Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Voz de Neruda

Good evening readers,

Welcome to my literary blog, which will soon expand and become more defined. If you're wondering why it's called "The Naked Pomegranate," have patience: there is method to my madness. 

For the moment let me share with you some writerly sentiments and experiences of today, as a way of capturing a few moments and perhaps making them larger than they are.

I spent this afternoon listening to Pablo Neruda. I didn't get the sense that he was speaking to me, but we were close, he and I. He spoke and I closed my eyes and let his words enter my consciousness through the headphones that were plugged into the record-player, where the LP spun and spun hypnotically. By his cadence I could tell he loved his poems, perhaps as much or more than he ever loved that "tú" he so glorifies in them. The LP is Los versos del capitán in auditory form. A professor of mine* has suggested that "el capitán" might refer to Antonio Machado's poem "Retrato":

¿Soy clásico o romántico? No sé. Dejar quisiera
mi verso, como deja el capitán su espada:
famosa por la mano viril que la blandiera,
no por el docto oficio del forjador preciada. 

Perhaps it is so. "El capitán" who speaks is a hyper-male, and at the same time hyper-sensitive, figure who possesses rather than pursues his beloved. Certainly he has a "mano viril," and certainly he uses it.

Neruda finished reading "El tigre" and made a slight pause. I picked up the padded needle--vertically--careful not to scratch the record, and place it where I thought the poem began. As I eased back into his voice with the theatrical end of the previous poem, I relished the sheer physicality of the action--the physicality that is threatened by our obsessive translation of our lives into 1's and 0's. What will an archaeologist centuries from now glean from a hard drive buried somewhere under the dirt of unforeseen, and inevitable, catastrophe? I ask myself, and you, these questions, because this class on recuperative poetics heightens my awareness of their importance.

I listened to the poem again:

Soy el tigre.
Te acecho entre las hojas
anchas como lingotes
de mineral mojado.

El río blanco crece
bajo la niebla. Llegas.

Desnuda te sumerges.

Entonces en un salto
de fuego, sangre, dientes,
de un zarpazo derribo
tu pecho, tus caderas.

Bebo tu sangre, rompo
tus miembros uno a uno.

Y me quedo velando
por años en la selva
tus huesos, tu ceniza,
inmóvil, lejos
del odio y de la cólera,
desarmado en tu muerte,
cruzado por las lianas,
inmóvil, lejos
del odio y de la cólera,
desarmado en tu muerte,
cruzado por las lianas,
inmóvil en la lluvia,
centinela implacable
de mi amor asesino. 

And I could not stop thinking of Coyolxauhqui and her dismemberment, of the blood and death and love so potent in ancient Mesoamerica. The fierce woman torn apart by the warrior, el capitán. The woman who lives beyond death, the woman who haunts, an incarnation of La Llorona...

Let us dig into the archive, get our hands on the dusty, musty, graying, decaying notebooks and photographs that stand patiently like statues in a museum, waiting to be put on display.

If you are interested in the archive, you can visit Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room "Listening Booth" ( and enjoy the voices of Eliot, Pound, Heaney, and many others. You will unfortunately find nothing in Spanish there, although you will find plenty of poetry in the Anglo-Saxon tradition (it is Harvard, after all.) For the rest, you need to take out your archaeologist's spade and go digging.

*José Javier León, professor at the Universidad de Granada