Here’s an English translation by Alexis Levitin:
It’s urgent — love.
It’s urgent — a boat upon the sea.
It’s urgent to destroy certain words,
hate, solitude, and cruelty,
It’s urgent to invent a joyfulness,
multiply kisses and cornfields,
discover roses and rivers
and glistening mornings — it’s urgent.
Silence and an impure light fall upon
our shoulders till they ache.
It’s urgent — love, it’s urgent
(from Forbidden Words)
A poem by George Szirtes, translated into film by the London-based video production company Atticus Finch for a British television series called Poems on the Underground (not to be confused with the long-standing project of the same name that places poems “in tube carriages across London”).
Performed by Kim Gek Lin Short, directed and edited by James Short, based on the book BIG AMERICAN TRIP by Christian Peet. A diverse group of activists, actors, artists, musicians, writers, and otherwise lovely & concerned individuals from all over the US have collaborated with the author to create a polyvocal series of video readings / interpretations based on the book. Assuming the form of postcards authored by an “alien” of unknown nationality, ethnicity, and gender, addressing a variety of people and organizations (political figures, multinational corporations, people in public toilets, et al), BIG AMERICAN TRIP is a startling document of fear and loneliness in the 21st century U.S. Whether deconstructing road signs, a failed relationship, or the state of contemporary poetry, the voice(s) behind these texts is/are at once familiar and strange, determined to be free, and desperate to communicate with anyone who has ever felt at odds with the Language of a Nation.
The poem and music are both by Los Angeles spoken word performer Rich Ferguson. This is one of the more inspired riffs on the “I’m from…” meme I’ve heard, and the directing, by Eric Smith and Ersellia Ferron, is very good. (Thanks to Khadija Anderson for the tip.)
The “I’m from…” meme, by the way, appears to have originated in a poetry workshop manual by George Ella Lyon called Where I’m From, Where Poems Come From, published in 1999 — here’s the title poem that served as a template. It was turned into a blog meme in 2005 by Fred First at the place blog Fragments from Floyd (post no longer online).
I’m not sure of the original provenance of the footage, but these videos appear to have been taped from Spanish TV. According to the text at the beginning, the movie was made on March 10, 1966. Sexton reads “Menstruation at 40” in the first and “Wanting to Die” in the second, and talks about poetry reading styles, why music is better than poetry, and why death is harder to write about than sex.
Here’s another YouTube video incorporating rare footage of the poet: