Poet: Alejandra Pizarnik

Three poems from Árbol de Diana (Tree of Diana) by Alejandra Pizarnik

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I’ve been somewhat lax in posting new material here because of server instability at my webhost, which has resulted in frequent, short outages. I’m working to resolve this. In the meantime, here’s a video I made myself last week, which grew out of a translation project at Via Negativa, Poetry from the Other Americas. I posted some process notes there, too. The main thing I guess is that the footage of the construction site at sunset had come first, shot out the back bedroom window of the house where I’m staying in north London. The footage somehow made me think of these Pizarnik poems, which it seemed to me might form a unity with it. I shot the other footage purposefully for the video a few feet from the back door. Then I called on my friend Jean Morris for help in the voiceover, and drew on her superior understanding of Spanish to help polish my translations.

I’ve never seen a bilingual videopoem with both languages alternating in the soundtrack (though I’m sure someone must’ve done it before), so this was a bit of an experiment. I think it works—if it works—because the poems are short, and because each relates to the video imagery in a different way. But I suspect the same could be done with a single, longer poem if the languages were to alternate stanza by stanza. If anyone experiments further along these lines, do let me know.

Incidentally, if the post title seems a little familiar, that’s because the Spanish filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe has also made a film with three (different) poems from Pizarnik’s Árbol de Diana, Green Stones in the House of Night.

Árbol de Diana (Diana’s Tree) by Alejandra Pizarnik: three poems

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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.

Three poems by Alejandra Pizarnik

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I wanted to start the New Year with one of my favorite poets. This is Todo hace el amor con el silencio: tres poemas de Alejandra Pizarnik by Hernán Talavera. Here are the three texts along with some rough translations. (Feel free to suggest improvements in the comments.)

[El olvido]

en la otra orilla de la noche
el amor es posible

-llévame-

llévame entre las dulces sustancias
que mueren cada día en tu memoria

[Oblivion]

on the other side of night
love is possible

-lead me-

lead me among sweet substances
which every day vanish from your memory

[no. 22 de “Árbol de Diana”]

en la noche
un espejo para la pequeña muerta
un espejo de cenizas

[from “Tree of Diana,” #22]

in the night
a mirror for the dead little girl
a mirror of ashes

[de Aproximaciones]

La niña que fui
ahora en mi memoria
entre mis muertos.

De lágrimas se nutrirá mil años.
De destierro el sonido de su voz.

[from Approximations]

The girl I was
lives now in my memory
among the dead.

Fed on tears for a millennium.
Exiling the sound of her voice.

Diologos (Dialogues) by Alejandra Pizarnik

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHWeTFzVehU

Here’s a film based on one of Alejandra Pizarnik’s “Dialogues,” which I’ve translated below along with the prefatory text. According to the hard-to-read credits at the end, the director is Carlos Martinez. I love the evocation of classic horror films here.

The rain is expected to pass.
Winds are expected to blow in.
It’s expected.
They say.
Through love to silence, they say pathetic things.

I wish they’d leave me alone with my new, fresh voice.
A stranger.
No! Don’t leave me!

Words to illuminate the silence.

*
[Un cuento memorable/A memorable story]

—That black one that laughs from the small window of a streetcar resembles Madame Lamort —she said.
—That’s not possible; there are no streetcars in Paris. Besides, that black one on the streetcar doesn’t resemble Madame Lamort in any way. Quite the opposite: it’s Madame Lamort who resembles that black one. In sum: not only does Paris lack streetcars, but I have never seen Madame Lamort in my life, not even in a portrait.
—You agree with me —she said— because I don’t know Madame Lamort either.
—Who are you? We should introduce ourselves.
—Madame Lamort —she said— and you?
—Madame Lamort.
—Your name, I can’t think what it reminds me of —she said.
—Try to remember before the streetcar comes.
—But you just told me there were no streetcars in Paris —she said.
—They didn’t exist when I said it, but one never knows what might come to pass.
—Then let’s wait for it, since we’re waiting for it —she said.