Nazim Hikmet Oratorio by Fazil Say

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Updated 15 May 2016 with a new video. The text below refers to earlier YouTube uploads of portions of the work.

Nazim Hikmet Oratoryosu, by Fazil Say (at piano)
Poetry by Nazim Hikmet
Bilkent Symphony Orchestra and State Polyphonic Choir, conducted by Ibrahim Yazici
Vocals in “My Country” by Kansu E. Tanca (child) and Genco Erkal; reading in “Traitor” by Zuhal Olcay

To appreciate the first section, it probably helps to know that Hikmet spent most of his adult life in exile. In fact, his citizenship was only just restored, posthumously, 46 years after his death.

One more section of the oratorio with English subtitles seems worth sharing, despite the fact that the video ends abruptly. The subtitles here are in captioning that must be turned on via the arrow-shaped icon on the bottom right corner of the video.

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The poem is Yasamaya Dair, “On Living,” and the translation here is by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Poetry doesn’t get much more life-affirming than this — at least, not without turning into very bad poetry. I love that Nazim puts grief at the center of it, as the source or motive for our determination to live fully.

Heart Wrap by Shamshad Khan

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Poem by Shamshad Khan

Film by Lisa Risbec, with narration by the author
Commissioned by Comma Film

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

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Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

Film by Erica Tachoir

One of the more unique and ambitious approaches to the video poetry genre I’ve seen so far. I like the meta- aspect here, what the film says about readers and how poems intertwine with their lives. I also like the implicit judgement against people who can’t tolerate poetic expression.

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

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Poem by William Carlos Williams

Animation by Lee Luker, with music by Six Organs of Admittance

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Written and directed by Kira Rouse with art by Jeffrey Rouse and sound by Digital Scientist

Hard to say what WCW would’ve made of this one, but it’s an interesting testament to the ubiquity of his poem.

Standard Oil Co. by Pablo Neruda

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Poem by Pablo Neruda, translated by Jack Schmitt (reading by Allen Dwight Callahan) — the text is here

Video by Four Seasons Productions

Here’s the Spanish original:

Cuando el barreno se abrió paso
hacia las simas pedregales
y hundió su intestino implacable
en las haciendas subterráneas,
y los años muertos, los ojos
de las edades, las raíces
de las plantas encarceladas
y los sistemas escamosos
se hicieron estratas del agua,
subió por los tubos el fuego
convertido en líquido frío,
en la aduana de las alturas
a la salida de su mundo
de profundidad tenebrosa,
encontró un pálido ingeniero
y un título de propietario.

Aunque se enreden los caminos
del petróleo, aunque las napas
cambien su sitio silencioso
y muevan su soberanía
entre los vientres de la tierra,
cuando sacude el surtidor
su ramaje de parafina,
antes llegó la Standard Oil
con sus letrados y sus botas,
con sus cheques y sus fusiles,
con sus gobiernos y sus presos.

Sus obesos emperadores
viven en New York, son suaves
y sonrientes asesinos,
que compran seda, nylon, puros,
tiranuelos y dictadores.

Compran países, pueblos, mares,
policías, diputaciones,
lejanas comarcas en donde
los pobres guardan su maíz
como los avaros el oro:
la Standard Oil los despierta,
los uniforma, les designa
cuál es el hermano enemigo,
y el paraguayo hace su guerra
y el boliviano se deshace
con su ametralladora en la selva.

Un presidente asesinado
por una gota de petróleo,
una hipoteca de millones
de hectáreas, un fusilamiento
rápido en una mañana
mortal de luz, petrificada,
un nuevo campo de presos
subversivos, en Patagonia,
una traición, un tiroteo
bajo la luna petrolada,
un cambio sutil de ministros
en la capital, un rumor
como una marea de aceite,
y luego el zarpazo, y verás
cómo brillan, sobre las nubes,
sobre los mares, en tu casa,
las letras de la Standard Oil
iluminando sus dominios.

Semishigure by steve d. dalachinsky

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Poem by steve d. dalachinsky

Video by rousseaujj2, using audio from a live reading in Sasebo City, Japan, June 2006

Dalachinsky is a major New York performance poet whom I’ve gotten to know by publishing some of his work at qarrtsiluni. While there are various videos of his live readings on YouTube, this is the only video interpretation of his poems I could find. The video is pretty good, but the reading is extraordinary, I thought — a great evocation of cicadas from someone not generally thought of as a nature poet. Dalachinsky evidently also collaborated with the composer Vito Ricci on a CD called Cicada Music — Ricci says, “Steve Dalachinsky came back from Japan with a tape of cicada singing and a journal. This is the music including the cicada singing.”

I Hang Myself by Saghi Ghahraman

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Poem by Saghi Ghahraman, translated from the Farsi by Niloufar Talebi — read it here

Video created by The Translation Project and Invision Productions for the DVD, Midnight Approaches
Narration by Niloufar Talebi
Dance by Larissa Verduzen
Percussion by royal hartigan

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.