Thursday, June 30th, 2011
"However much you feed a wolf, it always looks to the forest. We are all wolves in the dense forest of Eternity." This was written by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, the man said softly as he stroked the silver fur of the animal crouched in his arms. The animal pricked up its ears, then strained to look back at the dark copse of trees where shadows moved as if alive. As if alive and waiting to move out into the open.
Listen, this process called poetry is an exercise in imagining memory, and then having that memory snare and cherish imagination. Yet, every poem is and will be a capsule of territory in the perpetual present tense, a vessel taking on the ever-changing colors of the sea.
-- Breyten Breytenbach
"Poetry is the Breath of Awareness"
(The Tsvetaeva quote is from her book of essays, Art in the Light of Conscience, tr. Angela Livingstone.)
A new poem from Pelele had the happy effect of reminding me of one of my very favorite poems, Kenneth Koch's "Lunch" -- and the funny thing is, I was noticing similarities to "Lunch" even before I looked up to the top of the poem and noticed Pelele's title...
by Eduardo Valverde
Last night I dreamed of you -- or of your father:
a tall man under his hat.
The place I found myself reminded me,
its silence, of a bird -- a bird that’s sleeping,
an engine, maybe, lying in the junkheap.
He came along, his face drawn long, like kids
when they play at grown-up
or like a bankrupt god
who tallies up his mornings carefully
and finds that all that glitters is not gold;
he carried a green bottle in his hands
and the analgesic pain that comes of touching earthly things.
He spoke enthusiastically of the sea's paternal womb,
of land unmapped, unconquered, which begins off in the darkness --
in every single letter of the word, “desperation” --
He spoke of a taste like olives, of the flavor in her breasts,
in hers who never aged but who had brought forth many daughters
each with olive nipples;
of the unease that he feels before the window in a photo
in which a bowl of fruit is standing lonesome on the floor
of the hallway in a vacant house --
or I should say, before the light that’s coming through the window,
an angel hewn of green basalt;
a solid angel, weak Annunciation.
He poured me out a cup and took the bottle by its neck.
Could not remember you; but he said,
with joy in his eyes, he said My kids were like the rattle
of the hills when trains are rolling by;
like a pack of dogs, dogs baying in the distance
to push your weary heart along the journey.
It must have been getting dark, I guess -- a solitary lamp
was turning back to ash his eyes and moustache
And me, I was anxious, I needed to pee;
I felt my dress was falling into shadow --
its weight returning --
raised my hands to my cheeks and found I was not dying
nor was I really back among the living.
Two images in particular seem like they could have come from Koch's pen, the woman "who never aged but who had brought forth many daughters/ each with olive nipples", and the man boasting, "My kids were like the rattle/ of the hills when trains are rolling by" -- also the general flow of the text and of voice reminds me of Koch. (I have probably intensified this similarity in my translation; but I believe it is present in the original as well.) The "analgesic pain that comes of touching earthly things" is going to stay with me for a long time.
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Allí estaba, simplemente sentado allí en el parking del body shop, los guardabarros delantero plegado como acordeón. Me decías qué lástima, tan hermoso y casí nuevo un coche... Querías correr a casa para las pinturas y caballete traer, pero estaba ansioso. Quería ir.
Aquella noche fumábamos hierba, nosotros y Antonia, no podías dejar de inventar cuentos sobre el choque, tú loca, estabas riendo y contandonos lo que ha pasado, quiénes habían resultado herido, cuáles consequencias... Antonia reía tambien, una risa áspera, y su collar de coralina roja temblaba ritmicamente.
Monday, June 27th, 2011
Jonathan Ward of Excavated Shellac has a bunch of great new music posts up;* old recordings of flamenco, Turkish music, West African pop... particularly up my alley is a guest post from Swedish psychotherapist Tony Klein. A few years ago at a flea market in Uppsala, Klein found an old record of Signe Flatin Neset playing the traditional Norwegian tune «Skuldalsbruri» ("The Bride from Skuldal") on Hardingfele, a Norwegian fiddle with four resonating strings under the melody strings. Listen to the recording at box.net, and read Klein's post about the music and the artist.
*(Hmm, no, this is not correct. They are a bunch of old posts from the archives that Google Reader and/or WordPress decided should be reported as new today. This is a good thing as it exposed me to some fine music; but if you head over to Jonathan's blog the latest post you will see is from a couple of weeks ago.)
(Oh and speaking of great music to listen to, NPR's First Listen is now streaming Gillian Welch and David Rawling's new record, The Harrow and the Harvest, for free. Thanks for the link, cleek!)
Les diremos todo a ellos, todo el cuento a Antonia y a sus amigas, todo el cuento desde el inicio. Lo contaremos, como te has despertado aquella mañana, también agotada, repitiendo esas frases melosas y vacías que habías oído en sueños. Como no podía hacer cara o cruz de todo lo y he bajado para preparar café.
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
I find myself fascinated by Steven White's statement about Alfonso Cortés, Nicaragua's "poeta loco," that he "was prone to fits of violence that coincided with the full moon" -- I am finding in Cortés' poetry some beautiful fragments without its yet coming together for me as a whole. Inscribed on Cortés' tomb in León (adjacent to the tomb of Rubén Dario) is his poem "Supplication."
Time is hunger, space is cold
pray, pray: only supplication
can satisfy the longings of the void.
Dreaming is a lonely rock
where the eagle of the soul can build his nest:
dream, dream, dream the whole day long.
(I see a couple of references, in the few of Cortés' poems that White includes, to ether -- I wonder if he was a recreational user and if so, whether that had anything to do with his reputation for insanity.)
This weekend's SOMbike ride was a tour of the proposed greenway along the east branch of the Rahway River, through Maplewood, South Orange, Orange and West Orange. Cami Zelevansky, who is working with the Greenway committee in Maplewood, led the way on the first half of the ride, showing us where the path would be laid, what changes needed to be made and where there are still decisions to be made -- the greenway is still a good ways from being even conceptually complete. The main piece of news I learned on this portion of the ride is that the old pump house south of 3rd Street has been condemned -- tragic! It is one of the most beautiful structures in our town. Cami told us the structure is contaminated with toxic chemicals and would be infeasibly expensive to renovate.
The old Boyd Hat Company factory
The ride through Orange and West Orange was led by Patrick Morrissey, executive director of HANDS, Inc. and proprietor of Hat City Kitchen. He showed us around the old hat manufacturing district in the valley, we saw some gorgeous old factories and warehouses that HANDS is redeveloping into mixed-use condominiums and business and art space, and some that have been condemned; we looked at the art spaces that have already been developed as part of the Valley Arts District; we saw the east fork of the east branch of the Rahway, a river fork I had not known about -- it is mostly underground in culverts but the narrow channel where it is at the surface, behind the old Monroe Calculator Company factory, is a lovely hidden bit of wilderness rising up in the middle of the city. We ended up at Hat City Kitchen, where Pat treated us to a beer, and then rode on home.
A nice ride, not particularly challenging but with lots to see and learn. I was not looking for challenge as I had worn myself out earlier in the day making another attempt on Walker Street -- nearly made it to the top this time!
Last night's (intensely visual) dream involved a long walk and an unexpected park. Monique and Jeremy were visiting NYC and we had made plans to meet up in Astoria; I had some time to kill beforehand so took the subway up to the Bronx and started walking...
I was looking for a place to cross into Manhattan -- my plan was to walk around the northern tip of Manhattan and then cross to Queens. (The imagined geometry of dream-NYC was not exactly the same as real life but was roughly similar.) There was a bridge without a pedestrian walkway, but I noticed a narrow foot bridge next to and below it. Pedestrian traffic on this bridge was quite heavy, it looked like the sidewalk of Broadway in Midtown. I crossed over, jostled by the crowd, to a point on the west side of Manhattan just below the northern tip, and started walking north.
As I rounded the northern extremity of the island, I happened on a park I had never known about. It was designed around a long pier of bedrock extending north into the waters of the Hudson, the tip of which had been carved into a dragon figurehead for the prow of Manhattan. Behind this was a reflecting sculpture -- a large rock sphere hollowed out and lined with mirrors arranged in a complex pattern, and with a small pool of luminescent liquid in its base. I spent a long time gazing into this and was startled from my reverie by my cell phone ringing. It was Ellen, telling me that she and Sylvia had gotten home safely after a long and unpleasant train ride. While we were talking, I woke up.
Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Filipino-American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas writes a piece of memoir for this week's New York Times Magazine which is astonishing in its audacious bravery. Vargas is coming out for the second time in his life, coming out in a role which could hold very real, dreadful repercussions for his life and his livelihood.
El signo que se cuelga sobre la puerta de la pupusería se destaca verde e oval contra los ladrillos rojos de la pared. He comprado unos pupusas para el almuerzo, pasaba por allí de camino a casa. Aquí tienes una de queso, una de chicharrón para mi. Vamos, creo que tenemos un poco repollo encurtido en la nevera... y tal vez una salsa. Tardes perezosas.
El peso de la pupusa en mi boca. La masticación agradable me distrae de lo que me decía el médico esta mañana. Es claramente más fácil no pensar en ello, el café sorber, tu presencia sentir... Mirar fijamente al vacío.
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.