Archive for April, 2013

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 28, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Here is an old blog entry from 2005, which I salvaged from my Myspace profile, that I no longer use…

“Hello my friends, just thought I’d share something with you all. Back in the 80’s, when I was in High School, in Mexico City (no, I am not Mexican, I just lived there for 4 years; I am actually a mixture of Puerto Rican and Spanish, and I understand that somewhere down the line is some French blood as well), I took an Intermediate Spanish course. During that course, we read a bunch of Spanish language authors, most of whom were 20th century Latin American authors writing in the Realismo Magico genre. The majority of this stuff was too political and too culturally foreign for me to really relate to; however, there was one author whom we spent some time on that, although I had a hard time understanding some of the language he used, I enjoyed the Gothic Romanticism of his work, which harkened to the likes of Poe, yet still keeping a genuine Spanish flavor. That author was Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870), a young man from Sevilla, who wrote some amazing short tales and poems before dying of tuberculosis in his 30’s.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, (February 17, 1836 - December 22, 1870) Spanish poet and writer of short stories. I was introduced to his "Leyendas" in my High School Spanish class and was intrigued by his Romantic style and use of folklore. His "Rimas" are very famous in the Spanish speaking world.

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, (February 17, 1836 – December 22, 1870) Spanish poet and writer of short stories. I was introduced to his “Leyendas” in my High School Spanish class and was intrigued by his Romantic style and use of folklore. His “Rimas” are very famous in the Spanish speaking world.

Recently, at work, I came across a dual-language book of Spanish Poetry by Dover, which contained several selections from Becquer (as well as Cervantes, Lorca, etc.) in both English and Spanish. This is notable because up until now, I have only been able to find books in the original Spanish. This is fine for me, but makes it difficult to share with most of my friends. Now I can though, and there is one poem in particular that will appeal to anyone who has a taste for the Romanti-Goth. It comes from his “Rimas” (or “Rhymes”) and doesn’t have a specific title, but is rather identified by it’s opening line, which is “Cerraron sus ojos…”, “They closed her eyes…”. I shall transcribe it soon as a blog entry, so keep an eye out for it. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.”

Of course, I did the transcription for my next entry and it goes like this:

This poem was written by Spanish poet, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-70), and translated by Muriel Kittel. I changed a few words here and there to better suit the original intent of the poet, as the Kittel translation is a bit loose and overly Anglacized.

They closed her eyes

They closed her eyes

That she still kept open;

They covered her head

With a white linen cloth;

Then some with sobs,

Others in silence,

One and all left

The sorrowful room.

The light in a glass

Burned on the floor;

It cast on the wall

The shadow of the bed;

And within that shadow,

Intermittently seen,

Was stiffly outlined

The shape of the body.

Day was awakening,

And at its first dawning,

With a thousand noises

The village was waking.

Faced with that contrast

Of life and mysteries,

Of light and darkness,

I thought for a moment:

“How lonely, my God,

Do we leave the dead!”

From the house, on their shoulders,

They carried her to church,

And in a chapel

They set down the bier.

There they surrounded

Her pale remains

With yellow candles

And black draperies.

As the bells at sunset

 Pealed their last chime,

An old woman ended

Her final prayers;

She crossed the narrow nave,

The doors groaned,

And the holy alcove

Was left deserted.

The measured pendulum

Of a clock was heard,

And the sputtering

Of a few candles.

So terrible and sad,

So gloomy and stiff

Was everything there…

That I thought for a moment:

“How lonely, my God,

Do we leave the dead!”

From the lofty belfry

The iron clapper

Whirled and rang out

Its sad farewell.

Mourning on thier dress,

Friends and kindred

Passed in procession

Forming the cortege.

For her last refuge,

Narrow and dark,

The pickax opened

The niche at one end.

They laid her there,

Quickly walled it up,

And with a bow

The rites were ended.

Pickax on shoulder,

The gravedigger,

Singing between his teeth,

Was lost in the distance.

Night was approaching,

Silence reigned;

Lost in shadows

I thought for a moment:

“How lonely, my God,

Do we leave the dead!”

During the long nights

Of icy winter,

When timbers creek

Under the wind

And fierce showers

Lash the windowpanes,

Alone, I remember

The poor young girl.

There falls the rain

With eternal sound;

There struggles with it

The north wind’s blast.

Laid in that hole

In the damp wall,

Perhaps her bones

Freeze with cold!…

Does dust turn to dust?

Does the soul fly to heaven?

Is all vile matter,

putrefaction and filth?

I know not: but there’s something

That I cannot explain,

Something that fills us

With repugnance and sorrow

At leaving so sad,

And lonely, the dead.

Balboa Poet House #5 (03-29-13)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 5, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

On the evening of 03-29-13, I went on a wild goose chase trying to find the house of two of my compeers, Joe Montana III and Deborah Berman where I was to be one of the two featured readers for the Balboa Poet House. Since I don’t know the area well, I clicked the link that bore the message “Get Directions”. Damn that link! The directions as written would have sent me 40 odd exits out of my way! Fortunately, I realized something was awry when I was only about 10 exits further than I needed to be, so I called Joe and spoke to both he and Deborah, but they couldn’t figure out where I was exactly, since they don’t use the 202 as the directions suggested I do. In the end, I drove up and down Broadway for roughly two hours until I decided to get back on the 202 and found another exit for Broadway which took me to the correct neighborhood, where I met up with my good friend Ash Naftule, who missed out on the open mic to guide me to the house. Thanks Ash!

Left to right:  Paul Michael Dlouhy and Ashley Naftule

Left to right: Paul Michael Dlouhy and Ashley Naftule

Once there, I was greeted warmly and directed to the snack table, where I was handed a large glass of pinot noir. I had already missed the open mic, and everyone was taking a break before the featured readers. My friend Neil Gearns was to be the first poet up, which gave me time to relax and have a bite. This calmed me down considerably and I had a pleasurable time taking in the beautifully decorated surroundings and listening to Mr. Gearns delivering his very entertaining set. My favorite poem from his set list was one about a Star Trek red shirt. It was written somewhere between a rant and a lament. It was funny, but had a pathos which I found touching; especially the line where he says that he will try to live as long as he can, not so much for himself, but for the next red shirt to follow. Bravo Mr. Gearns!

Neil Gearns in a pensive moment.

Neil Gearns in a pensive moment.

Next up: yours truly! First off, Miss Berman paraphrased my bio as an introduction (I admit the original was a bit lengthy, so I fully support her decision there) and ended with a few kind words of her own. Thanks Deborah!

Deborah @ Deus Ex Machina 12-14-12

Deborah @ Deus Ex Machina 12-14-12

I started off with a poem by 19th century French poet, Arthur Rimbaud. Joe had asked us to bring a poem by a gay poet to read in solidarity for the gay marriage struggle which is in the news these days, so I chose Rimbaud’s “Dance of the Hanged Men”, which I had read about 20 years ago and had stuck with me ever since. For my personal set, I chose to do a retrospective, starting with “The Fallen Leaf”, a poem I wrote at 17 years of age and ending with my most recent one, “My Treacherous Heart”. As the final icing on the cake, I added “Tasty Little Muffins” from my Dark Young days. The majority of the crowd in the room seemed to like what I had to offer, although there were a few glazed expressions here and there, and I was glad to have the time to go at my own pace, talking in between poems and telling anecdotes as I went along.

Me, emphasizing some point of grave importance, no doubt.

Me, emphasizing some point of grave importance, no doubt.

Afterward, I returned to the kitchen to procure some more wine, but–alas– the bottle was drained to the dregs. I did have a nice conversation with some of the young people at the snack table though (I say young, but they were about college age) and also traded advice with some of the more seasoned poets who were being drilled for information by another young man who seemed eager to learn the craft.

Joe Montana III

Joe Montana III

Before I left Joe gave me a chapbook of his poems, which I had requested from him and I was deeply touched to learn that he had created it especially for me. Thank you Mr. Montana!
All in all, it was a fun time and I loved the crowd and the venue, which was decorated with a mixture of pop and folk art and posters featuring hip musicians and artists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
I hope to go there again some time with better directions and make it in time for the open mic!

The crowd at the Balboa Poet House #5, minus Joe and Deborah

The crowd at the Balboa Poet House #5, minus Joe and Deborah