* translation 2/3 on the friday influence

(from Greguerias – Ramon Gomez de la Serna) *

Curious about the earth, the sky keeps opening and closing the clouds.

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The hour differs throughout the stars.  In some it is yesterday, in others today, and in others centuries have passed.

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He had a keyring so dusty, he looked like a fisherman of keys.

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The socks tucked into the little shoes of the sleeping child wrinkle with his dreams.

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This week The Friday Influence is proud to present the work of the Spanish poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna (1888-1963).

First, some reviews: “For me he is the great Spanish writer: the Writer, or rather, Writing…I also would have learned Spanish just to read him” (Octavio Paz).  “…the major figure of surrealism, in any country, has been Ramon” (Pablo Neruda). **

I share these quotes to show the range of influence Ramon (as he liked to be called)  had in his day.  Neruda’s Book of Questions (excerpts of which I translated last week) would not have been possible without the work of Ramon.  He wrote novels as well as stories and essays, but it is in his Greguerias that I feel his singular personality truly shines.

These sentences are packed with images and humor.  They take a little and expand it in the mind.  They do the work of haiku and aphorisms but with a distinct flavor.  I spoke last week of how a poet’s job is partly to see how much they can get away with.  In his Greguerias, Ramon gets (carried) away with himself.

Also, any writer who seriously writes about the stars after the Romantic period endears themselves to me.  Ramon’s work gave me permission to work out some single line poems of my own.  He has opened up to me what a sentence or two can offer lyric poetry.

I discovered his work two years ago by accident, working out my own ideas of prose poems.  His name came up in an essay and I made my way to his poems.  Seeing as he has stayed with me, I have decided to periodically sit down with his Greguerias and translate a few pages at a time.  If I get through the whole book in this manner, I’ll let you know.

Here’s a few more from Ramon:

The night lies there between blue eyelashes.

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In autumn, the butterflies come out in the same red as the dry leaves, and the same wind sweeps up the one as the other.

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After a while, the sound of the typewriter fills our thoughts with gravel.

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Pinocchio opens books with his nose.

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Happy gregueriando!

J

* translated by Jose Angel Araguz (word to vosotros!)

** quotes from Paz and Neruda found on Wikipedia (word to citations!)

* translation 1/3 on the friday influence

(from The Book of Questions – Pablo Neruda) *

 

IV.

How many churches in Heaven?

 

Why does the shark not attack
the indifferent sirens?

 

Does smoke chat with the clouds?

 

Is it true that all hopes
should be watered with dew?

 

XXIV.

 

Is 4 the same 4 for all?
Are all sevens equal?

 

When the prisoner thinks of sunlight
is it the same that lights your way?

 

Have you ever considered what color
the April of the infirm might be?

 

What occidental kingdom
flies these flags of poppies?

 

***

This week, The Friday Influence presents the work of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

The above excerpts are from The Book of Questions, a charming book in which Neruda riffs on various subjects, always grasping for and breaking into image as well as various profundities.

For example: “Does smoke chat with the clouds?” places “smoke” and “cloud” in the same line, a visual already, and then goes deeper with “chat” – I see smoke rising into a sky and hovering, kinda like you do when you’re waiting for your place of work to be unlocked, a situation which leads to small talk amongst people who might normally not talk much.

The whole book is literally filled with questions, no answers.  Why ruin a good question with an answer?  What Neruda gets away with – and here I will avow that much of a poet’s job is to see what they can get away with – is both inspiring and engaging.  The power of a good question like a coin in your hand.

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As the title of this post suggests, I am trying my hand at translation.  I literally grabbed the book off my shelf and went for it.  I plan to share two more sets of translation in the weeks ahead.

***

In other news, there have been some rejection letters from poetry magazines.

What the hell is that about?

***

Here’s one last bit from Neruda:

 

XXXIII.

 

And why is the sun such a bad friend
to someone walking in the desert?

 

And why is the sun so friendly
in the hospital garden?

 

Are these birds or fish here
in nets of moonlight?

 

Was it where they lost me
that I was able to find myself?

 

***

Happy questioning?

J

* translated by Jose Angel Araguz (word to your Spanish-English dictionary.)