Tuesday, December 13, 2011

it's them and they fall.

Raúl Zurita is a Chilean poet who wrote during Pinochet's rule. His poetry is, in part, a response to the cruelty and violence of the time. He won the Chilean National Prize for Literature in 2000, a Guggenheim in 1984, and the National Poetry Prize of Chile.

Here's an interview with him.
 From The Snow
Down below the mountain peak twists slowly
and bends. Hundreds of others further off do
the same: their sharp points, the rounded
mouths of the volcanoes. Behind there’s the sea,
above, the tombstone of the sky. Below, the huge
cemetery of white mountains that twist like
needles bending.

Their bodies fall and twist. They look like
strange snowflakes against the immensity of
space. The white, pure snow will receive those
other bodies. It will receive them also. Below,
the white peaks, further back the line of the sea
and their bodies thrown like a strange snowfall.
Like strange snowflakes against the immense

It’s them and they fall. It’s a strange snowfall
coming down onto the white scar of the moun-
tains. There is also the sound of a strange ten-
derness: snowflakes embraced by other snows,
small pieces of ice embraced by other ice.

It will speak also of a surprising and unexpected

-trans. William Rowe

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Sarah, I hadn't come across Zurita before.

    The interview reminded me a bit of the chapter in Edwrd Hirsch's How To Read a Poem about Polish "poetry of witness" during the Stalinist era: "Polish poets are in some sense metaphysical poets forced to become historical ones. While they could not help being aware of the history inflicted upon them, the nevertheless have remained most keenly interested in exploring the nature of reality at even deeper levels, meditating on life's essences."

    And in that chapter, he quotes Wislawa Szymborska's "Notes From a Non-Existent Himalayan Expedition." The Yeti is, I believe, intended as a metaphor for Stalinism, but those cold mountains, that place where people don't matter, have spawned more than one monstrous result; i.e., Chile under Pinochet

    So these are the Himalayas.
    Mountains racing to the moon.
    The moment of their start recorded
    on the startling, ripped canvas of the sky.
    Holes punched in a desert of clouds.
    Thrust into nothing.
    Echo- a white mute.

    Yeti, down there we've got Wednesday,
    bread and alphabets.
    Two times two is four.
    Roses are red there,
    and violets are blue.

    Yeti, crime is not all
    we're up to down there.
    Not every sentence there
    means death.

    We've inherited hope-
    the gift of forgetting.
    You'll see how we give
    birth among the ruins.

    Yeti, we've got Shakespeare there.
    Yeti, we play solitaire
    and violin. At nightfall,
    we turn lights on, Yeti.

    Up here it's neither moon nor earth.
    Tears freeze.
    Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,
    turn back think again!

    I called this to the Yeti
    inside four walls of avalanche,
    stomping my feet for warmth
    on the everlasting

    (tr. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)