International poetry

It is Day 3 of the Austin International Poetry Festival. I have read six of my poems in front of my peers…which is less challenging than you might suppose, for Austin poets/poets in Austin I have found uniformly polite, cheerful, and supportive. I know I am, because it is nerve-wracking and vulnerable to stand and read one’s work aloud. Whether anyone actually likes it or not. (Shout-out here to my Most Excellent Critique Group, who hammers on my work so that at least if I’m repeating the same word in my poem every other line, I have done so on purpose.)

I then came home to quickly load the latest Apple-patch to my pocket computer… and two hours later I no longer have a usable device. So much for spending time in thoughtfulness and craft. Instead, I will give you a current favorite poem of mine by someone else. It’s even not in English and not by an American. (See, I caught you thinking that non-English must automatically be international. I heard some good Spanish poems this weekend by Americans!)

Oda Para Planchar
La poesía es blanca:
sale del agua envuleta en gotas,
se arruga, y se amontona,
hay que extender la piel de este planeta
hay que planchar el mar de su blancura
y van y van las manos,
se alisan las sagradas superfices
y asi se hacen las cosas:
las manos hacen cada dia el mundo,
se una el fuego al acero,
llegan el lino, el lienzo y el tocuyo
del combate de las lavanderias
y nace de le luz una paloma:
la castidad regresa de la espuma
—Pablo Neruda, from Plenos poderes

In Praise of Ironing
Poetry is pure white:
It emerges from water covered with drops,
is wrinkled, all in a heap
has to be spread out, the skin of this planet
has to be ironed out the sea’s whiteness
and the hands keep moving and moving,
the holy surfaces smoothed out
and that is how things are accomplished:
every day, hands are creating the world,
fire is married to steel,
and canvas, linen, and cotton come back
from the skirmishings of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born:
pure innocence returns out of the spume.
—translated by Alastair Reid

Comment (1)

  1. Robert

    Very moving. It really reads like one of yours except for the long phrases. You are blessed with the gift of brevity. 🙂

    The image with this one I keep seeing is like a film played in reverse, then allowed to run normally. I’ve got more to say but I’m not gonna troll your comment box. 😀

    I just have to thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

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