Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year by Ella Wheeler WIlcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Two poems by Idea Vilariño (translated by Judith Filc) / Dos poemas de IV (Uruguay, 1920-2009)



Transparent the airs, transparent the
sickle of morning,
the white warm peaks, the gestures of the waves,
all that sea, all that sea performing its
deep task,
the engrossed sea,
the sea, at that hour of honey when instinct
buzzes like a drowsy bee...
Sun, love, expanded white lilies of the sea,
blond limbs sensitive and tender as bodies,
vast, pale sands.

Transparent the air, transparent
the voices, the silence.
On the shores of love, of sea, of morning,
on the hot sand trembling with whiteness,
each one a fruit hatching its death.


Just as in the virgin
beach the wind bends
the slight, green reed
drawing a
delicate circle on the sand
in me
your memory.


Transparentes los aires, transparentes / la hoz de la mañana, / los blancos montes tibios, los gestos de las olas, / todo ese mar, todo ese mar que cumple / su profunda tarea, / el mar ensimismado, / el mar, a esa hora de miel en que el instinto / zumba como una abeja somnolienta... / Sol, amor, azucenas dilatadas, marinas, / Ramas rubias sensibles y tiernas como cuerpos, / vastas arenas pálidas. // Transparentes los aires, transparentes / las voces, el silencio. / A orillas del amor, del mar, de la mañana, / en la arena caliente, temblante de blancura, / cada uno es un fruto madurando su muerte.


Como en la playa virgen / dobla el viento / el leve junco verde / que dibuja / un delicado círculo en la arena / así en mí / tu recuerdo. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A quote from Abdelkebir Khatibi / Una cita de A K

 ... separated from my mother tongue, I knew that when I spoke to her, my speech came back to her from outside of my love and in this language I loved her. I had begun an extraordinary adventure. If I happened to substitute one word for another (...) I didn't have the impression that I was making a mistake or breaking a law but rather that I was speaking two words simultaneously: one which reached her hearing (...) and a second word, an other, which was there and yet faraway, a vagabond, turned in upon itself.

... yo sabía, dijo, que separada de mi lengua materna, la palabra que le dirigía le llegaba desde fuera de mi amor, y en esa lengua la amaba. Había comenzado una aventura extraordinaria. Si sucedía que sustituía una palabra por otra (...) tenía la impresión, no de cometer un error o transgredir una ley, sino de pronunciar dos palabras simultáneamente: una que llegaba hasta ella (...) y otra que estaba allí y, sin embargo, lejana, vagabunda, vuelta sobre sí misma.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two poems by Jorge Aulicino (translated by Judith Filc) / Dos poemas de Jorge Aulicino

A certain roughness in their syntax signaled the lack of
versatility of the corpses; the cracked polish of the boots
and the diction detached from the verb; auxiliary verbs,
elegantly suspended verbal moods elided
by the wise horsemanship of an old trade.
What are you talking about, what are you talking about?
But it was yesterday... Yesterday... You stood before the lake of that river.
How remote that shore, how lazy and early-bird.
You had it all; you hadn't crawled among the dregs
of battles lost before they started,
you didn't linger amid the urine of those dead...
I understand. It wasn't the Danube, it was the Parana,
bewildering in its descent from the cerebral skies, but even so...
Is the joyful inaction, the airy thought justified?
Bee: the smallest of birds, is born of ox meat.
Spider: worm that feeds on air. Lark: the one that
sings illnesses and can cure them. Partridge: lying bird.

You ought to be able to walk around there.
But you wouldn't find suburban buildings,
not the path toward the trees and that shack,
sullen under the stormy grove.
Bored, yellow, grey, dripping.
You wouldn't find the summer afternoon
or the thrushes, usurpers of that nest.
The city was badly used. Is used.
In a drizzly midday the buildings,
the shutters of aged paint
seem resigned to their perplexity.
To see yourself before a sea refused rather than virgin,
like thrushes in the nests of others, abandoned.

From Cierta dureza en la sintaxis, 2008.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Poems by Jacobo Fijman (translated by Judith Filc) / Poemas de Jacobo Fijman (Besarabia, 1898, Argentina, 1970)

Holy City

Three screams stabbed me with their knives.
Landscape of three screams
long with astonishment.
The shrouds of mystery have jested!
Flight of torpors;
in the paralyzed fog.
Bronze of terrors,
formless, fragmented.
Roads die
and bridges are built.

A tree mutates
by closing its pupils.

Dream's angelic pigeons
timorously fall into the
icy nails of dread.

An infinite horror was
flowing in my entrails
in a death anthem.

The Swan's Song

the highest, most deserted road.

A trade of absurd masks; yet
so human.
Excesses snore;
grimaces cough
and hoarse laments
strike their blows.

Inflamed countenances;
glassy dilation of the eyes
in the highest, most deserted road.

The hair of dread stands on end.

The light a plenty praises its innocence.

The patio of the mental hospital is
like a bench along the wall.

Strings of the most eternal silences.

I cross myself despite being

Whom to call?
Whom to call from the road, so high and
so deserted?

God approaches in loony bin gear
and strangles my gullet
with his huge gnarled hands.
And my song coils in the desert.


Ciudad santa

Tres gritos me clavaron sus puñales.
Paisaje de tres gritos
largos de asombro.
¡Bromearon los sudarios del misterio!
Fuga de embotamientos;
en la niebla inmovilizada.
Bronce de los terrores
informes, fragmentados.
Mueren caminos
y se levantan puentes.

Un árbol se transforma
cerrando sus pupilas.

Caen medrosamente las palomas
angélicas del sueño
en las uñas heladas del espanto.

Un infinito horror
manaba en mis entrañas
en un himno de muerte.

El canto del cisne

el camino más alto y más desierto.

Oficio de las máscaras absurdas; pero tan humanas.
Roncan los extravíos;
tosen las muecas
y descargan sus golpes
afónicas lamentaciones.

Semblantes inflamados;
dilatación vidriosa de los ojos
en el camino más alto y más desierto.

Se erizan los cabellos del espanto.

La mucha luz alaba su inocencia.

El patio del hospicio es como un banco
a lo largo del muro.

Cuerdas de los silencios más eternos.

Me hago la señal de la cruz a pesar de ser judío.

¿A quién llamar?
¿A quién llamar desde el camino
tan alto y tan desierto?

Se acerca Dios en pilchas de loquero,
y ahorca mi gañote
con sus enormes manos sarmentosas;
y mi canto se enrosca en el desierto.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Henry James on fiction writing / acerca de la escritura de ficción

... this odd, literal opposition of description and dialogue, incident and description, has little meaning and light. People often talk of these things as if they had a kind of internecine distinctness, instead of melting into each other at every breath and being intimately associated parts of one general effort of expression. I cannot imagine composition existing in a series of blocks, nor conceive, in any novel worth discussing at all, of a passage of description that is not in its intention narrative, a passage of dialogue that is not in its intention descriptive, a touch of truth of any sort that does not partake of the nature of incident, and an incident that derives its interest from any other source than the general and only source of the success of a work of art-that of being illustrative. A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous, like every other organism, and in proportion as it lives will it be found, I think, that in each of the parts there is something of each of the other parts.

... esta extraña y literal oposición entre descripción y diálogo, incidente y descripción, no explica ni ilumina. La gente muchas veces habla de estas cosas como si poseyeran una suerte de singularidad intestina, en lugar de fundirse una en la otra con cada aliento y ser partes íntimamente asociadas de un esfuerzo general de expresión. No puedo imaginar una composición que exista en una serie de bloques, ni concebir, en cualquier novela que valga la pena analizar, un pasaje descriptivo cuya intención no sea narrativa, un pasaje de diálogo cuya intención no sea descriptiva, un toque de verdad de cualquier índole que no tenga algo de la naturaleza del incidente, ni un incidente que derive su interés de otra fuente que no sea la única fuente del éxito de una obra de arte: ser ilustrativa. Una novela es algo vivo, es una y continua como cualquier otro organismo, y, en la medida en que esté viva, se verá, creo, que en cada una de sus partes hay también algo de las otras.

In "The Art of Fiction," published in Longman's Magazine 4 (September 1884), and reprinted in Partial Portraits (Macmillan, 1888). You can find the essay here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Absolute Constructions

Last time we talked about dangling participles and mentioned that they were different from absolute phrases or constructions. The latter contain a participle, but in this case the participle modifies a noun or pronoun instead of referring to the subject of the sentence. A frequently used absolute phrase is:

"All things considered, I would recommend that you buy the used one."

In this case, the participle ("considered") modifies a noun present in the clause ("things"). We are hence dealing with an absolute construction.

Another example:

"The power being out, they decided to spend the night at a hotel."

Yet here the use of an absolute phrase makes for a slightly awkward sentence. It would be better to say:

"Since the power was out, they decided to spend the night at a hotel."

You may find a definition of absolute construction and some examples in The American Heritage Book of English Usage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dangling Participles

"Dangling participles" abound in written English. They may occur when we write a sentence with two clauses: an introductory clause, and an independent clause. The first one modifies the second one, that is, the first clause gives information that helps us understand the second clause. The introductory clause has a participle but no subject, so this participle will automatically refer to the subject of the independent clause. For example:

"Having finished my breakfast, I put on my coat and left the house."

It is the same thing as saying, "When I finished my breakfast I put on my coat and left the house." "I" finished my breakfast, and "I" put on my coat, etc.
According to Strunk and White, the rule is that "a participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject." As is the case with grammar rules in general, this one aims to eliminate ambiguity so that the sentence is as clear as possible. Why do dangling participles create ambiguity?

Strunk and White offer a great example:

"Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap."

Since the subject of the independent clause is "I," the participial phrase automatically refers to that pronoun. It would seem as if the speaker had been in a dilapidated condition. To make it right, the subject of the independent clause should be the house. How would you change the sentence then?

Another example:

"Despite rushing to catch it, the bus left without him."

It wasn't the bus that was rushing, was it? What would be the correct way to phrase this sentence?

Yet this rule is not violated if the introductory clause is an absolute construction. We will talk about absolute constructions next time.

Thank you!

Reference: Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

John Berger on Narration / acerca de la narración

Those who read or listen to our stories see everything as if through a lens. This lens is the secret of narration, and it is ground anew in every story, ground between the temporal and the timeless.

Los que leen o escuchan nuestras historias ven todo como a través de una lente. Esta lente es el secreto de la narración, y es esmerilada nuevamente en cada historia, esmerilada entre lo temporal y lo eterno.

From And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

Edición en español: Y nuestros rostros, mi vida, breves como fotos