* a meditation on brevity with paz, ritsos, & carruth

Writing – Octavio Paz

I draw these letters
as the day draws its images
and blows over them
and does not return

 

It’s suiting to begin this meditation on brevity with Paz who once said that he admired the short lyric for being the hardest kind of poem to write. Anyone who’s worked out a haiku or tanka in earnestness knows something of this difficulty. With haiku and tanka there are at least parameters, a spirit to leap after. Often, the short poem is a surprise, something arrived at when you intuit the right time to leave a poem alone.

 

Triplet – Yannis Ritsos

As he writes, without looking at the sea,
he feels his pencil trembling at the very tip –
it is the moment when the lighthouses light up.

 

I came across this gem from Ritsos in Stephen Dobyn’s illuminating book “Best Words, Best Order.” In it, Dobyns speaks of the nuanced work of the last line as a “metaphysical moment,” one that suggests “sympathetic affinities and a sensitivity to those affinities on the part of the poet.” The power of a short lyric can be felt when one is reading and feels something like “lighthouses light up” inside the mind.

 

haiku – Hayden Carruth

Hey Basho, you there!
I’m Carruth. Isn’t it great,
so distant like this?

 

Ultimately, what is at stake in the short lyric is what is at stake in any poem, the translating/transcribing of the human voice. In a longer poem, one can create an argument via imagery and metaphor, what’s being said accumulates like a wave to a crest. The short lyric is the echo of that argument, the sound of foam chisping on the shore. What is compelling about Carruth’s distance is not that Basho feels it, but the reader does.

* wavering *
* wavering *

Happy shoring!

Jose

* more from desde Hong Kong

* taking another Paz at it *
* mas Paz *

I recently received my contributor’s copy of the anthology desde Hong Kong and have been enjoying dipping into the collection of great tributes. One in particular stood out in my reading. I share it below to further celebrate this anthology’s publication.

In “Going Home,” British-Canadian poet Phoebe Tsang delves deep into an image (a la Paz) and has the subject matter, and the reader, come out different on the other side.

Going Home – Phoebe Tsang

At dawn, the carts glistened with wet scales
as if the fish were still alive,
not drowning for lack of water.
They slept just like the rest of us,
breathed city air.
As the sun rose, the glitter faded from their gills.
By noon, the last dregs were fins and bones
kicked to the gutter,
entrails slick under fishermen’s boots.
The fishermen gone home,
back to the sea.

***

Happy homing!

Jose

p.s. Information on ordering a copy of the anthology can be found here.

* quick post: desde Hong Kong & some news

* can't Paz this up *
* can’t Paz this up *

Just a quick post to announce the release of the anthology desde Hong Kong: Poets in conversation with Octavio Paz (Chameleon Press), which includes my octave sequence “Octaves for Octavio Paz.”

I was excited by the submission call early this Spring and came up with some rather different takes on the octave. Using a line by Paz as a guide, each octave (nine total) explores a seven syllable syllabic line, playing with the magnetic tension of words and phrasing. Here’s one sample from the sequence:

sobre la hoja de papel/el poema se hace/como el día/sobre la palma del espacio[1]

could we write: morning, window,
light: and write: afternoon stretched,
and so on: write past things missed
by the eye, missed by being
alive, write: the tree outside:
the feeling of lines moving
past you, write: the paper wind
moves: O, we’d miss the missing.

[1] “El Fuego de Cada Día”

Gestures like the play on “O” as address and declaration as well as the unique take on Paz’s words played out in each octave is my way of tipping my hat to the great poet’s Surrealist leanings.

The editors have made available both their Introduction and Afterword which give a more in depth description on the project. More information on the book can be found here.

Thank you to editors Tammy Ho, German Munoz, & Juan Jose Morales.

***

I also want to take this opportunity to announce that my pieces “Relinquished” & “Look” have placed 2nd in Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Contest and will be published in an upcoming issue (BER#13).

Thank you to the editors & staff of BER! I’m greatly honored.

***

See you Friday!

Jose

* 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.

*

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

*

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

*

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

***

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.

*

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.

*

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

*

Pinocchio opens books with his nose.

***

Happy gregueriando!

J

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

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