29 May 2006

La palabra

...Todo lo que usted quiera, sí señor, pero son las palabras las que cantan, las que suben y bajan... Me prosterno ante ellas... Las amo, las adhiero, las persigo, las muerdo, las derrito... Amo tanto las palabras... Las inesperadas... Las que glotonamente se esperan, se acechan, hasta que de pronto caen... Vocablos amados... Brillan como piedras de colores, saltan como platinados peces, son espuma, hilo, metal, rocío... Persigo algunas palabras... Son tan hermosas que las quiero poner todas en mi poema... Las agarro al vuelo, cuando van zumbando, y las atrapo, las limpio, las pelo, me preparo frente al plato, las siento cristalinas, vibrantes, ebúrneas, vegetales, aceitosas, como frutas, como algas, como ágatas, como aceitunas... Y entonces las revuelvo, las agito, me las bebo, me las zampo, las trituro, las emperejilo, las liberto... Las dejo como estalactitas en mi poema, como pedacitos de madera bruñida, como carbón, como restos de naufragio, regalos de la ola... Todo está en la palabra... Una idea entera se cambia porque una palabra se trasladó de sitio, o porque otra se sentó como una reinita adentro de una frase que no la esperaba y que le obedeció... Tienen sombra, transparencia, peso, plumas, pelos, tienen de todo lo que se les fue agregando de tanto rodar por el río, de tanto transmigrar de patria, de tanto ser raíces... Son antiquísimas y recientísimas... Viven en el féretro escondido y en la flor apenas comenzada... Qué buen idioma el mío, qué buena lengua heredamos de los conquistadores torvos... Estos andaban a zancadas por las tremendas cordilleras, por las Américas encrespadas, buscando patatas, butifarras, frijolitos, tabaco negro, oro, maíz, huevos fritos, con aquel apetito voraz que nunca más se ha visto en el mundo... Todo se lo tragaban, con religiones, pirámides, tribus, idolatrías iguales a las que ellos traían en sus grandes bolsas... Por donde pasaban quedaba arrasada la tierra... Pero a los bárbaros se les caían de las botas, de las barbas, de los yelmos, de las herraduras, como piedrecitas, las palabras luminosas que se quedaron aquí resplandecientes... el idioma. Salimos perdiendo... Salimos ganando... Se llevaron el oro y nos dejaron el oro... Se lo llevaron todo y nos dejaron todo... Nos dejaron las palabras.

~ Pablo Neruda, Confieso que he vivido

26 May 2006

In which I point and grin like an eager child

Neil Gaiman reveals a glimpse of an early poster concept for the much-anticipated Coraline adaptation:

Excitement ensues.

Happy Friday!

(via Maud)

24 May 2006

A better survival


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

~ W.H. Auden, from "In Memory of W.B. Yeats"

19 May 2006

The Turning

This is the last bit I'll quote from Vendler's slim-but-stunning volume, The Breaking of Style. Her ruminations on the work of Jorie Graham culminate in a marvelous passage concerning the inner workings of poetry (and Graham's "The Turning" in particular):
It is only of course after the fact that we can name these grammatical means accelerating the perceptual thrust of the sentence; during our actual stretched assimilation of this long cascade of words flung over a page we are, to put it imaginatively, participating in making the sun come up, the birds awaken, and the churchbells ring. Such an epic sentence--as the town turns from night to morning--is a human, and therefore effortful, Fiat lux. It cannot have the concision and effortlessness of the divine illumination of chaos, because it is made from a human sensing and concentrating body striving to comprehend a moment in one internalized physical and mental gestalt. And that human body is replicating itself in its aesthetic body of words, rather than replicating the outside world in a direct mimesis. The poet has to substitute, for the metaphysical divine will and the intellectual divine Logos, a frail human eye and even frailer human will, which must concentrate fiercely to translate into internal kinesthetic sense-response "the most loud invisible" of the light and "the vapor of accreting inaudibles," the silent flocking of birds. The poet must translate these first into a consciousness of her own internal physical mimicry of the external stimuli, and then, in turn, she must translate that internal kinesthetic mimicry into the visible and audible signs of English, a language with its own internal constraints on expression. The order of linguistic signification, which succeeds the orders of perception and kinesthesia, is represented in the poem by the moment when "one name is called out." Every genuine poem, as Mallarmé insisted, aims at being "one name"--a single complex and indivisible unit of language proper to its moment and irreplaceable by any other. As the poet lifts the silent and the nonlinguistic and the nonpropositional from perceptual import to kinesthetic import into semiotic and rhythmic import, one form of suffering--seeing the day go by unregistered and unrecorded--is brought to an end.
More than a mouthful... Vendler manages to peel back the film of words to give us a glimpse into the living organism of a good poem... For it is a living, vibrant, evolving thing, involving both the reader's imagination and understanding.

One day, I'll spend my time delving into the meaning of these words...of the miracle that is poetry.

18 May 2006

Baroque Account

— when the boats of their senses' beat
against the ever-swelling cliff
of a fragrance that's still open
to fantastic beasts
            and plants that
            shot through with fear
            between the sea's blue and the blue of the sky
            are a sheer metaphor —
sometimes desire flames up in people so high
that they tackle the flimsy boat
and take to sea
the wind plays a delusion in the sails
            an old delusion that lies
            in a slump beyond the horizon
            till the wind has blown the hull to bits
            and from the pieces wafts the wine of the delusion
            this old delusion
None knows the SOS beyond the senses' horizon
and that at the bottoms of our souls there are antennae
that pick up only the vibrations
from beyond
Sometimes the urge will force the dream into a shape
and the body turns to dream

~ Paul van Ostaijen

Explore more of the Poetry International Web's lovely May issue.

12 May 2006

Promises Like Pie-Crust

Promise me no promises,
So will I not promise you:
Keep we both our liberties,
Never false and never true:
Let us hold the die uncast,
Free to come as free to go:
For I cannot know your past,
And of mine what can you know?

You, so warm, may once have been
Warmer towards another one:
I, so cold, may once have seen
Sunlight, once have felt the sun:
Who shall show us if it was
Thus indeed in time of old?
Fades the image from the glass,
And the fortune is not told.

If you promised, you might grieve
For lost liberty again:
If I promised, I believe
I should fret to break the chain.
Let us be the friends we were,
Nothing more but nothing less:
Many thrive on frugal fare
Who would perish of excess.

~ Christina Rossetti

04 May 2006

Of long vanished gondolas and royal brides

Alberto Manguel remembers being With Borges:
He was not above melodrama. He would cry at westerns and gangster films. He sobbed at the ending of Angels With Dirty Faces when James Cagney accepts to behave as a coward when they take him to the electric chair, so the boys who idolize him will not look up to him any longer. Standing on the edge of the pampas, the sight of which he said affected Argentines as the sight of the sea affected the English, a tear would roll down his cheek and he would mutter: "Carajo, la patria!" (’By God, my homeland!’). His breath would stop when he would come to the line where the Norwegian sailor says to his king as the mast of the royal ship cracks: "That was Norway breaking/ from thy hand, O king!" (in a poem by Longfellow, a line — Borges pointed out — then used by Kipling in "The Most Beautiful Story in the World"). He once recited the Lord’s Prayer in Old English, in a crumbling Saxon chapel near Dr. Johnson’s Lichfield, "to give God a little surprise." He wept at a certain paragraph by the forgotten Argentinian writer Manuel Peyrou because it mentioned Calle Nicaragua, a street close to where Borges was born. He enjoyed reciting four verses by Rubén Darío, "Boga y boga en el lago sonoro/ que en el sueño a los tristes espera/ donde aguarda una góndola de oro/ a la novia de Luis de Baviera," because in spite of the long vanished gondolas and royal brides, the rhythm brought tears to his eyes. He confessed many times that he was unabashedly sentimental.
(via Maud)

03 May 2006

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

~ May Sarton, born on this day in 1912

Pensamientos del amante

Ya que la intimidad la noche la criatura
El hombre que la sueña y al sol con sangre de la tarde
Cuando por corredores de azulada piedra
Los pasos que ahora esperas
En vasto espacio enardeciendo callan.

(Es más hondo el amor que nadie nombra
Más amarga la desdicha de un espejo
Cuando de pronto lo empaña lento vaho
De una tristeza a lo lejos de alguien
Que ignorado cruza errante el vacío)

El arco de la cejas con un rayo
La multitud del oro los hombres en lo blanco
Un río subterráneo entre su pecho
Los muslos lentamente dueños de la tierra
La mirada que en un duelo trémula estallaba

Vencida por el tiempo la esperanza
Un caminar perpetuo entre la lluvia
En la ciudad de nubes y agonías
Contra todo y sin fin seguirte siempre
Oh roce frío de invisible llama

(¿Por qué retrocedías y callabas
Te pensabas temblando como un niño
Lamento entrecortado en tu garganta
Devorado en la red de una tiniebla
Entristecido por tu propio sueño?)

Luego por yertas calles la alborada
Trajo al azar indescifrable un rostro
Rubio fulgor y el frágil embeleso
De en otro paraíso hallarte vivo
Lejos del sol occidental ensangrentado

Mas te persiguen la sed y el pensamiento
La ausencia te la invade solo un cuerpo
Ese confuso perfil del deseo volando
Hacia nubes donde son verdes los ojos
Donde implacables son verdes aún y sombríos

Confusos giran grises en sucesión los días
Pálidos de lloviznas e incertidumbres
Cuando junto al anochecer existes
Con penumbra de seres a tu alrededor
Su desdeñosa sordera impenetrable

Enrojece delira Bogotá como incendio
Que invade en luces gentes bullicios
Luego el aire nocturno abriendo lunas
Y escondido en lo oculto un afán
Oh tú que ignorada rodeas y estrechas y amas

(Sólo dentro de tu corazón pasan las cosas
Solamente oyes una ronca bocina por tu sangre
El tiempo acumulándose en cenizas
Vuelves a mirar reflejos en el atardecer
En la noche te adormecen otra vez mudos labios)

Cuerpo que no camina sino
Por constelaciones de incandescente destierro
Trae tus pies acostumbrados a la aurora
A pisar esta isla de nadie esta puerta
Donde el amor golpea con fantasmas

(No es el sueño sino somos nosotros
Como el destino es áspero y contrario
La desierta esperanza sin sustento
En duermevela fluyen días y pensamientos
Cadáveres de sol y lluvia en la memoria)

Tras sigilos pasos voces ecos
                             Eterna eterna ven
Gesto callando sombra que sospecha el aire
Pero al desvanecerse de nuevo tus huellas
Como al final el cuerpo será noche
Otra vez insondable tu luz fuera del tiempo

~ Fernando Charry Lara

(English translation)

01 May 2006

Eternal process

Helen Vendler on "Jorie Graham: The Moment of Excess":
Pollock's Part I terror of the conclusiveness of final shape is answered in Part III of "Pollock and Canvas," which envisages a way out of formal shape. That formal shape (beauty, love, the figure), once it has been conferred on the canvas, permanently settles over a piece of life and determines it. The only way out of the conclusiveness of that formal shape is the admission into it of elements of chance; and Graham's figure for that possibility is God's rest after He made the world, a point at which the unintended, the serpent, can slip into Paradise[.]
This is the snapping of the thread of narrative...the loss of any sense of foreshadowing in our unwritten lives. A step, once taken, is irrevocable. There is no undoing it. (As Lucinda sings, "Can't put the rain back in the sky...")

I find myself continuing to daringly love the indeterminate, the ambiguous, the unsaid, the vague, the suggestive, and the unbound...for my own good. We long for closure, assurance, response, definition, the effable, the fixed. But this is what necessitated loss, pain, and the anguish of erroded hopes.

I begin to comprehend the thoughts behind this poetry and remember those of the apophatic tradition--Alice's journey to the garden of live flowers by walking in the opposite direction. Jorie Graham writes,
                ...Then things not yet true
                which slip in

are true,
                aren't they?
Negation--the opposite, the chaotic, the random--inhabits truth as well. It is paradox, the undoing of tidy lines and fixed truths--the suspension of both belief and disbelief.

In addressing Part II, Vendler explains how it enacts "space, middleness, incarnation, illusion, suspension" and
speaks directly of what the double excess of the long line and the long pause mean to Graham--a way of representing the luxurious spread of experienced being, preanalytic and precontingent. This condition has Romantic affinities; but Graham does not want to be laid asleep in body to become a living soul. Rather, against Wordsworth, she almost wants to be laid asleep in mind to become a living body. Her maya contains no access to Wordsworthian transcendence; rather, she accepts its blessed stoppage in prolonged sensual illusion, that excess that is, in Stevens' terms, the cure of sorrow. The incarnation of this maya as it takes place "between the creator and the created" (83) is the Stevensian moment of credences of summer, of human existence without temporal entrance or exit, represented paradoxically by "of the graces the / 8 / most violent one, the one all gash, all description." This grace is the Muse of eternal process, who has replaced for Graham the meditated, investigateive, and shaped Muse of product.
It is both/and, not either/or. It is all Possibility--not act but the potential of act. Process. The correct limbo of the time-between-times--our inescapable state of being neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, but flesh and spirit, mortal and immortal--equal parts angel, demon, and dirt.

I continue to avoid definitions and the static as much as possible. One day I will be caught...by what, I don't know. Clutching pen and paper with both hands in this meantime, white-knuckling the little that is left to me, which still encompasses more than I will ever use...
Not until inner feeling and outer perception begin to meld, and the poet's body becomes, kinesthetically, a form of the world's fluid body, can the world be re-created in language. The poet declares her creed: that the sun must come up in her before it can come up on her page; and it must come up on her page before it can come up for her reader[.]