Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To Anoint the Repast, VIII

By Odysseus Elytis

Naked, in the month of July, high noon. In a narrow bed, between two thick drill sheets, with my cheek on my arm which I lick and taste its saltiness. I look at the whitewash opposite on the wall of my little room. A bit higher the ceiling with its beams. Lower the chest in which I have laid all my possessions: two pairs of trousers, four shirts, some underwear. Next to it, the chair with the huge straw hat. On the ground, on the black and white tiles, my two sandals. By my side I also have a book.

I was born to have just so much. Extravagant speech makes no impression on me. From the least thing you get there sooner. Only it is harder. And from the girl you love you get there too, but you have to know to touch her when nature obeys you. And from nature—but you have to know how to pull out its splinter.

From 'The Little Seafarer'
Translated by Jeffrey Carson and Nikos Sarris

Read about Odysseus Elytis

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Josephy Brodsky: "An Immodest Proposal"

"In my view, books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities, and their cost should be appropriately minimal. Barring that, poetry could be sold in drugstores...

"Now, poetry is the supreme form of human locution in any culture. By failing to read or listen to poets, a society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation—of the politician, or the salesman, or the charlatan—in short, to its own. It forfeits, in other words, its own evolutionary potential, for what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. The charge frequently leveled against poetry—that it is difficult, obscure, hermetic, and whatnot—indicates not the state of poetry but, frankly, the rung of the evolutionary ladder on which society is stuck.

"For poetic discourse is continuous; it also avoids cliché and repetition. The absence of those things is what speeds up and distinguishes art from life, whose chief stylistic device, if one may say so, is precisely cliché and repetition, since it always starts from scratch. It is no wonder that society today, chancing on this continuing poetic discourse, finds itself at a loss, as if boarding a runaway train..."

The following address was delivered at the Library of Congress, October 1991
From 'On Grief and Reason: Essays' by Joseph Brodsky

Read full lecture

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Samantalang May Sinasamantala

Ni Miguel Paolo Celestial

Paano, ang tanong mo,
maisusulat ang pulut-pukyutan ng liwanag
sa hamog ng bukang-liwayway,
ang huni at lagaslas ng tubig,
ang hanging bumubura ng dalumat
hanggang ang sarili’y magmistulang lambat—

paano, samantalang binabanat at hinuhukot
ng pabrika ang katawan ng manggagawa,
samantalang sinusugod ng sakuna
ang walang panangga habang binubulag
ng ilaw-dagitab ang siyudad, samantalang tumatagos
sa buto ang lamig ng makasariling lungsod:

samantalang may sinasamantalang
di man lamang makadungaw sa bintana
at magmasid, mamangha, at umawit
dahil walang laman ang sikmura,
pulubi’t palaboy ang mga anak,
at hindi na maibabalik ang oyayi ng inang
umuwi sa bansang bangkay na malamig.
Paano, ang tanong ko, maiiwasan ang himagsik?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Patrick White: 'Riders in the Chariot' (end of chapter four)

... She walked a little. The acid of light was poured at nightfall into the city, to eat redundant faces. Yet, she survived. She walked, in the kind of clothes which, early in life, people had grown to expect of her, which no one would ever notice, except in amusement or contempt, and which would only alter when they fitted her out finally.

Mrs Godbold walked by the greenish light of early darkness. A single tram spat violet sparks into the tunnel of brown flannel. Barely clinging to its curve, its metal screeched anachronism. But it was only as she waited at a crossing, watching the stream churn past, that dismay overtook Mrs Godbold, and she began to cry. It seemed as if the group of figures huddled on the bank was ignored not so much by the traffic as by the strong, undeviating flood of time. There they waited, the pale souls, dipping a toe timidly, again retreating, secretly relieved to find their fellows caught in a similar situation, or worse, for here was one who could not conceal suffering.

The large woman was simply standing and crying, the tears running out here and down her pudding-coloured face. It was at first fascinating, but became disturbing to the other souls-in-waiting. They seldom enjoyed the luxury of watching the self-exposure of others. Yet, this was a crying in no way convulsed. Soft and steady, it streamed out of the holes of the anonymous woman's eyes. It was, it seemed, the pure abstraction of gentle grief.

The truth of the matter was: Mrs Godbold's self was by now dead, so she could not cry for the part of her which lay in the keeping of the husband she had just left. She cried, rather, for the condition of men, for all those she had loved, burningly, or at a respectful distance, from her father ... she cried, finally, for the people beside her in the street, whose doubts she would never dissolve in words, but understood, perhaps, from those she had experienced.

Then, suddenly, the people waiting at the crossing leaped forward in one surge, and Mrs Godbold was carried with them. How the others were hurrying to resume their always importunate lives. But the woman in the black hat drifted when she was not pushed. For the first moment in her life, and no doubt only briefly, she remained above and impervious to the stream of time. So she coasted along for a little after she had reached the opposite side. Although her tears were all run, her eyes still glittered in the distance of their sockets. Fingers of green and crimson neon grappled for possession of her ordinarily suety face, almost as if it had been a prize, and at moments the strife between light and darkness wrung out a royal purple, which drenched the slow figure in black.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1973: Patrick White