* mirroring & anthilling with garcía lorca

This week’s poem is a translation of a short lyric from Federico García Lorca’s Suite de los Espejos (Suite of the Mirrors). Reading through the suites, I was impressed again and again by García Lorca’s facility to estrange us from the everyday world, only to bring us back. His lyrics are infused with a purposeful sense of shock.

This particular poem hooked me in my first reading with its closing lines:

Me veo por los ocasos,
y un hormiguero de gente
anda por mi corazón.

(I see myself through the sunsets,
and an anthill of people
marches through my heart.)

Even in the brief space of three lines, this travel between something outside of human experience and something within it (in our very chests, to be exact) is enacted through the blended images of sunsets/anthill/people/heart. It’s something that moves beyond metaphor into an almost physical reaction while reading.

What fascinated my as I translated was the way the “mirror” theme of this specific suite leads up nicely to this ending. Through a series of questions with no answers, García Lorca develops a lyric uncertainty, only to push it further as the poem develops: …are you you / or am I me? the speaker asks, only to follow it up with a question regarding hands. It is to this physical point that the poem has led us: questions about the heart and thoughts and even stars have spiraled down to more intimate, physical terrain. With this set up, the poem tips into its final imagery as if tipped over by hand.

Stumpwork_mirror_frame_c._1630s

Confusion (from Suite of the Mirrors) – Federico García Lorca
translated by José Angel Araguz

My heart –
is it your heart?
And who reflects my thoughts?
Who lends me
this passion
without roots?
Why does my suit of colors
keep changing?
Everything is at a crossroads!
Why do you see in the sky
so many stars?
Brother, are you you
or am I me?
And these cold hands,
are they from that one?
I see myself through the sunsets,
and an anthill of people
marches through my heart.

*

Confusión (from Suite de los Espejos) – Federico García Lorca

Mi corazón
¿es tu corazón?
¿Quién me refleja pensamientos?
¿Quién me presta
esta pasión
sin raíces?
¿Por qué cambia mi traje
de colores?
¡Todo es encrucijada!
¿Por qué ves en el cielo
tanta estrella?
¿Hermano, eres tú
o soy yo?
¿Y estas manos tan frías
son de aquél?
Me veo por los ocasos,
y un hormiguero de gente
anda por mi corazón.

*

Happy espejando!

José

 

* Francisco X. Alarcón: poem & review

* canto hondo *
* canto hondo *

Happy to share my latest review for the Volta Blog: a meditation on Francisco X. Alarcón’s latest collection, Canto Hondo. In my review, I discuss Alarcón’s engagement with Federico García Lorca’s ideas on cante jondo (deep song). Alarcón delves into García Lorca’s homage to his Andalusian influences to create his own deep song tempered by his own distinct poetic line, a line I describe as being “as alive and intimate as a nerve or a gasp.”

The review may be read here.

To get a sense of what I mean by the above, I’ve chosen this week’s poem from Alarcón’s From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche (University of Arizona Press). Following the poet’s line breaks, I like how the reader is invited into the thought and experience of each stanza. I’m also moved by the choice of moving from a four-line stanza to a three-line stanza, right at the line “…you’re home’s/nowhere -.” This change in form mirrors a change in the drama and tone of the poem; the stanzas that follow put forth their own hope and response to the dilemma of “those who have lost everything.”

Enjoy!

To Those Who Have Lost Everything – Francisco X. Alarcón

crossed
in despair
many deserts
full of hope

carrying
their empty
fists of sorrow
everywhere

mouthing
a bitter night
of shovels
and nails

“you’re nothing
you’re shit
your home’s
nowhere”—

mountains
will speak
for you

rain
will flesh
your bones

green again
among ashes
after a long fire

started in
a fantasy island
some time ago

turning
Natives
into aliens

 ***

Happy amonging!

José

* some origins, manu chao & the friday influence

In regards to the question “When did you start writing?” I give several answers depending on context.

If it’s a professional context, I say seventeen, that being the year that I first typed up, printed, and sent off poems to a real lit mag.  I call it the year I began to take my writing seriously, the act of sending my poems out into the world for consideration an act of considering them worth, uhm, considering.  (Two got published on that first try – bless those forgiving editors!)

If it’s more of the “When did you know you were a writer?” kind of question, then I go a little farther back.  I talk about how as a kid I used to rewrite lyrics to songs I heard on the radio, how I filled up notebooks with various takes on other people’s melodies.

I look back and realize that putting my words into other people’s songs probably taught me something about form, about structure and rhyme.  What exactly I learned, I don’t know.  (I’m a terrible rhymer in poems!)

The core of the experience, though, cultivated an obsession with words – sounds, meaning, phrasing – of saying something and saying it concisely, aptly.  Inevitably.

I threw away those notebooks sometime in middle school – a friend found me scribbling in one of them and asked what I wrote.  I said homework, tucked it away, and later that night tossed them all into the garbage.  Not a scrap remains.

words, yo
words, yo

What has stayed with me through the years is a distinct respect and fascination with song lyrics.

In this spirit, let me share some of the lyrics of French singer Manu Chao!

I have been listening to his first album “Clandestino” non-stop this week.  Manu Chao, after being in a few other bands, took to travelling and picking up different influences from the various street music he encountered to create a hybrid sound that is as much diverse as it is simple.  His songs remind me of Garcia Lorca being influenced by the folk culture of Andalusia.  His travelling manifests itself in his writing songs in French, Spanish,Italian Galician, Arabic, and Portuguese.

Here’s a line that I keep turning over my head:

El hambre viene, el hombre se va –

(Hunger comes, man leaves)

This is a fine line – more than that, you see in the words themselves how one letter changing (hambre = hombre) evokes so much of the meaning of the line.  Now, take the line within its context in the song “El Viento (The Wind)”:

El viento viene
El viento se va
Por la frontera

El viento viene
El viento se va

El hambre viene
El hombre se va
Sin mas razon…

(The wind comes
The wind goes
Across the frontier

The wind comes
The wind goes

Hunger comes
Man leaves
Without a reason…)
***

Suddenly the words take on a whole other meaning.  That change from ‘a’ to ‘o’ in the words (hambre/hombre) seem almost a trick of the wind itself, the same wind that is being sung about.

Part of my general fascination with song lyrics is how you can do certain things in a song that you can’t do in a poem.  I say this not to discredit one side or the other but to show them both as the formidable modes of expression that they are.

In his lyrics, the wordplay of hambre/hombre play out concisely the theme of vagabond that Manu Chao explores throughout his whole first album.  Taken solely as words, the line is simply a proverb.  But put to music, put within the larger context of musing on wind and then the even larger context of an album about transiency and the line becomes downright mythic.

Cool.  You can listen to the song here.

And a fun one can be found here.

Happy bongoing!!!

jose

* photo found here.

* thistleburrs & the friday influence

Song of the Barren Orange Tree – Federico Garcia Lorca *

 Woodcutter.

Cut my shadow from me.

Free me from the torment

of seeing myself without fruit.

 

Why was I born among mirrors?

The day walks in circles around me,

and the night copies me

in all its stars.

 

I want to live without seeing myself.

And I will dream that ants

and thistleburrs are my

leaves and my birds.

 

Woodcutter.

Cut my shadow from me.

Free me from the torment

of seeing myself without fruit.

 

***

 

This week’s Friday Influence presents this lovely poem by the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

One of the great things about lyric poetry  is how the personal nature that moves behind it can be either implicit or explicit.  Here, so much is implied through the character of an orange tree.  Desolation and loss are evoked in the repeated first and last stanza.  There is also desire – the “ants/and thistleburrs” of the third stanza come alive and send shivers through me.

There is something  to a poem like this, the way it works within a context and makes use of the image of a barren orange tree to make you feel something, make you consider things you never could otherwise.  “Why was I born among mirrors?”  I would never have asked myself that before.  It all lies in the use of “I”.

To go back Rimbaud’s idea of “I is an other” – the “I” here is literally “an other”, but it reflects the “I” who I am all the more.

Yes.  I  just wrote that sentence.

 

***

 

In other news, I got my job back at the bookstore here.  I come home smelling of old books.  The smell is like cantnip to my lady.

Happy thistleburring!

J

 

* translated by W.S. Merwin