Ocaso Press: An Overview

Through the Chilean publishing company Ocaso Press Ltda., Colin Holcombe provides translations, guides, novels and poetry of recognized literary quality to schools, universities and discriminating readers across the English-speaking world. All material is free, and pdf ebooks can be read on tablets with screens as small as seven inches. Some 30,000 ebooks are downloaded from Ocaso Press every year, and probably more from third-party sites that provide his material free of charge.

The focus is on providing stimulating reading material for an informed and cultivated public that expects traditional skills in a modern setting - i.e. neither 'cutting edge' work that is generally more experimental than successful, nor the happy simplifications of amateur work. Supported by detailed studies into contemporary poetry on textetc.com and elsewhere, Ocaso Press documents a new mood in poetry and poetry translations, namely  'middle of the road' styles that marry modern sensibilities with literary craft.

- The guides adopt balanced positions of contentious issues, and are generally more detailed - replete with examples, arguments and references - than books offered by the commercial and academic presses.

- The novels are simply entertainment.

- The poem collections employ strict and free verse styles, but not shy away from the 'grand narratives' that Post-modernism has abandoned. Many deal with important issues, therefore, and behind even the verse tales is the extensive research that any decent historical novelist will undertake.

- Translations are literary rather than academic, but are generally close to the prose sense, often indeed line for line. By employing traditional verse skills they aim to give some indication of the splendours of the original works, and make the translations worth reading in their own right. 

An updated and expanded 568-page book on verse as an art form — a practical guide to writing verse in traditional, Modernist and Postmodernist styles. Illustrated with copious examples ranging from Chaucer to contemporary American poets, plus hundreds of Internet links, this guide bridges the gap between self expression and the production of professional work worthy of the detailed literary study.
The theory sections explain not only what poets are and have been trying to do, but why verse takes its often stylized forms. The opening chapters cover the theory and aesthetics of verse, genre considerations, sentence structure and rhetoric, stanza forms and word choice, sound patterning, metaphor and imagery, metre and rhyme. Then follow chapters on the sonnet, lyrics, rhyming couplets, ode, pastoral elegy, light verse, blank, narrative and dramatic verse, Modernist and Postmodernist styles, and performance poetry. The book concludes with chapters providing a step by step guide to verse construction, on translating Italian, French, German and Sanskrit poetry into English forms, and a final 50 page bibliography.

Beautiful, mischievous and charming: Patrick Staunton is sufficient of a portrait artist to recognize trouble in the beautiful wife of his wealthy employer, and hardly needs the warning of mafia connections from an old Polish friend.

'Of course you will fall in love with me, I guarantee it', Natalie Stumpfl tells him at a Frankfurt nightclub, and remorselessly Staunton is drawn into her scandalous past even as he begins to understand the roots of his own tangled relationship with women. He closes his eyes to the murders of his father and girlfriend, and to the money-laundering activities of his employer, blindly following Natalie through Spain, the art-world of England and Russia.

Will she leave the husband she despises, or does she despise all men, allowing only women to be fully intimate with her thoughts?

Seventy-eight poems that rhyme, that scan, and have something to say on themes that have been anathema to serious poetry since W.W.I. destroyed the European belief in progress and common purpose. If you enjoy some of the very traditional re-renderings of the Hesperides here in modern dress, I shall be more than rewarded. If you retort that undress seems more appropriate, then I can only plead a change in outlook, and suggest there is nothing here that we do not see nightly on our TV screens, though I hope expressed in a little more grace, wit and understanding.

In short, I have simply tried to write something different from contemporary styles, ringing the changes  on conventional themes by re-echoing rhyme and imagery through these song-like pieces. Many poetry books have a central theme, of course, but here the repetition is denser, giving key words a wider connotation as they operate in different settings across the collection.

The Meghaduta or Cloud Messenger is a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature, and was composed by the court poet Kalidasa some time before AD 634 in northern India. A Yaksha or nature deity begs a passing cloud to carry a message across the subcontinent to his grieving consort in the fabled city of Alaká. Under this fiction, Kalidasa presents a sympathetic portrait of northern India, and weaves in the various moods of love traditional in classical Sanskrit poetry.
Early translations sacrificed the meaning to the exigencies of English verse. Later translations are close to the prose sense of the Sanskrit, but employ free-verse styles that give no hint of Kalidasa's elevated and harmonious language. The version here is taken from the standard 1912 Hultzsch text, and employs accomplished English verse to render the simple magnificence of the original while remaining faithful to the meaning.