Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My Biggest "Influence"



Carnal apple, woman incarnate, ardent moon,
seaweed's sodden aroma, the bog's, and the mash of the light-
what somber clarity opens between your columns?
What primitive night is touched by a masculine sense

Ah, love is a voyage with water and stars,
in drowning air and squalls of precipitate bran
love is a war of lightning
two bodies defeated by a single burst of honey.

Kiss after kiss, I walk along your tiny infinitude,
your shores and your rivers, your diminutive towns,
and the genital fire, made dear and delectable
that races the delicate pathways of your blood,
breaks up from below in a gout of nocturnal carnations
until it dissolves and becomes nothing, but a ray of light in the shadows


Naked, you are as simple as one of your hands,
supple, earthy, minimal, round, transparent,
The lunar markings, the pathways through the apple,
are yours; naked, you are slender as the naked wheat.

Naked, you are blue as the night in Cuba,
ivy and stars embroidered in your hair,
naked, you stand enormous and yellow
like the summer in a golden cathedral

Naked, you are as tiny as one of your fingernails
curved, subtle and pink until the break of day
you thrust yourself into the subterranean world
a tunnel's length made of dresses and duress;
your clarity trims its flame, unfurls, or cover over,
and again you issue, naked as your hand.



You come from the destitute South, from the house
of privation, regions made hard with the earthquake and cold
that gave us hard lessons in living in the chalk and the clay
while the gods whom they worshiped were spinning away to their death

You are a little mare carved in black clay, a kiss
dusky with pitch, beloved, a clay poppy,
a pigeon of twilight that fluttered its way on the roads
and followed us into a childhood of want, with its tears

You who always preserved your heart's poverty,
girl with the feet of the needy, accustomed to stones,
whose mouth was not always acquainted with sweetmeat and bread;

You come from the destitute South that once nurtured my soul;
in her heaven, your mother goes on washing clothes with my mother.
Therefore I have singled you out to be my companion.

Pablo Neruda

From "Cien Sonetos de Amor"/A Hundred Love Sonnets Translated from the spanish by Ben Bellit with my corrections on the first 2 sonnets.


Diamond Mind said...

Hey man,
Great! Pablo Neruda rocks,
and your drawing is such a
fabulous emodiment of his

wcr1 said...

Thank you for this introduction to Neruda, the first poems of his I've read. XXIX, which I found the most affecting, seems to be quite different from the others, and less obvious as an 'influence'.

I was so bothered by the use of the words "bran" and "gout" in Soneto XII that I took a look at the original (easy enough on the 'net). Even with my (very) limited Spanish, I was astounded at how much was changed and how much of the musicality of the language had disappeared. It's a long and treacherous trip from harina to bran.

But what can most of us do? In the end we have to be grateful for the efforts of the translator, without whom so much would be off-limits entirely.


Process Junkie said...

Thanks Mark !

Bill: XXIX is a big inspiration, it has been since I read it in high school, while his description of this "poor girl' doesn't melt your heart with the same intense sensuality of the others, (Pablo is hands down the best poet -dead or alive- when it comes to describing the body of a woman). This sonnet it's dear to me for very personal reasons, it is no coincidence that most of the women I draw have big hands, protruding knuckles and big feet, going against everything we're told makes a girl feminine and sexy.

I replaced a few words and in some cases entire lines on the first 2 sonnets, because the translator - I felt- got carried away and failed to serve the true context of the work.

"Bran" for harina instead of flour bothered me not just because these are "apples and oranges" (harina being a byproduct of some grain or other and not a grain itself) but mainly because in South America, as in the north, "harina de trigo" (flour made from wheat) is more common than bran, especially in Chile where Neruda was born, he uses the word "wheat" figuratively and in symbollic form in many poems and countless odes and sonnets. I left it alone because I ran out of time and couldn't found a more suitable set of words to replace the entire paragraph. I don't know how that made sense to the translator, but nothing bothered me more than the line in XXVII:

"Tienes enredaderas y estrellas en el pelo" literal translation: "You have ivy and stars in your hair", which he, taking a gigantic "poetic license" turned into "I trace stars and tendrils in your skin", "tendrils" for "ivy" is not only cool but accurate, but skin for hair??

I agree with you though, translation is a bitch and we should be grateful to these writers who are brave enough to undertake such titanic tasks.

I must commend you on your spanish Bill, you are something else.


wcr1 said...


Can't help wondering what Wallace Stevens looks like in Spanish...

Process Junkie said...

Heh, heh! we should leave that one alone, Stevens and Smokey Robinson can't be translated to spanish without some serious loss :)

By the way, a friend of mine sent me this link as an introduction to Stevens' poetry, old radio recordings of Stevens reading his own poems, great stuff:

Neruda's readings are posted somewhere, never did like him reading his own stuff, his delivery and cadence is the same on all of sonnets I've heard, They must have recorded them towards the end of his life.


Process Junkie said...

I messed up the link on my last comment, you'll find lotsa goodies at: (COPY& PASTE):


wcr1 said...

Hunh! Muchas gracias!

I'll listen to it later, since I'm at work and don't have earphones.

First time I heard a poet reading his poetry was in grade school, a scratchy old 78 of Vachel Lindsay reading "The Congo". He was nothing if not dramatic, but to us kids he sounded a bit daft, and the recording always provoked lots of laughs.

(Much has been written, pro and con, about the racist content of the poem and I'd prefer to let it go at that.)

Thanks again,


manucha said...

Me dejaste sin palabras. . .
me encanto tu concepto de integrar Neruda con ese dibujo de la mujer sin cabeza. Tan bella. Con sus sesos tan real y sutil. Ella semehase un poco peculiar.

Lei las Cien sonetos de Amor, en espanol y me gusto muchisimo, incluso XXII. Espero que te guste tambien.

De nuevo,
Me diverto con tus palabras.