Nocturne in broad daylight

Jules Supervielle
Jules Supervielle

Jules Supervielle (1884-1960) was born into a French-Basque family living in Uruguay. Aged ten, he was sent to Paris, where he completed his education at the Sorbonne. For the rest of his life, he divided his time between Uruguay and France. He was friends with André Gide, Paul Valéry and Jacques Rivière, and in 1923, he met the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, a crucial influence on his later work. The poem below is a fragment from La fable du monde, published in 1938. See also “I dream you from afar.”

Nocturne in broad daylight

The slowness around me
Casts its net over the furniture
Imprisoning the light
And familiar objects.
And Time, its legs crossed,
Looks me in the eye
And sometimes it stands up
To examine me a little closer,
Then it goes back to its place
Like a satisfied prince.
And here in my whole body
The Feeling of Life,
Red and white ants
Composing a human being.
And Space revolves around me
In which everyone finds their place
From the high stars
To those who observe them.
And every day that I endure
Under my shadowy thoughts
I live among these figures
Layered around me
Like between Pyramids.

Jules Supervielle

(translated by John Lyons)


Nocturne en plein jour

La Lenteur autour de moi
Met son filet sur les meubles
Emprisonnant la lumière
Et les objets familiers.
Et le Temps, jambes croisées,
Me regarde dans les yeux
Et quelquefois il se dresse
Pour me voir d’un peu plus près,
Puis il retourne à sa place
Comme un prince satisfait.
Et voici dans tout mon corps
Le Sentiment de la Vie,
Blanches et rouges fourmis
Composant un être humain.
Et l’Espace tourne autour de moi
Où chacun trouve sa place
Depuis les hautes étoiles
Jusqu’à ceux qui les regardent.
Et chaque jour que j’endure
Sous mes ombreuses pensées
Je vis parmi ces figures
Comme entre des Pyramides
Autour de moi étagées.

Aldo Pellegrini: The subversive effect of poetry

aldo-pellegrini_bwThe Argentinian poet, Aldo Pellegrini (1903-1973), was the founder of the first Surrealist group among Spanish-speaking writers. In his writing he called for a poetry “free from the schemes of reason, free from social norms, free from prohibitions, free from prejudice, free from canons, free from fear, a poetry free from its own preconceptions.” 

Below, along with two poems dating from 1952, I have translated the first two paragraphs of an essay he published in Buenos Aires in 1965 which outlines his poetic manifesto.


Aldo Pellegrini: The subversive effect of poetry (extract).

There is a force in man, that comes from the simple fact of living, it conditions his destiny fatally. This force is visible at every turn through the manifestations of love, which tends to transcend the individual in communion with the whole, has its own laws that are irreducible to rational schemes. Poetry appears as an expression of that impulse toward fulfilling a vital destiny, and the inevitability of that fate is revealed in poetry as an indisputable fact. Poetry is not, therefore, an amusement or luxury, but a necessity, just as love is. All other needs, even the most urgent, are subordinate to those two, which ultimately are the two aspects of the same primordial energy that gives true meaning to life. If we penetrate deeply into the meaning of the old saying “Man does not live by bread alone,” we will see that the lucidity of popular wisdom reaches a similar conviction. To go without poetry would be to renounce life.

Considered thus, the poetic exists not only in words; it is a way of acting, a way of being in the world and existing with people and things. Poetic language in its different forms (plastic form, verbal form, musical form) merely objectifies in a communicable manner through the appropriate signs of each particular language, the expansive force of the vital. As a result, the poetic world is in everyone, to the extent that every individual is an integral being. Lautreamont’s clear slogan, “Poetry should be made by everyone,” has no other meaning. Whoever ignores poetry is a mutilated being, as is whoever ignores love.


No subject

He who sings out of not knowing
he who saturated with ignorance
runs along the belly of the dark Fridays
he who throws fingernails into the street
and hides his life in corners
who enraged chews on silence
seeks his subject.

A subject
a subject that changes
a subject that changes with the steam of digestions
a subject illuminated by the glow of parched tongues
a subject pursued by the rumble of empty eyes
the subject of luminous hunger, the subject of the cry of ecstasy
the subject of resounding brows
the subject of ears where words are liquefied.

The eyes out of their sockets
a shaft of light that causes the gaze to bleed
staring in the direction of microscopic subjects
hands outstretched
that reach the final disintegration of subjects.

Subject that changes in a man who doesn’t change
in the cave of subjects, unchanging man
I am condemned by the time of times
to be myself.

*

The spiders’ feast

O so you’ve woken up?
a prodigious morning opens wide the windows
last night’s tree has left a mark
on the skin of your forehead.

Yes, you’ve woken up
shaking off your mantle of cobwebbed sleep
You’ve put to flight the crowd of blind rats
that gnawed at you as you slept.

You’re awake, where you off to now?
you abandon your night wealth for the great void of day
and with pale weakness you build your aimless march.

You’re awake, let’s mount
the narrow stairs to the end of time
there to surprise the lost minutes
life escapees.

No
a sudden discouragement holds you back
before a heavenless space where terrified mists
of inexplicable gentleness
transform those who advance into wind.

Marine algae of hope
pointless hours lurk behind the golden door
words chained to a deep secret
diamond discouragement shines inwardly
those who dare to smile lose their place in the world.

Where’re you off to without me? looking for your solitary feast
your drunkenness of signs and cataracts
your cage of freedom
where unknown friends sup your fluid gestures
and poison glares at you with phosphorescent eyes.
Prepare for your feast
the feast of hands that crush each other
the feast of creaking sweat
there where the lethargy of your flesh
throws itself into a dark dance.

Your feast is the feast of spiders
that ferociously devour your night wealth
to feed their endless misery
there submerged in boundless oblivion
you’ll buy reasons to laugh
You’ll purchase a roar to fill your silence

Aldo Pellegrini

(translation by John Lyons)

The lyre among the shades

Sonnets to Orpheus

Sonnet 9

Only those who have already
raised the lyre among the shades
can foresee
the infinite praise.
 
Only those who consumed  
poppies with the dead,  
will not lose the least
of their notes.
 
Our reflection in the pond  
may often blur:  
know the picture.
 
Only twixt the twin realms
will our voice turn  
gentle and everlasting

Rainer Maria Rilke

(translation by John Lyons)


 

Sonnett 9

Nur wer die Leier schon hob
auch unter Schatten,
darf das unendliche Lob
ahnend erstatten.

Nur wer mit Toten vom Mohn
aß, von dem ihren,
wird nicht den leisesten Ton
wieder verlieren.

Mag auch die Spieglung im Teich
oft uns verschwimmen:
Wisse das Bild.

Erst in dem Doppelbereich
werden die Stimmen
ewig und mild.

The murder of Federico García Lorca

Gelman
Juan Gelman (1930-2014)

Reds

it’s raining on the Río de la Plata and it’s almost
36 years since they killed Federico García Lorca but
what’s the relationship between that
outer reality and this inner unreality? or
what’s the relationship between that outer unreality
and this inner reality?
 
I don’t know the river’s gray line  
looks like the knife with which they slit the sky
looks like the knife with which they slit childhoods in Azul
slit childhoods in Santa Fe and other places in the republic
sometimes forever or always forever
it’s one of the country’s great agonies
 
that’s for sure in the west
the sunsets are not inflamed by the sun here
children’s blood inflames the republic’s sunsets  
children from Salta children from Tucumán little angels
blood evaporated or fallen swept away by the sunset
each and every each and every day
 
and what’s that got to do the death of Federico García Lorca
with the execution of Federico García Lorca in Granada in 1936?
or the sunset in the west of Spain
that is inflamed not by the sun but from the blood
of Federico García Lorca poet
each and every each and every day
 
I don’t know I don’t know
“child, you’re going to fall into the river!” said Federico García Lorca
“when he was lost in the water I understood” said Federico García Lorca
“within the rose there’s another river” said Federico García Lorca
but why does his blood inflame
Granada each and every day every day?
 
and the children of Azul Santa Fe Tucumán Salta
why do they inflame the sky of the republic
beneath which they have forgotten them or pretend to forget?
why did they fall into the river were lost
in the water went to the river of another rose from
ugly poverty?
 
what’s the relationship between that
outer reality and this inner unreality? or
what’s the relationship between that outer unreality
and this inner reality?
when did they kill Federico García Lorca in Tucumán?
when was he shot in Azul Santa Fe Salta?

Juan Gelman

(Translated by John Lyons)


In this poem, Juan Gelman – of Ukrainian origin and one of Argentina’s greatest poet – draws a parallel between the murder of the poet Federico García Lorca by Franco’s fascist troops at the start of the Spanish Civil War and the slaughter of innocents in Argentina during the so-called Dirty War (the name used for the period of United States-backed state terrorism in Argentina from 1976 to 1983). Azul, Santa Fe, Salta and Tucumán are representative provinces of Argentina, though the military dictatorship spread terror throughout the country.

Vietnam

 

espriu
Salvador Espriu (1913-1985)

Vietnam

I’m not young and I’ve always seen
injustice and fear all around me
It’s always been this way,
I gratefully learned  
from the heavy books of the good old days.
I live in a country that’s not free,
very tired, cruel, corrupt, very cowardly,
I have to live in an unworthy country
but the rest of the world is no better.
 
And I can raise only a few fragile words
against the contempt of the lords of power,
the princes’ lips are just smiling,
barely a smile that comes from oblivion
and then dictate forever
icy laws of fear and force,
a firm support  
most generous crutches
upon which the lame  
may walk towards death.
 
How will I fight with nothing
but useless words,
what good is the cry of the dreamer?
I wake up slowly and in silence I contemplate
the great bonfire lit in the far south,
the shame and dishonour of all peoples
It will spread everywhere  
and in it we shall burn,
now someone has understood
but soon everyone will know
that we’re completely lost.

Salvador Espriu

(translated by John Lyons)


“Vietnam” by the great Catalan poet, Salvador Espriu, was written in 1968, ostensibly as a denunciation of the Vietnam War, but was aimed more particularly at fascism and the corrupt regime of Franco’s Spain which sought to suppress Catalan culture.

Sonnets to Orpheus, Sonnet x

Sonnets to Orpheus

Sonnet x

I greet you who never left my heart
ancient sarcophagi through which
the happy waters of Roman days
flow like a wandering song.
 
Or those as open as the eyes
of a happy shepherd upon awakening
– full of silence and the sucking of bees –
around whom enchanted butterflies flutter;
 
I greet all those wrenched from doubt,
mouth again agape who already knew
what it means to be silent
 
We know, my friends, don’t we know?
Both configure the hour that wavers  
on the human face.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by John Lyons)


 

Die Sonette an Orpheus

Sonett X

Euch, die ihr nie mein Gefühl verließt,
grüß ich, antikische Sarkophage,
die das fröhliche Wasser römischer Tage
als ein wandelndes Lied durchfließt.

Oder jene so offenen, wie das Aug
eines frohen erwachenden Hirten,
—innen voll Stille und Bienensaug—
denen entzückte Falter entschwirrten;

alle, die man dem Zweifel entreißt,
grüß ich, die wiedergeöffneten Munde,
die schon wußten, was schweigen heißt.

Wissen wirs, Freunde, wissen wirs nicht?
Beides bildet die zögernde Stunde
in dem menschlichen Angesicht.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Morning moon

moon

Morning moon

The moon is an eye
           high above the horizon
it sees me
           it knows me
gales have blown
           but the moon is wholly
serene
           on this winter morning
birds cavorting
           in the strong breeze
my life continually
           ahead of me

This round disk of perfection

           with it shaded light
bountiful in its message
           of peace
geometries that lie
           at the heart of our being
are thrown into perspective
           and I go calmly
under its silent
           timeless gaze

John Lyons


Morgenmond

Der Mond ist ein Auge
           hoch über dem Horizont
es sieht mich
           es kennt mich
Stürme haben geblasen
           aber der Mond ist ganz
heiter
           an diesem Wintermorgen
Vögel tummeln sich
           in der starken Brise
mein Leben ständig
           vor mir

Diese runde Scheibe der Perfektion
           damit schattiertes Licht
reichlich in seiner Botschaft
           von Frieden
Geometrien die ruhen
           im Herzen unseres Seins
werden in Perspektive geworfen
           und ich gehe ruhig
unter seinem Schweigen
           zeitloser Blick