The poet Borges stated that ‘I feel constrained to be a particular individual, living in a particular city, in a particular time’. His labyrinthian poem ‘The Watcher’ explores self reflection, confinement and split personality.
Throughout the film I aim to portray the division of the self as well as explore the theme of isolation cyclically, as the narrator deconstructs himself into numerous selves. The idea being to covey a ‘confused sense of being’ as universal, relating to everyone and everything.
A Moving Poems production for a new series of poetry in translation for the group literary blog I contribute to, Via Negativa. Go there for the text of the poem and the translation; the titling on the video disregards both punctuation and lineation in the interest of displaying Spanish and English side by side, in the manner of a bilingual book of poetry. I haven’t seen this done on a bilingual poetry film before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been — it seems like a fairly obvious arrangement.
As I wrote at Via Negativa, I translated the poem (with some invaluable assistance from Alicia E-Bourdin on Facebook) specifically with the intent of pairing it with that footage of cabbage white butterflies—which, when I shot it last week, I already recognized as having a certain Lugones-like feel. So it was just a question of finding the right poem.
Piedras Verdes en la Casa de la Noche and Green Stones in the House of Night are Spanish and English versions of the same poetry film by Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe, which includes and responds to three poems from Alejandra Pizarnik‘s brief but epoch-making collection Árbol de Diana (Diana’s Tree). I’ve just been reading and re-reading the marvelous new translation by Yvette Siegert, which was longlisted for the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. I went back and watched this film with fresh appreciation, having read the verses Yagüe includes in their original context (where they are nos. 6, 8, and 20, with a line from no. 35 supplying the title). The translations by Luis Yagüe in Green Stones in the House of Night are serviceable enough, but if you’re not fluent in Spanish, do get Siegert’s translation to experience the whole collection in its full, luminous intensity.
“You won’t come back” starts from a poem of Alfonsina Storni, of [her] book “Poems of love” written in 1926 immediately after an unhappy love affair. In the beginning of the book, the poet warns: “These poems are simple phrases of love states written in a few days, some time ago. This small work is neither a literary work nor claims it”. After “Poems of love”, Storni kept silence during nine years.
And here’s the same description in Spanish, from Talavera’s website:
No volverás parte del poema LXVII de Alfonsina Storni extraído de su libro Poemas de amor, escrito en 1926 a raíz de una decepción amorosa. Al inicio del libro, la poeta advierte: “Estos poemas son simples frases de estados de amor escritos en pocos días hace ya algún tiempo. No es pues tan pequeño volumen obra literaria ni lo pretende”. Después de Poemas de amor, Storni estaría nueve años en silencio.
This nearly 14-minute videopoem was conceived, shot and edited by Sva Li Levy, AKA syncopath. Initially I wondered how it was going to hold my attention for so long, especially considering that Borges’ original poem is fairly short, but I needn’t have worried: I found it mesmerizing, a brilliant concept beautifully executed. How better, indeed, to anticipate love than by going through a soapy car-wash, Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” playing on the radio? And then playing around with the radio dial and finding Borges’ poem mysteriously transmitted in different languages: Hebrew (read by Yitzhak Hyzkia), Spanish (Julio Martinez Mezansa), English (Yonatan Kunda, reading the Alastair Reid translation), Portuguese (Martha Rieger) and French (Ravit Hanan).
Including the text of a poem in the soundtrack of a poetry film or videopoem has by now become so standard a move that I think I’ve been hungry for a new twist. And Levy’s treatment feels right in part because the poem could so easily be made to seem sententious, and instead he brings out the undercurrent of humor and the provisional quality found in so much of Borges’ writing.
Poems about falling in love are a dime a dozen, but when was the last time you heard a memorable poem about falling out of love? Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe rises to the challenge of matching images and sound (and some very effective moments lacking images and sound) to such a poem by the great Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar. (Note that this is probably NSFW since it contains full frontal nudity.) Laura Cuervo is the actress. The music is by Podington Bear (Chad Crouch) and the director voices the poem.
Thanks to Luis Yagüe for the highly serviceable English translation in the titling. The director has also uploaded a version without subtitles.
An English-subtitled reading by the Argentinian poet Diana Bellessi, part of a larger documentary about her. The translation’s really good and the language and landscape are both mesmerizing, I thought. Here’s the YouTube description:
Diana Bellessi reads the poem “After the fragment”, about the history of her family, originally from Italy. As she reads, the sun sets over the land they worked.
This is video is part of the documentary “Secret Garden” (www.secretgardendocumentary.wordpress.com).
Directed by Cristián Costantini, Diego Panich and Claudia Prado
Camera: Leandro Listorti/Diego Panich
Poem translation: Cathy Eisenhower
Diana Bellessi lee el poema “Detrás de los fragmentos”, sobe la historia de su familia, descendientes de italianos en la pampa santafesina. Mientras ella lee, el sol se pone en la tierra que trabajaron sus parientes.
Este video es parte del documental “El jardín secreto” (www.eljardinsecretoblog.wordpress.com).