Monthly Archives: July 2008

July 14, 2008 (guest ed.)

hi everyone,

being as how last week’s selection was admittedly on the darker side, this week i’ve settled on something a bit lighter, a love letter from pablo neruda.  i’m sure you’ve encountered sonnets from his cien sonetos de amor (100 love sonnets).  the passage in this book i find most powerful is, more often than not, passed over entirely.  i am aware that this is monday’s “verse,” however, this week’s selection most definitely falls into the realm of “prose”… a “prose-poem” would be a generous categorization.  the debate of which prerequisites a passage must fill to become a “poem” could go on for weeks; whether one places emphasis characteristics such as line breaks or rhythm, if it must sustain itself on the page or off, or perhaps one believes prose has as much as a claim to “poetry” as e.e. cummings concoctions do, looking as though he shook some letters and punctuation marks in a dice cup, dumped them onto a blank sheet of paper, and printed them where they fell.  personally, i have always felt that artist intent plays a large role, though this gets a bit dodgy if the artist never actually points to their work and claims, “poem!”

this week, i have enclosed a note from neruda to his wife, penned as the introduction to his collection, 100 love sonnets.  whether or not it was written as poem, whether or not it falls within your own parameters of poem/not poem, one must admit that it is certainly poetic.  in honor of our valiant editor’s south american expedition and for any spanish speakers out there, i’ve included the original, (or if you don’t speak a word of spanish it’s always fun to look the text over for sounds, alliterations and such,) and below, stephen tapscott’s english translation.

nikki



A MATILDE URRUTIA

Senora mia muy amada, gran padecimiento tuve al escribirte estos mal llamados sonetos y harto me dolieron y costaron, pero la alegria de ofrecertelos es mayor que una pradera.  Al proponermelo bien sabia que al costado de cada uno, por aficion electiva y elegancia, los poetas de todo tiempo dispusieron rimas que sonaron como plateria, cristal, o canonazo.  Yo, con mucha humilidad, hice estos sonetos de madera, les di el sonido de esta opaca y pura substancia y asi deben llegar a tus oidos.  Tu y yo caminando por bosques y arenales, por lagos perdidos, por cenicientas latitudes, recogimos fragmentos de palo puro, de maderos sometidos al vaiven del agua y la intemperie.  De tales suavizadisimos vestigios construi con hacha, cuchillo, cortaplumas, estas madererias de amor y edifique pequenas casas de catorce tablas para que en ellas vivan tus ojos que adoro y canto.  Asi establecidas mis razones de amor te entrego esta centuria: sonetos de madera que solo levantaron porque tu les diste la vida.



TO MATILDE URRUTIA

My beloved wife, I suffered while I was writing these misnamed “sonnets”; they hurt me and caused me grief, but the happiness I feel in offering them to you is vast as a savanna.  When I set this task for myself I knew very well that down the right sides of sonnets, with elegant discriminating taste, poets of all times have arranged rhymes that sound like silver, or crystal, or canonfire.  But – with great humility – I made these sonnets out of wood; I gave them the sound of that opaque pure substance, and that is how they should reach your ears.  Walking in forests or on beaches, along hidden lakes, in latitudes sprinkled with ashes, you and I have picked up pieces of pure bark, pieces of wood subject to the comings and goings of water and the weather.  Out of such softened relics, then, with hatchet and machete and pocketknife, I built these lumber piles of love, and with fourteen boards each i built little houses, so that your eyes, which I adore and sing to, might live in them.  Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life.

October 1959

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July 7, 2008 (guest ed.)

hi kids. first off, i’d like to wish everyone a belated happy independence day and a belated happy pride week. whatever you’ve been celebrating i hope it was fantastic.  growing up outside of san francisco we used to look forward to the pride parade more than macy’s thanksgiving day; my mom and i attended religiously every year.  we’re both straight, in case you were wondering, but you really can’t find a better party than the castro district in full effect.  in related news, the “pregnant (transgender) man” thomas beatie, who has appeared on everything from cnn to oprah, gave birth to a baby girl last thursday.  congrats.

personally, i’ve always been of the belief that one cannot fully celebrate where they are without acknowledging where he or she has been, those forces that brought you to the doorstep of this fabulous little party.  and so, in honor of all the cultural festivities and the general marching onward of the american dream, (liberty and justice for all, eh?) i selected a poem that serves as a snapshot of the relatively recent past.  it’s one of my favorites, though to be fair, it is a bit graphic.  though to be fair, it is composed entirely of newspaper clippings.

daphne gottleib’s “final girl,” is a meditation on the last girl left alive in classic horror movies, in it she works through cultural assumptions of gender and transgression.  i’ve always thought “female trouble” a creative and effective little piece, though i’ll let you be the judge.  i like to read it a couple times, maybe out loud, left to right, or one column all the way down, then the other. as with any poem, my only humble request is that you have some fun and play around with it a bit, notice what it does on its own and what you can get it to do for you.

nikki

FEMALE TROUBLE*

she wanted sex.
and he suffered so much,
He was too ill
my Gwen, and he’s beautiful
and tired
said his mother
so she bit him and bit him.  Later, he died
finally living as a female
about a week ago
Eddie Araujo was finally living
about a week ago,
as the female he always knew himself
to be.
Arthur Pratt came home sick and frail
three years ago
from the hospital.
Police say
his wife greeted him at the door
Police say
“When he got home, his wife ‘wanted
some;”
Police say
“He couldn’t help her out.”
Police say that may have cost him his life.
“She went into a rage
As a young woman,
started tearing into his flesh with her teeth
growing long hair
pulling out huge chunks
as a young woman
“We have a tape of him
growing long hair
and wearing crop-tops
“We have a tape of him
dreaming of Hollywood
screaming
He dreamed of becoming a
Hollywood make-up artist
while she bites him.”
The 17-year-old beaten and strangled
When the police arrived
at a party
bloodied and shivering
and dumped his body
Kelli Pratt tried to bite officers
in a shallow grave.
The police made a videotape of her
It was the first time he had worn a skirt out
Afterward,
she was afraid.
She refused to wash up,
in a peasant blouse and miniskirt
so she looked like a vampire
clad in women’s clothing
with blood all over her face
wrapped in a blanket.
She still had other things
hands and feet tied up,
in her teeth
his mother worried he still looked too
manly
flesh in her teeth, chunks of it
a number of people could have stepped in,
prevented or reported this
while the police filmed the confession,
this
with more than 20 bites
none of them stepped in or reported this
with more than 20 deep tissue bites.
His tombstone
bloodied and shivering
dressing like a woman
bloodied and shivering.
His death
His mother said
was a direct result of
looking too manly, my
more than 20 bites for
Gwen he’s
not giving it up
and he’s
chunks of flesh between teeth
and he’s
blood all over
and he’s
homicide charges
and he’s beautiful, my baby.  He suffered so
much.  His tombstone
will say ‘Gwen”

*All text in this piece remixed from news accounts of murders of Gwen/Eddie Araujo and Arthur Pratt, from coverage in SFGate.com and the San Francisco Chronicle, October 18-19, 2002.  Gwen Araujo was apparently beaten to death by three men for being transgendered, while Arthur Pratt was bitten to death by his wife for not having sex with her on demand.