Wednesday, April 25, 2012

e.e.cummings / If You Like My Poems Let Them

Think big
Times Square, New York, 2012
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

by e.e. cummings

if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening,
a little behind you
then people will say
“Along this road i saw a princess pass
on her way to meet her lover (it was
toward nightfall) with tall and ignorant servants.”

Poems Left with Elaine Orr, 1918-19, The Unpublished Poems (1983).


Monday, April 23, 2012

Federico García Lorca / Returning to the ravine of death


Returning to the ravine of death

Claude Couffon was the first historian to investigate Lorca's 1936 execution

Granada, 16 de junio de 2011

Around six men made up the death squad. Dawn had not broken yet, and the headlights of a car lit up the Víznar ravine. A priest administered the last rites to the prisoners about to be executed. That is how the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca died, together with three other men, on August 19, 1936, at the onset of the Spanish Civil War.

Claude Couffon, the French Hispanist and renowned Lorca researcher, was the first person who had the guts, or the nerve, to travel to post-war Spain and ask what had happened to the poet. "At age 22 I was pretty daring. Nobody in Granada wanted to talk about what had happened. It was dangerous to ask questions and it was impossible to enter Víznar," recalls Couffon, now 86, about his visit to the Andalusian city in 1948, just 12 years after the writer's assassination by a Nationalist death squad.

"At age 22 I was pretty daring. Nobody in Granada wanted to talk"
So why did the young man lie to Ian Gibson about having buried the poet? "
Nobody in either Víznar had ever seen or heard about the poet at that time"

But Couffon returned to Granada with the Franco dictatorship fully consolidated in 1949 and decided not to leave again until he had some answers.
"That time I met the right people. I made friends in the city and one of them was from Víznar, so I was able to enter the village," he says, standing at Granada's city limits in what is possibly his "last visit "here.
The Frenchman, born in Caen in 1926, has decided to return to the scene of the crime with a journalist from EL PAÍS to talk about his own vision of what happened on August 19, 1936 and to appraise what has been said and written about it since.
"Things are very different today. There used to be a police checkpoint right here. They kept tabs on everyone's movements in the area. Only the villagers could go in," he says. The Couffon of today complains of pain in his legs and he walks with difficulty, but his mind remains agile like that of the young man who once followed the trail of Lorca. He proudly recalls that he was the first person to reveal the dramatist's exact birth date.
Claude Couffon and his wife in the ravine at Víznar, where he says Lorca is buried.

"In an interview he'd said that he was born in 1899, maybe to appear a year younger, but I think he did it so he wouldn't seem so much like part of the Generation of '98." Lorca himself espoused the more modern Generation of '27 literary group which included poets such as Rafael Alberti and Nobel laureate Vicente Aleixandre.
For decades, Couffon has been living in a tranquil corner of Normandy and stopped working on the subject of Lorca for a simple reason. "I had access to the right people. As far as I was concerned, the case was closed. Once I published my first conclusions, there was so much speculation. Everyone had a different version of events. There were many legends and many lies."
The researcher says he followed the story of the 2009 search for his grave, which was unsuccessful. "Of course I knew about the search, but nobody asked me where to dig," he says. "I always knew they would not find him there. That made no sense. They were very far away."
Couffon believes that Ian Gibson, the other great living Hispanist and Lorca researcher, was wrong to have believed the testimony "of a boy who could not possibly have buried García Lorca, and if he had he would not have recognized him." How could the young Manolillo el comunista, who had never been outside his native village of Alfacar, remember having buried Lorca at night?
"It's impossible for many reasons, but essentially because nobody in either Víznar or Alfacar had ever seen or heard about the poet," the French historian states. So why did the young man lie to Gibson when the latter visited the area on his own research? "Only he would know that."
"At first the graves were not deep. I was able to see them and even touch them," Couffon continues. "There were about 20 of them. Federico was not in the central grave. He was in a smaller one, possibly in that area [he points at the entrance to the ravine]. It was a steep place, all rocks and no trees. Today it's full of pine trees. Did nobody think of that?"
"There were no trees, not so much as a flower. There were open wells and the graveyard. The graves were small mounds of reddish earth," he continues.
A few months after Couffon's photographs of the area appeared in print, the Franco regime had the area planted with pines, which grow very fast. "At the bottom of the wells, the bodies ended up decomposing and sank underground," he wrote in his book. Couffon takes his leave from this place with no signs of melancholy. "It is easy to leave this behind - it represents all of human evil."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Federico García Lorca / Romance sonámbulo

Romance Sonámbulo
by Federico García Lorca
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

— My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
— If it were possible, my boy,
I'd help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.

— My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that's possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don't you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
— Your white shirt has grown
thirsy dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
— Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she— tell me—
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!

Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken Guardias Civiles
were pounding on the door. 

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Leonard Cohen / Thousands

Leonard Cohen by Shayc

by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen / Miles

Out of the thousands
who are known,
or who want to be known
as poets,
maybe one or two
are genuine
and the rest are fakes,
hanging around the sacred
trying to look like the real thing.
Needless to say
I am one of the fakes,
and this is my story

Book of Longing, 2006.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leonard Cohen / The Reason I Write

Red Shoes
Fifth Avenue, NY, 2012
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas
by Leonard Cohen

The reason I write
is to make something
as beautiful as you are
When I’m with you
I want to be the kind of hero
I wanted to be
when I was seven years old
a perfect man
who kills

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Charles Bukowski / A Note Upon Modern Poetry

by Charles Bukowski

poetry has come a long way, though very slowly;
you aren’t as old as I am
and I can remember reading
magazines where at the end of a poem
it said:
Paris, 1928.
that seemed to make a
difference, and so, those who could afford to
(and some who couldn’t)
went to
and wrote.
I am also old enough so that I remember when poems
made many references to the Greek and Roman
if you didn’t know your gods you weren’t a very good
also, if you couldn’t slip in a line of
Spanish, French or
you certainly weren’t a very good
5 or 6 decades ago,
maybe 7,
some poets started using
“i” for “I”
“&” for “and.”
many still use a small
“i” and many more continue to use the
feeling that this is
poetically quite effective and
also, the oldest notion still in vogue is
that if you can’t understand a poem then
it almost certainly is a
good one.
poetry is still moving slowly forward, I guess,
and when your average garage mechanics
start bringing books of poetry to read
on their lunch breaks
then we’ll know for sure we’re moving in
the right
of this
am sure.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Charles Bukowski / Tonight

Beautiful Woman / Tompkins Square / New York  2012 / Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

by Charles Bukowski

“your poems about the girls will still be around
50 years from now when the girls are gone,”
my editor phones me.
dear editor:
the girls appear to be gone
I know what you mean
but give me one truly alive woman
walking across the floor toward me
and you can have all the poems
the good ones
the bad ones
or any that I might write
after this one.
I know what you mean.
do you know what I mean?