Sunday, December 10, 2017

It has been quite a while since we've posted anything here, but we are looking forward to engaging with anew, engaging with you. Posts on Neruda, post on what we're dedicated to: the power of Latin American poetry to not only evoke emotions, but to shift social consciousness, sparking both individual and collective change. 

Towards that, we have recently finished editing a multilingual anthology of Latin American resistance poetry, featuring forty poems that arose from the sustained periods of activism throughout that region. The book explores the nature of political poetry’s effectiveness through the power and aesthetic beauty of language. Furthermore, the anthology addresses a diverse spectrum of issues including indigenous, feminist, queer, urban and ecological themes, along with the more historically prominent protests against imperialism, dictatorships, and economic inequality. Every Latin American country is represented by at least one poem. Four indigenous languages are included and translated: Mestizo, Mayan, Quechua and Mapundungun (from the Mapuche in Chile). The book features thirty translations crafted just for this project, composed by an all-star team of translators, including recent US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as well as emerging talent. We hope to find the right publisher soon. Updates and previews to come.

The new version of the documentary has a new name: Pablo Neruda: The People's Poet. It is an up-close, visually poetic portrait of the complex man behind some of the world’s most popular and enduring poems. But it is still in progress. The bestselling novelist Julia Alvarez recently said, “This documentary will give us our Neruda, vigorously, diversely, enchantingly brought back to life.”

We also have some exciting news: Mark Eisner's Neruda biography, Neruda: The Poet's Calling, will be published in March 2018 by Ecco/HarperCollins! Mark helps lead our non-profit, he is a co-editor of the resistance anthology and a producer of the documentary (and also editor of City Lights' The Essential Neruda). There's already some great buzz:

"Mark Eisner's definitive biography of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda reads like a beautifully written novel: attentive to scene, momentum, and rich with evocative details.”
— Cristina García, author of Dreaming in Cuban and Here in Berlin.

“What a joy to have this big-hearted, exuberant biography of Neruda, infused with all the grandeur that the man commanded! What particularly commends the book is its mise-en-scène—the wider worlds of art, nature, politics, and social justice in which Neruda moved. A spirited and satisfying journey.”
—Marie Arana, author of Bolívar: American Liberator and American Chica

                                                          pre-order it now!

We are working on a grass-roots impact campaign in which we can take the biography, along with what we have of the film, into community organizations, cultural organizations, classrooms, any room, any field, again, all trying to communicate poetry's power to not only evoke emotions, but to shift social consciousness, sparking both individual and collective change.

We will keep you up to date on this project, all our projects, as well as a renewed stream of posts on a variety of related matters, thoughts, creativity.

Gracias!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why Red Poppy

The first time I really connected to Pablo Neruda's poetry was the summer before my junior year of college. Reeling after a bad breakup, I was going through the Spanish section of the library when I came across a black book with gold lettering on the front - Residencia en la Tierra. At this point I was familiar with Neruda's poetry but just barely. The poems I knew were the ones that, if there was a billboard chart for poetry, would be considered Top 40 material, the types of poems that are anthologized in the intermediate level Spanish lit readers. Don't get me wrong, these are great poems, iconic poems like “Poema XX.” But they only show the side of Neruda that most people are familiar with - his romantic poems. And while, say, “Poema XX,” with its heart on its sleeve, with its “another’s. She will be another's,” may seem like the perfect break up elegy, I shortly found out that the poems in Residencia express a whole other level of anguish. For example. The heartbroken man in “Poema XX” can sing the saddest verses on this night. Whereas the man who is tired of being a man in “Walking Around” in Residencia finds the atomic film separating his skin from the horrible space around him melts away, leaving him wide open to the onslaught of reality. Poema XX is a lyrical sublimation of heartache. Walking Around is a howl at the moon. And sometimes a howl at the moon is what you need.

When I first looked over Red Poppy’s Neruda documentary footage something clicked when one of the interviewees said that Neruda himself was going through a break up when he wrote the Residencias, (as well as feeling estranged, depressed, lost in solitude). I didn't know this beforehand but it made perfect sense. While the poems are not overtly about a long gone lover, the undercurrent of loss is there, a loss of human contact, and what more is a break up than losing your closest human contact you have? Neruda gives voice to that loss. And that voice, that articulation, is exactly the answer I have started to give to my friends working as engineers and lab techs when they ask me, Why Poetry? or its sister question, that resilient New York Times Op-Ed impetus, Why the Humanities? Poetry can be a great many things and defies definition. It can be puzzle to unlock with another person. It can be an epic story. It can be a historical testament. But to me, most of all, poetry is just a human voice that refuses to fade away.


Red Poppy’s important work focuses on collecting these outspoken voices. At present the nonprofit is engaged with projects including a documentary on Pablo Neruda's poetic activism, and an anthology entitled Poetry in Resistance that challenges readers to consider art as a vehicle for demanding social justice. Every day we can read about the civil war in Syria, about turmoil in the Ukraine, about genocide in the Sudan, about Pussy Riot being shipped to the gulag, about mortgage holders illegally foreclosed upon and every single person oppressed by these forces needs a voice beyond the sterilized sentences of The News. That is where poetry comes into play. Poetry can bridge contexts and cultural divides because emotions are universal. Neruda's poem indicting the United Fruit Company, for example, is just as much an indictment of subprime lenders, because the cannibalistic effects of unregulated capitalism endure, and so does our outrage. Similarly, the poets featured in Poetry in Resistance voice dissent against oppressive and authoritarian forces which still persist to this day. And one day we hope to listen to the Syrians voice their own laments over the conflict. Because that should be the project of poetry. Understanding human conflict, and fighting for social justice. That's Why Poetry. And that's also Why Red Poppy.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

For the Futaleufú: Neruda's "The Rivers Emerge, Los Ríos Acuden"

The Futaleufú river, at the top of Chile's Patagonia, is one of the most captivating in the world. The valley it runs through is stunning and majestic, a special, sacred place, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, dense forests, glaciated lakes and other roaring rivers. However, as is so often the case in pristine areas such as this, the watershed faces many threats, from hydroelectric interests wanting to dam the wild rivers to the potential construction of contaminating mines, as well as unsustainable development and the entrance of invasive species. 

Fortunately, many locals and concerned individuals and groups from Chile and around the world are working to defend it. The Fundación Futaleufú Riverkeeper is a Chilean foundation leading the fight to protect the watershed and its communities. For their inaugural digital newsletter, they asked me to translate parts of Pablo Neruda's poem, "The Rivers Emerge". It is from Canto General, his epic reinterpretation of the history of the Americas. As a construction worker told me once in Chile, as I was interviewing him for our Neruda documentary,  "The importance of Canto General is that it shows us the history of the Americas from a different point of view, from the point of view of the people themselves, not the history told by the conquerors. Yes, we could call it the “history told by the conquered.” (For more on the documentary featuring that worker please see www.pablonerudafilm.com. He, the poem, and much more on Canto General and all that is discussed here in Mark Eisner's new biography, Neruda: The Poet's Calling


The poem "The Rivers Emerge" comes at the beginning of the book, part of Neruda's pre-Colombian Genesis tale, where all is pure and man himself is the earth. Following his mythological vision of the creation of North and South America, this poem tells how the rivers emerged onto the surface of the earth, how intrinsically they and the land are bound together:



The Rivers Emerge

Adored by the rivers, assailed
by blue water and transparent drops,
your spectrum of a dark goddess is
like a tree of veins which bites apples:
so then, at your awakening, naked
you were tattooed by the rivers,
and in the wet heights your forehead
filled the world with fresh dew.
The water trembled at your waist.
You were shaped by springs
and lakes shined on your face.
With your maternal vegetation you gathered
the water like vital tears,
you pulled the river beds to the sand
throughout the planetary night,
traversing rough dilated stones,
through the path smashing
all of geology’s salt,
cutting the compact walls of forests,
dislodging quartz’s muscles.

(translation (c) Mark Eisner)

Los ríos acuden 

Amada de los ríos, combatida
por agua azul y gotas transparentes,
como un árbol de venas es tu espectro
de diosa oscura que muerde manzanas:
al despertar desnuda entonces,
eras tatuada por los ríos,
y en la altura mojada tu cabeza
llenaba el mundo con nuevos rocíos.
Te trepidaba el agua en la cintura
y te brillaban lagos en la frente.
De tu espesura madre recogías
el agua como láfrimas vitales,
y arrastrabas los cuaces a la arena
a través de la noche planetaria,
cruzando ásperas piedras dilitadas,
rompiendo en el camino
todo la sal de la geología,
cortando bosques de compactos muros,
apartando los músculos del cuarzo.      

Sunday, June 13, 2010

POETRY AS INSURGENT ART

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, legendary Beat poet, literary activist, artist, and dear friend of Red Poppy, recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence has written poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered the literary elite's definition of art and the artist's role in the world.

In 1953, with Peter D. Martin, he founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperback bookshop in the country, and by 1955 he had launched the City Lights publishing house.

The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an international, dissident ferment. His publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance. (taken from www.citylights.com)


In 2004, City Lights published The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, which I edited, and includes translations from such great poets as Robert Hass and Forrest Gander. Lawrence wrote the preface.


From the groundbreaking (and bestselling) A Coney Island of the Mind in 1958 to the "personal epic" of Americus, Book I in 2003, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has, in more than thirty books, been the poetic conscience of America. Now in Poetry As Insurgent Art, he offers, in prose, his primer of what poetry is, could be, should be. The result is by turns tender and furious, personal and political. If you are a reader of poetry, find out what is missing from the usual fare you are served; if you are a poet, read at your own risk—you will never again look at your role in the same way.

Lawrence has given us permission to quote from his long title poem from the book, which is lyrical literary activism, using the power of poetry towards social change:

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words.

If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outerspace, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit.

If you would be a poet, experiment with all manner of poetics, erotic broken grammers, ecstatic religions, heathen outpourings speaking in tongues, bombast public speech, automatic scribblings, surrealist sensings, streams of consciousness, found sounds, rants and raves--to create your own underlying voice, your ur voice.

If you call yourself a poet, don't just sit there. Poetry is not a sedentary occupation, not a "take your seat" practice. Stand up and let them have it.

Have wide-angle vision, each look a world glance. Express the vast clarity of the outside world, the sun that sees us all, the moon that stews its shadows on us, quiet garden ponds, willows where the hidden thrush sings, dusk falling along the riverrun, and the great spaces that open out upon the sea . . .high tide and the heron's call. . . . And the people, the people, yes, all around the earth, speaking Babel tongues. Give voice to them all.

You must decide if bird cries are cries of ecstasy or cries of despair, by which you will know if you are a tragic or a lyric poet.

If you would be a poet, discover a new way for mortals to inhabit the earth.

If you would be a poet, invent a new language anyone can understand.

If you would be a poet, speak new truths the world can't deny.

If you would be a great poet, strive to transcribe the consciousness of the race.

Through art, create order out of the chaos of living.

Make it new news.

Write beyond time.

Reinvent the idea of truth.

Reinvent the idea of beauty.

In the first light, wax poetic. In the night, wax tragic.

Listen to the lisp of leaves and the ripple of rain.

(C) Lawrence Ferlinghetti

For the rest of the poem, and the whole book, buy it at Lawrence's City Lights Books. There's also a podcast there of Lawrence reading a series of his thoughts on the book.