Friday, July 29, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 8 / White bee, you buzz in my soul, druk with honey

Rebecca Hall

White bee, you buzz in my soul, drunk with honey

by Pablo Neruda

abeja blanca zumbas 

White bee, you buzz in my soul, drunk with honey,
and your flight winds in slow spirals of smoke.

I am the one without hope, the word without echoes,
he who lost everything and he who had everything.

Last hawser, in you creaks my last longing.
In my barren land you are the final rose.

Ah you who are silent!

Let you deep eyes close. There the night flutters.
Ah your body, a frightened statue, naked.

You have deep eyes in which the night flails.
Cool arms of flowers and a lap of rose.

Your breasts seem like white snails.
A butterfly of shadow has come to rest on your belly.

Ah you who are silent!

Here is the solitude from which you are absent.
It is raining. The sea wind is hunting stray gulls.

The water walks barefoot in the wet streets.
From that tree the leaves complain as though they were sick.

White bee, even when you are gone you buzz in my soul.
You live again in time, slender and silent.

Ah you who are silent!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 7 / Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets

Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets
by Pablo Neruda

Inclinado en las tardes tiro mis tristes redes

Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets
towards your oceanic eyes. 

There in the highest blaze my solitude lengthens and flames,
its arms turning like a drowning man's. 

I send out red signals across your absent eyes
that move like the sea near a lighthouse.

You keep only darkness, my distant female,
from your regard sometimes the coast of dread emerges.

Leaning into the afternoons I fling my sad nets
to that sea that beats on your marine eyes. 

The birds of night peck at the first stars
that flash like my soul when I love you. 

The night gallops on its shadowy mare
shedding blue tassels over the land.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 6 / I remember you as you were


I remember you as you were in the last autumn.
You were the grey beret and the still heart.
In your eyes the flames of the twilight fought on.
And the leaves fell in the water of your soul.

Clasping my arms like a climbing plant
the leaves garnered your voice, that was slow and at peace.
Bonfire of awe in which my thirst was burning.
Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul.

I feel your eyes traveling, and the autumn is far off:
Grey beret, voice of a bird, heart like a house
Towards which my deep longings migrated
And my kisses fell, happy as embers.

Sky from a ship. Field from the hills:
Your memory is made of light, of smoke, of a still pond!
Beyond your eyes, farther on, the evenings were blazing.
Dry autumn leaves revolved in your soul.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 5 / So that you will hear me

So that you will hear me
by Pablo Neruda

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

Necklace, drunken bell
for your hands smooth as grapes.

And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.

It climbs the same way on damp walls.
You are to blame for this cruel sport.
They are fleeing from my dark lair.
You fill everything, you fill everything.

Before you they peopled the solitude that you occupy,
and they are more used to my sadness than you are.

Now I want them to say what I want to say to you
to make you hear as I want you to hear me.

The wind of anguish still hauls on them as usual.
Sometimes hurricanes of dreams still knock them over.
You listen to other voices in my painful voice.

Lament of old mouths, blood of old supplications.
Love me, companion. Don't forsake me. Follow me.
Follow me, companion, on this wave of anguish.

But my words become stained with your love.
You occupy everything, you occupy everything.

I am making them into an endless necklace
for your white hands, smooth as grapes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 4 / The morning is full of storm

The morning is full of storm
by Pablo Neruda

The morning is full of storm
in the heart of summer. 

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of goodbye,
the wind, travelling, waving them in its hands. 

The numberless heart of the wind
beating above our loving silence. 

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees
like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid
and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds. 

Wind that topples her ni a wave without spray
and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks, 
assailed in the door of the summer's wind. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 3 / Ah vastness of pines

Ah vastness of pines
by Pablo Neruda

Ah vastedad de pinos (De otros mundos)

Ah vastness of pines, murmur of waves breaking,
slow play of lights, solitary bell,
twilight falling in your eyes, toy doll,
earth-shell, in whom the earth sings!

In you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them
as you desire, and you send it where you will.
Aim my road on your bow of hope
and in a frenzy I will flee my flock of arrows.

On all sides I see your waist of fog,
and your silence hunts down my afflicted hours;
my kisses anchor, and my moist desire nests
in your arms of transparent stone.

Ah your mysterious voice that love tolls and darkens
in the resonant and dying evening!
Thus in the deep hours I have seen, over the fields,
the ears of wheat tolling in the mouth of the wind

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 2 / The Light Wraps You In Its Mortal Flame


The Light Wraps You In Its Mortal Flame

by Pablo Neruda

The light wraps you in its mortal flame.
Abstracted pale mourner, standing that way
Against the old propellers of the twilight
That revolves around you.

Speechless, my friend,
Alone in the loneliness of this hour of the dead
And filled with the lives of fire,
Pure heir of the ruined day.

A bough of fruit falls from the sun on your dark garment.
The great roots of night grow suddenly from your soul,
And the things that hide in you come out again
So that a blue and pallid people,
Your newly born, takes nourishment.

Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave
Of the circle that moves in turn through black and gold:
Rise, lead and possess a creation
So rich in life that its flowers perish
And it is full of sadness.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pablo Neruda / 1 / Body of a woman, white hills


Body of a woman, white hills

by Pablo Neruda

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant's body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was lone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and nigh swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pablo Neruda / Farewell


by Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda / Farewell (De otros mundos)

From deep inside you and kneeling
A sad child, like me, looks at us.

For that life that will burn in his veins
Should our lives be tied up.

For those hands, daughters of your hands,
Should my hands kill.

Through his open eyes on the earth
I will see tears on yours one day.

I don't want it, Beloved.

To avoid being tied up
Let nothing unite us.

Not the word which perfumed your mouth,
Nor what words said.

Not even the love feast that we did not have,
Or your sobs by the window.

(I love the love of sailors
Who kiss and go.

They leave a promise.
They never return.

A woman waits in every port:
Sailors kiss and go .

One night they lie with death
On the seabed.

I love the love that is shared
With kisses, bed and bread.

Love that can be eternal
And can also be brief

Love that wants to free itself
In order to love again.

Deified love that comes close
Deified love that leaves)

My eyes will not delight themselves in yours anymore,
My pain will not be sweetened by you anymore.

But wherever I go I will take with me your Gaze
And wherever you go you will take my pain.

I was yours, you were mine.
What else? Together we made

A bend on the route where love went past.
I was yours, you were mine.

You will belong to the one who loves you,
To the one who cuts in your orchard that which I have planted.

I am leaving now. I am sad: but I'm always sad.
I come from your arms. I don't know where I'm going.

...From your heart a child says farewell.

And I say farewell to him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Les Murray / High speed trap space

High speed trap space
By Les Murray

Speeding home from town
in rainy dark. For the narrowness
of main roads then, we were hurtling.
A lorry on our tail, bouncing, lit our mirrors,
twinned strawberries kept our lights down

and our highway lane was walled
in froth-barked trees. Nowhere to swerve -
but out between trunks stepped an animal,
big neck, muzzle and horns, calmly gazing
at the play of speed on counter-speed.

Its front hooves up, planted on the asphalt
and our little room raced on to a beheading
or else to be swallowed by the truck's high bow.
No dive down off my seat would get me low
enough to escape the crane-swing of that head

and its imminence of butchery and glass.
But it was gone.
The monster jaw must have recoiled
in one gulp to give me my survival.
My brain was still full of the blubber lip,

the dribbling cud. In all but reality
the bomb stroke had still happened.
Ghost glass and blurts of rain still showered
out of my face at the man
whose straining grip had had

to refuse all swerving.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Les Murray / An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
by Les Murray

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.

The Weatherboard Cathedral, 1969

Listen to Les Murray read this poem (MP3)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Les Murray / Poetry And Religion

Poetry And Religion 

by Les Murray

Religions are poems. They concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture

into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing's said till it's dreamed out in words
and nothing's true that figures in words only.

A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier's one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.

Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?

You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,

fixed centrally, we call it a religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror

that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There'll always be religion around while there is poetry

or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds - crested pigeon, rosella parrot -
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Borges / A life by Edwin Williamson / Review by Colm Tóibín

Don’t abandon me

By Colm Tóibín

  • Borges: A Life by Edwin Williamson
    Penguin, 416 pp, £9.99, August 2005, ISBN 0 14 024657 6

On 9 March 1951, Seepersad Naipaul wrote from Trinidad to his son Vidia, who was an undergraduate at Oxford: ‘I am beginning to believe I could have been a writer.’ A month later, Vidia, in a letter to the entire family, wrote: ‘I hope Pa does write, even five hundred words a day. He should begin a novel. He should realise that the society of the West Indies is a very interesting one – one of phoney sophistication.’ Soon, his father wrote again to say that he had in fact started to write five hundred words a day. ‘Let me see how well the resolve works out,’ he wrote. ‘Even now I have not settled the question whether I should work on an autobiographical novel or whether I should exhume Gurudeva.’ Gurudeva and Other Indian Tales had been privately published in Port of Spain in 1943. It would be Seepersad Naipaul’s only book. He died in 1953 at the age of 47.
For writers and artists whose fathers dabbled in art and failed there seems always to be a peculiar intensity in their levels of ambition and determination. It was as though an artist such as Picasso, whose father was a failed painter, or William James, whose father was a failed essayist, or V.S. Naipaul, sought to compensate for his father’s failure while at the same time using his talent as a way of killing the father off, showing his mother who was the real man in the household.
Jorge Luis Borges was in Majorca in 1919, writing his first poems as his father, Jorge Guillermo Borges, was working on his only novel, which, like Seepersad Naipaul’s book, was printed privately. (Borges’s mother later told Bioy Casares that she had spent her life with ‘dos locos’, two madmen – her husband and her son.) The novel, called El Caudillo, published in 1921 when the author was 47 and his son 22, was not a success. Seventeen years later, as his health was failing, Borges Senior suggested that his son rewrite the book, making clear that Jorge Luis, or Georgie as he was known in his family, had been consulted during its composition. ‘I put many metaphors in to please you,’ he told his son, asking him to ‘rewrite the novel in a straightforward way, with all the fine writing and purple patches left out’.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Anna Akhmatova / Our lady of sorrows

Anna Akhma-tova

Our lady of sorrows

Elaine Feinstein tells how poet Anna Akhmatova, whose son was in the Gulag, spoke for millions of Russians of their hell under Stalin in Anna of All The Russians

Neal Ascherson
Sunday 31 July 2005 00.46 BST

Anna of All The Russians: The Life of Anna Akhmatova
by Elaine Feinstein
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £20, pp322

When people remember Anna Akhmatova, they do so extravagantly. Josef Brodsky, one of the circle of young poets who adored her when she was old, said: 'In conversation with her, or simply drinking tea or vodka, you became a Christian, a human being in the Christian sense of the word'.
Anatoly Nauman, another in that circle, remembered that after meeting her he was 'stunned by the fact that I had been in the presence of someone with whom no one on earth had anything in common'. Isaiah Berlin, throwing himself on his hotel bed after spending a day and a night talking to her in Leningrad, exclaimed: 'I am in love, I am in love!'
Elaine Feinstein, author of this biography, calls her 'one of the greatest poets of Russian literature ... she became the voice of a whole people's suffering under Stalin ... an iconic figure for all those whom the Soviet regime repressed ...' This status was confirmed for ever when Andrey Zhdanov, Stalin's cultural rottweiler, excommunicated her in 1946 as 'half nun, half whore, or rather both nun and whore with her petty, narrow private life, her trivial experiences ...'
But icons are difficult to write about critically. How good a poet was she really? To me as a non-Russian, her contemporary Marina Tsvetaeva seems as a writer to be richer and more astonishing. I know Russians who now dismiss Akhamatova as 'a minor poet'. But how do you separate the passionate response to her verse, a response which has itself become part of Russian history, from the quality of that poetry?
Anna Akhmatova was born in Odessa in 1889 (her father was called Gorenko, but she took the more glamorous name of a Tatar ancestor). Brought up in and near St Petersburg, she became one of the young writers and performers who met in the 'Stray Dog' cellar in the years before the First World War. Mayakovsky, Mandelstam and many other men and women who were to be her friends for life went there. Akhmatova - tall, black-haired, with huge grey eyes - read poems about painful love.

Before she was 30, she was famous. The writer Kornei Chukovsky said her first book, Evening, 'accompanied the next two or three generations of Russians whenever they fell in love'.
In 1910, she married the poet and explorer Nikolai Gumilev. By the time of the revolution, seven years later, the marriage had come apart, but Gumilev's arrest and execution in 1920 on fictional charges of anti-Bolshevik conspiracy devastated Akhmatova. By now, she had begun the nomadic, chaotic existence which lasted most of her life. It brought her shabby rooms in old palaces, torn silk dressing gowns, a procession of momentary or semi-permanent lovers, semi-starvation ('a horrible skeleton dressed in rags', as one visitor saw her in 1919), tuberculosis and guilt. 'I brought destruction to those I loved.'
There were several times when both her current lover and her son, Lev Gumilev, were in the Gulag (the son survived; the lover, Nikolay Punin, died in the camps) But Akhmatova never left Russia, or thought of doing so. And, with only a few interruptions, the poetry kept coming.
Caught in the siege of Leningrad in 1941, she was one of the few writers chosen to be flown out. In spite of her political views, Stalin recognised that she was worth saving. But in 1946 Akhmatova was denounced ('harlot and nun') by Zhdanov. She became an 'unperson', dangerous to everyone she met. Lev Gumilev was rearrested and released only in 1956, three years after Stalin's death. Only in 1957 was Akhmatova rehabilitated. But nobody had forgotten the poet who had given them courage in awful times, and the last 10 years of her life were spent in glory, if not exactly in comfort, in a dacha of her own near Leningrad surrounded by friends.

A great deal of Feinstein's biography is taken up with careful attempts to decipher Akhmatova's 'relationships'. These were multiple and often simultaneous. Nobody's love life looks simple under bright light, but the emotional life of Russian intellectuals - then, as now - was as disorderly as a London teenager's floor. Wisely, Feinstein also disentangles Akhmatova's friendships, the human bond which many Russians consider more important and lasting than sexual love. Most of her male intimates let her down, but her women friends stood by her. What society today can produce friends as wonderful as Lydia Chukovskaya?
It was Chukovskaya who stood with her all those days and nights of frost, queuing outside prisons to hand in parcels. Akhmatova had food and clothes for Lev, bound for somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle. Chukovskaya took packages for her husband, not knowing that he had long ago been shot.
In one of those terrible queues, a girl recognised Akhmatova and whispered: 'Can you describe this?' Akhmatova replied: 'I can.' Out of that grew, gradually, her tremendous poem cycle, Requiem. Once, when young, she had written the lines which lovers quoted to one another. Now she provided words which thousands of men and women repeated under their breath, as they suffered, feared and waited.
As Feinstein writes, Akhmatova always considered that she had been 'appointed by God to sing of this suffering'. Even after her brilliant looks had faded, she was vain and - for someone with such good friends - strikingly indifferent to anyone else's problems.
As a conventional wife or mother, she was terrible. Her son, in the labour camps, deluded himself that she did not care how long he stayed there and that she was exploiting his fate to make her own poetry. (The embittered Lev Gumilev grew up to be the ultra-nationalist historian who reintroduced mystic racialism into post-Soviet education.) As a poet, her unambiguous language, like Pushkin's but almost always narration in the first person, does not translate easily into English, and can occasionally seem trite. But we know that for millions across the generations those words in Russian rang true.
Elaine Feinstein's achievement is to show us the life of an extraordinary woman in gleaming fragments, and to demonstrate, through so many witnesses, how she was worshipped.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Nabokov, Neruda and Borges revealed as losers of 1965 Nobel prize

Nabokov, Neruda and Borges revealed as losers of 1965 Nobel prize

Nobel archives have been opened to reveal who was nominated for the 1965 prize for literature, a controversial year won by divisive victor Mikhail Sholokhov

Alison Flood
Wednesday 6 January 2016 15.47 GMT

Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges were all in the running for the 1965 Nobel prize for literature, newly opened archives have revealed, but the judges that year went instead for the controversial choice of Mikhail Sholokhov.
The Swedish Academy, the members of which decide annually on the international writer deemed to best fulfil Alfred Nobel’s criteria of “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, keeps the list of writers proposed for the prize confidential for 50 years. It has now opened its archives, revealing that as well as Sholokhov, names in contention in 1965 included Nabokov and Borges – neither of whom would ever win the Nobel – as well as Neruda, who would take it in 1971.

Jorge Luis Borges

From the UK, WH Auden, Lawrence Durrell, LP Hartley and W Somerset Maugham were also proposed as potential winners that year, as was Alan Sillitoe: none would win a Nobel. Samuel Beckett, another nomination in 1965, would go on to take the prize in 1969.

Nominators for the Nobel are a mix of former laureates, professors of literature and literary experts. The choice in 1965 of Sholokhov proved divisive: the Soviet author was one of those to have spoken out against the awarding of the Nobel to Boris Pasternak in 1958, causing the author to “voluntarily” reject it. The Nobel was given to Sholokhov seven years later for the “artistic power and integrity” of his epic novel of Cossack life, And Quiet Flows the Don, with which the Nobel committee said “he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people”. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who would win the Nobel in 1970, was one of a group of writers to later publicly accuse Sholokhov of plagiarising the work from Fyodor Kryukov, an accusation rejected by the author.

Vladimir Nabokov

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, whose journalist Kaj Schueler has looked through the Swedish Academy’s documents from 1965, reported that the choice of Sholokhov was unanimous. The series of novels that comprise And Quiet Flows the Don is a “classic masterpiece”, the Nobel committee chairman Anders Österling said at the time, “which retains its shine at every rereading, and this folk epic is still an indisputable base for the award, even if it comes too late”. The books were published between 1928 and 1940.
Schueler also revealed that the committee had discussed sharing the prize in 1965 between the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who was excommunicated in 1946 by the Soviet regime, and Sholokhov, a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. The idea was rejected by Österling, according to Svenska Dagbladet, who noted that the two writers had nothing but their language in common.
He also rejected the possibility of sharing the prize that year between Miguel Ángel Asturias and Borges, and between Shmuel Joseph Agnon and Nelly Sachs. Agnon and Sachs would go on to share the prize the next year, in 1966, Agnon chosen “for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people” and Sachs “for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength” .
The Guatemalan Asturias would win the Nobel in 1967 “for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America”, but Borges would never win. Colm Tóibín writes in the London Review of Books of how Borges’s maid, Epifanía Uveda de Robledo, said the author was “much tortured … by the possibility of winning the Nobel prize. On the day of the announcement journalists would queue outside his door. This would happen year after year. The news each time that he had not won would make him very sad.”
“Not granting me the Nobel prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born they have not been granting it to me,” said the Argentinian.