subtle noises of water in the fingers,it follows a line still unknown in the world,from point to point where its touch breathes,where the wave of stone unbuttons its body,                                                10

Nekrasov's Poem "In the Capitals"

Translation and discussion of Nekrasov's poem "In the Capitals'

This 1857 poem by Nikolay Nekrasov illustrates how Russia since Peter the Great has always taken a close interest in European affairs--or to put it another way, how Russia became part of Europe through Peter the Great widespread reforms.  With this translation, I have tried to keep as close as possible to Nekrasov’s Russian and to his lineation. I have not attempted to replicate his rhyme scheme (ababcdccd) or his tetrameters. Nor have I followed the original punctuation. As is often the custom in Russian poetry, Nekrasov offers no title. I have chosen “In the Capitals.” Another common aspect of Russian poetry is the ellipsis; I have kept it here.

Django and His American Friends: Must-Have Album #3

Survey of the two Django and His American Friends albums

  The music on these two LPs ranks as some of the very best jazz before World War 2. It was all recorded not in the USA but in France. Over the last five years of the 1930’s, seven of the best American jazz musicians recorded seven sessions in Paris with Romani-Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt. Most of the American musicians involved had moved to Europe to escape racism (Eddie South, Bill Coleman, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Dicky Wells). Two were on tour in Europe with the Ellington Orchestra (Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard).

My Approach to Poetry Translation

Through a comparison of two translations of a Tyutchev poem, I demonstrate the efficacy of translating a poem with the greatest of fidelity.

   As an amateur translator of Russian poetry, I base my approach primarily on fidelity to the original. I find that many translators take too many liberties, often leading to a translation that is far from the original text. Of course these liberties are not usually taken because the translator thinks s/he can improve on the original. Rather, translators take liberties with the text because they want to duplicate the prosodic format. For example, if the original poem uses rhyme, many translators feel an obligation to duplicate that rhyme scheme. With many languages, especially those that employ inflection as Russian does, duplicating rhymes in English is difficult. As well, duplication of the line can be a challenge with respect to meter and the number of syllables.