Blogia

On Poetry and Culture Shock

Gin-tonic haibun

Nos invitaron a la fiesta de fin de curso de los alumnos de 2º de Bachillerato, en un instituto en el que tenían por costumbre convertir la ocasión en un banquete formal. Los profesores nos sentamos todos juntos, apiñados en una esquina, compartiendo anécdotas sobre centros con peor ambiente que éste.

El aire general de los críos (da igual que tengan 18 años y me saquen una cabeza: son críos) era de boda, y el banquete tenía pinta parecida. No se fueron de copas al acabar de cenar: el local había previsto una barra libre. Comprobé que la selección era la típica para adolescentes: licores empalagosos con cola. Tímidamente, le pregunté a un camarero:

-Un gin-tonic, ¿tendrían?
-Sí, claro - el camarero era mucho mayor que yo y sonreía como si no le tocara aguantar demasiadas tonterías aquella noche.
- Le parecerá que es bebida de gente antigua.
Se rió a carcajadas, y me dijo - es bebida de gente inteligente.

Llega muy dulce,
la edad de los gin-tonic.
No, no es amarga

*   *    * 

We were invited to the graduation party of the students who had just finished High School, in a small town that turned this occasion into a formal dinner. The teachers sat huddled together, sharing anecdotes of previous jobs in worse schools.

The excitement of the kids (i don’t care if they’re 18 and a foot taller than me: they’re kids), the way they dressed, and the party’s organisation, were very much like those of a wedding. They didn’t go out at the end of the meal, as they had booked the restaurant’s bar and hired a DJ. I checked that the bar’s selection for us included the typical teenage fare: anything that was sickly sweet and alcoholic. Quite shily, I approached a bartender, and asked,

’Would you have some gin & tonic?’
’Of course’. The bartender was much older than me, and he smiled as if he didn’t have to put up with a lot that night.
’I guess it’s a drink for sad, old-fashioned people’
He laughed and said, ’It’s a drink for intelligent people’

It comes so sweetly,
The age of gin & tonics
no, it’s not bitter. 

 

My favorite Gapingvoid cartoon

My favorite Gapingvoid cartoon

So, this is my favorite Gapingvoid cartoon, more or less. I always have a hard time picking favorites, and Hugh's work is no expection. I have three or four other favorites; they’re either very old, or from the 2010 Love Series. I’ve picked this one because I have it on a T-shirt and because it was part of the conversation in my first date with my partner.

We talked about life, thinking you’ve reached the bottom just to find out someone’s handing you a spade, and this cartoon. And later on he said something like "... he couldn’t take such bliss any more, he said, mistakenly".

 

 

El día de la mujer

Varias veces en mi vida me han preguntado "¿Y cuándo es el día del hombre?" La respuesta fácil es "los otros 364 días". Una respuesta menos fácil es "todos los domingos son el día del Señor. No hay un día de la Señora, de la mujer ni de la dama en toda la semana" (el origen etimológico de los días es Luna, Marte, Mercurio, Júpiter, Venus, Saturno, Dominus = Señor). Y la respuesta larga es ésta. Son días festivos, o conmemoraciones vigentes en el mundo occidental. ¿Cuáles están dedicadas a una mujer que no sea la Virgen María? Otros personajes religiosos, vale y pase, pero una mujer que es virgen, madre, y un modelo de sumisión es más un invento que una figura histórica.

 

1 de Enero. Primer día del calendario gregoriano. San Gregorio Magno era un hombre.

6 de Enero. El día de Reyes. Varios hombres sabios visitan a un hombre.

15 de Enero. Día de Martin Luther King.

30 de Enero. Día escolar de la paz y la no-violencia. Se celebra este día en parte en memoria de Mahatma Gandhi, un hombre.

14 de Febrero. San Valentín.

28 de Febrero. Día de Andalucía. Ni la bandera, ni el himno, ni el primer estatuto de Andalucía se elaboraron con la participación de ninguna mujer.

23 de Abril. Día del Libro y de los derechos de autor. Recordamos a William Shakespeare y a Miguel de Cervantes.

12 de Octubre. Día de la Hispanidad, en Estados Unidos "Columbus Day", Día de Cristóbal Colón. La única mujer que figura en cualquier libro de Historia sobre el Descubrimiento de América es la reina Isabel, que lo financió. En los barcos de Colón sólo había hombres.

6 de Diciembre. Día de la Constitución Española. No había ninguna mujer en el grupo de los siete "padres de la Constitución".

10 de diciembre. Día de los Derechos Humanos.  Entre los cinco autores de la Declaración, una era una mujer.

En fin, la lista es ampliable. Pero creo que se explica sola.

 

 

 

 

 

Curarlo "todo"

Esta es una conversación que tuvo lugar en donde voy a hacer yoga, ayer.

A: van a venir a darnos una charla sobre Flores de Bach.

B: ¿Eso qué es?

C: Homeopatía.

A: son unos extractos de plantas curativos.

D: Pero no curativos de curar enfermedades! (risa) Son para todo.

B: Ahh, para todo! (en tono aliviado-porque-por-fin-comprende).

A: Sí, eso, para todo.

Dejando de lado la identificación Flores de Bach / Homeopatía (plantas distintas, se ofrecen para curar males distintos, razón que ofrecen para funcionar distinta), que me imagino que da igual a quienes niegan su eficacia, me impresiona ese "todo". "Todo" no es estar enfermo. "Todo"  son  los dolores  y pesares comunes de la vida. El cansancio, la tristeza,  los dolorcillos,  todo lo que nos molesta  y no se va con Ibuprofeno. "Todo" son cosas que la gente quiere dejar de sentir y los médicos no pueden borrar con varita mágica.

Conozco personalmente a muchos médicos, y he sido paciente de muchos también. Los respeto. Recuerdo el tremendo alivio que da un profesional que parece comprenderte o que te da un diagnóstico que te quita tres cuartas partes de la angustia. Por eso creo que gran cantidad de las tonterías altrnativas no tendrían éxito si en las consultas hubiera un poco más de tiempo por paciente y si los médicos, quizá con picardía, recomendaran para "Todo" alguna cosilla inocua y a ser posible que no se venda en farmacias, como la verdura verde, escuchar música, o beber agua en ayunas....

 

La Denuncia Falsa

Había una vez un mundo en el que las denuncias por violación o violencia de género tenían un peso social tan grande, que los hombres vivían aterrorizados ante la posibilidad de la calumnia.

- Pero vamos a ver, ¿tú qué le has hecho a ella para que te denuncie?

- ¿Yo? Yo, nada, de verdad tío, yo no le he hecho nada.

 

- Bueno, algo le habrás hecho, ¿no? No te va a denunciar por las buenas, hay que calentar mucho a una mujer para que haga una cosa tan extrema como esa.

-En serio, que no. No le hice nada. Salimos a dar una vuelta, nos tomamos algo como siempre, la dejé en su casa como siempre, me fui, y lo siguiente que sé es que tengo a la policía en casa tomándome muestras biológicas hasta del cielo de la boca.

-Jodeeeeeerrrrrr, pero es que cómo se te ocurre. ¿Qué bebiste?

-Pero eso qué tiene que ver.

-Pues tiene todo que ver. Tú vas, te emborrachas, te pasas, te crees que ella pone ganas, no las pone, y ¡pon!, la violaste. Y encima es tu novia, o sea que es violencia de género. Da gracias a que la denuncia es por la violación nada más y no por maltratador.

-¿Cómo te tengo que decir que no la violé? Que no es que ella consintiera, que es que no hubo sexo, ni del bueno ni del malo. No. Sexo.

-Eso es lo que dices ahora, tío, que soy tu amigo y creo que no tienes mala intención, pero si habías bebido, ¿cómo sabes que no la violaste?

-A ver, si te pones así, uno no está nunca seguro de nada, en fin, ni del suelo bajo los pies, yo qué sé, si hubiera habido sexo me acordaría.

- Aparte es que tú, también, es que da igual, es que eso es ir provocando. Vas y te tomas unas cervezas, y luego os vais a su casa, y claro, por aquellas calles tan vacías, pues ella, normal. Se asusta. Le entra un miedo, y hace, pues lo normal en una situación así. Se asusta, y se defiende, va y te denuncia.

-Pero ¿tú de parte de quién estás?

-Es que no es cuestión de estar de parte de unos o de otros, que sabes que eres mi amigo y me importa lo que te pase, pero es que tíos como tú sois los que nos dan mala fama a los demás. ¿Por qué no me llamaste para que fuera con vosotros? Yo también estaba por la parte de los bares, nos vamos los tres a su casa y ya está. Tienes tranquilidad, un testigo, y la seguridd de que no la violas. A ver, como si no te hubieran dicho mil veces que uno no se puede quedar solo con una mujer. Vamos, desde chicos en el colegio.

-¿Y si nos acusa a los dos?

-Venga ya, que Silvia no es de esas. Silvia es legal.

-Será todo lo legal que tú quieras, ¡pero me acaba de calumniar!

-Cheeee, que calumniar es una palabra muy gorda. Te ha denunciado.

-Me vas a venir a mí con qué palabras son gordas. ¡Que me han puesto un cartel al cuello!

-Venga, no dramatices. Espera a que se le pase un poco el enfado, hablas con ella, le pides perdón, y a ver si retira la denuncia, que yo creo que sí, que es una persona razonable y si le explicas tu versión, te comprenderá.

-Entre los que decís que algo hice y la culpa es mía, y los que decís que las mujeres no pueden evitarlo, y la culpa no es de ella, me tenéis todos harto ya. Voy a ver qué ponen en la tele.

En un canal de televisión hay un documental que se centra en los aspectos más tristes del día a día en prisión de hombres denunciados por violación y violencia de género. No aparece ni una sola mujer, excepto funcionarias de prisiones y mujeres policía.

En otro canal están echando una comedia donde algunas actrices hacen chistes sobre un hombre que es demasiado feo para calumniarlo: no querrían que nadie las relacionara con él.

En otro canal donde también hay una película, es un drama romántico. Una mujer seduce a un hombre. Lo amenaza con denunciarlo, tras lo cual él se enamora de ella.

En otro canal hay un debate sobre la función que el sistema educativo debe tener enseñando a los chicos a evitar ponerse en situaciones que les lleven a ser calumniados, ya que se produce una escalada del “rumor” a la “acusación” al “chantaje” a la “denuncia” que los chicos deben saber detectar y frenar antes de que sea grave. En ningún momento se dice “las mujeres denuncian”, sino “los hombres reciben denuncias”.

- Estoy harto de toda la mierda antimasculina ycalumniante que echan.
Nah, no tendrías que ser tan radical. Tomátelo más a la ligera que no es algo personal, tío.

 

 

 

Frikismo y mendicidad // geekiness and begging

La agencia EFE cuenta que dos españolas han quedado segundas en un concurso de disfraces en Japón. A muchos japoneses les encanta el "cosplay", que consiste simplemente en disfrazarse de muñecos de manga o anime. Lo primero que me sorprende es que se insista en que "disfrazarse de personaje manga o anime" sea una actividad muy distinta de "disfrazarse", y requiera complicados nombres, aunque supongo que me estoy perdiendo los detalles.

Me hace gracia que se disfrazaran de Candy Candy, una serie que estaba muy de moda cuando yo era una niña pequeña. Quizá las ganadoras son de mi generación. Pero no es que tengan una mentalidad muy de ganadoras,  más bien de mendigas. Demuestran una actitud tristemente muy española cuando dicen: "Hemos recibido alguna ayuda, pero la mayor parte de la participación nos la hemos costeado nosotras. Otros muchos países dan apoyo económico".

Ah. Sí, claro. No es justo que te tengas que pagar los hobbies tú sola, ¿no, bonita? Necesitas una subvención del Ministerio de Cultura. Me parece muy necesario que las instituciones públicas subvencionen y ayuden a los artistas, pero harta que todo el que tenga una actividad remotamente relacionada con el ocio crea que hay que pagarle por ello.

****

EFE reports that two Spanish women have ended in second position in a costume contest in Japan. Many Japanese people enjoy "cosplay", which consists simply of dressing up as manga characters. The first thing I find shocking is that anyone would think that "dressing up as a manga character for fun" is a different activity than simply "dressing up", although I’m probably missing the fine details.

What makes me post this and what shows the extremely Spanish mentality of the cosplayers, is this quote (I translate): "We have received some help, but we’ve paid for most of our participation. Many other countries give economic support".

Oh. Yeah. Right. It is not fair that you have to pay for your hobbies yourself. You need state support, and a grant from the Ministry of Culture. I’m all for public support of the arts, but it is so tiring and discouraging that everyone who wants to do something remotely connected to leisure and culture feels entitled to public help.

New haikus / Haikus nuevos

Se escribe, más que nada, sobre lo que se vive. Y después de un año posponiendo vivir y unos cuantos meses recordando cómo se hacía eso de ser una persona, escribí de nuevo. Poco, y despacio. Pero ya volverá.

Este haiku está dedicado a mis alumnas de tercero de este año, mis nuevas musas involuntarias.

Pan con aceite.
Quinceañeras desayunan
Siglos de amor.

******

We write about what we live. And I spent a year postponing life, and yet another year re-learning the complex business of being a whole person. That's when I began writing again, in fits and starts. It doesn't matter if it's slow. It's coming back.

This haiku is dedicated to the girls in my classes this year, my new involuntary muses.

Olive oil on toast.
Breakfast of teenage girls,
centenary love.

Happy (late) birthday, Zifra

Zifra gave me that cute little button on the sidebar that takes you to my other blog, the one about belly dance. And it was his birthday on Tuesday, so I told him I would give him a poem as a bithday gift. Considering what I know about him, a poem that hints atheism on the author might be to his taste.

Technical nota: this is a Ghazal. It is a Persian-then-Arabic form with a series of 6 to 12 couplets. Lines 1 and 2, and all even lines, end with the same word. Lines should all be the same lenght. The author must mention herself (either by name, "Nia says, Nia does", or in the first person). Everything else can be nearly free. Scroll down for the English version.

Luz refractada da color al cielo.
Del negro al rosa, misterioso cielo.

Demasiada luz roba las estrellas,
Las ciudades se han quedado sin cielo.

Posponer los problemas tomando el sol,
Prohibida la pena si está azul el cielo.

Gris plomo de nieve, gris claro de lluvia:
No hay otro destino escrito en el cielo.

Si existe un Dios, nos mira desde lejos.
No es un consuelo imaginar el cielo.

El granjero no ve ninguna nube.
A sus plantas secas las mata el cielo.

El exiliado ve las constelaciones.
Alumbran su casa desde otro cielo.

Los aviones vuelan de aquí al futuro.
Yo no los alcanzo, mirando al cielo.


Refracted light gives its colour to the sky.
Black down to pink, mysterious sky.

Too much light steals the stars.
Cities have lost their sky.

Put off your problems and sunbathe.
Banish all sorrow if there is blue in the sky.

Dark grey for snow, light grey for rain:
Don’t read any other destinies from the sky.

If there is a God, He’s so far away.
No comfort from an old man in the sky.

The farmer looks in vain for a cloud.
His dry plants are killed by the sky.

Exiles gaze at the constellations.
They light up his home on a different sky.

Airplanes fly from here to the future.
I cannot reach them as I stare at the sky.

Intertextuality

I haven't given you haikus in weeks, so here's a handful.

Intertextuality is the technical name to refer to quotes and allusions from one work of art in another. The texts don’t need to be written down: for example, Boticelli’s Birth of Venus is inspired by Ovid, and movies copy each other all the time. Every poet is a thief, me included, and sometimes I steal bits that I like from other writers. These are most of my poems that contain a quote straight out of someone else’s work. Naturally, almost all my poems are inspired by someone else's; these are only the ones with textual quotes.

The autobiographical bit: I wrote “Stirring memory and desire” and “Don’t give in without a fight” because those lines had seven syllables each, something unusual in either Spanish or English poetry. “Giving up laughter” came out of my fascination with Old English’s capacity to create compounds: “morning-ceald” expressed effectively something that I can only say with a clumsy phrase like “as cold as the morning”, and it doesn’t even refer to cold: in the original context it means “with a desperation and sadness as bleak as the cold of the early morning”. And the gorgeous understatement: “giving up laughter” in its original context didn’t mean “the end of happiness”, it meant death! Less is more. Then I wrote the graffiti one because the Chapina Bridge area is one of my favourite places in Seville and I like to see the kids skating in the park that’s covered in graffiti. Finally, “How can we know the dancer from the dance” was born after two years trying to finish a cycle about going out dancing on weekends, what is now The Friday Cycle, together with my intention of writing a poem about dancing for somebody else to see.

Beowulf.
“Giving up laughter”,
river-misty, “morning-cold”,
Monday begins.

“Poniendo fin a la risa”,
Como río neblinoso, “mañana fría”,
empieza el lunes.


Wiliam Butler Yeats.
“How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
Do I dance better if you watch?

¿Cómo distinguir el baile de la bailarina?
¿Bailo mejor cuando me miras?


T. S. Eliot.
Tenderness has died.
Two fierce young bodies,
“Stirring memory and desire”

La ternura ha muerto.
Dos cuerpos jóvenes y feroces,
“Removiendo el recuerdo y el deseo”


Pink Floyd.
Leaf clings to the tree,
Chill autumn.
“Don’t give in without a fight”

Una hoja se aferra a la rama.
Otoño helado.
“No te rindas sin oponer resistencia”.


Graffiti anónimo en el puente de Chapina /Anonymous graffiti on Chapina Bridge.
“Presos del suelo”,
Me envidian si patino.
¡Mira cómo vuelo!

“Prisoners of the ground”
they envy me when I skate.
Watch me fly!

Los Planetas and haikus

Los Planetas are a Spanish rock band. The singer is awful, he has the worst nasal voice in the universe, and he can’t vocalise. The music is stolen from older, better bands and the lyrics are often bad and vague. But I still like Los Planetas. Corrientes circulares en el tiempo, “Circular time currents” is yet another song of hate and need for a woman who has abandoned the singer. These guys have filled all quotas of break-up songs, seriously. I don’t have enough hate haiku, so I’m stealing their ideas to compensate for so many poems about hands and clouds and pretty things.

Es mi venganza:
Tu mente espiral,
Girando a mi alrededor.

I want this revenge:
Your spiral mind
Spinning around me.

"In this country"

Spaniards (and some foreigners) think that the Spanish Administration, or Spain as a whole, even, is an inefficient country. They think our bureaucracy is the slowest in the world and our "funcionarios", the civil servants, spend their days taking coffee breaks. Nothing ever works well in Spain in the understanding of some people. I'm no patriot, but I think this is of course a mistake (there is inefficiency in Spain, sure, but no more than in other places), and I can give several first-hand accounts of American inefficacy (and one or two British ones too).

Today I read something surprising about England. There is a tax there that charges not what you own, not what you earn, but the value of the house where you live. Many (most) people rent their homes, so this is not a tax on property. I can't think of an unfairer tax. So, lately, people's pensions have grown much slowly than the prices of houses, which means that there are old people who cannot afford to pay council tax. and at least one person has gone to jail for not paying her taxes. Yes. Jail. Not for fraud, not for forgery, not for theft. Jail for not paying taxes.

I just find that amazingly culture-shocking. And what is even more culture-shocking is that Spaniards think we should look up to countries like the UK. Wow.

Hurricane March 11th

I take back some of what I said yesterday. Conservative governments not always behave the same way in a national emergency.

I apologise for not giving any sources. Yesterday's news said that the security forces that forcing people in New Orleans to evacuate, and keeping control of the refugee camps, are also in charge of detecting illegal immigrants in order to kick them out of the country.

Very soon after the terrorist attack in Madrid's trains on March 11th, 2004, the Spanish government had the only humanitarian gesture that I know of in their eight years in power. All the illegal immigrants in the trains that had been injured or dead, and their closest relatives in the country including unmarried couples, were automatically made legal residents.

Once again the American government has lost a chance of doing something kind. Why am I culture-shocked... but not at all surprised?

Nickel and dimed

I bought Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America thinking that it would resemble essays such as Fast Food Nation or No Logo, but it turns out to be a personal account: the writer, Barbara Ehrenreich, took a succession of bad-paying jobs to see if it is possible to survive on them in the US. Surprise, surprise: it’s not. You can either buy food or pay rent, but not both.

My first reaction was that she was almost a century too late: George Orwell wrote a similar book, Down and Out in Paris and London, about his experiences when he was accidentally out of a job teaching English private lessons in Paris. So he worked as a cleaner in a fancy hotel’s restaurant kitchen, and then he had to live as a tramp in London for a few weeks. Highly recommended reading.

I have mixed feelings about the situation Nickel and Dimed describes, because at times I relate to it. I remember my summer as a counter assistant at a chip shop in Glasgow, on the minimum wage, my first attempt at being economically independent. I could afford rent in a shared flat, groceries and some luxuries like books, but I could not have afforded my own flat, paying a mortgage, or a baby, had I wanted to have them. At Cornell I lived on the local living wage; the difference between the living wage and the minimum wage is that minimum wage is arbitrarily fixed by the government and the living wage is an estimate of how much it costs to afford food, rent, health care, transportation and other necessities. Again, if I was in this country for more than a year I would resent the fact that I cannot afford luxuries like buying clothes without making a careful budget or buying a house, but the statistics that pepper the book suggest that Cornell University did quite a lot of math to ensure that I was at a very precise level of austere comfort.

I cannot stop comparing the situation on the book with the Spanish one. We are better off in Spain because in Europe, minimum wages are a little bit closer to a living wage. Public transport is generally better. Child care is more affordable. There are national health systems, which is more than you can say about the parody of a democracy Americans have. Now the problems: rents in Spain are insanely high because the only people really willing to live in a rented place are students, so landlords are used to charge by the room. That means that you can forget about renting a house or flat for one person or family. Buying a house? For a couple of young professionals, paying the mortgage can easily swallow up one complete salary, and I’m taking long-term mortgages, of about 25 years. Babies? Until about five years ago when immigrants started to come in masse, Spain had the lowest natality rate in the world. The way Spaniards deal with low salaries and overpriced housing is by living with their parents until they find a job that pays enough to leave. It’s not the best solution but it’s the only one we’ve found.

Hurricane Katrina and art

I'd rather talk about politics, but this is not a "welcome to LaGuiri's opinions" blog. Who ever listen to anyone else's political opinions, and, who cares about what I think? I'm only a poet. The destruction of New Orleans is also tragic for art lovers; so much music, so many stories in a single place.

I might do a series of New Orleans-related song lyrics. Yesterday I found out that my beloved Ani DiFranco was recording what was meant to be her next album; she & her people had time to evacuate, but she has lost her home, her studio and worst of all, the reconrdings that would become that album. The Ani equivalent of my computer crashing with all its poems inside. I know that there are people dying but in a tragedy so huge, only the loss of small things has any measure.

This Ani song has nothing to do with anything; it's a coincidence that it mentions a wave. It's just a beautiful love (sex?) song that I'm listening to a lot lately. I admire the way she defines two personalities with three words.

today we are only whatall is nice about us
today we turned on in the blue light of dawn
and made love
and you were not a dot dot dot
waiting for me to complete you
and it was like i just forgot
to measure everything that i do

we woke up with the notion
that enough is not enough without more
and then we pushed with one motion
like the ocean heaves a wave at the shore
and you were not a dot dot dot
leaning forward expectantly
and i was not in such a rush
to insure my autonomy

Hoy hemos dado sólo lo mejor de nosotros.
Hoy encendimos la luz azul del amanecer,
y hemos hecho el amor.
Tú no eras una línea de puntos
esperando a que yo te completase
y para mí fue como olvidarme
de medir todo lo que hago.

Nos despertamos pensando
que "suficiente" no basta
y entonces empujamos en un solo movimiento
como el océano que empuja una ola hasta la playa
Y tú no eras una línea de puntos
esperando ansioso
y yo no tenía prisa
por asegurar mi independencia.

Jaime Galbarro

I have met Jaime Galbarro once or twice. He corresponds with the stereotype of the young Spanish poet: has studied a Humanities degree (in his case, I think Spanish Literature and Linguistics), is influenced by Spanish surrealism and Spanish romanticism, and his poems are confessional, intimate, personal, lyrical, and erotic. The differences between these young poets are given by the balance between how much Surrealism and how much Romanticism they have. Too much Bécquer-like romanticism and they are booooring and even cheesy. Too much surrealism and they are not enjoyable, but locked inside their own incommunicable poetic language.

I dislike these poets because they are interchangeable and predictable, and because, as I have said so many times, I don't normally like poetry that gives an emphasis to content over form, specially if the content is real, intimate feeling. Jaime Galbarro is an exception, and I love and treasure the book that I have from him. Maybe it's just that I have read him with patience and care. The English translation is a bit free.

Tenía sin saberlo la vida por delante
pero el miedo era una palabra
pesada, demasiado grande para
llevarla siempre dentro de la boca

I was unaware of having life to look forward to
but fear was a heavy
word, too large to
always be carried inside the mouth.

Bukowski 1

I still don’t know if I like Charles Bukowski: I haven’t read enough of his works. I recently bought a book, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. It’s second hand, and only after coming home and browsing quickly through it I saw this note on the table of contents, in soft pencil, next to the title “5 dollars”:

Gave to Steve Daniels on eve of move to Bulgaria at the Ritz. Aug 1995

Someone could write a novel starting from this volume of poetry. Who was Daniels? The syntax is ambiguous. Who went to live in Bulgaria: the owner of the book, or Daniels? and what made whoever it was go to live in Bulgaria? (Steve, have you googled your own name? Hi!)

I have googled for that poem "5 dollars" with no luck. I'm very curious about it. As I say, I still don't know if I like Bukowski. The legend is bigger than the poet and that's normally a bad thing. I've looked for a short poem so that you can judge too. I've taken plenty of liberties

40,000 flies.

torn by a temporary wind
we come back together again.

check walls and ceilings for cracks and
the eternal spiders.

wonder if there will be one moe
woman

now
40,000 flies running the arms of my
soul
singing
I met a million dollar baby in a
5 and 10
store


Arms of my soul?
flies?
singing?

What kind of shit is
this?

It's so easy to be a poet
and so hard to be
a man.

40.000 moscas.

Destrozados po un viento pasajero
volvemos juntos, otra vez

inspeccionamos paredes y techos en busca de grietas y de
las eternas arañas

me pregunto si volverá a haber una
mujer

Ahora
40.000 moscas recorren los brazos de mi
alma
cantando
"Conocí a una tía de puta madre en un
todo a
cien"

¿los brazos de mi alma?
¿moscas?
¿cantando?

¿Qué coño es
esto?

Qué fácil es ser poeta
y qué difícil es ser
hombre.

Hurricane Prestige

I didn't want to talk about politics but I can't resist the temptation any more. I think the paralellisms between Hurricane Katrina and the Prestige disaster are an interesting lesson.

Everyone knew that New Orleans was by the sea AND below sea level. The possibility of complete disaster was there since 2001 (my source is in Spanish). When disaster does happen, it gives a two-day warning, but even so, evacuation is anarchic. The president is on holidays, then he goes to the other end of the country to meet millionaries, then he goes back home, and only a few days later, after half a hundred people are confirmed dead, he goes to look at the mess from the distance. His subordinate in charge of managing national emergencies is a useless idiot with zero experience in the field, and had been fired from his last job. The Vicepresident is nowhere to be seen. When well-known "liberals" get involved in rescue efforts, their intentions are questioned as "a publicity stunt". And the country asks for foreign help. Fucking Hell. The richest country in the world has the nerve of asking my government for help!?

Now let's look at the Prestige. The Prestige was ship who happened to have one single layer of metal between the sea and a few thousand tons of oil, which means one teensy leak and you're doomed. The Prestige had an accident at a distance from the Spanish shore that would have made it advisable to get it even closer, so that it ended up in a harbour and destroyed one beach. With the boat in the middle of the ocean, the currents would have sent oil everywhere. In fact, the oil reached all of Spain's northern coast all the way to France. A similar accident in the same area of the country ten years before should have meant that there was an emergency plan to avoid the same thing happen allover again, right? Yeah, right.

The day the Prestige started to leak, the regional president had gone hunting with the minister responsible of doing something about the ship. When it became clear that this was a major emergency, the Spanish president was having fun in Rome with his friend Berlusconi. Basically, both the region's government and the national one, both Conservatives, said that there wasn't a crisis, that the oil would be picked from the sea easily quickly and easily, and two weeks later, when it was obvious that it wasn't so, and the ship was still leaking out oil in the middle of the ocean, in a mad exercise of doublethink the president accused the population of being "alarmists". The guy appointed by the national government to solve the crisis after the accident had already taken place was a businessman in the proccess of being chosen president of a system of satelite/cable televisions (it is always good for a goverment to have friends in the media, oh yes). The Prestige eventually sank down to the sea bottom, but not all of the oil came out. One day, the sea water will finish corroding it and the remaining hundreds of tons of oil will drift into the Galician coast. I don't know if taking it out before that time is technically possible; it was technically possible to drag the boat ashore when the captain asked for help, but he didn't get any.

Maybe I see similarities because I want to see them; to me the moral is that you better pray there aren't any major natural disasters on the years you have a Conservative government.

A little lullaby

A lullaby for everyone who is waiting for better times. And it comes with a little story, too.

Once upon a time there was a young woman who had done many different creative things, always as part of one collective or another. One day she got tired of the well-known faces, she thought she needed to find her own voice, and forced herself to change. She moved to a different country where everything, language, climate, everything, was different. The culture shock was extremely painful, or at least that is the way she remembers it. She made few, but good friends. Our of her pain and homesickness she created with their help something beautiful, unique, that at the time seemed small. Being a sincere and original work, it became (relatively) successful. I’m talking about Björk.

Björk has done few things that were as good as her first album. Some of her later songs are better than any individual song in "Debut", but as a whole this is probably the best one. This is my favourit song out of it; it’s so straightforward that I don’t think it needs a translation.

one day
it will happen
one day, one day
it will all come true

one day
when you're ready
one day, one day
when you're up to it

the atmosphere
will get lighter
and two suns ready
to shine just for you

I can feel it, I can feel it.

one day
it will happen
one day. one day
it will all make sense

one day, one day
you will blossom
one day, one day
when you're ready

an aeroplane
will curve gracefully
around the volcano
with the eruption that never lets you down

I can feel it, I can feel it.

and the beautifullest
fireworks are burning
in the sky just for you

I can feel it, I can feel i.

one day
one day

American and patriotic

I wonder what the average citizen of the United States would think if they knew that in Spain, “American” is a bad thing to be. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we don’t have anything against people born in that country. There is plain old American-in-origin and there is the negative American-in-style.

So if we say that something is “very American”, especially something to do with entertainment, we mean that it is simplistic, even cheesy, and extremely commercial. “Very American” food is too sweet or too rich or too much or all three at the same time. Something “American” is always over the top. A fake. That does not mean we believe that all things American-in-origin are like that.

Something similar goes for patriot. Spaniards are not patriots (noun), ever. Even though the word exists, we don’t use it. Some people are patriotic (adjective), but again, that’s a bad thing to be. I would use it only ironically. You just don’t make a display of being proud of your country, although being proud of your region, which corresponds roughly with American states, is normally OK.

I pity all those Americans going on study programs in Spain and getting the third degree on American foreign policy from everyone they meet. Someone should tell them this sort of thing before they cross the ocean.

Lyrical Neosurrealism (again)

Lyrical Neosurrealism is the predominant style for the current generation of Spanish young poets. In Spanish I call it "Neosurrealismo inimista"; "intimista" is a very hard word to translate because the intimacy it refers to has nothing to do with sexual intimacy, so "lyrical" it will have to be. The label is mine and I doubt it will ever catch on, because these poets like to consider themselves very new, very post-everything. Elusive Poet agrees with me, though, in the definition.

I don't have anything particular against the style apart from the fact that it is a default mode: as I have said before, a whole generation of people want to be fresh and original and at the same time sincere, and they all end up as photocopies of Lorca and Pedro Salinas (and in terminal cases, Bécquer, bleh).

Since this style is everywhere, and I adore its wonderfully rich early-20th-century sources, I have used it occasionally. This is my first piece of creative writing ever; early spring, 2000. A professor asked us to do an experiment with automatic writing, that is, writing the first thing that comes to mind, or rather, writing without thinking. The Surrealists liked that.

I never forgot the piece; later, I wrote it down in several slightly different versions. A couple of phrases, and the person I was talking about, belong to my teens. Later on, I have come to despise any writing that is confessional, intimate, or with a strong look of having been improvised, but the first poem is like the first love, isn’t it?

The original is Spanish; scroll down for the English version.

Tengo frío. El frío me sale de dentro cuando Ángel me mira. Cuando está con las demás, Ángel se ríe, pero conmigo no, cuando está conmigo me hace preguntas, o quizá son preguntas que yo oigo aunque él no las haga, y las contesto y hablo sin parar hasta que las palabras sólidas que salen de mis labios forman una cadena, una espiral alrededor de mis caderas, con púas que me obligan a seguir hablando.
Los ojos de Ángel son telarañas pegajosas que me enredan, y yo lucho, pero no sirve de nada, estoy atrapada y siento cómo me observa, soy su presa. Los ojos de Ángel son espejos de mercurio resbaladizo. Me gustaría entrar en ese lago de mercurio gris venenoso, ahogarme, y poder olvidar este frío.
Pero a Ángel le gusta que yo pase frío.

I´m cold. I feel cold comes from the inside out when Angel looks at me. When he’s with the other girls, Angel laughs, but not with me, when he’s with me he asks me questions, or maybe those are questions that I hear even if he doesn’t ask them, and I answer them and talk incessantly until the solid words that come out of my mouth make a chain, a spiral around my hips, with thorns that force me to keep on talking.

Angel’s eyes are sticky spiderwebs that tangle me, and I struggle, but it’s useless, I’m trapped and I feel ho he stares at me. I’m his prey. Angel’s eyes are mirror of slippery mercury. I would like to walk into that lake of poison, drown and forget this cold.

But Angel likes me to be cold.