Poem by the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Music and video by Laal
The ads at the top and bottom are an annoyance, but the interplay between the text of the poem and the drama in the video is too good to pass up. The Wikipedia article linked above says that Laal are
known for singing socialist political songs, especially those written by leftist Urdu poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz. The band received mainstream attention during the Lawyers’ Movement, in which it led support to the reinstatement of the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad. [...] Laal has not only managed to reconnect the people of Pakistan to the forgotten revolutionary socialist poets, but also introduced them to the youth
—which should serve as a reminder that, in some cultures, poetry still retains considerable power. (Hat-tip: verbal privilege.)
Poem by Vicente Huidobro
Music by Iván Lizama, performed by Ensamble Transiente – Música Experimental Latinoamericana (see YouTube for personnel)
Que el verso sea como una llave
Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh Poetas!
Sólo para nosotros
El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.
Let poetry become a key
Invent new worlds and guard your word;
We dwell in a circle of nerves.
Poets! Why eulogize the rose?
Everything under the sun
The Poet is a little God.
My attempt at a translation. The last line became the slogan of the literary movement Huidobro founded, Creacionismo (“Creationism”).
Musical composition by Alden Jenks
Performed by the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, conducted by Nicole Paiement, with mezzo-soprano Raeeka Shehabi Yaghmai
A brief peek into Yaghmai’s rehearsal with Jenks for the premiere performance of The Soup may be seen in this documentary about her from Bebin TV, starting at the 4:30 minute mark.
Poems by A.H. Afrasiabi, translated by Niloufar Talebi
Video from The Translation Project — a scene from Icarus/Rise, “a multimedia theatrical piece based on new Iranian poetry, created, translated and narrated by Niloufar Talebi, in collaboration with choreographer and video artist Alex Ketley and composer Bobak Salehi” (text from YouTube).
The Translation Project’s page goes on to say:
Based on the poetry in BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World, ICARUS/RISE is inspired by the Iranian spoken word tradition of Naghali, which is practiced in the streets, cafes, public rituals, or ‘art music’ stage. By giving this spoken word tradition new content (new poetry in BELONGING) — rather than its usual content of classical Persian poetry and myths — and fusing it with western theatrical elements, ICARUS/RISE gives voice to hybrid-Iranians, reflecting their experience in contemporary society.
Poem by Paul Celan
Video by Philipp Fröndt, Max Straßer and Martin Race
This perhaps overly literal interpretation of the poem is the only one on YouTube to employ moving images. The slideshows, however, use a recording by Celan himself. Here’s the one I found the most effective:
To put Celan’s reading in context, Gail Holst-Warhaft writes,
The Todesfuge has acquired a unique status among poems about the death camps. To many of its readers, it seemed to contradict Adorno’s famous dictum about the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz. Of all Celan’s poems, the Todesfuge has been the most discussed, anthologized, and translated. Celan’s own reading of the poem, preserved on record, emphasized its relentless rhythm, an effect achieved by repetition, alliteration, and a dance-like beat that reinforces the grotesque musical imagery of a poem originally published in Romanian and called “Tango of Death.” The title recalls the Jewish musicians forced to perform by the S.S. At the Janowska camp near Lvov (not far from Celan’s birthplace in Czernowitz) Jewish musicians were ordered to play a “Death Tango” during marches, grave-digging, tortures, and executions. Before liquidating the camp, the S.S. shot all the musicians. At Auschwitz, the term “Death Tango” was used for whatever music was played when groups of prisoners were executed. Without the lilt of this macabre dance music, the poem loses much of its effect.
Inevitably, then, the poem attracted the attention of composers. Here’s a video of a live performance of Elmir Mirzoev’s setting:
I discovered this organization and its very fine videos completely by accident last night — just doing keyword searches on YouTube. It’s not entirely clear who the performers are on this particular film; the credits for the DVD as a whole are at the bottom of this page.
Iran has one of the richest poetry traditions in the world, so I’m very pleased to be able to feature some contemporary Iranian poets here, thanks to The Translation Project.