Monday, October 29, 2012

My hero / Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Sara Paretsky


Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My hero: 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by Sara Paretsky

Sara Paretsky

Saturday 10 April 2010


he Angel in the House, which has flapped its pernicious wings over far too many women's lives, hovered over the Kansas farmhouse where I grew up. When I was eight, my parents turned childcare and housework over to me: I was a girl; that was what I was born to do. The Angel was the evil creation of the Victorian writer Coventry Patmore, who invoked immolation of all ambition and desire as the feminine ideal. It was a heavy burden for women, and many rebelled against its strictures. American farm women were driven into psychosis by their isolation and heavy domestic burden; in the 1870s and 80s there was an epidemic of midwestern women burning down their homes, killing themselves and their families in the process.

Victorian writers tackled the Angel more creatively. A number, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Isabella Bird, took to their beds, but it was Barrett Browning who also first confronted the Angel head on in her 1856 poem, Aurora Leigh. Women may be educated, Aurora scornfully says, "As long as they keep quiet by the fire /. . . their angelic reach / Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn".

A few cantos later, her cousin proposes marriage, telling her to give up her dreams of poetry and support him in his work. Aurora turns him down. Like Aurora, Barrett Browning dedicated her life to her art, but she also had a passion for social justice. When Robert Browning convinced her of his love, she finally rose from her sickbed and ran off with him to Italy, where she devoted the remaining 12 years of her life to her art, to writing and working on behalf of Italian independence and an end to slavery in America — and to her lover.

Perhaps if I'd known of Barrett Browning's life and work when I was young, I might have pushed aside the Angel's wings more easily. Like her, I've been fortunate in love, but in her courage, her poetry and her dedication to social justice, she sets the bar for me.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jacques Prevert / Song

by Jacques Prevert

What day are we?
We are every day
My friend
We're the whole of life
My love
We love and we live
We live and we love
And we don't really know
What life is
And we don't really know
What the day is
And we don't really know
What love is

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jacques Prevert / Four Poems

by Jacques Prevert

The Wonders of Life

In the teeth of a trap
The paw of a white fox
And on the snow, blood
The blood of the white fox
And in the snow, tracks
The tracks of the white fox
Who escaped on three legs
As the sun was setting
A rabbit between his teeth
Still alive

It's Like That

A sailor has left the sea
his ship has left the port
the king has left the queen
and a miser has left his gold
                                it's like that
A widow has left her grief
a crazy woman has left the madhouse
and your smile has left my lips
                                it's like that
You will leave me
you will leave me
you will leave me
you will come back to me
you will marry me
you will marry me
The knife marries the wound
the rainbow marries the rain
the smile marries the tears
the caress marries the frown
                                it's like that
And fire marries ice
and death marries life
and life marries love
You will marry me
you will marry me
you will marry me

Hyde Park

Like the sea that
tumbles on the sand
here the lovers act
as seems good to them
And nobody asks
if it's for the night or
just a while
nobody talks of the
price of this room
of live green velvet
Hyde and Jeckyll Park
public Eden where one hears
night and day
"the Devil save the Dream!"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sojourer Truth / Ain´s I a Woman

Ain’t I a Woman? 
by Sojourner Truth

That man over there say
    a woman needs to be helped into carriages
and lifted over ditches
    and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helped me into carriages
    or over mud puddles
        or gives me a best place. . . .

And ain’t I a woman?
    Look at me
Look at my arm!
    I have plowed and planted
and gathered into barns
    and no man could head me. . . .
And ain’t I a woman?
    I could work as much
and eat as much as a man—
    when I could get to it—
and bear the lash as well
    and ain’t I a woman?
I have borne 13 children
    and seen most all sold into slavery
and when I cried out a mother’s grief
    none but Jesus heard me . . .
and ain’t I a woman?
    that little man in black there say
a woman can’t have as much rights as a man
    cause Christ wasn’t a woman
Where did your Christ come from?
    From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with him!
    If the first woman God ever made
was strong enough to turn the world
    upside down, all alone
together women ought to be able to turn it
    rightside up again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Juan Calzadilla / Barbarian's Alchemy

Barbarian’s Alchemy
by Juan Calzadilla

     Rimbaud discards his poet’s investiture to assume his Eurocentric condition. In the African colonies he finds, oh, his next plunder. What follows isn’t poetry. 

     On the other hand, Blaise Cendrars is a reclaimant of the colonialist Rimbaud. In his adventures in Africa he goes in search of a photographic alchemy of the verb. For him poetry starts to be something that’s not exclusively in words, but in the glance, in his Kodak and in journeys.
     As for me: I’m one of those who thinks of his work as something exterior to myself. I’m not much of a protagonist. The place where I find myself, in relation to my work, isn’t very defined, not even in a journey to the interior of my own self.

Juan Calzadilla 
Libro de las poéticas
Caracas, Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana, 2006

Friday, October 12, 2012

Juan Calzadilla / Del texto

Of the Text
by Juan Calzadilla

     Some have experienced the feeling of poetry to such an extreme degree that the fact of having expressed it in their lives with the same intensity by which they would like to have written it, has incapacitated them and, for that reason, exempted them from putting it into words.
     But doesn’t the nature of poetry consist of the act of living it? No. As it doesn’t consist of the act of writing it. It consists of writing itself. This is why the true poet doesn’t have a real existence.

Juan Calzadilla
Libro de las poéticas
Caracas, Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana, 2006

Monday, October 8, 2012

e.e. cummings / Love is more thicker than forget



love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is more mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rafael Cadenas / Untitled

by Rafael Cadenas
Translated by Guillermo Parra

The poem in order to care for poetry

Shouldn’t seem like a poem

I don’t seek perfection but truth

It interests me even though I don’t know it

And I struggle to make it known

Hopefully it’ll turn up in my folders

Respectable listeners don’t be alarmed:

You know so well how to hide your head

Translator’s note: Poem in honor of Nicanor Parra being awarded the Cervantes Prize in Spain.
El País, 22 April 2012