Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aurelio Arturo / Still

Billie Holliday
By Aurelio Arturo
Translated by Raúl Jaime Gaviria
With the collaboration of
Edgardo Arturo and Nicolás Suescún 


A woman sang, she sang
feeling herself alone in the night,         
in the night, velvety valley.  

She sang and the sweetest
a woman’s voice can be, that was hers.             
It flowed from her lips
loving life…                        
life when it has been beautiful.

A woman sang
as in a deep forest, and without looking at her
I knew she was so sweet, so beautiful.
She sang, still
she sings…

Monday, September 26, 2011

Aurelio Arturo / Word

By Aurelio Arturo
Translated by Raúl Jaime Gaviria
with the collaboration
of Edgardo Arturo and Nicolás Suescún 

The word surrounds us
we hear it
we touch it  
its aroma surrounds us                 
a word that we say
and we model with the hand
fine and rough
and that
we forge
with the fire of blood                 
and the softness of the skin of our beloved ones
omnipresent word
with us from the dawn
and even before                     
in the dark water of the dream
or in the age from which we barely save
remnants of memories
of frights
of terrible tenderness
that goes with us
a silent monologue
                 a dialogue
a word we offer to our friends
a word we coin
for love for complaining       
for flattery                             
a coin made of sun                 
or silver
or a false coin
in it we look at ourselves
to know who we are
our occupation                                 
and race  
it reflects  
our self                            
our tribe
deep mirror
and when it is happiness and anguish
and the vast skies and the green foliage
and the earth that sings
then that flight of words
is poetry     
can be poetry

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pablo Neruda / I Explain A Few Things

Pablo Picasso

I Explain A Few Things

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?

I'll tell you all the news.
I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.

My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
                                              Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafael?
                 Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?

Brother, my brother!

loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
                           stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings -
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.

Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

Pablo Neruda
Third Residence 1935 - 45   

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pablo Neruda / Ode to Tomatoes

By Pablo Neruda
The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pablo Neruda / The Dead Woman

The Dead Woman
By Pablo Neruda
If suddenly you do not exist,
if suddenly you are not living,
I shall go on living.

I do not dare,
I do not dare to write it,
if you die.

I shall go on living.

Because where a man has no voice,
there, my voice

Where blacks are beaten,
I can not be dead.
When my brothers go to jail
I shall go with them.

When victory,
not my victory,
but the great victory
even though I am mute I must speak:
I shall see it come even though I am blind.

No, forgive me,
if you are not living,
ifd you, beloved, my love,
if you
have died.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pablo Neruda / Walking Around / Videos

Photography by André Kertész

By Pablo Neruda
English Translation by Robert Bly

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lives Like Loaded Guns / Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

Emily Dickinson

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon
Elaine Showalter enjoys a boldly original view of 'the poet next door'

Emily Dickinson
ny writer brave enough to undertake a biography of Emily Dickinson has to grapple with a century's burden of cultural baggage – numerous biographical mysteries, extreme and conflicting interpretations of her work, and her sacerdotal role as muse for other American poets.
Dickinson's life story is both alarmingly uneventful and heavily weighed down with the legends of the recluse, the wraith and the virginal spinster in a white dress. Was she the victim of a secret unrequited love, revealed in her ecstatically submissive letters to an unknown, married "Master"? Was she the unhappy woman genius confined by her sex and class, "starving of passion" in "her father's garden", as William Carlos Williams wrote? Was she the lesbian who adored her sister-in-law Susan Gilbert Dickinson, and unconsciously revealed her longings in "clitoral imagery"? Was her social withdrawal after the mid-1850s neurotic, or a strategic choice for her art? Why did she refuse to publish during her lifetime all but seven of her 1,789 poems?
In the 20th century, Dickinson became the inspiration and muse for a generation of American women writers. Adrienne Rich wrote about her as "Vesuvius at Home". The novelists Carol Shields, in Mary Swann, and Joyce Carol Oates, inMysteries of Winterthurn, both channelled Dickinson's voice through invented women poets. For male American poets, Dickinson has appeared as a more challenging and threatening muse, one to be conquered and seduced. Billy Collins describes the experience of entering into her poetic world as "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes": "I could plainly hear her inhale / when I undid the very top / hook-and-eye fastener of her corset / and I could her hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed."
Indeed, Dickinson's status as the great 19th-century American woman poet may actually stand in the way of a dispassionate American literary response. Oxford professor Lyndall Gordon brings the advantage of distance and a fresh and tough-minded perspective to her fascinating study. Combining information from biographies and library archives, and paying careful attention to material that has been overlooked or overshadowed, Gordon also considers the afterlife of Dickinson's poetry. She offers clear and boldly original answers to the "unanswered questions" of Dickinson's life, and an ethnographic and historical approach to the problems of the literary biographer. Although such answers can never explain the nature or sources of creativity, Gordon argues that they can offer "securer openings" to Dickinson's buried life.

She makes four major arguments. First, and most important, Dickinson's social withdrawal was strategic, and afforded her opportunity to develop her art: "Stillness, for her, was not a retreat from life but a form of control." Second, Dickinson was "susceptible to both sexes", with both "an intense tie to Susan" and strong attractions to men. In the late 1870s, she had a romance with the widowed Judge Otis Lord of Salem, 18 years her senior, and wrote some unmistakably erotic letters to the man she called her "lovely Salem": "I will not wash my arm; 'twill take your touch away."
Third, the masochistic "Master" letters were "largely, although not completely, a stirring fantasy". Gordon dismisses all the real-life candidates for the "Master", insisting that no man she actually knew could have "lent himself to the royal extravagance of her desire". Finally, Gordon hypothesises that Dickinson suffered from epilepsy, and that the stigma of the disease could be the reason, or the excuse, for her seclusion. While the evidence for this argument is circumstantial, depending on poetic images of light, convulsion and "throes", and on the prescriptions Dickinson received from doctors for vague "eye troubles", Gordon makes a persuasive case for the link between epilepsy's visual and cerebral distortions and Dickinson's extraordinary language.

Overall, Gordon focuses on what she calls the "DNA of the Dickinson family", setting Emily among her siblings and descendants, and tracing the complex "social landscape" and literary effects of her environment. She was not the only remarkable Dickinson sibling. As her elder brother Austin once wrote apologetically to a publisher: "This may seem very queer to you, and it is. We are a queer lot."
Their father, Edward Dickinson, was a Calvinist lawyer and statesman of gloomy conviction, with a heart Emily described as "pure and terrible". As he warned his fiancée before their marriage: "I do not expect or wish for a life of pleasure." Austin, Emily and Lavinia ("Vinnie") both resisted and inherited their father's intensity of spirit. In Gordon's view, being part of this passionate, intellectual and unshakeably serious clan was a significant factor in Dickinson's poetic genius.
The great Dickinson family drama reached its height in 1882, only a few years before Emily's death. By the mid-1850s she had become a virtual recluse at the Homestead. There she maintained her intimate friendship with Sue, who lived next door at the Evergreens, the home Edward Dickinson had built for his son's family. For many years, Emily crossed the little path between the houses, reading her poems to Sue, and giving her hundreds to keep. Sue, in return, gave her books by British women writers – Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. But in 1882, this idyll was interrupted when Sue's husband, Austin, fell in love with a young Amherst faculty wife, Mabel Bingham Todd, and began a heated affair with her that became an "alternative marriage".

At the same time, the inexhaustible Mabel was keeping up an active sexual life with her husband, the astronomer David Todd. A serial philanderer himself, and a consenting partner to Mabel's affair with Austin, David was also willing to experiment as voyeur in a ménage à trois. Sue knew about it and suffered, along with her children; and Emily and Vinnie knew as well.
After Emily's death in May 1886, the family feud over her poetic legacy began, and the last third of Gordon's book is devoted to unravelling its legal and psychological complexities. The handwritten poems were almost illegible. Mabel, who had become Vinnie's friend, was entrusted with the copying and editing tasks; it was Mabel, who had never actually seen Emily face to face, who created the myth of her as the fragile woman in white.
In August 1890, Mabel and Vinnie brought out a small edition of 116 poems. It was a huge success, reprinted 11 times in a year and selling 11,000 copies. Meanwhile, Sue's attempts to publish the poems and letters in her possession failed. She managed to get one poem into Scribner's for a fee of $15. Vinnie drastically underestimated Mabel's editorial skills, calling them merely clerical; Vinnie gave her $200 for her efforts but refused to acknowledge her contributions. The Todds sued for part of the Homestead grounds in recompense, and lost the case when Vinnie testified that she had been too innocent to understand signing a contract. Thereafter Mabel refused to continue editing. The feud went on through the next generation and the families quarrelled bitterly over which university libraries would get the manuscripts.
Gordon does not take on the history of modern criticism of Dickinson's poems, but her book, by clearing away much that is speculative, projected, or contentious about the life, will open the way for new approaches to the woman she calls "the poet next door".
Elaine Showalter's A Jury of her Peers is published by Virago.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dorothy Parker / Resumé

by Dorothy Parker

Un poema / Tres traductores

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Robert Gurney / Spitting Blood

Raymond Carver by Rob Stolzer

By Robert Gurney
for Raymond Carver

I spat blood
in the night
and found myself waiting
for an X-ray
reading Carver’s poem
about his daughter’s dog
that got run over
and how he wrote a poem for her
and then wrote a poem
and then how he enjoyed
writing a poem
about writing that poem.

Then I read about his dad,
how he died,
and I thought about my dad,
how he died,
and I wept.