Thursday 4 October 2007

National Poetry Day (Moderato)

It's Poetry Day today. I remember when I wrote my first poem. I was about nine years old, inspired by our National Hero José Martí and willing to fill up the page in front of me with metaphores and similes. Alas, the piece had a short life. I tore it up into smithereens because that other me believed that poetry was for gays.

Many years would go by and countless literature lessons assimilated before the full appreciation of verse and rhyme reached me. And it was Benedetti who did the trick. Admittedly, my first love, rock'n'roll, had already contributed to it, what with Queen, The Beatles, Dylan and The Stones, the road to Milton's Paradise Lost had already been well paved.

During my years in college (this is the equivalent of sixth-form in the UK and if you're reading this in the US, they call it high school over there), I became an ardent fan of Mario Benedetti's oeuvre. His conversational style suited my adolescent self and whilst my peers continued to salivate over Pablo Neruda's lyrical exultations to the point where the most common chat-up phrase in those years would start with: Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche (I can write the saddest verses tonight), I always preferred the most direct fashion of the author of 'Hagamos un Trato' (Let's Make a Deal). This was years before the Uruguayan author became trendy, caused mainly by the release of the movie 'El Lado Oscuro del Corazón'.

And as today it's Poetry Day, I wanted to share a couple of poems with you my dear readers, posters and fellow bloggers. The first one is an old favourite 'Táctica y Estrategia' by Mario Benedetti. The second one is by my favourite female poet, the Mexican Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun who has gone down in the Latin American narrative as the first feminist to question the prevailing ecclesiastical view in 17th century Mexico. She's also been hailed as a lesbian icon due to her close relationship with the viceroy's wife, who was in fact the person who encouraged Sor Juana to write in the passionate way she did.

The first poem has no translation and I make no apologies for that. It's hard finding good translations in the vast realm of the internet. The second one has what to me is one of the finest translations I've ever come across and as a language graduate I am very fussy when it comes to linguistics and translations. I also reproduce the original poem for those of you who straddle both ends of the linguistic spectrum. You can draw your own comparisons.

Mario Benedetti

Mi táctica es
aprender como sos
quererte como sos
mi táctica es
y escucharte
construir con palabras
un puente indestructible
mi táctica es
quedarme en tu recuerdo
no sé cómo
ni sé
con qué pretexto
pero quedarme en vos
mi táctica es
ser franco
y saber que sos franca
y que no nos vendamos
para que entre los dos
no haya telón
ni abismos
mi estrategia es
en cambio
más profunda y más
mi estrategia es
que un día cualquiera
no sé cómo
ni sé
con qué pretexto
por fin
me necesites

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Hombres necios que acusáis
a la mujer, sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis;
si con ansia sin igual
solicitáis su desdén,
por qué queréis que obren bien
si las incitáis al mal?
Combatís su resistenciay luego, con gravedad,
decís que fue liviandad
lo que hizo la diligencia.
Parecer quiere el denuedo
de vuestro parecer loco,
al niño que pone el coco
y luego le tiene miedo.
Queréis, con presunción necia,
hallar a la que buscáis
para prentendida, Thais,
y en la posesión, Lucrecia.
¿Qué humor puede ser más raro
que el que, falto de consejo,
él mismo empaña el espejo
y siente que no esté claro?
Con el favor y el desdén
tenéis condición igual,
quejándoos, si os tratan mal,
burlándoos, si os quieren bien.
Opinión, ninguna gana,
pues la que más se recata,
si no os admite, es ingrata,
y si os admite, es liviana.
Siempre tan necios andáis
que, con desigual nivel,
a una culpáis por cruel
y a otra por fácil culpáis.
¿Pues como ha de estar templada
la que vuestro amor pretende?,
¿si la que es ingrata ofende,
y la que es fácil enfada?
Mas, entre el enfado y la pena
que vuestro gusto refiere,
bien haya la que no os quiere
y quejaos en hora buena.
Dan vuestras amantes penas
a sus libertades alas,
y después de hacerlas malas
las queréis hallar muy buenas.
¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido
en una pasión errada:
la que cae de rogada,
o el que ruega de caído?¿
O cuál es de más culpar,
aunque cualquiera mal haga;
la que peca por la paga
o el que paga por pecar?
¿Pues, para qué os espantáis
de la culpa que tenéis?
Queredlas cual las hacéis
o hacedlas cual las buscáis
.Dejad de solicitar,y después, con más razón,
acusaréis la aficiónde la que os fuere a rogar.
Bien con muchas armas fundo
que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
pues en promesa e instancia
juntáis diablo, carne y mundo.

You Men

Silly, you men
so very adept
at wrongly faulting womankind,
not seeing you're alone to blame
for faults you plant in woman's mind.
After you've won by urgent plea
the right to tarnish her good name,
you still expect her to behave
you, that coaxed her into shame.
You batter her resistance down
and then, all righteousness, proclaim
that feminine frivolity,
not your persistence, is to blame.
When it comes to bravely posturing,
your witlessness must take the prize:
you're the child that makes a bogeyman,
and then recoils in fear and cries.
Presumptuous beyond belief,
you'd have the woman you pursue
be Thais when you're courting her,
Lucretia once she falls to you.
For plain default of common sense,
could any action be so queer
as oneself to cloud the mirror,
then complain that it's not clear?
Whether you're favored or disdained,
nothing can leave you satisfied.
You whimper if you're turned away,
you sneer if you've been gratified.
With you, no woman can hope to score;
whichever way, she's bound to lose;
spurning you, she's ungrateful
succumbing, you call her lewd.
Your folly is always the same:
you apply a single ruleto the one you accuse of looseness
and the one you brand as cruel.
What happy mean could there be
for the woman who catches your eye,
if, unresponsive, she offends,
yet whose complaisance you decry?
Still, whether it's torment or anger
and both ways you've yourselves to blame
God bless the woman who won't have you,
no matter how loud you complain.
It's your persistent entreaties
that change her from timid to bold.
Having made her thereby naughty,
you would have her good as gold.
So where does the greater guilt lie
for a passion that should not be:
with the man who pleads out of baseness
or the woman debased by his plea?
Or which is more to be blamed
though both will have cause for chagrin:
the woman who sins for money
or the man who pays money to sin?
So why are you men all so stunned
at the thought you're all guilty alike?
Either like them for what you've made them
or make of them what you can like.
If you'd give up pursuing them,
you'd discover, without a doubt,
you've a stronger case to make
against those who seek you out.
I well know what powerful arms
you wield in pressing for evil:
your arrogance is allied
with the world, the flesh, and the devil!

And as a PS, I did start writing poetry again when I was in Uni, thus challenging my own preconceptions and prejudices.


Copyright 2007

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