Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Poem of the day

Posted: 6 August 2016 in Uncategorized
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Fernando Cacciolari, “A Flor e a Náusea” (graphic novel)

If you watched or (as I did) read about the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, you will have caught the reading of a poem (in Portuguese by Fernanda Montenegro, in English by Judi Bench).

I don’t know if I ever read “A Flor e a Náusea” when I was an exchange student in Brazil but I do remember the author, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, especially for his everyday, quite left-wing writings and poetry (which, in 1970, under the military dictatorship, represented both an engagement with and an escape from the brutal reality).

Anyway, here are the opening stanzas of “The Flower and Nausea” (I’ve slightly modified the translation):

A FLOR E A NÁUSEA

Preso à minha classe e a algumas roupas,
vou de branco pela rua cinzenta.
Melancolias, mercadorias espreitam-me.
Devo seguir até o enjôo?
Posso, sem armas, revoltar-me?

Olhos sujos no relógio da torre:
Não, o tempo não chegou de completa justiça.
O tempo é ainda de fezes, maus poemas, alucinações e espera.

O tempo pobre, o poeta pobre
fundem-se no mesmo impasse.

THE FLOWER AND NAUSEA

Prisoner of my class and some clothing,
I walk, dressed in white along the gray street.
Melancholy, merchandise harass me.
Must I keep going until I am nauseous?
Can I rebel without arms?

Filthy eyes in the tower clock:
No, the time of complete justice hasn’t come.
It’s still the time of dung, bad poetry, hallucinations and hope.

A poor time, a poor poet
Merge together in the same impasse.

Philip Levine RIP

Posted: 16 February 2015 in Uncategorized
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Philip Levine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and U.S. poet laureate in 2011 and 2012, has died at the age of 87.

I have featured two of his poems on this blog over the years: “An Abandoned Factory, Detroit” and “What Work Is.”

Here is a third:

I Sing The Body Electric

People sit numbly at the counter
waiting for breakfast or service.
Today it’s Hartford, Connecticut
more than twenty-five years after
the last death of Wallace Stevens.
I have come in out of the cold
and wind of a Sunday morning
of early March, and I seem to be
crying, but I’m only freezing
and unpeeled. The waitress brings
me hot tea in a cracked cup,
and soon it’s all over my paper,
and so she refills it. I read
slowly in The New York Times
that poems are dying in Iowa,
Missoula, on the outskirts of Reno,
in the shopping galleries of Houston.
We should all go to the grave
of the unknown poet while the rain
streaks our notebooks or stand
for hours in the freezing winds
off the lost books of our fathers
or at least until we can no longer
hold our pencils. Men keep coming
in and going out, and two of them
recall the great dirty fights
between Willy Pep and Sandy Sadler,
between little white perfection
and death in red plaid trunks.
I want to tell them I saw
the last fight, I rode out
to Yankee Stadium with two deserters
from the French Army of Indochina
and back with a drunken priest
and both ways the whole train
smelled of piss and vomit, but no
one would believe me. Those are
the true legends better left to die.
In my black rain coat I go back
out into the gray morning and dare
the cars on North Indemnity Boulevard
to hit me, but no one wants trouble
at this hour. I have crossed
a continent to bring these citizens
the poems of the snowy mountains,
of the forges of hopelessness,
of the survivors of wars they
never heard of and won’t believe.
Nothing is alive in this tunnel
of winds of the end of winter
except the last raging of winter,
the cats peering smugly from the homes
of strangers, and the great stunned sky
slowly settling like a dark cloud
lined only with smaller dark clouds.

 

maya angelou-1

source

Maya Angelou, who died today, wrote this poem in 1928:

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

Watch this magnificent performance by Rebirth, a poetry ensemble of high-school-age Chicago teens, featuring Simone Allen, Semira Allen, Maya Dru, Adam Ross, Onam Lansana, and Nile Lansana. They are affiliated with the community arts program at the Logan Center.

“Money Has No Heart” was performed on 8 March 2014, during the 2014 Louder Than A Bomb teen poetry festival, organized by Young Chicago Authors. The Olympics-style poetry competition started with 120 teams from the city of Chicago and the suburbs.

 

A Sad State Of Freedom
Nazim Hikmet
Translated by Taner Baybars

You waste the attention of your eyes,
the glittering labour of your hands,
and knead dough enough for dozens of loaves
of which you’ll taste not a morsel;
you are free to slave for others –
you are free to make the rich richer.

The moment you’re born
they plant around you
mills that grind lies
lies to last you a lifetime.
You keep thinking in your great freedom
a finger on your temple
free to have a free conscience.

Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape,
your arms long, hanging,
you saunter about in your great freedom:
you’re free
with the freedom of being unemployed.

You love your country
as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example,
they may endorse it over to America,
and you, too, with your great freedom –
you have the freedom to become an air-base.

You may proclaim that one must live
not as a tool, a number or a link
but as a human being –
then at once they handcuff your wrists.
You are free to be arrested, imprisoned
and even hanged.

There’s neither an iron, wooden
nor a tulle curtain
in your life;
there’s no need to choose freedom:
you are free.
But this kind of freedom
is a sad affair under the stars.

source [ht: hf]

Merry Christmas

Posted: 25 December 2011 in Uncategorized
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“Merry Christmas” by Langston Hughes*

Merry Christmas, China
From the gun-boats in the river,
Ten-inch shells for Christmas gifts,
And peace on earth forever.

Merry Christmas, India,
To Gandhi in his cell,
From righteous Christian England,
Ring out, bright Christmas bell!

Ring Merry Christmas, Africa,
From Cairo to the Cape!
Ring Hallehuiah! Praise the Lord!
(For murder and rape.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Haiti!
(And drown the voodoo drums –
We’ll rob you to the Christian hymns
Until the next Christ comes.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Cuba!
(While Yankee domination
Keeps a nice fat president
In a little half-starved nation.)

And to you down-and-outers,
(“Due to economic laws”)
Oh, eat, drink, and be merry
With a bread-line Santa Claus –

While all the world hails Christmas,
While all the church bells sway!
While, better still, the Christian guns
Proclaim this joyous day!

While holy steel that makes us strong
Spits forth a mighty Yuletide song:
SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!
Let Merry Christmas GAS the air!

* Published in New Masses (December 1930)

Poem of the day

Posted: 10 August 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy

Philip Levine, U.S. poet laureate