Miguel Hernandez Poem for the First Saturday of August (2014)

Went to visit Peggy King today. She is 96.

Self met Peggy’s sister, who works in a Los Altos art gallery.

Self was astonished to learn that Peggy has the same birthday as Dear Departed Dad: March 3. Which makes them both Pisces. Which is a sign that’s supposed to get on famously with Cancer (self’s sign)

Without further ado, the poem of the day, from Miguel Hernandez (NYRB/Poets), selected and translated by Don Share

Death, in a Bull’s Pelt

Death, in a bull’s pelt,
full of the holes and horns of its own
undoing, grazes and tramples
a bullfighter’s luminous field.

Volcanic roaring, ferocious snorting,
all from a general love for everything born –
Yes, the eruptions that flare
kill peaceful ranchers.

Now, ravenous, love-starved beast,
you may come graze my heart’s tragic grasses,
if you like its bitter aspect.

Like you, I am tormented by loving so much,
and my heart, dressed in a dead man’s clothes,
winds over it all.

Miguel Hernandez, NYRB/Poets, Poems Selected and Translated by Don Share

Received in the mail today, these treasures:

Arrived in the Mail Today: a poetry collection and PANK # 10

A poetry collection by Miguel Hernandez, translated from the Spanish by Don Share;  and PANK # 10

Self has blogged about Miguel Hernandez before, so his name should be at least passingly familiar to some readers.

A poem of his, translated by Don Share, has been taped above her desk for months.

Finally, she has his translated poetry in her hands! She reads the first poem, “A Man-Eating Knife.” Here’s how it begins:

A man-eating knife
with a sweet, murdering wing
keeps up its flight and gleams
all around my life.

A twitching metal glint
flashes quickly down,
pricks into my side,
and makes a sad nest in it.

My temples, flowery balcony
of a younger day,
are black, and my heart,
my heart is turning gray.

About the poet:  Miguel Hernandez Gilabert was born on October 30, 1910, to an impoverished family in the old Visigothic capital Orihuela, in the south of Spain.  Of seven children, Miguel was one of only four who survived.  His father raised goats and sheep, and for most of his life Miguel worked in the family business as a shepherd.

About the translator, Don Share:  Don Share is the senior editor of Poetry magazine.  His books of poetry include Squandermania, Union, and most recently, Wishbone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Catching Up: Books of The Economist, 15 March 2014

No more apologies!  Self is going to get to the every single back issue of The Economist (Her subscription is good until next year), by hook or by crook!

Here are the books she wants to read, after perusing the Books and Arts section of 15 March 2014:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things:  Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz:  Self chooses this book to read because part of it is a blow-by-blow of how a business failed.  The author’s advice for prospective entrepreneurs?  “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble.”  Mr. Horowitz took his company public, but alas his timing was poor, for the terrorist attacks on 9/11 hit just a short time later.  Mr. Horowitz goes into “wartime” mode.  Read how he does it.

The six-volume, 3,500-page autobiography by Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle (The first three have been translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett):  The Economist calls it “the most exhaustive account of a modern life ever written.” Mr. Kanusgaard turned out this magnum opus by writing 20 pages a day, “baring bits of his soul to a timetable, coping, on the one hand, with the growing fury of his family and, on the other, with the ever-present fear of failure.”  Not until almost at the end of the review is Proust even mentioned, but Proust was in the back of self’s mind from the moment she began reading it.  Like Proust, Knausgaard is obsessed “with the mechanics of memory: he claims that he does not have a good memory until he starts writing.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Poem, Today, 4th Thursday of July (2014)

I wander down streets losing
things I gather up again:
parts of my life
that have turned up from far away.

– excerpt from “Everything is Filled With You”, by Miguel Hernandez (1910 – 1942), in a translation by Don Share

* * * *

Self loves this poem.  She stumbled across it in The New York Review of Books. Hernandez wrote it from prison. He was sentenced to 30 years for his role as a cultural ambassador for the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War.

The translation is by Don Share.

She’s quoted from it on this blog before, but this morning the section above seemed especially moving.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Day For Posting About Spain (2nd Saturday of March 2014)

A Poem by Miguel Hernandez, translated from the Spanish by Don Share and published in the New York Review of Books, April 4, 2013

The poet and playwright Miguel Hernandez (1910 – 1942) was born into a peasant family in the province of Alicante in southeast Spain and died from tuberculosis in a prison hospital there at age thirty-one.  For much of his life he worked, like his father, as a shepherd.  As a soldier and cultural ambassador for the Republican Army during the Spanish civil war, Hernandez read his poems and plays on the radio and on the front lines.  When the war ended in 1939, he was arrested and sentenced to death (commuted to thirty years in prison).

Everything is Filled with You

Everything is filled with you,
and everything is filled with me;
the towns are full,
just as the cemeteries are full
of you, all the houses
are full of me, all the bodies.

I wander down streets losing
things I gather up again:
parts of my life
that have turned up from far away.

I wing myself toward agony,
I see myself dragging
through a doorway,
through a creation’s latent depths.

Everything is filled with me:
with something yours and memory
lost, yet found
again, at some other time.

A time left behind
decidedly black,
indelibly red,
golden on your body.

Pierced by your hair,
everything is filled with you,
with something I haven’t found,
but look for among your bones.

Quote of the Second Wednesday of February 2014: Rabindranath Tagore

Thinking about poetry this morning, and about the lecture last night at USF.  Saw Melissa Dale again.

Melissa is the Executive Director of the USF Center for the Pacific Rim and also an Assistant Professor at USF.  Decades ago — in 1991, to be exact — she was self’s student assistant in the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford.  Melissa took the picture of self that graces the back of self’s first book, Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila.  She lived on the East Coast for many years.

Eventually, Melissa and her two teen-aged daughters moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Life is so mysterious.  But self rejoiced at this chance to see her again.

The poem self is reading this morning is by Rabindranath Tagore.  It’s from Rabindranath Tagore:  Selected Poems, translated by William Radice (Penguin Modern Classics edition).  She doesn’t recall buying this book, so it was probably given to her by one of her friends.

The poem contrasts a young singer with an old, and resonates so much with self.

“Broken Song”

Kasinath the new young singer fills the hall with sound:
The seven notes dance in his throat like seven tame birds.
His voice is a sharp sword thrusting and slicing everywhere,
It darts like lightning — no knowing where it will go when.

He sets deadly traps for himself, then cuts them away:
The courtiers listen in amazement, give frequent gasps of praise.
Only the old king Pratap Ray sits like wood, unmoved.
Baraj Lal is the only singer he likes, all others leave him cold.
From childhood he has spent so long listening to him sing –
Rag Kafi during holi, cloud songs during the rains,
Songs for Durga at dawn in autumn, songs to bid her farewell –
His heart swelled when he heard them and his eyes swam with tears.
And on days when friends gathered and filled the hall
There were cowherds’ songs of Krishna, in rags Bhupali and Multan.

So many nights of wedding-festivity have passed in that royal house:
Servants dressed in red, hundreds of lamps alight:
The bridegroom sitting shyly in his finery and jewels,
Young friends teasing him and whispering in his ear:
Before him, singing rag Sahana, sits Baraj Lal.
The king’s heart is full of all those days and songs.
When he hears some other singer, he feels no chord inside,
No sudden magical awakening of memories of the past.
When Pratap Ray watches Kasinath he just sees his wagging head:
Tune after tune after tune, but none with any echo in the heart.

To fully appreciate the poem, self had to turn to the Glossary in the back of the book.

Holi, self learns, is “a Hindu spring and fertility festival, characterized by the joyous throwing of coloured powders and sprinkling of coloured liquid at people.”

There were some other interesting words in the glossary, words like:

Jambu:  “Large tree that sheds its leaves in January/February, has fragrant white flowers in March-May, and purplish black astringent fruit in June/July.”

Kacu:  “The taro, a coarse herbacious plant cultivated for its tubers”

Koel:  “A bird that is frequently called ‘cuckoo’ by translators but which is actually different from either the European cuckoo or the Indian cuckoo, though it belongs in the same family.”

Makara:  “Mythical sea monster, representing the Capricorn of the Hindu zodiac, with head and forelegs of a deer, and body and tail of a fish.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

USF Lecture on Translation, Tomorrow, Tuesday, 11 February 2014

JOURNEYS THROUGH TIME AND SPACE:  BRIDGING WORLDS WITH TRANSLATION

A lecture by Andrea Lingenfelter

From Hall 115 – Berman Room

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014

5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Lingenfelter will talk about what she has learned in her life as a translator of poetry, fiction, and film subtitles.  Informed by decades of experience with different genres, she will address some of the issues that confront the translator — rhetoric, style, esthetics, sound and syntax, idioms, culture, audience, and ethics.  Drawing on her own work, Dr. Lingenfelter will explore some fundamental differences between poetry, prose, and spoken language that become striking when we translate them.

Free and Open to the Public.

 

Poem for the Day After New Year’s (2013)

Poem 53 of the One Hundred Poets (translation from the Japanese by Clay MacCauley)

written by Udaisho Michitsuna no Haha (937 – 995)

Sighing all alone,
Through the long watch of the night,
Till the break of day: –
Can you realize at all
What a tedious thing it is?

The poet was the daughter of Fujiwara no Motoyasu, and became the mother of the imperial commander Fujiwara no Michitsuna.  Self’s personal copy of the One Hundred Poets is the one published by George Braziller in 1989, and edited by Peter Morse.  Each poem is accompanied by an illustration by Hokusai.  Here’s how Morse describes Hokusai’s illustration for Poem 53:

The woman has been awake, for her clothing is rumpled due to her restlessness.  She has come out on the porch with a lantern, presumably at dawn, to look for her missing husband.  We see a pipe and tobacco pouch resting on the pillow within the house, the sign of an absent man.  Around the corner of the house we can see a cistern and water dipper.

This figure of the lone woman appears several other times among Hokusai’s drawings . . .  She is always waiting for a man, a situation generally suggested by the poem.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Back Issue: The New York Review of Books

Every day for the last three days, self has been driving north — to Berkeley, to San Francisco.

BART went on strike on midnight, Friday.  The traffic has been horrible.

The 2nd annual Filipino American International Book Festival has wrapped.  Self went Saturday and Sunday.  It was exhilarating, but also a tad stressful.

So many books!  So little money!

It was grrrreat seeing:  Linda Nietes.  M. Evelina Galang.  Angela Narciso Torres.  Luisa Igloria.  Karen Llagas.  Cecilia Brainard (who moderated panels on two successive days).  Tony Robles & family.  Edwin Lozada.  Barbara Jane Reyes.  Oscar Bermeo.  Rashaan Alexis Meneses.  Penelope Flores.  Michelle Bautista.  Jean Vengua.  Gayle Romasanta.  Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto.

Now, self must rest her weary and over-stimulated brain.

This evening, self discovered that Goldilocks is moving from their Westborough location, to some other place in South San Francisco.

In the September Vanity Fair is an article on the painter Balthus and his last muse, a girl who began modeling for him at 8.  It is rather shocking to see the painter’s Polaroids of this girl partially unclothed. But there was nothing at all prurious in his interest:  his wife and daughter were fully aware of this relationship.  To which self can only exclaim:  How very, very European! Such a level of tolerance would not be possible in America.

She decided to re-new her subscription to The New York Review of Books, for two more years.

In the issue of June 30, 2013 is a poem by Zbigniew Herbert, translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles.  Self only has time to replicate the first half:

FROM AN UNWRITTEN THEORY OF DREAMS

In memory of Jean Améry

1.

The torturers sleep soundly their dreams are rosy
good-natured genocides — foreign and home-grown
already forgiven by brief human memory
a gentle breeze turns the pages of family albums
the windows of the house open to August the shade of an

    apple-tree in bloom

under which a fine brood has gathered
grandfather’s open carriage an expedition to church
first communion mother’s first embrace
a campfire in a clearing and a starry sky
without omens or mysteries without an Apocalypse
so they sleep soundly their dreams are wholesome
full of food drink fleshy bodies of women
with whom they play erotic games in bushes in groves
and over it all floats a never-forgotten voice
a voice as pure as a spring innocent as an echo
singing of a boy who spied a rose on the heath

memory’s bell awakens no ghosts or nightmares
memory’s bell repeats its great absolution

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Currents: What Self Is Interested in Reading Now (19 October 2013)

  • a translation from the French by a writer whose name self encountered for the first time only a few hours ago:  Daniel Arsand.  The novel is Lovers.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (perhaps self’s favorite book of her childhood. Other than The Hobbit)
  • a book about the terrible things that happened in a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina:  Five Days at Memorial, by Katy Butler
  • a story collection by Tom Barbash:  Stay Up With Me
  • a memoir, by Amanda Lindhout, of what happened after she was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia:  A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
  • A Thousand Pardons, a new novel from Jonathan Dee (Malcolm Gladwell recommended it in the By the Book interview)
  • Janet Malcolm’s Psychoanalysis:  The Impossible Profession
  • James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity
  • Tim Parks’s 2011 memoir, Teach Us to Sit Still

(The list is made up of books reviewed in the September 8, 2013 and October 6, 2013 issues of The New York Times Book Review.)

Self is still on The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  Sometime in the near future, she’s going to switch gears.  She’s just added Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum, to her reading list.  Let’s just hope she doesn’t wind up reading them during the Christmas holidays: it might result in the blog developing a rather schizophrenic feel.  Especially if she starts interspersing images of holiday festivity with images of human cruelty.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

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