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Me and Sylvia at the Memorial (April 2009)

READIN

Jeremy's journal

Even now, I persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.

Jeffrey Eugenides


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Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Un fragmento

Las cigarras tintinean a los lados de la calle donde vivo. En la habitación de mi hija cantan los pájaros. Me siento en la cocina escuchando el refrigerador y a mi hija que corta pan y no habla. Bibo. Afuera en cualquier esquina hablan lentamente.

Eses caracteres no deben ser personajes que podríamos un día encontrar — basta que existen — en cualquier lugar están hablando inquietos, de pie y sudando un poco. Más probablemente escuchan también las cigarras y inventan falsificaciones sobre nosotros.

Gabriel Enolo encienda el cigarillo y harto sonríe a su hermano. Se pregunta si deberían volver al centro del ciudad. Gabriel no cree que el dealer de Enrique Josner esté viniendo — ni a esa esquina ni a esa hora aunque Enrique Josner reclama que sí.

Gruñe en el atardecer y echa un vistazo a su reloj. Oiga, Rico, debo coger el bus. Se voltea hacia la avenida. Escucha un voz en la oscuridad; mira atrás y en la penumbra de la farola los ve hablando. Piensa en su hermano.

posted morning of July 27th, 2013: Respond
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Saturday, July 28th, 2012

So Let's Say

So let's say you're standing now standing stock still on the front stoop
in Saugerties digging the ambient sounds of nighttime
quiet rainstorm       whirring thousandfold cicada and
let's say your skin looks yellow in the mottled light
and sight             and sight is in itself
      diffuse too diffuse
and your line of visionary darkness
and difficult
You're staring at the house across the street the stream of lovely golden monsters
passing
and the yellow light and patchy shadow mute them
mute them dancing
and dancing
and suddenly, you're dancing

let's say you're standing like that stock still outside now
your eyes are closed now feel the length
the indentations and extension of your spine expanding
stretching backwards
filling what was void above you
and your hands,
and from your hands expanding
canvas dream hands hanging nervous
limp down by your side you feel
the energy that's pouring out
that's pouring groundward
grounded

posted evening of July 28th, 2012: 1 response
➳ More posts about Poetry

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Sussurating

The hiss of the cicadas in the trees behind our house is at its peak this evening -- really reverberating through our entire second floor. (It's a sound I love, for which small mercy I give thanks.) As I was listening to the buzzing just now a new approach hit me to a problem of tense that I'd been batting around a few weeks ago:

EL MAESTRO DE TARCA (Ⅳ)

by Pablo Antonio Cuadra
Thus spoke el maestro
de Tarca:

Catch the cicada
by its wing
At least
you're holding in your hand
its song.

I believe this is both truer to the source and better sounding, more poetic, than what I had previously.

posted evening of July 31st, 2011: 1 response
➳ More posts about Poets of Nicaragua

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Lo desconocido

In the third "teachings of el maestro de Tarca" poem, the customary introduction is reversed: here Cifar is speaking to the teacher. This suggests to me that the other poems in this series, where el maestro is speaking "to me" or "to us", are told from the POV of Cifar.

The two main difficulties for me in translating this poem were the conditional tense of "juraría" and the parallelism in the final two lines. I'm not really sure what conditional tense does -- from its name it sounds like it has a similar function to subjunctive. Schulman translates "juraría" as "I would swear", which sounds ok, but makes me ask what the condition is. I am going with "I could swear" which sounds a little more natural to my ears. (As a weak bonus, "I could swear it" scans the same as "juraría" -- though in the rest of the poem, I am not doing much to preserve the metric pattern.)

The last two lines, el maestro's response to Cifar, are the koanic element of this poem. In the original there is a strong parallelism: "Lo conocido/ es lo desconocido." I am going with a literal rendering to preserve this parallelism even though I think it mangles the meaning of the words slightly. Schulman uses the wordy "That which is known/ is the unknown", which I think is slightly closer to Cuadra's meaning, but not nearly as pleasant to read.

EL MAESTRO DE TARCA (Ⅲ)

Maestro, dijo Cifar,
seguí tu consejo
y crucé el Lago
buscando la isla desconocida.
Fui con viento benévolo
a la más lejana, virgen y perdida
Pero
que yo conocí esa isla
juraría!
que su sonoro acantilado
devolvió mi canto un día
juraría!
que era la misma mujer
la que allí me esperaba
casi lo juraría!
Sonrió el maestro y dijo:
Lo conocido
es lo desconocido.

EL MAESTRO DE TARCA (Ⅲ)

Maestro, said Cifar,
I followed your counsel
and crossed the Lake
in search of the unknown island.
I sailed with a gentle wind
to its farthest point, untouched and lost
But
I knew this island
I could swear it!
her echoing cliffs
had once already returned my song
I could swear it!
it was the same woman
who was waiting there for me
I could almost swear it!
El maestro smiled and spoke:
The known
is the unknown.
The fourth poem in the series is a sweet little gem.

EL MAESTRO DE TARCA (Ⅳ)

Dijo el maestro
de Tarca:

Coge la cigarra
del ala
Al menos
llevas en la mano
el canto.

EL MAESTRO DE TARCA (Ⅳ)

Thus spoke el maestro
de Tarca:

Seize the locust
by its wing
At least
carry in your hand
its song.
(I am tampering with the voice of the verb "llevas" in the next-to-last line -- Schulman renders it as "you carry" which is true to the original; whereas "coge" is imperative, "llevas" is indicative.) (Update: here is a better idea.)

posted afternoon of July 9th, 2011: Respond
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Saturday, April 10th, 2010

The monkey who wanted to write satire

This is the second story in The black sheep and other fables -- the story of which Isaac Asimov says (and I'm dying to know now whether this book has been published in translation, or if Asimov reads Spanish...)* that after reading it, "you will never be the same again."

In the jungle there once lived a monkey who wanted to write satire.

He studied hard, but soon realized that he did not know people well enough to write satire, and he started a program of visiting everyone, going to cocktails and observing, watching for the glint of an eye while his host was distracted, a cup in his hand.

As he was most clever and his agile pirhouettes were entertaining for all the other animals, he was received well almost everywhere; and he strove to make it even moreso.

There was no-one who did not find his conversation charming; when he arrived he was fêted and jubilated among the monkeys, by the ladies as much as by their husbands, and by the rest of the inhabitants of the jungle too, even by those who were into politics, whether international, domestic or local, he invariably showed himself to be understanding -- and always, to be clear, with the aim of seeing the base components of human nature and of being able to render them in his satires.

And so there came a time when among the animals, he was the most advanced student of human nature; nothing got by him.

Then one day, he said: I'm going to write against thievery, and he went to see the magpies; and at first he went at it with enthusiasm, enjoying himself and laughing, looking up with pleasure at the trees as he thought about what things happen among the magpies -- but then on second thought, he considered the magpies who were among the animals who had received him so pleasantly -- especially one magpie, and that they would see their portrait in his satire, however gently he wrote it.. and he left off doing it.

Then he wanted to write about opportunists, and he cast his eye on the serpent, who by whatever means (auxiliary to his talent for flattery) managed always to conserve, to trade, to increase his posessions... But then some serpents were friends of his, and especially one serpent; they would see the reference. So he left off doing it.

Then he thought of satirizing compulsive work habits, and he turned to the bee, the bee who works dumbly and without knowing why or for whom; but for fear of offending some of his friends of this genus, and especially one of them, he ended up comparing them favorably to the cicada, that egotist who will do nothing more than sing, sing, who thinks himself a poet... and he left off doing it.

Then it occurred to him, he could write against sexual promiscuity, and he directed his satire against the adulterous hens who strut around all day restlessly looking for roosters; but then some of them had received him well, he feared hurting them, and he left off doing it.

In the end he came up with a complete list of human failings and weaknesses, and he could not find a target for his guns -- they were all failings of his friends who had shared their table with him, and of himself.

At that moment he renounced his writing of satire, and began to teach mysticism and love, this type of thing; but this made people talk (you know how it is with people), they said he had gone crazy, they no longer received him as gladly or with such pleasure.

* Yep, looks like it was published in English in 1971.

posted evening of April 10th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about The Black Sheep and other fables

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Seeing stars

This is a very clear night and is making me very happy to be here where there is not a lot of light pollution... I haven't gotten a chance to really look at the night sky for years. Also very loud cicada soundtrack to the sky-examining.

posted evening of August 25th, 2009: 2 responses

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