The Perceval Press Anthology of Verse 2008


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Chau número tres
Te dejo con tu vida
tu trabajo
tu gente
con tus puestas de sol
y tus amaneceres.

Sembrando tu confianza
te dejo junto al mundo
derrotando imposibles
segura sin seguro.

Te dejo frente al mar
descifrándote sola
sin mi pregunta a ciegas
sin mi respuesta rota.

Te dejo sin mis dudas
pobres y malheridas
sin mis inmadureces
sin mi veteranía.

Pero tampoco creas
a pie juntillas todo
no creas nunca creas
este falso abandono.

Estaré donde menos
lo esperes
por ejemplo
en un árbol añoso
de oscuros cabeceos.

Estaré en un lejano
horizonte sin horas
en la huella del tacto
en tu sombra y mi sombra.

Estaré repartido
en cuatro o cinco pibes
de esos que vos mirás
y enseguida te siguen.

Y ojalá pueda estar
de tu sueño en la red
esperando tus ojos
y mirándote.
-Mario Benedetti

Les Fenêtres
Celui qui regarde du dehors à travers une fenêtre ouverte, ne voit jamais autant de choses que celui qui regarde une fenêtre fermée. Il n'est pas d'objet plus profond, plus mystérieux, plus fécond, plus ténébreux, plus éblouissant qu'une fenêtre éclairée d'une chandelle. Ce qu'on peut voir au soleil est toujours moins intéressant que ce qui se passe derrière une vitre. Dans ce trou noir ou lumineux vit la vie, rêve la vie, souffre la vie.

Par-delà des vagues de toits, j'aperçois une femme mûre, ridée déjà, pauvre, toujours penchée sur quelque chose, et qui ne sort jamais. Avec son visage, avec son vêtement, avec son geste, avec presque rien, j'ai refait l'histoire de cette femme, ou plutôt sa légende, et quelquefois je me la raconte à moi-même en pleurant.

Si c'eût été un pauvre vieux homme, j'aurais refait la sienne tout aussi aisément.

Et je me couche, fier d'avoir vécu et souffert dans d'autres que moi-même.

Peut-être me direz-vous: "Es-tu sûr que cette légende soit la vraie?" Qu'importe ce que peut être la réalité placée hors de moi, si elle m'a aidé à vivre, à sentir que je suis et ce que je suis?
-Charles Baudelaire (1821- 1867)


Es libre el que vive según elige.
-Manuel Machado


La raíz de todas las pasiones es el amor. De él nace la tristeza, el gozo, la alegría y la desesperación.
-Lope de Vega


"I would be nothing without the Russian nineteenth century . . .,"
Camus declared, in 1958, in a letter of homage to Pasternak -- one of
the constellation of magnificent writers whose work, along with the
annals of their tragic destinies, preserved, recovered, discovered in
translation over the past twenty-five years, has made the Russian
twentieth century an event that is (or will prove to be) equally
formative and, it being our century as well, far more importunate,

The Russian nineteenth century that changed our souls was an
achievement of prose writers. Its twentieth century has been, mostly,
an achievement of poets -- but not only an achievement in poetry.
About their prose the poets espoused the most passionate opinions: any
ideal of seriousness inevitably seethes with dispraise. Pasternak in
the last decades of his life dismissed as horribly modernist and self-
conscious the splendid, subtle memoiristic prose of his youth (like
Safe Conduct), while proclaiming the novel he was then working on,
Doctor Zhivago, to be the most authentic and complete of all his
writings, beside which his poetry was nothing in comparison. More
typically, the poets were committed to a definition of poetry as an
enterprise of such inherent superiority (the highest aim of
literature, the highest condition of language) that any work in prose
became an inferior venture -- as if prose were always a communication,
a service activity. "Instruction is the nerve of prose," Mandelstam
wrote in an early essay, so that "what may be meaningful to the prose
writer or essayist, the poet finds absolutely meaningless." While
prose writers are obliged to address themselves to the concrete
audience of their contemporaries, poetry as a whole has a more or less
distant, unknown addressee, says Mandelstam: "Exchanging signals with
the planet Mars . . . is a task worthy of a lyric poet."

Tsvetaeva shares this sense of poetry as the apex of literary endeavor
-- which means identifying all great writing, even if prose, as
poetry. "Pushkin was a poet," she concludes her essay "Pushkin and
Pugachev" (1937), and "nowhere was he the poet with such force as in
the 'classical' prose of The Captain's Daughter."

The same would-be paradox with which Tsvetaeva sums up her love for
Pushkin's novella is elaborated by Joseph Brodsky in his essay
prefacing the collected edition (in Russian) of Tsvetaeva's prose:
being great prose, it must be described as "the continuation of poetry
with other means." Like earlier great Russian poets, Brodsky requires
for his definition of poetry a caricatural Other: the slack mental
condition he equates with prose. Assuming a privative standard of
prose, and of the poet's motives for turning to prose ("something
usually dictated by economic considerations, 'dry spells,' or more
rarely by polemical necessity"), in contrast to the most exalted,
prescriptive standard of poetry (whose "true subject" is "absolute
objects and absolute feelings"), it is inevitable that the poet be
regarded as the aristocrat of letters, the prose writer the bourgeois
or plebeian; that -- another of Brodsky's images -- poetry be
aviation, prose the infantry.

Such a definition of poetry is actually a tautology -- as if prose
were identical with the "prosaic." And "prosaic" as a term of
denigration, meaning dull, commonplace, ordinary, tame, is precisely a
Romantic idea. (The OED gives 1813 as its earliest use in this
figurative sense.) In the "defense of poetry" that is one of the
signature themes of the Romantic literatures of Western Europe, poetry
is a form of both language and being: an ideal of intensity, absolute
candor, nobility, heroism.

The republic of letters is, in reality, an aristocracy. And "poet" has
always been a titre de noblesse. But in the Romantic era, the poet's
nobility ceased to be synonymous with superiority as such and acquired
an adversary role: the poet as the avatar of freedom. The Romantics
invented the writer as hero, a figure central to Russian literature
(which does not get under way until the early nineteenth century);
and, as it happened, history made of rhetoric a reality. The great
Russian writers are heroes -- they have no choice if they are to be
great writers -- and Russian literature has continued to breed
Romantic notions of the poet. To the modern Russian poets, poetry
defends nonconformity, freedom, individuality against the social, the
wretched vulgar present, the communal drone. (It is as if prose in its
true state were, finally, the State.) No wonder they go on insisting
on the absoluteness of poetry and its radical difference from prose.
Prose is to Poetry, said Valéry, as walking is to dancing -- Romantic
assumptions about poetry's inherent superiority hardly being confined
to the great Russian poets. For the poet to turn to prose, says
Brodsky, is always a falling off, "like the shift from full gallop to
a trot." The contrast is not just one of velocity, of course, but one
of mass: lyric poetry's compactness versus the sheer extendedness of
prose. (That virtuoso of extended prose, of the art of anti-
laconicism, Gertrude Stein, said that poetry is nouns, prose is verbs.
In other words, the distinctive genius of poetry is naming, that of
prose, to show movement, process, time -- past, present, and future.)
The collected prose of any major poet who has written major prose --
Valéry, Rilke, Brecht, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva -- is far bulkier than
his or her collected poems. There is something equivalent in
literature to the prestige the Romantics conferred on thinness.
That poets regularly produce prose, while prose writers rarely write
poetry, is not, as Brodsky argues, evidence of poetry's superiority.

According to Brodsky, "The poet, in principle, is 'higher' than the
prose writer . . . because a hard-up poet can sit down and compose an
article, whereas in similar straits a prose writer would hardly give
thought to a poem." But the point surely is not that writing poetry is
less well paid than writing prose but that it is special -- the
marginalizing of poetry and its audience; that what was once
considered a normal skill, like playing a musical instrument, now
seems the province of the difficult and the intimidating. Not only
prose writers but cultivated people generally no longer write poetry.
(As poetry is no longer, as a matter of course, something to
memorize.) Modern performance in literature is partly shaped by the
widespread discrediting of the idea of literary virtuosity; by a very
real loss of virtuosity. It now seems utterly extraordinary that
anyone can write brilliant prose in more than one language; we marvel
at a Nabokov, a Beckett, a Cabrera Infante -- but until two centuries
ago such virtuosity would have been taken for granted. So, until
recently, was the ability to write poetry as well as prose.

In the twentieth century, writing poems tends to be a dalliance of a
prose writer's youth (Joyce, Beckett, Nabokov . . . ) or an activity
practiced with the left hand (Borges, Updike . . . ). Being a poet is
assumed to be more than writing poetry, even great poetry: Lawrence
and Brecht, who wrote great poems, are not generally considered great
poets. Being a poet is to define oneself as, to persist (against odds)
in being, only a poet. Thus, the one generally acknowledged instance
in twentieth-century literature of a great prose writer who was also a
great poet, Thomas Hardy, is someone who renounced writing novels in
order to write poetry. (Hardy ceased to be a prose writer. He became a
poet.) In that sense the Romantic notion of the poet, as someone who
has a maximal relation to poetry, has prevailed; and not only among
the modem Russian writers.

An exception is made for criticism, however. The poet who is also a
master practitioner of the critical essay loses no status as a poet;
from Blok to Brodsky, most of the major Russian poets have written
splendid critical prose. Indeed, since the Romantic era, most of the
truly influential critics have been poets: Coleridge, Baudelaire,
Valéry, Eliot. That other forms of prose are more rarely attempted
marks a great difference from the Romantic era. A Goethe or Pushkin or
Leopardi, who wrote both great poetry and great (non-critical) prose,
did not seem odd or presumptuous. But the bifurcation of standards for
prose in succeeding literary generations -- the emergence of a
minority tradition of "art" prose, the ascendancy of illiterate and
para-literate prose -- has made that kind of accomplishment far more

Actually, the frontier between prose and poetry has become more and
more permeable -- unified by the ethos of maximalism characteristic of
the modern artist: to create work that goes as far as it can go. The
standard that seems eminently appropriate to lyric poetry, according
to which poems may be regarded as linguistic artifacts to which
nothing further can be done, now influences much of what is
distinctively modern in prose. Precisely as prose, since Flaubert, has
aspired to some of the intensity, velocity, and lexical inevitability
of poetry, there seems a greater need to shore up the two-party system
in literature, to distinguish prose from poetry, and to oppose them.
Why it is prose, not poetry, that is always on the defensive is that
the party of prose seems at best an ad hoc coalition. How can one not
be suspicious of a label that now encompasses the essay, the memoir,
the novel or short story, the play? Prose is not just a ghostly
category, a state of language defined negatively, by its opposite:
poetry. ("Tout ce qui n' est point prose est vers, et tout ce qui n'
est point vers est prose," as the philosophy teacher in Molière'sLe
Bourgeois Gentilhomme proclaims, so that the bourgeois can discover
that all his life has been -- surprise! -- speaking prose.) Now it is
a catchall for a panoply of literary forms that, in their modern
evolution and high-speed dissolution, one no longer knows how to name.
As a term used to describe what Tsvetaeva wrote that couldn't be
called poetry, "prose" is a relatively recent notion. When essays no
longer seem like what used to be called essays, and long and short
fictions no longer like what used to be called novels and stories, we
call them prose.
-Susan Sontag


Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.
-Soren Kierkegaard


Dear Roz,
Travel safely and remember what you find. You are a flower in the wildwood
-Viggo Mortensen


A man can be himself only so long as he is alone.
-Arthur Schopenhauer


It is a simple fact that all of us use the techniques of acting to achieve whatever ends we seek?Acting serves as the quintessential social lubricant and a device for protecting our interests and gaining advantage in every aspect of life.
-Marlon Brando


It is strange how one feels drawn forward without knowing at first where one is going.
-Gustav Mahler


Behind me the branches of a wasted and sterile existence are cracking.
-Gustav Mahler


Queridos Jugadores de San Lorenzo,
Seguro que se sienten tristes cómo nosotros, los hinchas hasta la muerte, por el resultado en Quito. Ha sido una semana difícil para todos, y sé que estan cansadísimos en este momento. Sólo quiero que sepan que los queremos muchísimo y que apreciamos la pelea que dan en todos los partidos. Sigue el campeonato de Argentina, y en ese torneo nos quedan partidos importantes. A todos los partidos hay que tomarlos en serio, y sabemos que han jugado con eso en mente, con ese sentimiento durante mucho tiempo. Les pido cómo Cuervo que se sientan orgullosos de lo que han logrado, y que sigan nomás con el lindo juego de equipo del cual sabemos que son capaces ustedes, sin aflojar y sin pedir perdón por nada. A lo hecho pecho--¡No aflojen, guapos -- Dale Ciclón!
Un abrazo con dos alas negras.


Naar jeg gaar ad den gjengrodde Sti ind gjennem Skogen, skjælver mit Hjærte i en ujordisk Glæde. Jeg mindes et enkelt Sted paa Østkysten av det Kaspiske Hav hvor jeg engang stod. Der var det som her. Og Søen var stille og tung og jærngraa som nu.
Jeg gik ind gjennem Skogen. Jeg begyndte at røres til Taarer og var henrykt, jeg sa hele tiden: Gud i Himlen at jeg skulle komme hit igjen!
Som om jeg hadde været der før.
-Knut Hamsun (Under Høststjernen)


Last edited: 12 July 2008 09:34:59