On Poetry and Culture Shock


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.

“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!

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