Thursday 21 May 2009

Goobye, Mr Poet

I never stayed motionless by the roadside, Mario, I moved on and walked. And I am still walking...

The clip below was taken from the movie 'El Lado Oscuro del Corazón' (The Dark Side of the Heart), one of the landmarks of Latin American cinema in the early 90s and a movie that influenced my generation a great deal. It introduced several young people to the poetry of Oliverio Girondo, Juan Gelman and the poet to whom this tribute is dedicated tonight and who has just died, Mario Benedetti. To watch the same scene with subtitles in English, click here. I reserve my opinion on the quality of the translation, or lack of it thereof. Many thanks

Mario Benedetti, Uruguayan poet (born 14th September, 1920, Montevideo, died 17th May, 2009)

Next Post: 'Song for a Spring Sunday Morning' to be published on Sunday 24th May at 10am (GMT)


  1. So finely sung in the manor of homage to its creator, my friend. I did not know him, yet feel him in the original, even as the nuances escape me...

    ...and hope to reply with the oft, but never overused closing lines of a sonnet,

    But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
    Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

  2. wonderful homage...we have indeed lost a great writer this week...

  3. Your opening quote goes along with my post today. Lovely tribute, Mr. Cuban. I always hate to see such talent go.

  4. Como me hizo vibrar "El Lado...", tantas veces, a todos imagino. Que peliculon para la historia.

    Me mata ese poema... gracias London.

  5. Curiosity might have killed the cat...

    But curiosity also might have led such poet to wonder what words could create

    Cheers to Mario Benedetti

  6. We listen to the poets who sing to us. This one truly does sing. Man, that was great. If you do not agree with the translation, CiL, I hope you will post your interpretation. This has been another reminder of how many worlds I do not know -- yet.

    I did leave a reply to Polly's comment and your response to her in "The Women’s Room" post. Methinks Polly is a woman who often leaps without checking the depth of the water beneath her, but we all do that at times.

    See you after my weekend excursion ....

  7. Thank you for this, Cuban. I am so grateful that we have poetry in the world, you know?

  8. It is so beautiful. I listened to it with and without the subtitles. So beautiful it made me feel like crying.

    I think you are beautiful too. Really beautiful. The way you write even every day stories is like poetry.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  9. I only know of Mario Benedetti and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to learn more before he passed away.

    I can't listen to the song now because I'm blogging at work (yes, I confess, I feel guilty) but I will listen to it tonight.

    And I love that quote at the very beginning. How many people can actually say that about their lives...

  10. Entonces, no te quedes conmigo.


  11. ay..que palabras tan bellas y fuertes ! pues si..siempre es triste cuando un poeta se va...

    muchas gracias por este post, Cubano...

  12. His poem read in his native tongue is just beautiful and unforgettable. I hope he lived as passionately as his poem, and passion is what I understood as from this one line in English:

    "do not think yourself without blood"

    (The phrase "lost in translation" is so true, and it frustrates me to no end when it comes to great works of literature!!!)

  13. Many thanks to you all for your comments. I would like to expand a little bit on my initial post about the movie from where this clip is taken.

    The guy reciting the poem (Dario Grandinetti)is the main character, Oliverio (no relation to Oliverio, the poet). But he also is a poet. Yes, I know it's confusing. Bear with me. He is searching for a woman who can make him 'fly' (I will let you interpret that in whichever way you wish) and he finds her in the form and shape of a prostitute. That's the woman reading the poem. The movie is surreal in extremis, in that we have a fantastic actress, Nacha Guevara, playing the Death. She comes to take the poet with her but she cannot do it until he finds 'la que vuela' (the flying woman). The poems by the three poets mentioned in my post are used in various scenes, sometimes as poems, sometimes as substitutes for dialogue, as in the clip.

    One of the most memorable scenes is when Mario Benedetti recites one of his most famous poems, Corazon Coraza (Armoured Heart?, Armour Heart?, Armour-Heart? Translators, where are you?) to another prostitute in the same bar. He does it in German. Yes, you read that right, he recites his own poem, written in Spanish in German, Herz Schutzschild. I have already posted about this particular poem and you can read my post here:

    I would like to thank you all for your kind comments because not always we are able to grasp the meaning of poetry in another language, translation permitting or not. In this case I think the translation was good, but obviously, just like I would love to be able to speak Arabic to understand the Mahmoud Darwich's poetry better, I realise that we all have our limits. You, however, grasped the kernel of his poetry, especially this poem, which to me means very clearly that if you are not ready to commit, you'd better stay from me

    Greetings from London.

  14. I meant 'stay away' from me. Sorry.

  15. I didn't know of Mario Benedetti until I read your post. Mr. Cuban, I learn so much from you -- you are a guiding light, both intellectually and aesthetically and I thank you so very much for that.

    Listening and watching the clip in your mother tongue was somehow more moving than the English translation.

    Oh..there is an award for you on my blog - part of a group of very special people.

  16. I have been adding South American & Spanish novelists to my reading list; I shall have to add this poet as well.

  17. Hola cariño, podrias ayudarnos con el llamamiento?

    Llamamiento a la movilización general en Internet.

    Dentro de unos días, o semanas (la fecha la fijaremos entre todos), lanzaremos en la Web una movilización general. Esta movilización general se dirige a todos los blogueros e internautas cubanos y no cubanos que desean ver al pueblo de Cuba libre, disfrutando sus derechos inalienables.

    El objetivo es desencadenar una acción común en toda la Web. Durante todo el mismo día, un día entero, todos los blogs y webs de cubanos y no cubanos presentes en esta manifestación, dejaremos abiertos nuestros blogs, o webs, con la misma página de inicio y una idéntica reclamación.

    Haremos en nombre del pueblo cubano, al gobierno de la Isla, tres legítimas reivindicaciones:
    -Libertad de todos los prisioneros políticos.
    -Libertad para entrar y salir del país.
    -Libertad de acceso a Internet.

    Debemos emprender un enorme trabajo en común, y podemos hacerlo. Estamos en la obligación urgente, en este momento decisivo, de comprender cuál es la labor a realizar.

    Todo depende de nosotros, de nuestra lucidez, de nuestra capacidad para ponernos en movimiento y actuar con determinación. Podemos seguir envejeciendo, esperando, o hacer uso de todas las posibilidades. Podemos trazar las pautas de una nueva creatividad, luchar en todos los frentes o continuar con las mismas charlas confusas, inútiles, vacías.

    Necesitamos una rebelión contra el régimen castrista, pero también necesitamos rebelarnos contra nuestra pereza, nuestra inercia, nuestra flojera para afirmar los reclamos legítimos de un pueblo.

    Vamos a poner en movimiento, todos unidos y con determinación, el mensaje de un pueblo ansioso de libertad. Reclamaremos en toda la Web, al régimen cubano, los derechos de los cubanos y la libertad de los presos políticos. Será el día de Cuba. Que nadie se sustraiga a esta responsabilidad.
    Contamos con el apoyo, con las ideas y la creatividad de todos, para todos hacer de esta movilización un éxito.


  18. I salute what you are saluting..maybe poets are born, maybe they never die...Thank you for letting Mario Benedetti wander past me, perhaps still seeking!

  19. qué pena todos aquellos que tengan que leerle en otro idioma diferente al castellano... increible poeta, increibles sus cuentos, increible Benedetti...

  20. I like the Mary Oliver poem, "When Death Comes."

    May your friend Mario Benedetti rest in peace.


    When death comes
    like the hungry bear in autumn;
    when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

    to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
    when death comes
    like the measle-pox

    when death comes
    like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

    I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
    what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

    And therefore I look upon everything
    as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
    and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
    and I consider eternity as another possibility,

    and I think of each life as a flower, as common
    as a field daisy, and as singular,

    and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
    tending, as all music does, toward silence,

    and each body a lion of courage, and something
    precious to the earth.

    When it's over, I want to say all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.
    I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

    When it's over, I don't want to wonder
    if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

    I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
    or full of argument.

    I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

    --Mary Oliver

  22. Ay Benedetti! Cómo me gusta!!! Y El Lado Oscuro del Corazón... muy bien recuerdo el día que vi esa maravillosa película, con mi madre (quien vivió muchos años en Argentina, por cierto), en un cine "arthouse" de Barcelona. Y la banda sonora de la película es super maravillosa... la tengo en CD y la escuchamos mucho!

  23. Benedetti was also a lifelong apologist for the Castro regime and a personal friend and admirer of Fidel Castro. In both life and death, the regime showered honors and praise on him, not because of his literary talents -- which would have been ignored if he had not been an ideological ally -- but because of his doglike devotion to Castro's cult of personality. No spectacle is more degrading or less "poetical" than that of a poet who defends thugs that make other poets literally eat their own words with the paper on which they are written, and forces them, at the point of a gun, to retract those words, and then sends them to expiate the crime of thinking for themselves in prison, exile or before a firing squad.

  24. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Reya, thanks for that poem. Most welcomed.

    Chiquita cubana, uniré mi blog al de los demas para exigir justicia por nuestro pais.

    Tessa, thanks for your award and have a nice trip to Turkey.

    Lyn, quite right. He still lives on through his poems.

    Manuel, if all apoligists for the Castro regime were to go the way you suggest I would have no history left. My history is my history, and not even Fidel Castro Ruz or his brother can wrest it away from me. Apologist or not, Benedetti belongs to the canon of Latin American poets and this blog celebrates his work.

    Susana, debe haber sido una noche preciosa. Muchas gracias.

    Greetings from London.

  25. Beautiful tribute. It's so important to celebrate and pay homage to our poets because they get so little attention in mainstream media. I've tackled the situation of another poet in my latest post.

  26. Celebrate his work, if you wish; his work, however, was not created in a vacuum. Sadly, the man projected in his works was not reflected in his life. I suppose if we were speaking of Hitler and the artists who idolized him my point might be clearer but no less applicable to Benedetti's case.

    I invite you to visit my blog dedicated to a man whose works were always consonant with his life: José Martí:

    José Martí Blog

  27. ps Mr Etymology ... do you know the derivation of the word malecon...would love to know...

  28. Las cosas que aprendí con Benedetti son irreemplazables compadre.
    A los 15 anos "La tregua" me cambio la vida, luego llegó del lado Oscuro del Corazón y los cassettes que nos pasábamos de mano en mano, con los poemas de Mario, que nos explicaban casi siempre algo que sabíamos, pero que no podíamos decir o explicar tan bien como EL.
    Por estos días de extrañarle, me he pillado varias veces pensando en esto:

    Un abrazon, tony.

  29. Manuel, by the same token, maybe I should hate Wagner, Hitler loved him.

    Aseres, gracias por pasar.

    Catherine, I've no idea where the origin of the word 'malecOn' is rooted, but will investigate for you.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  30. I don't know the poet or his work but you have me interested me now. I am new to your blog and enjoying my time here.

  31. Welcome, Color. I will pop by your space later. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  32. Sad are those who read a poem and go running to find out if the writer was a fascist or beloved by a dictator so they can eliminate them from their list. Who said the artist has to live up to your standards?

    What a short list, what a waste of beauty.

    Greetings, London, always a pleasure to read your posts and your answers.

  33. sorry: "admired by a dictator".

  34. Quite right, Liset, quite right. Thanks for your comment.

    Greetings from London.

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Hi I came upon a quote by Benedetti and in looking further found your lovely website. I am a 64 y.o. from Virginia U.S. btw. I have this quote and I wonder if you or anyone could tell me what work it comes from? Thanks, susan
    "entonces senti una tremenda opresion en el pecho, una opresion en la que no parecia estar afecto ningun organo sisico, pero que era casi asfixiante insoportable. Ahi, en el pecho, cerca se la garganta, ahi debe estar el alma, hecha un ovillo."



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