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
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.