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Hay peores cárceles que las palabras.

Nuria Monfort


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Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

A couple of things about Joaquín Pasos

  • I spent a few weeks in October working on a translation of his "Canto de guerra de las cosas" that I had started and abandoned a couple of years ago. What a great poem this is!
  • Searching for more about him led me to find some of Chris Brandt's translations -- I was particularly floored by his version of "Hotel Tremol", which you can hear John John reading on YouTube.
  • From Brandt's translations I was inspired to buy Pasos' Poesía completa, which is available in a very nice edition being remaindered at Amazon.es -- with shipping included it is ~$12. (You should buy it if you read Spanish.)
  • I'm just blown away by the poems -- it is premature to talk about favorites at this point but already with the very second poem in the book, "Cook «Voyages»," we are among the very highest ranks of poetic imagery.
  • Three of Pasos' books are called Poemas de un joven que no ha viajado nunca, Poemas de un joven que no ha amado nunca, and Poemas de un joven que no sabe inglés. This last one, "Poems by a kid who doesn't know English," is not in the collected edition I got but you can read it online at The University of Utah's site. "Hotel Tremol" and "Voyages" are both in the first one, "Poems by a kid who has never travelled." They are together quite enough to put Pasos among the best poets I've read.

posted evening of November 28th, 2012: Respond
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Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Opportunistically Present

Opportunistically lying in wait and grinning, giggling lamely
at the ashy glow of the painted wall in the streetlamp and suddenly
hear a dead man walking round the corner and the dying fall

You're making up your mind and nervous, humming inanely
snatches of the anthem of your good old school out west;
forgotten the words and meanings
subtle meaninglessness,
your time has not yet come so you play the fool

And suddenly crumpling and falling, lifeless,
playing a wrinkled fool, to an audience of jaded friends

You're running now frantic feel the rhythmic pace
and all the scenery's the same just one repeated shot flickers past
and you could swear you've been out here before
Mr. Hitchcock; and this stupid mistake will not be your last
not the last of such creatures entrusted and painted and lined
with precious gems, heirloom for a generation
of bureaucrats --
you switch back now and look him full in the face
and suddenly you find you cannot recognize this familiar caricature,
this crudely sketched archetype of disquiet, or you do not want to
(and so you fail to), unfamiliar expression you know so well,
could trace it out in the dark you reckon soft ivory fingers
on imaginary skin
and so you stare into his absent eyes and identify yourself
with his absent character and longing

And you so long to be there, to be present.

posted afternoon of November 18th, 2012: Respond
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Monday, November 12th, 2012

Sessiz Ev

Surprised I missed this! Pamuk's second novel has been published in English translation as Silent House. Nice to hear. NY Times review here.

posted afternoon of November 12th, 2012: Respond
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Sunday, October 28th, 2012

noted

(walking with Pixie the morning of the storm)
the textures and sounds of Autumn, and the foreboding, are easily as invigorating as the gorgeous colors.


Crunchy autumn sidewalk in Maplewood?
Or the world's most frustrating jigsaw puzzle?

posted morning of October 28th, 2012: Respond
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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

El amor es una forma de ausencia; siempre se convierte el amador en fantasma

Four takes on absence.

Dónde vives
by The Modesto Kid

Nada sé de ti, oh Ávala, salvo que eres
        mi hermano poeta
   y que vives
en casa callada

Al departamento frío
by Peter Conlay

Al departamento frío
llegamos
y salimos otra vez;
de ti no sé nada
salvo de que
eres mi hermana.

Ausencia
by Maximiliano Josner Ávala

Nada sé de ella
salvo que es mi hermana
y es muerta
La encontré a ella en el jardín
pero no hablaba.

La Soledad
by Roberto Bolaño

¿Te divierte que escriba en tercera persona?
¿Te divierte que a veces diga que dentro de 100 años
estaremos completamente solos?
Nada sé de ti salvo que eres mi hermana
En los fríos departamentos junto al barrio gótico
A veces escuchando la lluvia
O besándonos
O haciendo muecas delante del espejo

posted morning of October 25th, 2012: 7 responses
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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story

It was a lot of fun to hear D.T. Max reading from his new biography of DFW at Words Bookstore in Maplewood. I am looking forward to reading it; and in particular I am taken with the title. Max says it is an expression Wallace made use of repeatedly in letters throughout his career, and generally without context. It rings true for me in ways I haven't quite been able to sort out yet. (Max said he was surprised, at each stage of the editorial process, at being able to keep the title he had chosen.)

For example this statement seems like it would make a really good epigraph (mutatis mutandis) for Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet -- a book I finished reading this weekend and which I'm recommending wholeheartedly, by the by -- I wonder if it is some sort of postmodern commonplace. This association of love with absence. Both Rushdie and Wallace I think are very concerned with the irreality of the world about which they are trying to write realistically; and maybe this in a way implies that loving someone (as Maria loves Ormus, as otherworldly Rai loves otherworldly Vina) is a way of escaping into their reality from your own irreality, of becoming a ghost. (And this in turn can be seen as a metaphor for the process of reading the novel and identifying with its characters, coming full circle.)

The irritation I felt at Rai's voice throughout the first part of the novel faded about halfway through (indeed about the time I figured out what was making me feel irritated, I started to feel more sympathy for him) -- and in the last 150 pages or so I really started loving his voice (which changed a bit at that point in the story -- he grew in a way that brought more sincerity into his voice).

posted afternoon of October 23rd, 2012: Respond
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Saturday, October 20th, 2012

On the river

posted evening of October 20th, 2012: 1 response
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Saturday, October 13th, 2012

A filthy bird is a happy bird

A mix tape (is mix tape the right term here? Something like a playlist but including readings and videos as well as music...) (and whew! there is something unfamiliar about blogging in English!): The ordering of the playlist is my own chain of memory (with proddings from others) starting from chapter 7, "More than love", of The ground beneath her feet.

  1. Ormus speaks. I have been liking this novel while being rubbed a little the wrong way by the narrator's voice -- Rai seems a little off to me, a little cynical and annoyingly, smugly verbose. I found quite striking the short piece in the middle of this chapter that shifts into Ormus' voice, and into him quoting his father's voice. His mention of vultures and of Attar, and of Prometheus, got me into a "classical birds" frame of mind. Ormus speaks, read by The Modesto Kid
  2. Martha McCollough's splendid video, One eats the sweet fruit, the other watches.
  3. Attar's poem in Fitzgerald's stellar translation, The Bird Parliament. (This would be an amazing poem for reading out loud -- I tried that earlier and got about a ¼ of the way into it... I may have to upload a recording of this to SoundCloud.)
  4. Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds. (thanks for the link, John!)
  5. I'm also put in mind a little of Borges' mysticism, in a way I have not been by this novel so far -- the bits of magic in Rai's narration have been undone by his glibness. Specifically The Theologians I guess, though I don't recall there being birds in that.
More in comments.

posted morning of October 13th, 2012: 4 responses
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Friday, October 12th, 2012

Nubes y sol

dos paisajes de nubes, a lo largo de mi viaje a casa esta noche: sobre East Orange y al muelle en Hoboken.


posted evening of October 12th, 2012: Respond

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Si puedes oír, escucha.

Un poema (o tal vez dos poemas, no estoy completamente seguro respecto a la división) por The Modesto Kid. (borredor)

azul es la lluvia que cae todos
los Avriles
sobre mis casas y pueblos y ciudades
entre mis líneas longitudinales
mojadas
penetra la lluvia
y fluye en arroyos
hacia charcos
(y no se congela, no es bastante frío)
en eses charcos podrían suceder asombras y milagros.
Veo ahora al fondo del corredor oscuro
puerta desconocida abriéndose. Afuera
gesticulan los árboles mojados; nos llaman a venir.

Si puedes oír, escucha.
Si puedes escuchar, cavila.
Cavilaré esas cosas de nuevo aprendidas,
ésas las que me has dicho
esas ideas antropógenes
que cazan y se acostan ociosos
sobre la cama que es mi cerebro
cogitaré largo
mejor que no me detenga
sin nunca entender
por qué me has dado
esas lecciones y
lecturas
ideas tan extrañas
ideas que a mi mirada la llaman
hacia direcciones no bien conocidas
y que entre si no se pueden en total
reconciliar,
hay inconsistencias adentro de esa tela de realidad:
por ejemplo: por qué no aceptarías
el deber lo que adeudes
a Machado y a Saramago
y a la historia entera del verso escrito
te comportes como si fuera la poesía
tu invención propia
(How can you say such a thing?)
(¿Por qué me dices tal cosa? y ¿cómo pudieras tal cosa decir?
Por favor no me falsificar. Amigo.)
Pues bien, reconocemos a la influencia y a la belleza de poetas pasados y los celebramos. Y ¡no de mala gana! Qué va, de ninguna manera. Amamos nuestros maestros y maestras y no tenemos ningún deseo, ellos a rechazar.
Lo todo estoy pensando mientras caigo
mientras caigo tan melifluemente, tan ligera, casi
involuntariamente --
Tuviera tiempo para hacer reverencias a los relicarios los que
estoy pasando en caer
si fuera un creyente. Soy viajante más bien,
recorro las playas del sol
y las mares de la luna.

posted afternoon of October 6th, 2012: 1 response
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