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,
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.
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 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.
Animation by ultapopdsgn
La bailarina ahor est danzando
la danza del perder cuanto tenia
The dancer now is dancing
the dance of losing it all
Se solto de su casta y de su carne
She loosed herself from caste and flesh
desnuda de todo y de si misma
stripped of everything and of herself
sigue danzando sin saberse ajena
she dances on, not knowing she is changed
unica y torbellino, vil y pura
alone, a whirlwind, foul and pure
(Ursula K. Guin, trans.)
An interesting attempt to convey the mood of a work with just a few fragments of text, given out of order, and a rapid, pop music-video-style succession of images. I like it!
Since this is Women’s History Month (in the U.S., at any rate), I thought this would be a good time to recall that Pablo Neruda was not the first Chilean poet to win the Nobel Prize. I’m not sure which are the best English translations, but the volume I own seems pretty good: Gabriela Mistral: A Reader, tr. by Maria Giachetti and ed. by Marjorie Agosin. Its only drawback is that it does not include the original Spanish. The translation used above comes from a more recent book — Selected Poems of Gabriala Mistral, tr. by Ursala K. LeGuin, which I haven’t seen.
Though never well known in North America, Mistral remains a beloved figure in Latin America. She appeals strongly to conservatives and leftists alike, who tend to project their own values onto the clear and deceptively simple surfaces of her poems, much as readers do here with Emily Dickinson. Unlike Dickinson, Mistral was very active on the world stage, and her mix of progressive activism and traditional Catholic religiosity makes her supremely dificult to pigeonhole. According to Petri Liukkonen,
In 2001 Mistral’s sexual inclinations arose fierce debate in Chile. Yuri Labarca’s film, La Pasajera, written by Francisco Casas, dealt with her relationship to Doris Dana, her American secretary. Mistral’s devoted readers considered the film outrageous and said that her true, traditional views of life and love were present in her works. However, an independent woman, Mistral has also been presented as a feminist icon. The absence of male friendship and her life as an unmarried woman has contributed to her image of a defender of all racial minorities and “the mixed-race mother of the nation”.
As for me, I am of course fondest of her nature poetry.
Poem by Anne Carson, from Possessive Used as Drink (Me), a lecture on pronouns in the form of 15 sonnets
Video by Sadie Wilcox
Dancers: Julie Cunningham, Rashaun Mitchell, Andrea Weber
I had to compose a lecture on pronouns for a conference at Harvard and this was the result. I wrote a sonnet sequence, which Stephanie Rowden recorded and made interesting. Then three Merce Cunningham dancers improvised choreography in response to the sonnets. Sadie Wilcox videotaped everything they did and edited it to fit (or not) the sound score.
Carson has generously uploaded six excerpts from the 25-minute performance to YouTube. I’ll probably link all of them eventually, but in the meantime they can be accessed via playgallery.org.
The video credits say “created by: Jackie, Jaclyn, Mat” — no doubt without the knowledge or approval of the poet. I hope they don’t get a takedown notice from Glück’s publisher, because I think this really expands upon the message of the poem, as the best video poems seem to do. Some intelligibility is of course sacrificed with this spliced-recitation technique, but I think it’s worth it.
Poem by Agha Shahid Ali (reading by Carl Hancock Rux) — text here
Animation by Kyle Jenkins for the Poetry Foundations’ Poetry Everywhere series
A posthumous volume of Ali’s collected poems, The Veiled Suite, has just been released. He was a master who died much too young. As for the video, I’m not sure it adds anything to the poem or not.