Saturday, December 27, 2008

FOURTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TSUNAMI

Do you remember the tsunami? Where were you that day?
Did you run from the wave? Did you run from your television?

Every morning brings a new reason to move ahead, to stuff memories further into the back of the drawer.

So why did I compose The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems?

I wrote the book because I had run out of options. The wave brought my island home to me on the television screen. I had to meet my Maker, the one who assigned me some talent in making metaphors.

It was time to exercise the fingers of my heart, to write poems.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ON JOSÉ GARCIA VILLA

ON JOSÉ GARCIA VILLA


Discovering Jose Garcia Villa’s poetry, thanks to a new collection, introduced by Luis Francia , has been one of my most exceeding joys in recent weeks. Garcia Villa is a poet who exceeds, playing with grammatical preconceptions, forcing us to see, hear and dance the word by itself, and then beside, the next performer in the sentence.

45

A, bee,flying,to, the,end,of,the,world,
To,find,one,flower,wherein,to,lie,curled,

Is,a,fiction,is,a,lie,
That,will,keep,God,in,the,sky.


This is one of more than 50 aphorisms in the suite Aphorisms I,. I am taken to Mondrian and Broadway, Boogie Woogie, to the intense blue color cut-outs of the late Matisse. I think of New York, city of the future, spiraling skyscrapers of glass, to dreamscapes of social light-splashed optimism, not the dark metropolis of Fritz Lang at all.


47

Throwing, diamonds, to,peacocks,
Is,a,philosopher’s,prodigality.


6

A,genius,is,he
That,can,make,
Portable,pyramids


Some background : I have perused Doveglion : Collected Poems for several weeks. I steal five minutes a day to read a poem. I read it furtively. Who is this Philipino modernist, Francisco O’Hara travelling rhetorical streets armed with commas, periods and a gift for word music ? Why does he spin connundrums in the Village ?

I knew Luis had studied with him. But I was too young then to understand the gift that Garcia Villa had bequeathed my friend. I know how to name that gift now. I see it in Luis’ poetry as well.

How shall I call it ? Build maizes with words to ensure that ideas and metaphors get a good workout on the way to the center of the garden where damsels wait,
where aproned chefs serve a plentiful feast of sticky rice and roasted pig.
Delight, complicate and celebrate the gurgling at the heart of the brook, that cascades down the page.

One can’t tell a poem, like a story, from beginning to end. Yet, one can, silly maker of precepts. One can turn the story around as well. We have seen the horror, my friends. We live in the post-post-post epoch. Yet, we fall in love as if love has not taken a bow before and we play with words as if they are the first meteorites crashing into our earth.

I feel first love and heaven-gazing wonder reading Jose Garcia Villa. Although I do not know how often he ate plaintain leaves and sticky rice in the Village in the mid 20th century, I am confident his poems will be read with coffee or tea after any course in any country where English poetry is the currency.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

READING AND WRITING

I have not updated this blog at a fevered rate in recent weeks--distracted by other pursuits. However, I will return from time to time with new material. I am reading at least three or four books that will be commented on here in the upcoming weeks and months.

For those of you who have linked your blogs to mine, thanks. I have encountered a problem with Blogger in adding yours. If any of you can guide me about what I can do please let me know

I will be back in touch soon.


Indran

Friday, November 21, 2008

A DEBT (R.S. Thomas)

A DEBT (R.S. THOMAS) November 17


R.S.Thomas (1913-2000) wrote lyrics that seared the imagination as if his readers were cattle and required a harsh accounting, an indelible mark. As I read him today, on my birthday, I think too of that other Thomas of my first loves in poetry, the one who wrote about his thirtieth year to heaven. My meter has been more finely shaped, however, by R.S. than by his better known and fellow Welshman Dylan (1914-1953). I miss them both tonight, of course. And like all children I want my loves together, to swaddle me and put me to bed.

Here are a couple of RS Thomas poems


JANUARY

The fox drags its wounded belly
Over the snow, the crimson seeds
Of blood burst with a mild explosion,
Soft as excrement, bold as roses.

Over the snow that feels no pity,
Whose white hands can give no healing,
The fox drags its wounded belly.


THE GAP IN THE HEDGE

That man, Prytherch, with the torn cap,
I saw him often, framed in the gap
Between two hazels with his sharp eyes,
Bright as thorns, watching the sunrise
Filling the valley with its pale yellow
Light, where the sheep and the lambs went haloed
With grey mist lifting from the dew.
Or was it a likeness that the twigs drew
With bold penciling upon that bare
Piece of sky? For he’s still there
At early morning, when the light is right
And I look up suddenly at a bird’s flight.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sobre Ernesto Cardenal

SOBRE CARDENAL

de Indran Amirthanayagam, derechos reservados Mayo 2007

Hace tiempo una mañana de domingo neyorquino, un amigo inglés queridísimo se esperaba un taxi en Broadway. Era el 23 de mayo, en las faldas del verano, todavía con la promesa de primavera en el aire. Mi amigo iba al aeropuerto para volar a Managua. Hace unos días atrás habíamos formado parte de la promoción de la Escuela de Periodismo de Columbia University. En ese entonces el movimiento para sacar inversiones de Sudáfrica fue el tema principal de la política estudiantil. Un edificio en la universidad había sido bloqueado por varios meses y renombrado “Harmony Hall” (El edificio de armonía). Cuando caminé para aceptar mi diploma de maestría me levanté el puño en una salutación de apoyo para el movimiento contra las grandes empresas involucradas en la economía de apartheid.

Ese mañana me levanté la mano para despedirme de mi amigo. No sabía que planes tenía en Nicaragua, en ese entonces en pleno conflicto entre los Sandinistas y los Contras. Temía que podría sufrir una herida o podría desaparecer. Fue una despedida difícil, entre hombres con todo su carga inglesa de mantener el decoro, de enterrar las emociones. Unos días después, empecé a escribir un poema pensando en mi amigo ya en Nicaragua. El poema se titula “Homenaje a Managua.” Y ahí, le hice varias preguntas, entre ellas, hay todavía un España y una guerra civil? Y te has conocido a Cardenal?

En esos años la revolución sandinista inspiraba a muchos extranjeros de visitar al país, de trabajar en el campo, formar ONGs dedicadas a la enseñanza, la salud. Mi pregunta era irónica, socrática y lleno del ennui que todos los jóvenes que aspiran a ser intelectuales sufren durante sus estudios universitarios. O tal vez, es un ennui particular al sigo 20 y a este siglo 21, que siempre las promesas, las esperanzas son los blancos de la crudeza de la realidad, su venalidad, su mano corrompida.

En ese mayo, habían pasado también solo dos años desde las manifestaciones del verano de 83 en Sri Lanka, los ataques dirigidos a las casas, negocios, templos y las personas de los tamiles esrilankeses. A raíz de ese verano que dejó la isla ensangrentada se desató una plena guerra civil que desafortunadamente sigue hasta hoy deprimiendo los esrilankeses y los que aman el país. Y Sri Lanka aparece en ese poema donde hago referencias a ciertas guerras justas—si hay—las de Sri Lanka y de Palestina.

Claro, para mi en ese entonces, Cardenal representaba una figura mítica, un poeta sacerdote, discípulo de Thomas Merton, vuelto sacerdote ya adulto como Merton. No podría haber imaginado que algún día me conociera ese leyenda, y en español, mi nuevo idioma de la creación poética. Bueno, ya esta, puedo ahora beber la presencia de Cardenal, tomarla, comerla como una hostia metafórica. Es un poeta que nunca me deja de sorprender por su compromiso con la verdad: la verdad de Marilyn Monroe, de Claudia, su enamorada de los epigramas, mi verdad aunque no me había conocido en persona hasta este encuentro.

Digo por este último que Cardenal inspira poetas y otros luchadores para el derecho de hablar en la fundación de la comunión en la tierra, la entrega intima del amor y del conocimiento del Todopoderoso, el Dios, al feligres/lector por medio del sacerdote, el poeta. Escuchemos a

Detrás del Monasterio

Detrás del monasterio, junto al camino,
existe un cementerio de cosas gastadas,
en donde yacen el hierro sarroso, pedazos
de loza, tubos quebrados, alambres retorcidos,
cajetillas de cigarrillo vacias, aserrín
y zinc, plástico envejecido, llantas rotas,
esperando como nosotros la resurrección.

A la primera lectura este poema parece limpio, entrega su carga de golpe, que no sea necesario la relectura. Y para algunos lectores impacientes o llenos de demandas podrían tomar provecho y seguir en su camino apurado. Sin embargo un lector con más tiempo disponible lo degustaría con revelaciones mas profundas. En fin los grandes poetas hablan de temas esenciales: el amor en todos sus sentidos, la guerra, el descanso en la ribera del río antes de cruzarlo. A donde? A Lethe, o al Cielo, o sea, el río es el Río Bravo y al otro lado está el desierto de Texas. O sea, cruces las aguas y te vas a encontrar tu tema.

En el caso de Cardenal, no puedo separar el hombre que se viste de sacerdote, el antiguo ministro de cultura, el fundador de Soltiname, y el poeta. Una figura parecida en la India seria Rabindranath Tagore de cuya obra vasta se nota su fundación de una escuela y una manera de enseñar, refugios en la tierra como Soltiname. Cardenal es fundamental al paisaje nicaragüense como Tagore a la subconciencia hindú. Los dos interpretan las raíces y las historias de sus pueblos y luchan para los menos afortunados.

Entonces ¿cuáles son las revelaciones de “Detrás del Monasterio”? Las ideas se ven en las cosas. Uno encuentra las cosas gastadas en un cementerio al lado del camino y detrás del monasterio. Todos construimos nuestros caminos y para hacerlos hay que sacar arena, piedras, y a veces, destruir campos agrícolas, la calle principal de un pueblo para lograr la meta, el camino—que podría llevar a uno hacia Itaca o Valhalla. ¿Pero toda la basura que uno ha acumulado en la vida—es solo eso, o también tiene vida, sentimientos, que a su vez está esperando la resurrección?

Cardenal es maestro del epigrama, la verdad dicha de manera económica, lo esencial sin toda la narrativa de la vida. De hecho este poema es un epigrama muy detallado. Sin embargo cada detalle añade un elemento imprescindible a esta visión—que me hace pensar también en las cosas gastadas flotando en ‘Frisco Bay del “Sunflower Sutra” donde Allen Ginsberg experimenta una visión de Blake y su girasol en las aguas negras—y hay, por cierto, una influencia de la poesía de Ginsberg en la conciencia de Cardenal. Ginsberg celebró lo que llamaba “crazy wisdom” o sabiduría loca. Pero siempre fue un poeta engagé que veia el papel de vate de manera muy tradicional, interprete de la verdad para todos lo demás. En la época mas conocida de Ginsberg, Cardenal, Bob Dylan, Merton, entre los cincuentas y sesentas, había grandes entrecruzadas….ahí se encuentra la guerra en Vietnam, la campaña anti-nuclear, los principios del movimiento ecologista…también la droga, el amor libre….y claro el espacio, el primer viaje del hombre a la luna.

Para un sacerdote encargado de llevar su rebaño al paraíso Cardenal ha dedicado bastante energía a su estancia de paso. Y es una energía de compasión, de cuidar lo frágil, de envolverlo en un manto de cariño. Su “Oración Por Marilyn Monroe” sirve como ejemplo amplio de esta compasión que forma el núcleo de la visión política, social y espiritual del poeta (que es además una manifestación de lo mismo en la vida de Jesús con Maria Magdalena, con los usureros del templo, con los guardianes de las reglas, los sacerdotes mayores entre los judíos.) Es un poema completo que empleo para representar la gama de exploraciones poéticas (y psíquicas) que ha hecho en diversos poemas a lo largo de su carrera.
`
SEÑOR
Recibe a esta muchacha conocida en toda la tierra con
el nombre de
Marilyn Monroe
aunque ese no era su verdadero nombre
(pero Tú conoces su verdadero nombre, el de la huerfanita
violada a
los 9 años
y la empleadita de tienda que a los 16 se había querido
matar)
y que ahora se presenta ante Ti sin ningún maquillaje
sin su Agente de Prensa
sin fotógrafos y sin firmar autógrafos
sola como una astronauta frente a la noche espacial.

Ella soñó cuando niña que estaba desnuda en una iglesia
(según cuenta el Time)
ante una multitud postrada, con las cabezas en el suelo
y tenía que caminar en puntillas para no pisar las cabezas.
Tú conoces nuestros sueños mejor que los psiquiatras.
Iglesia, casa, cueva, son la seguridad del seno materno
pero también algo más que eso…
Las cabezas son los admiradores, es claro
(la masa de cabezas en la oscuridad bajo el chorro de luz),
Pero el templo no son los estudios de la 20th Century-Fox.
El templo—de mármol y oro—es el templo de su cuerpo
en el que está el Hijo del Hombre con un látigo en la mano
expulsando a los mercaderes de la 20th Century-Fox
que hicieron de Tu casa de oración una cueva de ladrones.

Señor
en este mundo contaminado de pecados y radioactividad
Tú no culparás tan sólo a una empleadita de tienda.
Que como toda empleadita de tienda soñó ser estrella de
Cine.
Y su sueño fue realidad (pero como en la realidad del
tecnicolor).
Ella no hizo sino actuar según el script que le dimos
--El de nuestras propias vidas—Y era un script absurdo.
Perdónala Señor y perdónanos a nosotros
por nuestra 20th Century
por esta Colosal Super-Producción en la que todos hemos
trabajado.
Ella tenia hambre de amor y le ofrecimos tranquilizantes.
Para la tristeza de no ser santos
se le recomendó el Psicoanálisis.
Recuerda Señor su creciente pavor a la cámara
y el odio al maquillaje—insistiendo en maquillarse en
cada escena—
y cómo se fue haciendo mayor el horror
y mayor la impuntualidad a los estudios.

Como toda empleadita de tienda
soño ser estrella de cine.
Y su vida fue irreal como un sueño que un psiquiatra
interpreta y archiva

Sus romances fueron un beso con los ojos cerrados
que cuando se abren los ojos
se descubre que fue bajo reflectores
y apagan los reflectores!
y desmontan las dos paredes del aposento (era un set
cinematográfico)
mientras el Director se aleja con su libreta
porque la escena ya fue tomada.
O como un viaje en yate, un beso en Singapur, un baile
en Río,
la recepción en la mansión del Duque y la Duquesa de
Windsor
vistos en la salita del apartamento miserable.

La película terminó sin el beso final.
La hallaron muerta en su cama con la mano en el teléfono.
Y los detectives no supieron a quién iba a llamar.
Fue
como alguien que ha marcado el número de la única voz
amiga
y oye tan sólo la voz de un disco que le dice: WRONG
NUMBER.
O como alguien que herido por los gangsters
alarga la mano a un teléfono desconectado.

Señor
quienquiera que haya sido el que ella iba a llamar
y no llamó (y tal vez no era nadie
o era Alguien cuyo número no está en el Directorio de
Los Angeles)
contesta Tú el teléfono!

Desde la primera estrofa estamos conciente que leemos un poema imprescindible, que va a enseñarnos cómo responder a la tragedia y la comedia de la vida y la muerte de Marilyn que es igual al la de nuestras vidas y muertes en esta planeta donde el poeta William Blake nos escribió una vez “pisamos la tierra por un breve paso para aprender cómo soportar los rayos de la luz…we are on earth a little space to learn to bear the beams of love. “

Dice Cardenal que el verdadero nombre de Marilyn era ”el de la huerfanita/violada a los 9 años.” De inmediato, el cuchillo entra al corazón. No podemos escapar sentirnos triste, la empatía con esta niña cuya inocencia se ha sido robado tan joven. ¿Y quienes somos para enjuiciar la pobre empleadita de tienda por el sueño de ser actriz? El primer mensaje del poema entonces cuestiona nuestro papel en la tragedia de Marilyn, uno de nosotros como cualquiera. ¿Cómo podemos dejar que el violador anda husmeando nuestros hijos? ¿No tenemos responsabilidad alguna por la mala suerte? ¿Es meramente una cuestión de suerte, o de leyes y su puesta en acción, o de establecer una sociedad, un reino en la tierra, donde somos verdaderamente guardianes de nuestros prójimos?

Ahora Marilyn se presenta sin maquillaje ni representación ante el Dios “sola como una astronauta frente a la noche espacial.” Cardenal en los poemas de Cántico Cósmico deja libre su imaginación a viajar por las estrellas con el lenguaje científico además de otros lenguajes reunidos con la métrica de una poesía lírica, cantada. Aquí prefigura ese libro con esta muestra de su asombro ante el universo.

El asombro ante la grandeza de la obra de Dios, además de los pecados de los hombres, me parece una imagen útil para expresar la actitud de Cardenal. Y viene frecuentemente con un tinte de ironía y del escepticismo estoico. Ve como describe Cardenal el gran pecador Somoza en “Ha Venido La Primavera” “el dictador/gordo, con su traje sport y su sombrero tejano,/en el lujoso yate por los paisajes de tus sueños.” También el asombro se presenta con tonos heroicos en la oración por Marilyn (y nosotros) y en otros poemas como Hora 0. Cito la parte de “Hora 0” que trata de la muerte de su amigo Adolfo Baez Bone:

En abril los mataron.
Yo estuve con ellos en la rebelión de abril
Y aprendí a manejar una ametralladora Rising.
Y Adolfo Báez Bone era mi amigo:
lo persiguieron con aviones, con camiones,
con reflectores, con bombas lacrimógenas,
con radios, con perros, con guardias;
y yo recuerdo las nubes rojas sobre la Casa Presidencial
como algodones ensangrentados,
y la luna roja sobre la Casa Presidencial.
La radio clandestina decía que vivía.
El pueblo no creía que había muerto.
(Y no ha muerto)

Porque a veces nace un hombre en una tierra
que es esa tierra.
Y la tierra en que es enterrado ese hombre
es ese hombre.
Y los hombres que después nacen de esa tierra
son ese hombre.
Y Adolfo Báez Bone era ese hombre.

“Si a mí me pusieran a escoger mi destino
(me había dicho Báez Bone tres días antes)
entre morir asesinado como Sandino
o ser Presidente como el asesino de Sandino
yo escogería el destino de Sandino.”
Y él escogió su destino.
La gloria no es la que enseñan los textos de historia:
es una zopilotera en un campo y un gran hedor.


Vuelvo ahora a otra muerte, bajo otros reflectores, los del cine. ¿Es la muerte de Marilyn más apetecible que esta gloria de Báez Bone bajo el aleteo de los zopilotes, un cadáver con un gran hedor?

¿Es mas heroica?: “ella tenia hambre de amor y le ofrecimos tranquilizantes.” Cardenal es severo con las alabanzas de los textos de historia en el caso de Báez Bone—y por implicación los que escriben las historias-- y igualmente critico de nuestra complicidad en la muerte de Marilyn. ‘Ella no hizo sino actuar según el script que le dimos. ‘

¿Cómo podemos cambiar ese script? Con la mancha de Cain, el pecado original, los siete
excesos, digo la lujuria y los demás, con toda este peso del hombre caído que llevamos—y hablo solamente de la carga católica y tal vez en otras religiones hay menos condena genética—¿cómo podemos contestar el teléfono cuando Marilyn nos llama?

Cardenal pide a Dios que le contesta. ¿Y a Dios que le importa la suerte de una empleadita de tienda que soñó ser actriz? ¿O el cadáver de Báez Bone comido por los zopilotes? Estas últimas son mis preguntas. Surgen de una lectura parcial, como todas las lecturas, de la poesía de Cardenal. Pero esto no es toda la historia. Hay una razón por la cual Cardenal tomó su derecho de sitio en ese poema que escribí hace 22 años, que Adolfo Báez Bone forma parte de la tierra misma de Nicaragua, que Marilyn sigue alimentando los sueños de los seres humanos ( ahora sabios después de haber leído “Oración Por Marilyn Monroe,”), que detrás del monasterio hay cosas gastadas que también requieren la resurrección, que “el hombre que no sigue las consignas del Partido…será como un árbol plantado junto a una fuente.” (Salmo 1)

Y esa razón se llama Ernesto Cardenal—el que trae el fuego y amor a la tierra, el que nos da la hostia de su visión cósmica y entretenida, el que escribió una vez esta maravillosa epigrama sobre la comedia del amor y la política:

Me contaron que estabas enamorada de otro
y entonces me fui a mi cuarto
y escribí ese artículo contra el Gobierno
por el que estoy preso.

Me pregunto si Dios lo tiene preso o más bien sin la tensión terrenal que viene de ser atado a Dios no hubiera escrito la obra maestra que nos ocupa el día de hoy y todos los días. En fin, Cardenal es hombre y sacerdote, poeta y profesor. Y se viste con sombrero, no tejano, pero con la boina de Che. Y tampoco esto es Cardenal porque enfrente de mi espejo no es la boina ni la barba ni el revolucionario, lo que me queda, lo que me consuelan son sus oraciones por mi, su papel en perdonar el pecado de haber dejado morir a mi prójimo.


El autor da permiso a citas breves de este ensayo. Favor de enviar cualquier cita, referencia a la siguiente dirección de Internet indranmx@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 9, 2008

About Mahmoud Darwish and Edward Said

I met Edward Said once in New York about 1988, and he was dressed splendidly in a mackintosh that rainy night , smart and engaging about the heart, exile, the Palestinian parliament, New York. I used to be rather shy and mumbled before the great readers of the world, my father, Said. They were close friends through reading (my father championed Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism) although I don't know if they ever met. I remember giving Said my poems about my particular vanished culture, identity, island.

I discovered Darwish in an early poem about an identity card, a powerful subject addressed by writers throughout our planet. I remember Jean-Marie Adiaffi's novel, Carte d'Identite, just one among many reflections on the conversation between the free and caged man and the State.

Stateless now, flying in the air between Earth and Olympus, where does the soul of Mahmoud Darwish find a home?

On October 5th poets throughout the planet gathered to read Darwish's poems. He died like Yeats on a day one did not quite expect, on August 9th, 2008.

Here is Darwish writing about the basic matter of his poetry: home, exile, friendship. He wrote this poem to bid Edward Said farewell. I cite it here to say goodbye as well to Mahmoud Darwish.
Thank you Mona Anis for your beautiful translation.


New York/ November/ Fifth Avenue

The sun a plate of shredded metal
I asked myself,
estranged in the
shadow: Is it Babel or Sodom?

***
There, on the doorstep of an electric abyss,
high as the sky, I met Edward,
thirty years ago,time was less wild then...
We both said:
If the past is only an experience,
make of the future a meaning and a vision.
Let us go,Let us go into tomorrow trusting
the candor of imagination and the miracle of grass/

***

I don't recall going together to the cinema
in the evening. Still I heard Ancient
Indians calling: Trust
neither horse, nor modernity

***

No. Victims do not ask their executioner:
Am I you? Had my sword been
bigger than my rose, would you
have asked
if I would have acted like you?

***

A question like that entices the curiosity
of a novelist,
sitting in a glass office, overlooking
lilies in the garden, where
the hand
of a hypothesis is as clear as
the conscience
of a novelist set to settle accounts
with
human instinct... There is no tomorrow
in yesterday, so let us advance/

***

Advancing could be a bridge
leading back
to Barbarism.../

***

New York. Edward wakes up to
a lazy dawn. He plays
Mozart.
Runs round the university's tennis
court.
Thinks of the journey of ideas across
borders,and over barriers. He reads the New York Times.
Writes out his furious comments. Curses an Orientalist
guiding the General to the weak point
inside the heart of an Oriental woman. He showers. Chooses
his elegant suit. Drinks
his white coffee. Shouts at the dawn:
Do not loiter.

***

On wind he walks, and in wind
he knows himself. There is no ceiling for the wind,
no home for the wind. Wind is the compass
of the stranger's North.
He says: I am from there, I am from here,
but I am neither there nor here.
I have two names which meet and part...
I have two languages, but I have long forgotten
which is the language of my dreams.
I have an English language, for writing,
with yielding phrases,
and a language in which Heaven and
Jerusalem converse, with a silver cadence,
but it does not yield to my imagination.

***

What about identity? I asked.
He said: It's self-defence...
Identity is the child of birth, but
at the end, it's self-invention, and not
an inheritance of the past. I am multiple...
Within me an ever new exterior. And
I belong to the question of the victim. Were I not
from there, I would have trained my heart
to nurture there deers of metaphor...
So carry your homeland wherever you go, and be
a narcissist if need be/
The outside world is exile,
exile is the world inside.
And what are you between the two?

***

Myself, I do not know
so that I shall not lose it. I am what I am.
I am my other, a duality
gaining resonance in between speech and gesture.
Were I to write poetry I would have said:
I am two in one,
like the wings of a swallow ,
content with bringing good omen
when spring is late.

***

He loves a country and he leaves.
[Is the impossible far off?]
He loves leaving to things unknown.
By traveling freely across cultures
those in search of the human essence
may find a space for all to sit...
Here a margin advances. Or a centre
retreats. Where East is not strictly east,
and West is not strictly west,
where identity is open onto plurality,
not a fort or a trench/

***

Metonymy was sleeping on the river's bank;
had it not been for the pollution
it could have embraced the other bank.

***

- Have you written any novels?
I tried... I tried to retrieve
my image from mirrors of distant women.
But they scampered off into their guarded night.
Saying: Our world is independent of any text.
A man cannot write a woman who is both enigma and dream.
A woman cannot write a man who is both symbol and star.
There are no two loves alike. No two nights
alike. So let us enumerate men's qualities
and laugh.
- And what did you do?
I laughed at my nonsense
and threw the novel
into the wastepaper basket/

***

The intellectual harnesses what the novelist can tell
and the philosopher interprets the bard's roses/

***

He loves a country and he leaves:
I am what I am and shall be.
I shall choose my place by myself,
and choose my exile. My exile, the backdrop
to an epic scene. I defend
the poet's need for memories and tomorrow,
I defend country and exile in tree-clad birds,
and a moon, generous enough
to allow the writing of a love poem;
I defend an idea shattered by the frailty
of its partisans
and defend a country hijacked by myths/

***

- Will you be able to return to anything?
My ahead pulls what's behind and hastens...
There is no time left in my watch for me to scribble lines
on the sand. I can, however, visit yesterday
as strangers do when they listen
on a sad evening to a Pastorale:
"A girl by the spring filling her jar"
With clouds' tears,
"Weeping and laughing as a bee
"Stings her heart...
"Is it love that makes the water ache
"Or some sickness in the mist..."
[until the end of the song].

***

- So, nostalgia can hit you?
Nostalgia for a higher, more distant tomorrow,
far more distant. My dream leads my steps.
And my vision places my dream
on my knees
like a pet cat. It's the imaginary
real,
the child of will: We can
change the inevitability of the abyss.

***

- And nostalgia for yesterday?
A sentiment not fit for an intellectual, unless
it is used to spell out the stranger's fervour
for that which negates him.
My nostalgia is a struggle
over a present which has tomorrow
by the balls.

***

- Did you not sneak into yesterday when
you went to that house, your house
in Talbiya, in Jerusalem?
I prepared myself to sleep
in my mother's bed, like a child
who's scared of his father. I tried
to recall my birth, and
to watch the Milky Way from the roof of my old
house. I tried to stroke the skin
of absence and the smell of summer
in the garden's jasmine. But the hyena that is truth
drove me away from a thief-like
nostalgia.
- Were you afraid? What frightened you?ï
I could not meet loss face
to face. I stood by the door like a beggar.
How could I ask permission from strangers sleeping
in my own bed... Ask them if I could visit myself
for five minutes? Should I bow in respect
to the residents of my childish dream? Would they ask:
Who is that prying foreign visitor? And how
could I talk about war and peace
among the victims and the victims' victims,
without additions, without an interjection?
And would they tell me: There is no place for two dreams
in one bedroom?

***

It is neither me nor him
who asks; it is a reader asking:
What can poetry say in a time of catastrophe?

***

Blood
and blood,
blood
in your country,
in my name and in yours, in
the almond flower, in the banana skin,
in the baby's milk, in light and shadow,
in the grain of wheat, in salt/

***

Adept snipers, hitting their target
with maximum proficiency.
Blood
and blood
and blood.
This land is smaller than the blood of its children
standing on the threshold of doomsday like
sacrificial offerings. Is this land truly
blessed, or is it baptised
in blood
and blood
and blood
which neither prayer, nor sand can dry.
There is not enough justice in the Sacred Book
to make martyrs rejoice in their freedom
to walk on cloud. Blood in daylight,
blood in darkness. Blood in speech.

***

He says: The poem could host
loss, a thread of light shining
at the heart of a guitar; or a Christ
on a horse pierced through with beautiful metaphors. For
the aesthetic is but the presence of the real
in form/
In a world without a sky, the earth
becomes an abyss. The poem,
a consolation, an attribute
of the wind, southern or northern.
Do not describe what the camera can see
of your wounds. And scream that you may hear yourself,
and scream that you may know you're still alive,
and alive, and that life on this earth is
possible. Invent a hope for speech,
invent a direction, a mirage to extend hope.
And sing, for the aesthetic is freedom/

***

I say: The life which cannot be defined
except by death is not a life.

***

He says: We shall live.
So let us be masters of words which
make their readers immortal -- as your friend
Ritsos said.

***

He also said: If I die before you,
my will is the impossible.
I asked: Is the impossible far off?
He said: A generation away.
I asked: And if I die before you?
He said: I shall pay my condolences to Mount Galilee,
and write, "The aesthetic is to reach
poise." And now, don't forget:
If I die before you, my will is the impossible.

***

When I last visited him in New Sodom,
in the year Two Thousand and Two, he was battling off
the war of Sodom on the people of Babel...
and cancer. He was like the last epic hero
defending the right of Troy
to share the narrative.

***

An eagle soaring higher and higher
bidding farewell to his height,
for dwelling on Olympus
and over heights
is tiresome.

***

Farewell,
farewell poetry of pain.

Translated by Mona Anis

Friday, September 19, 2008

READING POEMS ALOUD,...on SEPTEMBER 25th

READING POEMS ALOUD


I went to hear poetry the other night in Vancouver and the Muse slammed her fist in my face.
Instead of warbling or shower stall arias I heard the cold, precise clink of scientific observation. I listened to prose presented as a form of poetry, lines about businesses and dreams that have disappeared from the sidewalk.

Every utterance belongs to the great, complex symphony I can hear the initiated say. What is wrong with prose smacking against the ear with a dull drip drip?

The matter with drip, drip, drip is that the sound may drive the poor reader mad, move him to storm into the bathtub and yank the tap off its hinges…and without the tap how can future generations drink the original waters that feed our imaginations, that help us bathe in brooks that babble, in tickling streams, in the raging sea?


If you are to be in Vancouver on September 25th come to Simon Fraser University’s library at their Burnaby campus, to the 7th Floor where the Special Collections are housed, where my friend Tony Power directs a marvelous selection of American and Canadian poetry from the Beats onwards. At 12.30 p.m. I will read there with the California and Vancouver master George Stanley who just published Vancouver: A Poem.




Wednesday, September 3, 2008

AFLAME: Remembering Black July, 1983

AFLAME

-- remembering Black July, 1983


What is a poem
to a man hiding
in the cellar
of his neighbor’s house,

breathing the way
his hostess spices
lentils and mutton,
while son and daughter

keep quiet,
not one word
allowed
in the mother tongue,

and wife strokes
her neck,
the golden wings
of her thali,

and across the lane
a mob, ruffians,
tontons macoutes,
lynch squad, a few

holy men, politicians
in white vershtis,
light rage
and sew pestilence

in summer fires
that turn houses
to foundation stones
and stoke residents

out to shelter
at neighbors,
St. Peter’s College,
the police station

near Bambalapitya Flats,
before three days
voyage on a ship
hungry to Kankesanthurai

where soldiers
have been swinging
cricket bats
and teenage boys

have stopped
playing cricket,
disappeared,
coerced

into resistance:
this war, these
flames burning
every day since,

and even before,
50 years ago,
1958, when mobs
first enforced

what was deemed
the people’s will.
by unleashing
latent and dark

social energies,
microbes that murder,
that insist on power
as well as alms,

that circulate
in the body politic
and can only
be diffused,

diverted,
distracted, educated,
burned
out of existence

so Ceylon
may take a bow,
step out
of retirement,

save the side
with sixes,
and at the
victory party

speak of boar
and partridge,
gotukola and
other medicinal

greens, traits
of the veddah,
and how
good neighbors

gave food
gave shelter
denied
the goondas?


-- Indran Amirthanayagam, July 16, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

UN POEMA Y UNA MANGOSTA

ODA A LA MANGOSTA


En Abidjan
un hombre
me trajo
una mangosta
a casa.

Quise
comprar
el roedor,
guardarlo
como mascota.

Mi esposa
me negó,
le negó
a la mangosta.

Ahora
me quedo
sin esposa
y sin
mangosta.



-- Indran Amirthanayagam, dr) 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where Is Your Village?

WHERE IS YOUR VILLAGE?

The blog acquires new readers yet the blogger has gone to bed. Days pass, then weeks. August. Doldrums. Dog days. Much needed rest. How much rest? Time to take the temperature, play with the children, put them to bed, read about the caterpillar waking up and the elephant who flew to the stars. The blogger will not lie down. His hero, the writer from Miraflores, writes his column every Sunday after a week spent on his latest novel. I come from Colombo, parents from Jaffna, grandparents from Alavetti and Atchuvelli.

I watch the globe and I see an island. The island burns. The island calls with treacle and curd while the bull lashes me with its tail. I wear a sarong, a vershti. I wear sandals made from cow hide. I wake up on a rock where a leopard once swung its head before pouncing on my trembling bones.

I shake my bones. I shake my bones. I shake my bones.

"I am going home. You can come if you want," my grandfather cried, in a white sarong, spectacles heavy on the nose, body thin after a stroke, lucid for a few minutes, at the top of the lane, Rosmead Place, a day's journey by car from home.

I will not rest until the island can go off to sleep. I want to get back to bed, to dream of early morning bathers in a tank built in some ancient century where disputes were resolved astride elephants or under a palaver tree.

The duel may offer a neat solution. A fight among the leadership. With rubber bullets. Queen of Marquesberry's rules.

Alavetti, Atchuvelli, villages on a map, pockmarked with shrapnel, excavated by bombs.  Jaffna, once a fort, a city resilient still, will continue its daily labor of searching for food, a battery, on a bicycle.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SUR WALDO ROJAS, POETE CHILIEN A PARIS


SUR WALDO ROJAS, POETE CHILIEN A PARIS.

Ma découverte inespérée de la poésie de Waldo Rojas ne manque pas d’un certain trait romantique: ce poète chilien écrit ses poèmes à Paris, la Ville Lumière, loin de son pays à la géographie enchanteresse, prolongeant ainsi une véritable tradition cosmopolite de la poésie chilienne. Je pense à Vicente Huidobro qui est allé jusqu’à choisir la langue française pour quelques uns de ces recueils; ou à mon ambassadeur Pablo Neruda, en France, à qui il arrivait de composer des poèmes dans un taxi profitant des arrêts devants les feux rouges, pendant qu’il se déplaçait dans les rues de Paris en route vers des réunions diplomatiques. Souffrant grièvement d’un cancer, Neruda est retourné au Chili en 1972, un an avant les événements du 11 septembre, une date connue de tous qui marque une rupture entre le passé et le présent, ouvrant un gouffre où une partie de citoyens chiliens a disparue sous la terre ou s’est éclipsée dans l’exil.


Rojas a pu choisir ce dernier. Il était —il est toujours— membre d’un groupe de poètes dont l’œuvre atteignit sa maturité pendant les années soixante ; un groupe qui a su assimiler en profondeur les traditions poétiques chiliennes et a voulu y incorporer son propre imaginaire poétique au coeur d’une époque sur laquelle soufflaient des vents puissants de liberté et de rénovation politique et intellectuelle, touchant aussi les différentes sphères de la vie quotidienne. Il s’est vu confronté soudain à la urgence de partir en exil, de quitter son pays comme qui saute d’un train en marche, un pays qui dorénavant devait continuer à exploiter ses ressources minérales et ses autres richesses naturelles, mais dans un climat politique devenu étrange et hostile, alors qu’une grande part de ses créateurs et artistes se voyaient forcés de l’abandonner pour vivre loin, survivre et renaître ailleurs.

Je ne peux m’empêcher de céder ici à la tentation de citer Rimbaud : « la vie est ailleurs », car dans le cas de Rojas cet ailleurs est dans la langue, dans son labeur incessant sur le langage, pour y faire pousser, à l’aide des mots, les germes qu’il a transportés dans son cœur, qu’il a fait fructifier dans le terroir de sa mémoire et récoltés enfin pour créer les images de sa poésie.
Les poèmes que je reproduis dans ces pages sont des traductions en langue française à partir de l’original espagnol, mais certaines d’entre elles ont été faites par le poète en concertation étroite avec d’autres écrivains et amis. Je reconnais là-dedans des échos des traditions nord-américaines et anglaises, surtout Pound et son imagisme, ses « apparitions de visages dans la foule », autant que des courants surréalistes français et belge —« Ceci n’est pas une pipe »— « la seule chose réelle c’était les mouches ».

J’aime à croire que dans la poésie tout comme dans l’univers de l’amour, la sensibilité cherche des équivalents, et je découvre chez Rojas une image telle que « les hémisphères de pulpe fraîche du fruit divisé », qui me semble éloquente en ce sens. Ces poèmes parcourent ces grands chemins où soufflent des vents venus de toutes parts et qui mènent à « cette rue qu’habite —exilé— cet étranger qui à certaines heures vient à notre rencontre dans un miroir.»

La poésie de Waldo Rojas ne tourne pourtant pas le dos à la Nature : « Elle berce les décombres / et le figuier renaît tenace / dans la vertical d’un arc éventré. / Il profane la pierre / Il dédaigne l’abîme ».


Mouches

Nous vivions l’après-midi d’un dimanche écrasant.
C’était l’Été dans l’hémisphère que nous foulions, selon l’ordre
des astres.
Empêtrés dans l’oisiveté, avachis, nous déambulions de chaise en chaise.
C’était l’Été, l’après-midi, et le reste du décor les mouches
le dressaient.
Il y avait un Univers épars dans la pièce:
bouteilles vides,
feuilles de journal, un plumeau impuissant rendu à la poussière,
et de tous côtés l’air brûlant bâillait jusqu’à la plainte.
“Il n’y a pire poème que celui qui ne s’écrit pas”, me dis-je
à cris muets,
et la seule réalité, la seule consistance, c’était les mouches.
Beaucoup de mouches, mouches balourdes tombant sur nous
en vagues d’assaut successives.
De tous côtés l’air brûlait et nous avions des bras de trop,
des jambes de trop et tout le corps était un luxe inutile,
article somptuaire acquis à main forcée
par l’habile boniment d’un habile camelot.
Saltimbanques de l’air, trapézistes, miettes d’un grand démon pulvérisé,
Ces tendres, sales mouches, idoles minuscules du dégoût universel.

Nous n’avions pas survécu à notre fable féroce:
jeunes mariés fondus sur le sol, pure mélasse,
à la merci d’un jour d’été, à la merci de la stratégie
des mouches.
Et c’était dimanche comme cent fois encore ce fut dimanche l’été
depuis ce jour-là
et depuis chaque jour où le soleil incendiait l’air
et qu’aux fenêtres tambourinait un bourdonnement et croissait une inquiétude
de toute part.
Quelque chose qui du dehors pénétrait, un certain liquide agressif,
une liqueur caustique qui diluait la chair ou la mémoire,
quelque chose qui troublait le temps nous mettait en désarroi.
A ce point, qui détient le cours des choses et des faits,
comme un pont qui s’effondre,
Tandis que passe le jour mutilé traînant laborieusement
ses membres après lui?

Il n’y a pire poème que celui qui ne s’écrit pas, me dis-je ;
entre-temps,
par-derrière, lèvres closes, la poésie recueillait ses rescapés,
par-devant, yeux ouverts, la seule chose réelles c’était les mouches

(Traduction: Robert Guyon et Waldo Rojas).



Oiseau en terre

Icare a connu en sa chair vive la duperie des ailes.
Ses plumes seront peut-être encore à la merci des ressacs.
Seriner la morale servirait peu aux oiseaux,
la confiance en leur ailes croît à chaque envol et en vol
c’est là une histoire manquant en tout d’importance.
Mais nous autres, nés plus pour le vol que pour l’enracinement,
nous gardons les yeux tournés vers les hauteurs
avec cette étrange nostalgie au pied de l’arbre
du fruit récemment tombé.

Ciel vide d’ailes c’est le ciel de la ville,
domaine des oiseaux en terre
avec les yeux baissés sur les plumes rouillés
comme ces buissons des parcs publics piquetés de boue.


Rue

Tous les chemins mènent à cette rue qui se mire
à travers ses fenêtres.
Chaque pas éloigne de cette rue
et seule sa solitude croît à la mesure
des lumières
et du clignement d’aile des chauve-souris.
Ferons-nous quelques fois dans cette rue autre chose que passer
et nous blanchir les épaules au plâtre de ses murs,
bien que ce soit elle la Rue des Pas Perdus
à la vitesse de ses pavés résonnant?
C’est elle la rue qui fuit à son image,
hésitante au bord du souvenir,
et c’est dans cette rue qu’habite —exilé—
“cet étranger qui à certaines heures vient à notre rencontre
dans un miroir”.



Hôtel de la Gare

Brève trêve de la nuit rapace dans la Ville terminus
cette obscurité étroite et méconnue de tous les deux.
Avec une peur certaine du toucher de leur voix
un corps appelle l’autre avec cette sorte d’étreinte
qui fatigue et qui calme.
Pas une parole, alors, pour agiter l’air qui se blesse :
séparation de leur corps.
Et ce sont maintenant deux moitiés ardûment mutuelles
comme sur l’éclat de la lame du couteau à trancher
ils se contemplent sans surprise
les hémisphères de pulpe fraîche du fruit divisé.



Chiffré à la Villa d’Hadrien
Veguèro uno figueiro, un cop dins moun
camin arrapado a la roco nuso...
Frédérique Mistral
I
La nature ne laisse pas de Ruines.
Elle berce les décombres
et le figuier renaît tenace
dans la verticale d’un arc éventré.
Il profane la pierre.
Il dédaigne l’abîme.
II
Où florissaient les destins campe à présent
l’opacité des oliviers, leur allure insolvable.
Les ruines induisent le sang au murmure indocile.
Nous interrogeons des yeux leurs profils gisants,
formes d’horizon sans parole et sans chiffre,
mais l’été bourdonnant des collines brille
pour taire toute éloquence.
Traverser les célébration du laurier sauvage.
Ne tournons pas la tête, non, vers notre escorte obscure:
seulement prêtons l’oreille à la voix que nul n’élève:
divinités brisées en sacrifice
à un Dieu incompréhensible,
héros meurtris en leur férocité de marbre mort.

III
En plein cœur des vestiges somptueux,
écoute le Miroir d’eau, ses battements,
fontaine répétée de reflets et présages.
Les enfants que tu guettes sont ces voix, ces ailes, ces vols
par-dessus les cercles d’eau,
l’image brisée d’une image brisée et ravivée.
Palpitation patiente des étangs, leur regard sans trace de
surprise.

IV
Non pas à un caillou, à une brindille,
que la main n’aille pas —comme vers une caresse—
plus loin que la trouvaille d’elle même.
On n’y vient pas en maître,
mais pour offrir en gage le regard.
Laisse à la mémoire sa prédation,
l’abeille solaire s’acharner sur l’ortie du décombre.
Les deux également dédaignent la saveur des racines.

V
Désormais citadelle sans siège,
le soir aussi s’est arrêté devant le seuil abattu.
La troupe regagne un sommeil en tenailles.

VI
Pacte de la Nuit et des Ruines :
murs d’ombre renaissent taillés dans l’ombre.
Revivent les échos des défenestrations.





Villa Adriana, aux alentours de Tivoli, Italie,
septembre 1982, Paris, octobre de la même année.

(Traduction de Armando Uribe E.)



Monday, July 14, 2008

About R. Cheran and a New Play About Black July

Twenty five years ago this month Sri Lanka burned and as a result of that fire the diaspora received countless new ticket holders. scrambling on to ships, planes, often with just their suitcases, some precious photographs, thalis, and dreams of grey and peaceful lands waiting for them and nightmares where torches burned away their past.

The poet Cheran has written a play "What If the Rain Falls" to be performed in Toronto on July 26th. He sent me some information from which I quote.



WHAT IF THE RAIN FAILS

Twenty five years ago, this month, "Black July ‘83” resulted in the killing of 3000 Tamils and large scale destruction of their properties. Thousands fled as refugees. A significant number of Tamils sought refuge in Canada. Tamils all over the world commemorate Black July, this month. As part of a month-long commemoration in Canada organized by the Canadian Tamil Congress, Asylum Theatre Group of Toronto performs a play, “WHAT IF THE RAIN FAILS” in Toronto on July 26, 2008.
Written by popular Tamil poet Cheran, the play is set against the backdrop of a refugee hearing in Canada. The play weaves personal testimonies, poetry and dance in narrating a heart-wrenching story of loss and survival. The central character is performed by K. Rasarathnam, an actual survivor of Black July.
Venue: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
Tank House Theatre - Historic Distillery District Sat July 26 2008 at 1:00, 4:00, and 6:00 PMReservations not Required
Tickets ($5) available at Young Centre Box Office: http://www.youngcentre.ca/;
(416) 866-8666; or Canadian Tamil Congress office: (416) 240-0078

Director: Dushy Gnanapragasam
Dushy Gnanapragasam received his initiation into live theatre in Sri Lanka. He has been an actor with various Tamil Canadian community theatre groups for over 10 years. For the last five years he has been a director at Manaveli Performing Arts Group's Annual Festival of Theatre and Dance. His directorial ventures include Harold Pinter's New World Order, Mario Fratti's The Satraps, Ivan Turgenev's Broke, and Murray Schisgal's The Pushcart Peddlers.

Playwright: Cheran
Cheran has published seven anthologies of poetry in Tamil. His plays have been performed in Sri Lanka, Canada, the UK and France. His poems have been translated into English, German, Swedish, Sinhala, Kannnada and Malayalam. He has performed poetry at various international writers’ festivals. He was the recipient of a writing award from the Banff Centre for Arts, Alberta. This is his first play in English. He is a professor at the University of Windsor, Ontario.

For more information on the play contact Dushy Gnanapragasam, (416) 995-2984 For information about the Black July commemoration, visit: http://www.blackjuly83.com/

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

ABOUT FRANCISCO SANTOS AND BRIAN CAMPBELL

About Francisco Santos (http://undressingthenight.blogspot.com/) and His Translator Brian Campbell( http://briancampbell.blogspot.com/)


I had a copy of Nicaraguan-Canadian poet Francisco Santos’s Undressing the Night near the headboard some weeks ago. It then fell behind, and out of view, owing to the general torrential nature of the river of books that ends up by the pillow waiting to be drunk before sleep. His translator Brian Campbell sent me the poems via email so I would not have to retype them here.

The book satisfies like a clear morning. There is no pretense in the poetry. Santos writes directly from experience and hides his agency in bringing beauty to the reader. There is no dismantling of language so that readers can meditate on broken phrases and dollops of white space. Neither does Santos attempt to dazzle readers with rhetorical catwalks or peacock displays. He shoots straight and is lucky to have a translator who has worked hard to deliver the same transparency in English.

I present five poems here from Undressing The Night: Selected Poems of Francisco Santos (Editorial Luna, San Jose, Costa Rica, 2005)





SOY RICO

Soy rico
camino por las calles
dejando crecer mis poemas
mis cabellos
mi barba
que casi no me crece
Mis zapatos están gastados
mis ropas luyidas, nistas
y sin embargo
soy alegre
soy rico
Llevo conmigo las flores
mis bolsas están llenas
de poemas.



I'M RICH

I'm rich!
I swagger down the streets
allowing my poems to grow --
and my hair
and my beard
(which is almost non-existent)
My shoes are worn down, they're done for
my clothes rag-tag, in tatters
yet
I feel joy
I'm rich
Within me, I bring flowers
My pockets are bursting
with poems




CHICHIGALPA

Allá en Chichigalpa
yo vivía en una casa-hospedaje
que también era cantina
gimnasio de boxeo
y gallera
Enfrente quedaba la estación y los trenes
el gentío
y los adioses
eran mi mayor attracción
La carretera la estaban construyendo
y pasaban los vehículos del Depto. de Carretaras
en medio de grandes polvasales
Los sábados por la tarde se miraba la fila de
caballos bien aperados
y se llenaba la cantina
hasta bien noche
El Domingo amanecían algunos hombres dormidos
que se levantaban mientras sacaban la basura
y yo salía a chuparme las narajas que traía
Doña Juana
como a las diez comenzaba el boxeo
y a les tres el juego de gallos.
Yo tenía como ocho años.



CHICHIGALPA

There in Chichigalpa
I lived in a boarding house
that was also a saloon
boxing gym
and gamecock coop
In front was the station and the trains
the throngs
of goodbyes
were the major attraction
They were just constructing the freeway
and vehicles went by, churning great clouds,
from the Highway Department
On Saturdays, in the afternoon, a line of well turned-out horses
and the saloon filled up
’til well into the night
Sunday, sleeping men stirred, slowly raised themselves
as the garbage was tossed out
and I went out to suck on oranges
Doña Juana always gave me
as at ten the boxing match started
at three, the cockfights
and I was about eight


R.I.P. LEONEL RUGAMA

Una tarde Leonel me recomendó
-- para la flacura -- hacer ejercicios
aclarándome que no se trataba de
"ejercicios espirituales.”
Hablamos acerca de las muchachas
que iban o venían del trabajo o del colegio
de las que entraban o salían de una tienda
de zapatos
de otra que pasaba vendiendo chancho
también me leyó un poema sobre una guerrillera
Vietnamita.
Ahora -- otra tarde que veo su cuerpo acribillado
por la G.N. en la foto de un diario
recuerdo que José Coronel Urtecho
una vez me dijo: "Los poetas no sirven para nada."






R.I.P. LEONEL RUGAMA

One afternoon Leonel recommended
-- to improve my vitality, strength -- that I exercise
going on to say that by this he did not mean
"spiritual exercises."
We talked also about the girls
who passed on their way from work or school
about others that went into and came out of a certain
shoe store
about another on the corner selling fried pork
then he read me a poem about a young girl
who had died in Vietnam.
Today, another afternoon,
I see on the front page of a daily
the photo of his body riddled by the G.N.
and recall how José Coronel Urtecho
once said to me,
"Poets? They're good for nothing."




CARCEL

Encerró el silencio
buscó en su bolso
un cepillo y en espejo

Dio un beso al tiempo
y murmuró al viento.






PRISON

He enclosed the silence
searched through its pockets
for a toothbrush and a mirror

gave a kiss to time
and murmured to the wind






FIESTA

El vaso fuera de la fiesta
los libros en el oído
lo cotidiano en la sangre
El loco con el puño sucio
sale de la mina mostrando
la flor.






FIESTA

The glass beyond the fiesta
the books within the eardrum
the quotidian in the blood --
and the madman with his dirty fist
comes out of the mineshaft
waving a flower.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A FRIENDLY REPARTEE ABOUT FOUND POETRY

A FRIENDLY REPARTEE ABOUT FOUND POETRY


My comment on the Found Poem and citation of one of Christopher Levenson’s poems led to a fine discussion via email about what exactly constitutes this kind of poetry. Christopher quite rightly pointed out a certain looseness in my definition. I quote:



“I hope you won't think me picky if I say that, as far as I am concerned, (unfortunately my bible on such matters, the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, doesn't have an entry on Found Poems) it is not a found poem. For me a found poem is one that is composed exclusively of words, phrases or sentences taken from a non-poetic context and never intended as poetry (such as a public announcement, a tourist brochure,a questionnaire) that nevertheless in the eyes of the poet contains lines that are poeticallty suggestive. All the poet does is to n o t i c ethe ambiguities or other poetic potentials in the non-poetic texts, in the same way that the convoluted pipes of a natural gas installation might be seen by a sculptor as a kind off unintended sculpture and, if mountain on a stand would be viewed as such. The only real found poem I ever found was 'The Beaufort Scale' (published in a mag decades ago) which gives the definitions of various force winds. The closest I come to the form otherwise is in a poem "From a Romanian Phrase Book" (published in The Journey Back, 1986), which uses almost entirely actual phrases that I found in such a book but rearranges their order and repeats one or two, so as to subvert for surreal, satiric effect the self-importance of such books:

"A child has fallen in the water.
It can't be repaired.
Do you have one in a different colour?

Must I stay in bed? these sheets are dirty.
You're hurting me.
Will you come and see me again?
This is the only room vacant.
How much do I owe you?

I have lost my luggage, passport, travellers' cheques,
There's no plug in my washbasin,
There's no toilet roll in the lavatory.
Is there any danger of avalanches?
A child has fallen in the water.
My appetite's gone."

So Prague 1987 does not for me fall anywhere near this category but simply records aspects of an actual experience: the posters for U2 and the Police, the dead swan and the remark about Kafka all actually existed and happened and needed only to be juxtaposed with other actual events, such as the chamber concert to create a specific unreal atmopshere. But this is in fact my normal way of writing poetry, by starting from a specific incident or scene or spoken statement and then trying to suggest further dimensions of meaning.”

to which I replied

Christopher, I meant that you found the materials of the poem from a journey to Prague, the U2 poster, Lennon lives, and the 300 Kafkas in the phone book. One aspect of your poetic talent is seeing the surreal, ironic, strange in these elements and noting them down in a poem. Certainly, if all poetry comes from experience, whether lived or read about, then all poetry is found.

You are of course quite right to say that the found poem is assembled from already available materials. I guess I felt here that you had assembled your poem together from precisely such materials.

All the Best

Indran

Friday, June 20, 2008

THE FOUND POEM AND CHRIS LEVENSON

The found poem is a delightful subset of the poetic art. Poets wake up every morning hungry for images. They scour nature programs, read newspapers, comb their pets, anything to tease out some reminiscence, or to enable themselves to describe the sometimes human-like behavior of a centipede in its inexorable march towards a leaf. We are an anthropomorphic lot, blessed (or cursed) with a fertile imagination but unwilling to engage in countless hours of patient study of an amoeba under a microscope. We are not scientists. Yet, we cite Freud at every pause—“that the poets always knew’—meaning the Greeks, who gave us Oedipus and Cassandra and the battle for Troy where gods and men worked together and at cross purposes.

I have gone far afield just to say that each time we write we need to trammel this exceeding imagination, this bountiful garden gone to seed. Why blinker the beast, make it follow our will? Therein lies the rub, the eternal and unanswerable question that rises in conversation between the wild horse and its domesticated brother or sister. The found poem offers a detour from this debate, a chance to find wonder in the odd fish served in reality’s basket. English and Canadian poet Chris Levenson produced a fine example of the found poem in “Prague, 1987,” one of the precise, lyric beauties of his 1990 collection HALF TRUTHS.



PRAGUE, 1987


Now for the first time I see them
in daylight, the statues on the Charles Bridge—
abolished ikons persisting—the Hradcin castle
blurred by scaffolding and rain, the narrow
stairways between old, half-derelict hostelries,
and they are grey: it is not time alone
that wears down the roofs, files away
at the wrought-iron bars of palace gates, and chokes
with cobwebs and dead leaves the once bright fountains.
A dead swan drifts upon the Vltava.

We walk through drizzle to the Maltese Church,
among the baroque impedimenta hear
a string quarter play Haydn, Mozart, Ravel
with, outside, thunder continuo.
in the heart of the Old Town, “Lennon lives”
on several walls, posters announce U2 and The Police;
I ask the hotel receptionist where Kafka’s house is
and I am handed a telephone book: “You look him up,” he says,
“There are over three hundred Kafkas in Prague.”



-- Chris Levenson, from Half Truths, Wolsak & Wynn, 1990


Oh to be the 301st Kafka in Prague or anywhere and receive a call from the poet hungry for an image. My mere presence is enough. I just need to be found. Under K.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AFTER THE PARTY (In Memoriam: Anura Bandaranaike)

We suffer the loss, try to incorporate the legacy into our lives and then go with eating and drinking, loving and sleeping. Let us remember Anura's great heart as we move on trying to wend our way through the chaos of modern Sri Lanka.


AFTER THE PARTY

-- in Memoriam: Anura Bandaranaike


I remember an evening
flavoured by my mother’s
cooking, bringing
two smart patriots
together, to speak
about devolution
not yet realized,
accommodate
what makes sense
seeing the island
from afar, the only
way forward,

two dear friends
who met then
for the first time.
Now, one is laid
to rest, and
the other engages
readers still
to think afresh
about slow or fast
bombs, double-speak,
cynical tongues, how
to bring more than

twenty five years
of war to an end
before all our parties
break up and families
gather, with shot-gun
shells and confetti
to scatter, at weddings
held on holy ground
beside gravestones
where fathers and
brothers, mothers
and sisters are buried.

-- Indran Amirthanayagam, March 16, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

THE LOST POEM-- for Paris Hilton

I found this poem the other day composed a year ago, forgotten in a misplaced archive of the home computer. Paris Hilton’s brief dalliance with incarceration led me to reflect on writing behind bars, within earshot of the jailer’s keys.


ON RESERVE AT THE LIBRARY


Miss Hilton’s jail time journals
may be read in this syllabus along
with the Diary of Anne Frank and
human landscapes described
on cigarette papers by Turkish
poet Nazim, not to mention U's

letters after reading Twenty
Love Poems for the first time
thanks to the Red Cross. Am
moved by the transformation
after twenty days deprived
of free walking in New York

or Sunset Boulevard or
the Champs Elysee, to know
the Bible belongs also to Paris
and she has no favorite passage;
she will now use fame to raise
awareness of cancers that afflict

women, breast in particular,
not any desire to highlight
hair and ride elevators up
to studios where she will
record the 500th episode
of the long-running reality show

that does not belong to me,
distracted by Gramsci,
lean-boned and bearded
on the book jacket
of my friend’s master class
in making social sense.

I will read him too once
I’ve finished Gibbon’s
history of the Romans
and Mandela’s letters
from Robben Island.
So much to absorb

in the words of tragic heroes,
big men and women,
and now Paris poised
to sweep them all off
the bestseller lists
if only in my lifetime.


-- Indran Amirthanayagam c) 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

VANCOUVER: A POEM by George Stanley


VANCOUVER : A POEM BY GEORGE STANLEY


I took George Stanley’s new collection to New York in early May and read it on the subway, and propped up in bed. I spoke of it to my friends. I asked one to bring me a copy of Williams’ Paterson as Stanley pays homage to that major candidate for the last century’s long poem prize at the beginning of this first great urban poem of the 21st century.


In the end my friend forgot Paterson but no matter. We will read Paterson again, as we should Baudelaire’s poems about Paris, to appreciate fully aspects of Stanley’s master work.

I write of mastery because this poet beguiles us with puppetry whose strings we cannot see no matter how hard we try. We are enthralled by the light touch, the inviting language, the confidence. He starts the poem “there is more here than memory.” That line tricks with its apparent simplicity. What more is there? Ideas? Action plans? He then tells us: “I am not a man & this is not my city.”

If not a man, then what, whom? If not his city, then whose?

In this first entry about Stanley’s poem— I do not intend to distil all of my thinking in one blog post—I reproduce an amazing passage to give you an idea of Stanley’s approach and preoccupations. I am also re-reading the poem and find that almost every word and pause has become vital for me, something that happens very rarely in reading a book of poems.

I cite the passage from Section 10, page 72.

“Safe in the city. Safe because of being in the city, place, & knowing all these things to relate to other things, that don’t change, but of course they change & then in between what they were & what they will be there’s a vacant lot, but it’s not a vacant lot like in childhood, you could play in, & make part of the place you were, it’s behind a fence, & now you’re old, & you look through the fence that some younger people have put up, to make it safe for you, & you hope (& it’s an angry hope, & it’s a desperate hope), you hope that really will be (you, that pronoun you hope you are, hope that really will be, & you will be (& then you look sort of shyly away, up the Drive---& all the other old people are there too (where the bank, or the coffee shop, or the bookstore, or the social service agency used to be), next to the fence, standing in ones, look past them & the city goes on & on, outside time, up & down & over small hills, until it gets to the natural line, the water. “

There are a thousand ways to skin a blackbird. The most direct requires seizing a knife, tearing a hole in the skin and starting to peel. That knife appears in the phrase “a vacant lot.” Its tactile, desolate image follows dubitative this and that about place and change. Yet great poetry is made from yoking together the contrast between the music of thinking (this and that) and the graphic image (vacant lot). Stanley knows how to mix the ingredients.

Shall I put my lands in order, I am tempted to ask. There is a lot of Tom Eliot informing this passage. “Between what they were and what they will be” evokes Time Past, Time Present, Time Future from the Four Quartets….and from the Preludes we see old women gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Stanley would agree that Eliot lived still at a time when the poem had some weight, could tweak history. He also wants us to recall il miglio fabbro, the deluded old Lear, Ezra Pound, imprisoned, facing charges of treason, who wrote in 1948 in Canto LXXXI: " Pull down thy vanity/Thou art a beaten dog/beneath the hail/A swollen magpie in a fitful sun/Half black, half white/Nor knowst’ou wing from tail/Pull down thy vanity.”

For Stanley that plaintive cry becomes “& it’s an angry hope, & it’s a desperate hope.” An old man , he sits, in a dry month, among other old men, beside a fence, alone, The various buildings that once occupied the site have gone--the bank, coffee shop, bookstore, social service agency—leaving a vacant lot beside the old men and beyond the small hills, the natural line, the water.
Remember Williams:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Who are today’s chickens? In what space do they cluck? How shall we disappear? By leaning against a fence encircling a vacant lot?
c) 2008 Indran Amirthanayagam Lines cited from Vancouver; A Poem, New Star Books, c) 2008 George Stanley.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A LA PORTE DE LA FETE: Un Poeme de Indran Amirthanayagam

Avec l’édition de cet poème je voudrais souligner mon compromis avec la langue française. Une langue pourrait devenir raide pour la faute d’exercice. On doit se promener tes langues tous les jours comme si elles étaient tes chiens ou tes enfants ou tes idées. Une idée fermée dans la tête ne vaut rien. Une langue tuée par la faute de volonté de son être-humain est une perte d’éclairement pour le monde entier. Je vous salue en français.


À LA PORTE DE LA FÊTE


Un jour
je déménagerai
sans aucune

ceremonie,
je ne la
permetrai pas;

mais
je comprends
qu’un être humain

a besoin
de fetes,
de rites

de passage,
pour dire
a ses amis

que c’est réel
la blessure
et la memoire,

que nous
ne devons pas
le laisser partir

sans un essai
de plus
contre la règle

de nos vies:
tout marche
partout,

l’eau change
sa forme,
le sang s’arrêtera

de couler
seulement
à la derniere fête,

qui pour certains
n’est pas si grave,
un moment

pour faire
la connaissance
d’une future copine,

pour boire
avec des amis
et passer la nuit

sans être seul
avant cette
présence étrange

qui nous ouvre
la porte
quand nous sortons.



-- Indran Amirthanayagam c) 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

WHEN THE WIND HURLS STONES (For Manik Sandrasagra, in Memoriam)

When wind hurls stones,

picks up straw houses,

When earth rumbles,

splits, buries buildings,

When bomb sends bus

flying in Colombo Fort,


When a good man,

precise thinker, reader

of ola leaves and

digital text, gives way

--his body opened

before surgeons--


and we try

to make sense

out of nonsense,

to understand

the boil on the brain,

the blocked artery,


the alarming message:

"surgery did not

go well. We must pray."

He told me

he missed an earlier

Fort explosion


by a minute.

He had just driven

through the round-about.

Today, another bomb,

and in a surgeon's ward,

I don't know where,


in Singapore or Colombo,

we ask for doctors

we can trust, but even

the trusted are not God,

are subject to human

vanity and uncertainty.


Perhaps there is no human

way to cope, except

with hands flailing,

to cut all parties down,

in grief's general cacophony,

in the general madness


of endless war and endless

explosions in the Fort,

and hearts blocked up

in millions of bodies

on all the continents,

and we're left with words,


funeral orations, memories

of the soul freed now

who made our lives

glad for a time.


-- Indran Amirthanayagam, May 17, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

GUY AMIRTHANAYAGAM: COMMITMENT IN LITERATURE

The text of a speech delivered as an invited delegate to the International Writers Conference held in association with the Edinburgh Festival in Edinburgh, U.K. (August, 1962)


The problem posed by the title seems to me an artificial one. Whether the writer deals primarily with his inner life or the world around him, in so far as he is a human being, he is committed the moment he begins to write. The writer uses words, and since words have meanings, he cannot conceivably avoid saying something meaningful about himself or the world in which he lives, unless he chooses to write nonsense. This may seem an unduly banal or simplified way of putting it, but the writer is immersed in the human situation or predicament; that is, after all, the pre-condition of writing, pre-philosophical, pre-epistemological, if you like.

I think 'commitment' is a live issue only for academicians, professors of literature and the clearly minor writers who have the time to bother with issues divorced and separate from the fervid agitation of creativity which should generate their work. I don't think the great writers ever raised the problem in this form, or judged themselves in relation to the extent to which they were "committed." That we should busy ourselves with the question is itself a major sign of cultural decadence and moral confusion.

Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Dickens--how would you see them in regard to this business of commitment? The writer should speak the truth and if in the process he concerns himself with, say, politics and has said the truth about it, he is worth reading, at least for his acumen in affairs of state.

However, you cannot dismiss writers who wrote without the least shade of a political thought, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, or even T.F. Powys in this century as uncommitted and therefore inferior writers. It is rather like the position of the neutralist nations in the 'cold war.' If we in Ceylon are not committed to one of the power blocs, this does not mean that we are not committed: on the contrary we are so fully committed to the human situation in 1962 that we feel the only way we can help avert or at least protest against the possibility of man's suicide, is by being aggressively neutral.

Should a writer express the spirit of his age? Of course, whether he likes it or not, he will be conditioned by the times in which he lives but the particular age of history in which he lived does not altogether determine either the content or the form of his art. If the age in which he lives is given to trivial and worthless concerns, we do not require of the writer that his work merely reflect his triviality and worthlessness: what is valuable in a writer is not merely what he absorbs from his age, but what he, deriving from his own imagination and inner resources, contributes to transform and embed the reality he has encountered. Historians of literature may read a novel in order to discover in it a faithful mirror of its time, but a man interested in the novel and in life will read it for what it has to say directly to him and for what is valuable in it for all time.

Last afternoon there was considerable discourse about 'roots'; it ws said that a writer's work would sicken and die if he cut himself away from his roots. It is healthy and stabilising to discover and ground oneself in one's 'roots' but surely the quality of the roots in question affect the quality of the work. A great writer should be able to grow his own roots wherever he goes and if he cannot, obviously he should not travel.

I was astonished that a great poet like Hugh McDiarmed should be such a stubborn simpleton as to advocate so passionately a complete commitment to an elementary ideology and an inhumane closed system. Shouldn't we learn to cope not only with international but even with cosmic man? The little white rose of Scotland is a beautiful flower and has inspired great poetry, but is that all there is to proclaim? Will it bloom in outer space?

The problem is as simple as it is profound. The writer is a human being, more gifted, more aware but also more normal than the human average. It is the balanced normality of the writer that I wish to stress: a writer is committed to his craft, to himself, to the woman or women he loves, to his family and friends, to his country, to the world, to God or the lack of God, to death--why then discuss this problem of 'commitment' in such an external, such a superficial way?

Great art is not propaganda, not escapism, not even accomplishment; it is an act of radical seriousness forged in passionate logic, wrought out of the mind, the emotions and the blood of man.



--Guy Amirthanayagam c) 2008, Estate of Guy Amirthanayagam.


In collaboration with my siblings, I am preparing a volume of Selected Writing of Guy Amirthanayagam under the title "The Unplanned Flower". I will write further about this as the book takes shape.

Monday, May 5, 2008

NEW YORK

I have been walking and riding the subway in New York over the last few days. Have read from The Splintered Face and seen old friends. I have also noticed the orgy of lights at Times Square and am thinking we must find a way to reduce the footprint cast by those beams. The city has been sweet, sun lit and throbbing with its constant energy. The surprise meetings also delight...today by chance with Roberto Echavarren, the writer resident now in Montevideo, in town to lecture....we drank coffee in the Village and caught up with our lives since our last meeting at the Poesia de las Americas conference at College Station, Texas in April 2007.

I visited the Strand and picked up Allen Ginsberg's last book, a nice first edition, Death and Fame. I also met Valentine Daniel for the first time. Daniel is a legendary figure among the congoscenti...author of Charred Lullabies, his study of nationalist violence in Sri Lanka. Daniel is revising a long poem. I was thrilled to find that we agreed on getting rid of false barriers between areas of expression, that poetry can be another way to truth, as valid as the fieldwork of the anthropologist.

Tomorrow I read at the Asian American Writers Workshop at 7 pm. I will greet you there.

Monday, April 28, 2008

CARTA: UN POEMA DE INDRAN AMIRTHANAYAGAM

CARTA


Dile que espero su carta,
que hay unas burbujas
que salen de las aguas termales
duranguenses y no sé
cómo describirlas,
digo, de manera cientifica,
formal, de la Real Academia.

Dile que no quiero
llevar los 20 volúmenes
o el compact por todos lados,
que hace falta su lectura
de mis manos, de las ideas
americanas
de mi papá adoptivo.

Dile que eligió bien
la novia bailarina,
bailan así sus versos
a un tiempo nuestro,
fracturado, con saltos
pero con una línea
inteligible.

Dile que los extraño,
y a mi no me molesta
si algún critico comenta
sobre los sentimientos
crudos de esta poesía
de amistades. Dile
que la muerte y el mar

son compañeros
de los poetas románticos
y no nos da vergüenza
reconocerlo
esta tarde de espera
cuando un avión
ha llevado a mi familia

a otra ciúdad, otro mar,
y no hay manera
de contactarlos—
no quiero decir celulares—
dile que un pasajero
en un avión vuela
en otro mundo

de espera y de tiempo
suspendido. Dile
que me gustaría
que todos los aviones
aterrizaran al lado mio
y sus miles
de amores hambrientos

se reunieran a la vez
con sus pares.
Dile que me gustaría
que me escribieras
en ese avión una carta
antes de aterrizar
para leérmela.



-- Indran Amirthanayagam, c) 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

ON READING FROM THE SPLINTERED FACE: TSUNAMI POEMS

On Readings from The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems


The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems began its tour of the world on the outskirts of London, in Kingston, where I read from the book for the first time in January on the way to my first home, the island now known as Sri Lanka. There I launched the book at the Galle Literary Festival. I then took it to Seattle, to Elliot Bay Books, in early March and last week to the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

Now, the story turns to New York in May. And the campaign has not gone on too long, not to worry.


The first New York reading promises to be a bit light hearted and optimistic given that it will take place in a laundromat.

Here are a few lines I sent the organizer for use on their website.

I began to use public laundries when I moved to New York, to East 4thStreet in the scruffy, bathroom in the kitchen, Pyramid Club-hopping days....At the time I realized I had to bring my socks to the local stream where instead of rocks to lay down clothes I was obliged to place them on benches and wait my turn while somebody else spun their week's whites dry. I would bring a poetry volume with my clothes and read and imbibe the starchy and powdered air (and look around a bit for a female with whom I could exchange a furtive glance or perhaps a few words about Constantine Cavafy.) Then I entered washing machine and later the dryer and closed my poetry volume and put it inside the hot and sweet smelling bag of newly-minted linen ready for the week and further chance encounters with poetry and its lovers.

The reading is on Sunday May 4 between

4-5pm at Klean and Kleaner, 173 East 2ndStreet between Ave A/B—


On Monday May 5, I will read with other poets in the West Village
at the

Cornelia Street Café, between 6 and 8 pm
29 Cornelia Street

And on Tuesday May 6, I will read from The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems at 7 p.m. at The Asian American Writers Workshop,
16 West 32nd Street Suite 10A NY NY 10001.



I look forward to giving these poems the works. Cheers.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

MARTIN LUTHER KING: A POEM

Remembering Martin Luther King 40 years later.


OLD KING


What if King wore mirrors,
and they refracted the bullet,
and he did not fall
into Jackson or Young’s arms?

What if he drove out
of Memphis in a car
cleaned of Hoover’s bugs
to meet Coretta

and father another child?
What if he grew old
watching Americans
wild-eyed, dancing,

reconciled, beside
cherry blossoms
blooming, one spring
day on the Mall?



-- Indran Amirthanayagam, April 4, c) 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

WILL READ FROM THE SPLINTERED FACE, AT VANCOUVER'S PUBLIC LIBRARY, APRIL 16



This Splintered Face will be on display April 16 at the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library at 350 Georgia in the Alma Van Dusen and Peter Kay Rooms. Come to hear the Canadian launch of this new book, starting at 7.30 pm that evening.

Monday, March 24, 2008

SOBRE TRADUCCION, CON TRES POEMAS DE VIVIMARIE VANDERPOORTEN






Presento tres poemas de la srilankesa Vivimarie VanderPoorten. Subí uno de ellos a mi blog cuando regresé de Sri Lanka en enero. Ahora bautizo mi primer ensayo publico en la traducción del inglés al español con estos tres hermosos textos de su poemario nothing prepares you.

Hay tantas ideas curiosas y acontecimientos extraños que surgen cuando uno empieza la aventura de traducir un poema. Por ejemplo, debemos decidir guardar en el lenguaje de llegada la ortografia y relación idiosincrática que tiene un poeta con su idioma. Cada poeta sufre la tentación de romper las reglas, ver el idioma como debe ser, una energía dinámica, cambiante. Asi, escribo el titulo del libro en minúsculas y utilizo mayúscula al principio de cada verso de una de las traducciónes. Para hacerlo y asi respetar las decisiones de la poeta tuve que dejar a un lado mis propias prácticas de poeta.

Tal vez para algunos lectores este planteamiento es igual de extraño que la decisión original de la poeta. ¿A quién importa una mayúscula? me preguntan varios líderes de nuestras sociedades, presidentes, alcaldes, médicos, abogados, científicos, todos que son responsable desde la Iluminación para asegurar al ciudadano común y corriente que el mundo va bien y se conduce hacia un futuro más justo, intelegible, con salvavidas para todos y las demás criaturas , y también para los árboles y las plantas acuáticas…

Mi pregunta es sin duda retórica y evasiva, pero útil. Si, importa la Mayúscula. Sí importan las reglas de ortografía desarrolladas a lo largo de la historia. Y sí, importa que estas reglas sean creativas, que vayan hacia la luz y el agua como toda buena planta y además acepten la adición de un gene extraño extraido de un pez o un tomate. Y de ahi crecerá un nuevo árbol, un nuevo poema, el poema traducido y orgulloso de andar fuera del laboratorio de Mary Shelley or de Leticia Damm (mi maestra, que me ayudó con estas traducciones).


En otro momento llevaré este texto al inglés y al francés, además de reflexionar más sobre el arte misterioso, y nada menor, ni traidor, de la traducción. Un abrazo.





MAPAS


Perdida
en el viaje confuso
hacia la madurez
no había mapas para mostrarle el camino
solo una maraña de rutas sin letreros
encrucijadas sin flechas.
Sin mapa
ella tomó la ruta
que le pareció familiar,
que parecía ser la correcta—
“Cásate con un buen hombre que te cuide.”

Ahora, abusada y vieja
a los veintiséis años

le pregunta al adivino arrugado,
el profeta de futuros, vidente de destinos,
qué ve en los callos de su palma:
Dice con un suspiro

“Hay tantas líneas,
tienes muchas preocupaciones—
y demasiadas penas del corazón…
Estas líneas son como calles
en una ciudad
sin mapas. “



-- Vivimarie VanderPoorten, c) 2008 traducción Indran Amirthanayagam


MAPS

Lost
on the
confusing journey to adulthood
there were no maps to show her the way
only a mass of roads without signboards
crossroads without arrows.
Having no map
she took the road
that looked familiar
sounded right -
"marry a good man who will take care of you"

Now, abused and old
at twenty six
she asks the wizened fortune teller,
predictor of futures, seer of fates
what he sees in her callused palm:
He says with a sigh
"There are so many lines,
you are having so many worries -
have too many heartaches. . .
These lines, they're
like roads in
a city without maps".



--- c) 2008 Vivimarie VanderPoorten


DECRETO NISI

Hoy un juez
en una corte mohosa
Deciderá
que no podemos más vivir juntos,
tú y yo.
Declarará nuestro matrimonio
Terminado, nos transformará
en extraños. Otra vez.

Eres valiente al presentarte.
Amigas solícitas—
abogados—
me dijeron que No Fuera.
Asi, oculto a
miradas lujuriosas
(suponiendo, con manos sobre bocas)
y fuera de la vista
del Estado invasor,
tengo tiempo para recordar
algunos tiempos cuando la pasamos bien.

Paises visitados, millas recorridas al volante, vida salvaje
en bosques quietos
comidas compartidas, momentos tiernos,
incluso risas .

Basta de eso.
Ahora, como no puedo abondanarte de mala fe,
Y el adulterio no es más una crimen que podemos cometer,
Tal vez podamos ser amigos otra vez.




-- Vivimarie VanderPoorten, c) 2008 traducción Indran Amirthanayagam


DECREE NISI

Today a judge in a musty courtroom
Will decide that
we can no longer live together,
you and i.
He will declare our marriage
Terminated,
Transform us into strangers. Again.
You are brave to be there.
Solicitous girlfriends-
lawyers-
told me Not to Go.
So, hiding away
from lecherous glances
(surmising, behind hands over mouths)
and out of sight of
invasive State,
I have time to recall
some good times we had.
Countries visited, miles driven, wild life watched in still
forests
meals shared, moments of tenderness,
some laughter, even.
But enough of that.
Now, since I cannot desert you maliciously,
And adultery is no longer a crime we can commit,
Perhaps we could be friends again.
--c) 2008 Vivimarie VanderPoorten




VISITA A LOS GIGANTES

En la primera escapada ese verano
A Giant’s Causeway
Restos de una antigua erupción volcánica
Subiendo esas losas octagonales
Perfectas,
Contemplando la precisión
De forma,
Llena de asombro ante el mundo natural,
Me preguntó una hermosa familia perfecta
De cuatro, turistas de Estados Unidos,
De donde venia yo:
Les contesté

“En qué parte de Africa está?”
Entonces les expliqué
Que es la isla
En forma de una lágrima
junto a la costa de la India:
No les dijé
Que tenia un pasado espléndido
Pero ningun futuro,
Que su rico suelo
Está manchado de sangre,
Y que hay desesperanza
En los ojos
de sus niños.
Cuando me preguntaron
“¿Entonces, como es?”
Les dije solamente
“Es mi tierra.”


--Vivimarie VanderPoorten, c 2008 traducción Indran Amirthanayagam



VISITING GIANTS


On the first outing that summer
To Giant’s Causeway
Remnant of an ancient volcanic eruption
Ascending those perfect
Octagonal stones
Contemplating precision
Of shape
Full of wonder at the natural world,
I was asked by a
Perfectly beautiful
family-of-four,
- tourists from America
where I was from:
I answered.

“Which part of Africa is that?”
So I explained
That it’s the island
Shaped like a teardrop
off the coast of India:
I didn’t say
That it has a splendid past
But no future
That its rich soil
Is drenched in blood
And that there’s hopelessness
In the eyes
of its children.
When they asked me
“So what’s it like”
I only said
“It’s home”


-- c) 2008 ViviMarie VanderPoorten

Monday, March 17, 2008

ON ISLANDS, CAVAFY AND JEN HADFIELD


ON ISLANDS , CAVAFY AND JEN HADFIELD


I have been searching for islands since I left Ceylon in 1969. Ceylon no longer exists and not because of a rising ocean. Even the ravenous Tsunami of 2004 has gone back to its lair and islanders are picking up flotsam and getting on with their lives. What else are we supposed to do? Birth, love, death, a glance back sometimes, and blinkered, hatted, we march ahead

When I left the island I did not realize I carried it with me. I think of Cavafy and his bitter poem called The City, that “you will find no new lands, you will find no other seas/The city will follow you. You will roam the same/streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods.” Cavafy becomes even more acerbic as the poem goes on. He says “there is no ship for you, there is no road.” (translation: Rae Dalven)

But of course there is always a ship, always a road. Like Auden’s “poetry makes nothing happen,” Cavafy’s powerful melancholy challenges us. But we do not have to listen. We can choose to ignore the poets' instructions.

And so can all musicians, painters, playwrights, every manner and species of artist fit for the new Ark. If we take Auden and Cavafy to the letter we would pack up our pencils and laptops and disappear. Even Kilroy would not choose to go for a walk.

In the course of my walking about, and thanks to writer Marie Carter, I came across poems of Jen Hadfield. Hadfield lives in the Shetland Islands. But she wanders about Canada in some of her latest book Nigh-No-Place. Spending time with her poems has taken me on a most pleasant journey, past Ithaca and back. She says in “No Snow fell on Eden,” “Eve knew no one who was dying/Adam never sat up late, drinking and crying.”

That is a beaut of a rhyme and full of the sadness of cold and remote climates. Hadfield has a deft ear for the sounds of windswept places. “I will meet you at Pity Me Wood./I will meet you at Up-To-No-Good./I will meet you at Stank, Shank and Stye./I will meet you at Blowfly.”

She has a wicked sense of humor and an ear tuned to fine lilts and jigs in the English language. Here is

Thou Shalt Want Want Want

It is in heaven as it is on thy neighbour’s deck—
a plume-tailed cat, a noodle-legged tin table.

You will covet your neighbour’s horse
and you will covet your neighbour’s land.

You will covet your neighbour,
crawling the apex with a blue tarp in tow.

You will covet bandshaws and braziers,
longbows and throwing knives,

parlour guitars,
shovels snuffling three feet of snow.

You will covet your neighbour,
planting a spittoon for the rain to hawk into.

You will covet your neighbour, hunched over the piano stool
to hammer out the wild, piratical waltzes.

You will covet polkas, quails,
painted pitchforks, a picket fence, a Dutch barn.

a chafing dish, a bain marie,
a kid, a civet, a trivet;

you must have a bodkin, an empire pram.

Thou shalt want want want.
You will covet your neighbour’s ass.

Thou shalt covet Warmbloods,
Arabians.



--c) 2008, Jen Hadfield, from Nigh-No-Place ( BloodAxe Books )


If I may be so bold: I covet the poetry of Jen Hadfield.