hatto fischer | poetry & politics

8 11 2008

castoriadis

Cornelius Castoriadis 1922 – 1997

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 160 | November 8, 2008

THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE

HATTO FISCHER: Poetry & politics

As Americans witnessed in the presidential campaign, first in Berlin, Europe was waiting with open and anxious arms for new leadership in America. In some ways they sensed the voice within Obama well before many in our country finally cast their vote for change last Tuesday.

It was heartening to witness and hear the groundswell of support all over the world as the first Black, against all odds, historical and cultural, was elected the 44th President of the United State and stood humbly before the thousands who gathered in celebration in Chicago only four nights ago.

Among a number of friends from other parts of the world who expressed their congratulations and thoughts with me, Hatto Fischer, in Greece, is one writer, poet, thinker, cultural-ambassador-to-the-world in particular, that I would like to share at this historic moment with all readers of Poetry Dispatch and Notes from the Underground.

I only wish there were a place for him in whatever cultural program Barack creates for the greater good, the greater world at large. —Norbert Blei

strichstrich


Athens 7.11.2008
Dear Norb,

after Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States, it is time to say something about the connection between poetry and politics.

Certainly you have made your contributions, from spreading local news to encouraging the poetic way. You have done so by enabling writers, poets to find their voices through publications, reviews, recognitions, discussions and just listening to them.

All along, and ever since with Sam Hamill and others ‘the Poets against the War’ came to life after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, I have asked myself what does this say about the American society, its people and especially its poets? In seeing how many engage themselves, poetically speaking, I wondered when will this poetic language enter daily life and daily language? It has to do with not only how to gain dignity in a void of knowledge about existence, so that you end up in some back room in front of an empty sheet of paper, but by learning how to handle the imagination.

As the Bulgarian poetess Dostena Lavergne would say, poetry has to do with something amorphous but it is a binding power of a different order. Many would doubt that connections through poetry have that same quality when compared with hard fought negotiations at the end of which there stands a legal paper called ‘contract’. Yet the poetic commitment to life, the zeal to feel its impulses, is much stronger and more enduring than any contract linking any mortal to a legal system and to the many lawyers who make a living off those who think breaking the law is a way of life.

There are many types of ‘outlaws’ and some may think here of Johnny Cash with his stories about in and out of jail, but he too affirmed to strike back after 9/11 insofar as he said who would be so foolish to do something like that and think to get away with it. Yes, unfortunately revenge exists as a rule all over the world. It is even the highest law in the Islamic religion. It is assumed to be the only way to regain balance out of a position of permanent imbalance. It will be an open question if Barack Obama as President will understand this call: not to define foreign policy on the principle of revenge which is also embodied in the death penalty and meant to deter by being absolute in the negation of life, and which the act of killing spells out plainly for all to see. It is repeatedly shown on the television screen and not only there, for it is backed up by those advocating that by taking literally speaking the law into your own hands, for the state is not to be trusted to do the dirty work, the only way to seek revenge is to do it oneself. But that is an absurd equation of law with own hands, and yet there it is this savage custom to become wild when claiming to be civilized.

And one more thing: if some American writers pride themselves to get the money whenever they want, as if this is the raw law of survival, then in reality this myth ‘of lets go freely on a binge but care only for yourself’, that goes at the expense of those willing to give and who end up being abused by this kind of egoistic drive. Such a drive ends up in loneliness as described by Canetti who sees in it another form of death drive. But that is not the way out of the dilemma insofar as you cannot recognize your own greatness by negating that of all others. If that would be the credo, it would leave America exposed to the kind of vanity fair Palin surely comes close to and which you, Norb, pointed out in that webpage you send around so that we could imagine what would it be like if she sat in the Oval office. The agreement by her to go hunting with the Canadian comedian posing as Skarkozy after he invited her to hunt from a helicopter as he had never done that before, it underlines the seriousness of that joke aimed to expose vanity.

But I want to come back to the poetic language to which you besides Sam Hamill have contributed so much. I think the fact that Americans look at themselves now with respect and take more seriously then their fears their abilities to handle the elusiveness of the imagination to show new ways, it is the result of all this incredible poetic work. So aside from the congratulations which should go directly to Barack Obama and his campaign team, there needs to be given recognition to the poets. Without them it would not have been possible to learn those lessons from the past, including those of the Civil Rights Movement. It explains why the dreams of the past did not shatter even after Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. A powerful emotional base for civic engagement has been created over time and through this election it came to fore. Hence I find it awesome that Barack Obama recognizes this first of all. In Chicago he said to the people ‘you did not elect me’. He meant they elected first of all themselves or rather a more just political system. If hope has a meaning in what Barack Obama says for the future, then it would be important to support him in what he intends, namely to give back or even to give to the people for the first time a political system by which they can govern themselves. All political systems have been abused until now in order to govern against the people. By contrast his style of politics intends to be for the people. Thus he will be a true challenge not only to himself and the American people, but equally to every other government, politicians and ordinary citizens around the world.

We need to think only of the many flawed elections we have witnessed recently in Africa, the countless equally intolerable state of affairs in Zimbabwe with Mugabe clinging on to power by all means but one example, and to which only Gordon Brown has stood up so far in a world wide beset by a permanent art of rationalization. The latter is an outcome of corruption of the mind. It explains why there exists an unwillingness to take serious the need to be honest. So far this has been the type of governance when it comes to viewing what people want. Hence change comes when the imagination enters to further thoughts how best to express good governance through politics by all people. It was the Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis who mentioned that participation involves the imagination, even in what people project upon the White House when they drive by in Washington D.C..

I wish you and all the poets you have encouraged so far to keep on writing as testified in that recent book you published, namely ‘other voices’. They should continue, continue to link daily work with day dreams, so as to free the imagination in order to be able and willing to handle with imagination the problems ahead. But what has been achieved as of now, and I mean this election result of Nov. 4th 2008, there needs to be given a tribute to all poets who have already freed the imagination. That is the prerequisite to stand up against doubt and skepticism, as said by Barack Obama. And no wonder he ends with ‘yes we can’. By achieving that American poetry has already contradicted the statement by that member of the Stockholm Academy for the Nobel Prize, who said nothing much can be expected from American Literature when compared to the European one.

What took place in the United States with the election of Barack Obama, is a historical feat. It seems everyone picked up as well something from Nelson Mandela when voting on November 4th, namely to finally get rid of that fear to be great in daily life. Nelson Mandela said you free the others by not being afraid of your own greatness. By doing that you free the others and that is the best way to reach out to the others around the globe.

Greetings from Athens and congratulations to you for all the work you have done to give others a voice.

hatto fischer

strichstrich


The book OTHER VOICES is available by clicking here…





walt whitman | election day, november, 1884

6 11 2008

walt_whitman_edit_2

Poetry Dispatch No. 257 | November 6, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Ahead…upon reflection …Whitman always understood the heartbeat of America. Norbert Blei

strichstrich

Election Day, November, 1884

by Walt Whitman
(1819-1892)

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and
show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones–nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes–nor
Mississippi’s stream:
–This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the still
small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–
Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling–(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity–welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
–Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify–while the heart
pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.





bob dylan | when the ship comes in

5 11 2008

strichstrich

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.159 | ELECTION DAY NOVEMBER 4, 2008,

THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE

WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN
ELECTION DAY

When The Ship Comes In
Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.

Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The hour that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’.
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Then they’ll raise their hands,
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh’s tribe,
They’ll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered.


“When the Ship Comes In”

is a song by Bob Dylan, released on his 3rd studio album The Times They Are a-Changin’ in 1964. Joan Baez stated in the documentary film No Direction Home that “When the Ship Comes In” was, more or less, inspired by a hotel clerk that refused to allow Dylan a room due to his “unwashed” appearance (he was not famous outside of the folk movement at this time). The song then grew into a sprawling epic allegory about vanquishing the oppressive “powers that be”. Another inspiration was the Bertold Brecht/Kurt Weil song, “Jenny the pirate’s bride”.





david sedaris | undecided

30 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 158 | October 29, 2008

THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE

THE NEW YORKER/
HUMOR/
DAVID SEDARIS

One of the many pleasures of being a longtime subscriber to The New Yorker each week, is the surprise factor of each issue, beginning with the cover illustration and ending with the cartoon caption contest on the last page. I want to do a complete essay on The New Yorker one of these days…but for present purposes (politics/literature/the upcoming election) let me put in a few good words about writing humor—almost a lost art in most American publications these days.

The New Yorker has a long tradition of fostering this form of writing, developing some of the most humorous writers in our culture. If you think Woody Allen is only funny in film…you should have read some of the first pieces he published in The New Yorker. And just when you think we’ve lost a great American humorist of literary distinction (New Yorker writer James Thurber, for example), before too long another writer enters (with laughter), and within a few years you begin recognizing him or her as a ‘New Yorker’ regular. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that David Sedaris is the James Thurber of our time (yet)…but I’m more than comfortable, overjoyed in fact, to pick up a current issue of the magazine and find another piece by Sedaris–which always speaks to our times. Norbert Blei

UNDECIDED

by
David Sedaris

I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters. “Who are they?” the news anchors ask. “And how might they determine the outcome of this election?”

Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it comes to the economy.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they profes¬sional actors? I wonder. Or are they sim¬ply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

When doubting that anyone could not know whom they’re voting for, I inevita¬bly think back to November, 1968. Hu¬bert Humphrey was running against Richard Nixon, and when my mother couldn’t choose between them she had me do it for her. It was crazy. One minute I was eating potato chips in front of the TV, and the next I was at the fire station, waiting with people whose kids I went to school with. When it was our turn, we were led by a woman wearing a sash to one of a half-dozen booths, the curtain of which dosed after we entered.

“Go ahead,” my mother said. “Flick a switch, any switch.”

I looked at the panel in front of me.

“Start on the judges or whatever and we’ll be here all day, so just pick a Pres¬ident and make it fast. We’ve wasted enough time already.”

“Which one do you think is best?” I asked.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she told me. “That’s why I’m letting you do it. Come on, now, vote.”
I put my finger on Hubert Humphrey and then on Richard Nixon, neither of whom meant anything to me. What I most liked about democracy, at least so far, was the booth—its quiet civility, its atmosphere of importance. “Hmm,” I said, wondering how long we could stay before someone came and kicked us out.

Ideally, my mother would have waited outside, but, as she said, there was no way an unescorted eleven-year-old would be allowed to vote, or even hang out, seeing as the lines were long and the polls were open for only one day. “Will you please hurry it up?” she hissed.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some¬thing like this in our living room?” I asked. “Maybe we could use the same curtains we have on the windows.”

“All right, that’s it.” My mother reached for Humphrey but I beat her to it, and cast our vote for Richard Nixon, who had the same last name as a man at our church. I assumed that the two were related, and only discovered afterward that I was wrong. Richard Nixon had always been Nixon, while the man at my church had shortened his name from something fun¬nier but considerably less poster-friendly— Nickapopapopolis, maybe.

“Oh, well,” I said.

We drove back home, and when asked by my father whom she had voted for, my mother said that it was none of his business.

“What do you mean, ‘none of my business’?” he said. “I told you to vote Republican.”

“Well, maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.”

‘You’re not telling me you voted for Humphrey” He said this as if she had marched through the streets with a pan on her head.

“No,” she said. I’m not telling you that. I’m not telling you anything. It’s pri¬vate—all right? My political opinions are none of your concern.”

“What political opinions?” he said. I’m the one who took you down to reg¬ister. You didn’t even know there was an election until I told you.”

“Well, thanks for telling me.”

She turned to open a can of mushroom soup. This would be poured over pork chops and noodles and served as our din¬ner, casserole style. Once we’d taken our seats at the table, my parents would stop fighting directly, and continue their argument through my sisters and me. Lisa might tell a story about her day at school and, if my father said it was interesting my mother would laugh.
“What’s so funny?” he’d say.

“Nothing. It’s just that, well, I suppose everyone has a different standard. That’s all.”

When told by my father that I holding my fork wrong, my mother would say that I was holding it right, or right in “certain circles.”

“We don’t know how people eat the world over,” she’d say, not to him but to the buffet or the picture window, as if the statement had nothing to do with any of us.

I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of evening, and so I told my father that I had voted. “She let me,” I said. “And I picked Nixon.”

“Well, at least someone in the family has some brains.” He patted me on shoulder and as my mother turned away I understood that I had chosen the wrong person.

I didn’t vote again until 1976, when I was nineteen and legally registered. Because I was at college out of state, I sent my ballot through the mail. The choice that year was between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Most of my friends were going for Carter, but, as an art major, I identified myself as a maverick. “That means an original,” I told my roommate. “Someone who lets the chips fall where they may.” Because I made my own rules and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of them, I decided to write for the name of Jerry Brown, who, it was rumored, liked to smoke pot. This was an issue very close to my heart—too close, obviously, as it amounted to a complete waste. Still, though, it taught me a valuable lesson: calling yourself a maverick is a sure sign that you’re not one.

I wonder if, in the end, the undecideds aren’t the biggest pessimists of all. Here they could order the airline chicken, but, then again, hmm. “Isn’t that adding an extra step?” they ask themselves. “If it’s a going to be chewed up and swallowed, why not cut to the chase, and go with the platter of shit?”

Ah, though, that’s where the broken glass comes in.

from THE NEW YORKER, October 27, 2008

David Sedaris

contributes frequently to The New Yorker. He is the author of “Barrel Fever,” (1994) and “Holidays on Ice,” (1997), as well as three collections of personal essays: “Naked,” (1997), “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” (2000), and “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” (2004). In 2005, he edited an anthology of stories, “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.” He has also regularly contributed personal essays to Esquire. Sedaris and his sister, Amy Sedaris, have collaborated under the name The Talent Family and have written several plays, including “Stump the Host”; “Stitches”; “One Woman Shoe,” which received an Obie Award; “Incident at Cobbler’s Knob”; and “The Book of Liz,” which was published in book form by the Dramatists Play Service.

Sedaris made his comic début on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, reading “SantaLand Diaries,” which recounted his strange but true experiences of his job as a Macy’s elf clad in green tights. His original radio pieces can often be heard on the show “This American Life.” In 2001, Sedaris became the third recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. He was named by Time magazine as “Humorist of the Year” in 2001. In 2005, he was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word Album (“Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,”) and Best Comedy Album (“David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall,”).





antonio machado | la palabra en el tiempo

25 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch Nr. 256 | October 25, 2008

la palabra en el tiempo:

ANTONIO MACHADO
by
Norbert Blei

I never wanted fame,
nor wanted to leave my poems
behind in the memory of men…

Machado poems illuminate both darkness and day. I don’t know how else to describe his work except once you have found him and he has found you, his poems will broaden your spirit, put you in a place you want to be. The kind of feeling one experiences walking out of an ancient church into a starlit night.

Memory is valuable for one thing,
astonishing: it brings dreams back.

In Robert Bly’s magnificent translation, TIMES ALONE, Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, Wesleyan University Press, (1983), he notes in his introduction:

“His poetry secretes in itself the rhythm of the walker, When John Dos Passos, just out of college, traveled to see Machado in Segovia, he found an awkward man with a deep voice, “an old fashioned teacher,” dressed in a black, double-breasted suit, who walked for hours in Segovia and the countryside. When a person walks, he experiences objects one by one at a pace agreeable to the body. And every walk ends; sooner or later the walk is over and we are back home.”

Bly also notes Machado’s love for well-made things, something any writer can relate to:

Form your letters slowly and well:
making things well
is more important than making them.

Some excerpts from one of the selections included in TIMES ALONE:

“Fourteen Poems Chosen from ‘Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs’ “

5.

Put out on the fields
a physical laborer, a thinker, and a poet.
You will see how the poet is enthusiastic
and silent, the thinker looks and thinks…
The laborer looks around, probably,
for blackberries and mushrooms.
Take them to the theatre,
and only the laborer isn’t bored.
The one who prefers what is alive
over what is made up
is the person who writes, dreams, or sings.
The head of the physical laborer
is full of fantasies.

8.

It is good knowing that glasses
are to drink from;
the bad thing is not to know
what thirst is for.

9.

You say nothing is created new?
Don’t worry about it, with the mud
of the earth, make a cup
from which your brother can drink.

13.

Mankind owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars,
and the fear of going down.

Antonio Cipriano José María y Francisco de Santa Ana Machado y Ruiz, known as Antonio Machado (July 26, 1875 – February 22, 1939) was a Spanish poet and one of the leading figures of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of ’98.

Machado was born in Seville one year after his brother Manuel. The family moved to Madrid in 1883 and both brothers enrolled in the Institución Libre de Enseñanza. During these years, and with the encouragement of his teachers, Antonio discovered his passion for literature.

While completing his Bachillerato in Madrid, economic difficulties forced him to take several jobs including working as an actor. In 1899 he travelled with his brother to Paris to work as translators for a French publisher. During these months in Paris he came into contact with the great French Symbolist poets Jean Moréas, Paul Fort and Paul Verlaine, and also with other contemporary literary figures, including Rubén Darío and Oscar Wilde. These encounters cemented Machado’s decision to dedicate himself to poetry.

In 1901 he had his first poems published in the literary journal ‘Electra’. His first book of poetry was published in 1903 with the title Soledades. Over the next few years he gradually amended the collection, removing some and adding many more, and in 1907 the definitive collection was published with the title Soledades. Galerías. Otros Poemas.

In the same year Machado was offered the job of Professor of French at the school in Soria. Here he met Leonor Izquierdo, daughter of the owners of the boarding house Machado was staying in. They were married in 1909: he was 34; Leonor was 15. Early in 1911 the couple went to live in Paris where Machado read more French literature and studied philosophy. In the summer however Leonor was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis and they returned to Spain. On 1 August 1912 Leonor died, just a few weeks after the publication of Campos de Castilla. Machado was devastated and left Soria, the city that had inspired the poetry of Campos, never to return. He went to live in Baeza, Andalucia, where he stayed until 1919. Here he wrote a series of poems dealing with the death of Leonor which were added to a new (and now definitive) edition of Campos de Castilla published in 1916 along with the first edition of Nuevas canciones.

While his earlier poems are in an ornate, Modernist style, with the publication of “Campos de Castilla” he showed an evolution toward greater simplicity, a characteristic that was to distinguish his poetry from then on.

Between 1919 and 1931 Machado was Professor of French in Segovia. He moved here to be nearer to Madrid, where Manuel lived. The brothers would meet at weekends to work together on a number of plays, the performances of which earned them great popularity. It was here also that Antonio had a secret affair with Pilar Valderrama, a married woman with three children, to whom he would refer in his work by the name Guiomar. In 1932 he was given the post of professor at the “Instituto Calderón de la Barca” in Madrid

When Francisco Franco launched his coup d’état in July 1936, launching the Spanish Civil War, Machado was in Madrid. The coup was to separate him forever from his brother Manuel who was trapped in the Nationalist (Francoist) zone, and from Valderrama who was in Portugal. Machado was evacuated with his elderly mother and uncle to Valencia, and then to Barcelona in 1938. Finally, as Franco closed in on the last Republican strongholds, they were obliged to move across the French border to Collioure. It was here, on 22 February 1939 that Antonio Machado died, just three days before his mother. In his pocket was found his last poem, “Estos días azules y este sol de infancia”.

Machado is buried in Collioure where he died; Leonor is buried in Soria. Geoffrey Hill has hailed him as Montale’s ‘grand equal’. His phrase “the two Spains” — one that dies and one that yawns — referring to the left-right political divisions that led to the Civil War, has passed into Spanish and other languages.

Machado’s poetic evolution has strong links to larger European trends in the same period. He turned away from the hermetic esthetic principles of post-symbolism and cultivated the dynamic openness of social realism. Like such French æsthetes as Verlaine, Machado began with a fin-de-siècle contemplation of his sensory world, portraying it through memory and the impressions of his private world. And like his socially conscious colleagues of the Generation of 1898, he emerged from his solitude to contemplate Spain’s historical landscape with a sympathetic yet unindulgent eye.

His poetic work begins with the publication of Soledades, in 1903. In this short volume many personal links which will characterize his later work are noticeable. In “Soledades, Galerías. Otras poemas.”, published in 1907, his voice becomes his own. The most typical feature of his personality is the antipathic, softly sorrow tone that can be felt even when he describes real things or common themes of the time, for example abandoned gardens, old parks or fountains, places which he approaches via memory or dreams.

After Machado’s experience with the introspective poetry of his first period, he withdrew from the spectacle of his conflictive personality and undertook to witness the general battle of the “two Spains,” each one struggling to gain the ascendancy.

In 1912 he published “Campos de Castilla”, a collection of poems lyricising the beauty of the Castilian countryside. Just as the poet’s own personality revealed mutually destructive elements in the earlier Galerías and Soledades, so too did the Cain-Abel myth, interpreted in “La Tierra de Alvargonzález” later attest to the factions in Spain that tore at each other and shredded the national fabric in an effort finally to restore unity. At the same time, other poems projected Castilian archetypes that evoked emotions like pathos (“La mujer manchega”—”The Manchegan Woman”), revulsion (“Un criminal”), and stark rapture (“Campos de Soria”).

In 1917 various poems were added to “Campos”, including a group of poems written in Baeza about the death of his young wife, a series of short reflective poems, often resembling popular songs or sayings, called “Proverbios y Cantares”, and e series of “Elogios”, dedicated to characters such as Rubén Dario or Federico García Lorca who had been influential in his life.

Machado’s later poems are a virtual anthropology of Spain’s common people, describing their collective psychology, mores, and historical destiny. He achieves this panorama through basic myths and recurrent, eternal patterns of group behavior. He developed these archetypes in Campos de Castilla (“Castilian Plains”) in such key poems as “La tierra de Alvargonzález,” and “Por tierras de España”, which are based on Biblical inheritance stories. The metaphors of this second period use geographical and topographical allusions that frame powerful judgments about socio-economic and moral conditions on the Peninsula.

His next book, “Nuevas canciones” (New Songs), published in 1924, and begins the last period of his work.

The complete work of his poetry, “Poesías Completas” was published in 1928 and contains his work “Poesias de Guerra” (Poems of War), outstanding the elegy to the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, called “Ocurrió en Granada” (It occurred in Granada).

Perhaps Machado’s most famous work is two verses from “Proverbios y cantares XXIX” in Campos de Castilla.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar

This however, is but an excerpt of a longer and less hopeful poem. The popular Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat interprets this poem as a song that has brought Machado’s work greater diffusion. Serrat added some verses so that the song speaks about a poet dying far away from his country.

The Puerto Rican novelist Giannina Braschi references Machado’s poetry in the contemporary novel Yo-Yo Boing! during a fight scene between a Cuban nationalist and a Puerto Rican independista who are arguing over the topics of dignity and national identity:

–Qué es la dignidad?

–La medida de la libertad.

–Quiero decir, quién es más fuerte, la isla que se vende y come bien, o la que se mantiene erecta, y se muere de hambre y de soledad.

–Cuál es más libre?

–Ninguna de las dos es libre. Todo pertenece. Soledad te acompaña, viajero. Pero como decía Don Antonio Machado, donde hay vino, bebe vino, y si no hay vino, chico, qué te cuesta, tómate el agua fresca.

Major publications

  • * Soledades (1903)
  • * Soledades. Galerías. Otros poemas (1907)
  • * Campos de Castilla (1912)
  • * Poesías completas (1917)
  • * Nuevas canciones (1924)
  • * Poesías completas (1936, cuarta edición)
  • * Juan de Mairena (1936)

source





donna balfe | I thought I had confessed everything…october

23 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch Nr. 255 | October 22, 2008

DONNA BALFE

I Thought I Had Confessed Everything…OCTOBER
by Donna Balfe

October is my best month:
And I’m living it up again in Indiana, driving the back roads,
storing up images for winter, for emergencies, times of tragedy
or sadness, for the final illness—for dying. But in October
I never think about dying. It would be wrong to die in October,
there is so much to do. I’m a kid again with my grown-up
daughter.
We scour the county in her pick-up, windows down, twanging
country
songs at the top of our lungs and laughing while we search out
wild
asparagus, teazle, milkweed, cattails, sumac, and bittersweet.
My depression is in remission, and I am the big believer in life.
How long can this present last.

How long can the present last?
The first week in October is like late summer. I’m making
and breaking schedules, going a little crazy trying to categorize,
organize, prioritize, arrange my affairs. I resort to bar graphs
and pie charts…my life is a statistical nightmare. I buy
a Franklin Planner and spend the second week transferring
addresses,
phone numbers, insurance information. I list blood type, dress
and glove sizes of next of kin, identify special dates
and deadlines. I create the master plan of my life.
David reminds me that we have a computer program
that does it all.

from THE LAST HOUSEWIFE IN AMERICA, Cross+Roads Press, #19, 1997

Donna Balfe | The Last Housewife in America

“…another in the series that will appeal particularly to women… Donna Balfe takes readers through a year of moods, challenges and reflections.” – Harris/ADVOCATE

more on Donna Balfe can be read here…

(out of print) limited number of archived copies only. | 1997

25 Euro incl. shipment world-wide

50 Euro incl. shipment world-wide for a signed copy.

If you are interested in buying this book please go here…








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