Saturday 10 December 2016

Thoughts in Progress

When the great Latin American poet Mario Benedetti died in 2009, it was not just a massive blow for my culture, but also for me personally. It was the end of an era, even if his writing – mainly his poetry – has never stopped being popular in my neck of the woods.

Benedetti was and still is intrinsically linked to one of the more exciting periods in my life. He was the reason, after being exposed to his poems, why I took up public poetry-reading as part of an arts collective in the confusing and tumultuous days of mid-90s Havana. We were four friends brought together by a common interest in everything that was challenging and non-mainstream. Although our roles in our creative endeavour overlapped somewhat, we managed to carve out well-defined tasks which we fulfilled with gusto. It was around this time when I began to write in earnest (in Spanish, mind you) and read the fruit of my labour in our monthly rendezvous to fellow anxiety-challenging Cubans. It was then that I first played with the idea of reading Benedetti’s timeless and romance-filled poem “Corazón Coraza” (possible translation, Armoured Heart). But instead of the original in Spanish, I wanted to tackle the version in German that the author himself had performed in the Argentinian movie “El Lado Oscuro del Corazón” (The Dark Side of the Heart).  I admit that I had reservations about the reading, the film having been shown in Cuban cinemas scarcely a couple of years before and becoming very well-known and oft-quoted.

Then, El Maestro passed away seven years ago and I was left with a Benedetti-shaped hole in my life. I had not read poetry in public for almost twenty years. In fact, at the time I was reading very little poetry at all.

Therefore, the clip below is a risk-taking exercise. In it are contained both the thought-out and planned idea of a homage to Benedetti and the impromptu, off-the-cuff, organic nature of poetry-reading.

Of course, if you cannot speak German and you are not familiar with the original in Spanish, an internet-found translation appears right below the video. I will not comment on the quality of the translation because it is very hard to translate poetry, so I usually tend to praise whoever undertakes such task selflessly. The photos are not incidental, nor are they there for any artistic merit (I am not a photographer and I am fine with that). They have a certain personal significance, since the poem, although lover-centred, can also be interpreted in other ways. I straddle two cultures. That means that when I say “Because I have you and don’t”, I might not have a person in mind necessarily.

If you want to see the author performing his own poem in German in the aforementioned film, please, click here.

Because I have you and I don’t,
because I think about you,
because the night is young,
because the night passes and I say love,
because you have come to take your image,
and you are better than all your images,
because you are beautiful from your foot to your soul
because you are good from your soul to me
because you hide your sweet self in pride
small and sweet
armoured heart.

Because you are mine
because you are not mine
because I look at you and I die,
and worse than dying,
if I do not see you, love,
if I do not see you.

Because you are always everywhere,
but you are better where I love you,
because your mouth is blood
and you are cold
I have to love you, love
I have to love you,
even though this wound hurts twice as much
even though I search for you and do not find you
and even though the night passes
and I have you,
and I don’t.


  1. Thank you.
    I can remember reading (Rumi?) that poetry is the language of the heart.

  2. Can be hard to translate indeed, but the words sure ring true ever still.

  3. An engaging poem, one i wish I could understand it its original language.

  4. Such a deep poem. Thank you so much for sharing, and thanks as well for your visits and lovely comments on my blog. It is greatly appreciated, as are you!

  5. A compelling poem that brings much to mind for me. Thank you.

  6. I enjoyed it all, CiL -- the poem, the recital of it in the German language, the photographs.

  7. Whoa! I am at a loss for words (which obviously will not hamper me at all). That was enchanting. Your enunciation, your rhythm are perfect for this poem. I get so frustrated and frankly, turned off of poetry, by people who read it in that ubiquitous sing-songy up and down cadence. You made it sound like you were really saying it,thinking it not reading it.
    Your voice, C, is made for poetry. I hope you have confidence in that. See, I already say too much.

    And more....the combination of the photos of Cuba and London, in black and white mixed with color was another level of enjoyment. But the very best part of this, so thoughtfully made video, was that wonderful deep breath at the beginning and Benedetti's beautiful words.
    I really hope you will do more of these videos, or better yet, just start a blog that is dedicated to your readings.
    Thanks for the treat.

  8. Gosh! I don't speak German, nor do I understand it, but there was poetry in your voice. I listened avidly all through and, yes, enjoyed it. I felt emotional as I listened. Methinks I should go listen again.

  9. Hi Mario - you do have a wonderful voice ... which came across here. I don't understand German, or Spanish ... or for that matter poetry - yet I've been told I have it in me. We need to explore more ... and I'd love to do that sometime ... what a wonderful post and the slide show brings the concept to life ... thank you - Hilary

  10. Such an interesting post!
    The poem is very beautiful and I too liked also the images very much.

  11. Un poema lleno de amor del cual da gusto para no olvidar lo bonito que puede ser sentir semejante afecto.
    Un feliz domingo

  12. I´m not in to poems really. But the words, Because, made me think of another song...Just because. For the moment I don´t remember the name of the singer.

  13. I confess I don't know Mario Benedetti's work so I am grateful to you for introducing him to me. I found this poem to be quite haunting and beautiful and I intend to read more of his work.

  14. Such a lovely poem. And I know what you mean about translations - they can be wonderful, or they can be wooden. This looks good to me!

  15. Thanks for the lovely poem. Loved it.

  16. Wow, a beautiful share ~ Love your risk taking of reading this though I am not familiar with the language ~ Will definitely check out the poet ~

  17. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd never stumbled across Beneditti. I might have to look into more of his works.

  18. Lovely poem, and thanks for introducing me to a new poet

  19. Oh WOW...that honestly blew me away!
    The depth of emotion in these words truly has the power to alter consciousness...
    oh how come I have never before heard of this amazing poet?
    Seems my life thus far has been somewhat narrower than I'd imagined.

    Thank you so, so much for the introduction to such a talented Soul.:))

    Greetings from Hampshire.

  20. it's always nice to hear a poet in his own voice. although i don't understand the language, i do understand the passion and perhaps the joy in the reading. the translation will do nicely. :)

  21. Felices fiestas
    Gracias por tus visitas en mi blog es mucho de agradecer.



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