Zócalo Poets…Volveremos en octubre de 2013 / ZP will return October 2013

Zócalo Poets – ¡qué reunamos aquí en la gran plaza de poemas!

ZP – meet us in the Square!

¡Mándanos tus poemas en cualquier idioma!

Send us your poems in any language!

zocalopoets@hotmail.com

Hielo – Limón_Hasta luego, Verano...

Hielo – Limón_Hasta luego, Verano…


“Problematic”: Jay Bernard on poems, performance, problem-solving

“Problematic”:   Zócalo Poets Guest Editor Jay Bernard on poems, performance, problem-solving:

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Poetry is a form of problem solving. There are poems and performances I return to often because they speak to – but do not necessarily solve – problems I enjoy. These problems are usually on the merry-go-round that is the relationship between society and art, and some of the pieces I mention below exemplify the kinds of problems I think about. How to speak. How to sound authentic. How to speak so you are understood. The art of incantation.

.

So let’s start with a light take on a heavy subject. Every few months I watch Tamarin Norwood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjMvde0GJBk) read at an event called Minimum Security Prison Poetry, then spend a few hours admiring her website. It’s a great fusion of academia and playfulness. But listen to her voice. The facetious use of arch-formalism, the repetition, the nature of the repetition, the element of the absurd. It’s the conventional voice for this style of poetry. If she was a spoken word poet, she’d gravitate towards the American slam formula in which you start with slow declarative sentences, then speed up. But sometimes the convention works. Norwood’s piece is an example, as is another favourite: Kai Davis’s Fuck I Look Like (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGdYAK2sLjA) There’s a bit of a contradiction when she says “You say gargantuan, I say big as shit”, then goes on to criticise another student for not using big words, but her performance is a seamless combination between the voice she’d actually use in an argument and that uniquely American oratory style. She affirms my suspicions that some social problems don’t need answers, they need to be cussed out.

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But what about the voice in other cultures? In 2012 I visited Angelica Mesiti’s Citizens Band, showing at ACCA in Melbourne. It featured four musicians with unique talents, but the one that impressed was the Mongolian throat singer. Later research yielded dozens of varieties, including the Tuvan version here at Ubuweb’s ethnopoetics page (http://www.ubu.com/ethno/soundings/tuva.html). When I taught myself to do it (you can too) the idea of the technique as a “conduit” of poetry really moved me. How else is it possible to speak? What else can our voices do? And what kind of wordless poem is created?

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Speaking of wordlessness: Ng Yi Sheng’s performance of Singapore’s national pledge is a performance I don’t have a video for, but I wanted to include it because it’s a remarkable piece of mockery and exaggeration. Imagine: a slight, smiling man dressed as an air hostess gets up and places a pencil in his mouth. He then spends the next five minutes waving his hands around like a dictator, as he shouts lines from the national pledge to a marching rhythm. JUSTICE! JUSTICE! SOCIETY! The pencil makes him dribble. His movements exhaust him. This poem, when performed in front of Singaporean ministers, got him blacklisted. But as someone who has always been contemptuous of nationalism, I recall this performance as a great union of politics and performance. Conclusion: the more humourless the target of the joke, the better the joke.

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Sometimes the joke is hard to get. Tongues Untied (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWuPLxMBjM8), a 1989 film by Marlon Riggs, is the nuanced pursuit of a unified sexual/racial aesthetic. His voice, his desire to be seen as he is – dark-skinned, black, American – is complicated by his sexuality; it leads him into the white world, makes him vulnerable – neither this nor that. Yet like Norwood, there’s a lightness to his touch, and I admire the unity of his vision. Why does two identities imply a split? Why isn’t the person doubled or squared? It’s a problem that Riggs sets to song, and I return to this long, cinematic poem every year.

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What Riggs also touches on is the yearning to say as an adult what you needed to hear as a young person; and sometimes that thing can be said not in words, but in the simple combination of *that* person, *that* voice, *that* context. Which is why Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (http://vimeo.com/11997033) in conversation with Ellery Russian about queer crip sexuality is one of my favourite videos. The humanity in what they are saying is simple and elegant, and the same could be said generally of Samarasinha’s poetry. She writes a lot about her father’s past and how it was a mystery she had to become queer to solve. Sometimes I want the voice that wrote the poems to talk simply, humanely and intelligently about the world at large, and that is what she does here.

.     .     .     .     .

ZP Editor’s Note:   To read poems by Jay Bernard, click on April 2012 and hers are right at the top.


Classic Kaiso: “Bass Man” by The Mighty Shadow

ZP_The Mighty Shadow_photograph by Abigail HadeedZP_The Mighty Shadow_photograph by Abigail Hadeed

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August 31st is Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago, and, since “we” [here at Zócalo Poets] have a sentimental attachment to Kaiso, let “us” therefore share the lyrics to an old favourite – “Bassman” by The Mighty Shadow (Winston Anthony Bailey, born 1941, Belmont, Port of Spain) – which, back in 1974, was a strikingly original Calypso tune with a new sound and instrumental arrangement:  bandy-leggéd rhythms + a bunny-hoppity bass-line.

Influenced by the style of The Mighty Spoiler (Theophilus Phillip, 1926-1960), who was a great exponent of humorous and imaginative Calypsos, Shadow has had a propensity for the eccentric and the eery.  Often, he has worn dark clothing with a broad-brimmed hat and regal cape;  and he has the most curious movements – including a minimalist approach – when it comes to his deportment while performing.  Winning first and second places in the contest for Road March 1974 – with his songs “Bassman” and “Ah Come Out To Play” – released as a 7-inch 45rpm single vinyl record the same year – Shadow was the ‘new’ calypsonian to break the stranglehold on Road March Title held for eleven years by “biggies” Kitchener and Sparrow.   While Shadow came very close to winning Calypso Monarch for 1974 certainly he was the crowd favourite – the judges didn’t agree.   He would be denied the crown several seasons over before deciding to just ignore that competition – well, for 17 years, at any rate.   In 1993 he re-entered for Calypso Monarch and, though he was not to win, he would comment afterwards:  I never get no crown, but they can’t touch my music. The Shadow music sweet too bad.”   However, in 2000, he did finally win the Monarch title – something he’d been deserving of for many years.

As regards his musical contribution to the Calypso genre, Shadow told the Trinidad newspaper, TnT Mirror, in 1989, that his claim to fame was in “moving the bottom of the music, and introducing changes in the bass lines…My music is characterized by a lot of energy, because of my emphasis on the foot drums and bass…”   Among The Mighty Shadow‘s famous songs are:   Obeah (1982), Ah Come Out Tuh Party (1983), If I Wine I Wine (1985), The Garden Want Water (1988), and Mr. Brown (1996).

ZP_A 12 year old boy and member of the Tamana Pioneers steel orchestra practises his bass drums_ Arima, Trinidad_ January 2013ZP_A 12 year old boy and member of the Tamana Pioneers steel orchestra practises his bass drums_ Arima, Trinidad_ January 2013

.     .     .

Winston Anthony Bailey a.k.a. The Mighty Shadow

“Bass Man”

(Music and lyrics by Bailey / Arranger: Art de Coteau)

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I was planning to forget Calypso
And go and plant peas in Tobago
But I am afraid ah cyah make de grade.
Cuz every night I lie down in mih bed
Ah hearing a Bassman in mih head

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Ah don’t know how dis t’ing get inside me
But e-ve-ry morning, he drivin’ me crazy
Like he takin’ me head for a pan-yard
Morning and evening, like dis fella gone mad.
Pim pom – an’ if ah don’t want to sing
Pim pom – well, he start to do he t’ing
I don’t want to – but ah have to sing
Pim pom – an’ if ah don’t want to dance
Pim pom – he does have me in a trance
I don’t want to – but ah have to prance to his:

pom pom pidi pom, pom, pom pom pidi pom, pom

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One night I said to de Bassman
Give me your identification
He said “Is me – Farrell –
Your Bassman from hell.
Yuh tell me you singing Calypso
An’ ah come up to pull some notes for you.”

.

Ah don’t know how dis t’ing get inside me
But e-ve-ry morning, he drivin’ me crazy
Like he takin’ me head for a pan-yard
Morning and evening, like dis fella gone mad.
Pim pom – an’ if ah don’t want to sing
Pim pom – well, he start to pull he string
I don’t want to – but ah have to sing
Pim pom – an’ if ah don’t want to dance
Pim pom – he does have me in a trance
I don’t want to – but ah have to prance to his:

pom pom pidi pom, pom, pom pom pidi pom, pom

.

I went and ah tell Dr Lee Yeung
That I want a brain operation
A man in meh head
I want him to dead
He said it’s my imagination
But I know ah hearin’ de Bassman…

Ah don’t know how dis t’ing get inside me
But e-ve-ry morning, he drivin’ me crazy
Like he takin’ me head for a pan-yard

Morning and evening, like dis fella gone mad.

Pim pom – etcetera…..

.     .     .     .     .


Véronique Tadjo: “Cocodrilo” / “Crocodile”

Crocodiles at rest

 

Véronique Tadjo (nacido en 1955, Paris/Abidjan, Costa de Marfil)

 

Cocodrilo”

 

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No es la vida fácil ser un cocodrilo

especialmente si no quiere ser un cocodrilo

El coco que usted puede ver – en la página opuesta* –

no es feliz en su

piel de coco

Era su preferencia

ser diferente

Habría preferido

llamar la atención de

Los niños

y jugar con ellos

Platicar con sus padres

Dar paseos

por la aldea

Excepto, excepto, excepto…

.

Cada vez que sale del agua

Los pescadores

tiran lanzas

Los niños

huyen

Las muchachas

abandonan sus jarros

.

Su vida es

una vida

de soledad y de la pena

Vida sin cuate y sin cariño,

sin ningún lugar a visitar

.

En todas partes – Desconocidos

.

Ese cocodrilo

Vegetariano

Un cocodrilo

y bueno para nada

Un cocodrilo

que se siente un

Horror sagrado de la sangre

.

Por favor:

Escríbale,

Escríbale a:

Cocodrilo Amable,

Caleta número 3,

Cuenca del Rio Níger.

 

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*La versión original en francés presenta un dibujo hecho por Señora Tadjo.

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Traducción en español: Alexander Best

 

.     .     .

 

Véronique Tadjo (née en 1955, Paris/Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)

Crocodile”

.

Ce n’est pas facile d’être un crocodile

Surtout si on na’a pas envie

D’être un crocodile

Celui que vous voyez

Sur la page opposée

N’est pas bien

Dans sa peau

De croco

il aurait aimé

Etre different

Il aurait aimé

Attirer

Les enfants

Jouer

Avec eux

Converser

avec les parents

Se balader

Dans

Le village

Mais, mais, mais

.

Quand il sort

De l’eau

Les pêcheurs

Lancent des sagaies

Les gamins

Détalent

Les jeunes filles

Abandonnent leurs canaris

.

Sa vie

Est une vie

De solitude

Et de tristesse

.

Sans ami

Sans caresse

Nulle part

Où aller

.

Partout –

Etranger

.

Un crocodile

Crocodile

Végétarien

Et bon à rien

Qui a

Une sainte horreur

Du sang

.

S’il vous plaît

Ecrivez,

Ecrivez à:

Gentil Crocodile,

Baie Numéro 3,

Fleuve Niger.

 

.     .     .

 

Véronique Tadjo (born 1955, Paris/Abidjan, Ivory Coast)

Crocodile”

.

It’s not easy to be a crocodile

Especially if you don’t want

To be a crocodile

The one you see

On the opposite page*

Is not happy

in his croc’s

Skin

He would have liked

To be different

He would have liked

To attract

Children

Play

with them

Talk

With their parents

Walk around

in the village

But, but, but

.

When he comes out

Of the water

Fisherman

Throw spears

Children

Take off

Young girls

Abandon their water jugs

.

His life

Is a life

Of solitude

And sadness

.

Without a friend

Without affection

Nowhere

To go

.

Everywhere

Strangers

.

A Crocodile

Vegetarian

Crocodile

And good for nothing

Who has

A holy horror

Of blood

.

Please

Write,

Write to:

Nice Crocodile,

Bay Number 3,

Niger River.

 

 

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*The original French-language version of this poem featured a drawing by Tadjo herself of a crocodile.

.     .     .     .     .

 


Irene Rutherford McLeod: “Perro solitário” / “Lone Dog”

ZP_Perro solitário_Las Playitas_Cuatro Ciénegas_Coahuila_México_fotógrafo Hector GarzaZP_Perro solitário_Las Playitas_Cuatro Ciénegas_Coahuila_México_fotógrafo Hector Garza

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Irene Rutherford McLeod (1891-1968)

Perro solitário”

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Soy un perro magro, un perro agudo – salvaje y solitário;

Un perro alborotador y firme, estoy cazando yo solo;

Un perro malo – y me cabreo – provocando a los tontos borregos;

Me gusta sentirme y aullar a la luna – para evitar que los almas gordas duerman.

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Nunca ser un cachorro del regazo o lamer los pies sucios,

Un perrito dócil, elegante, arrastrándome por mi carne,

Ni la alfombrilla del hogar ni el plato bien llenado,

Sino puertas cerradas, piedras afiladas – y golpes, patadasel odio.

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Ningunos otros perros – para mí – corriendo hombro a hombro,

Algunos han corrido un rato corto – pero ningunos pueden durar.

El camino solo es mío – ¡Ah! – la senda ardua me parece bien:

¡Viento furioso, estrellas indómitas, el hambre de la búsqueda!

 

.     .     .

 

Irene Rutherford McLeod (1891-1968)

Lone Dog”

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I’m a lean dog, a keen dog, a wild dog, and lone;
I’m a rough dog, a tough dog, hunting on my own;
I’m a bad dog, a mad dog, teasing silly sheep;
I love to sit and bay the moon, to keep fat souls from sleep.
.
I’ll never be a lap dog, licking dirty feet,
A sleek dog, a meek dog, cringing for my meat,
Not for me the fireside, the well-filled plate,
But shut door, and sharp stone, and cuff and kick and hate.
.
Not for me the other dogs, running by my side,
Some have run a short while, but none of them would bide.
O mine is still the lone trail, the hard trail, the best –
Wide wind, and wild stars, and hunger of the quest!

 

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Traducción del inglés al español  /  Translation from English into Spanish:  Alexander Best
.     .     .     .     .


“Quien nace chicharra, muere cantando.”: ¡Las cigarras torontonienses hacen un gran zumbido! / “He who is born a cicada will die singing.”: Torontonian cicadas are right now making a big noise!

ZP_Cicada from Borneo_copyright photographer Alex HydeZP_Cicada from Borneo_© photographer Alex Hyde

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Después de un mutismo de seis semanas – tiempo fresco en vez del calor típico del verano – empieza de nuevo “la música de cámara de los timbales” – con la recurrencia de temperaturas de 30 grados centígrados.  Las cigarras-machos del barrio “cantan” para llamar la atención de sus hembras – y después del apareamiento las cigarras morirán.  Pero – como sucede con nuestro aposte de María Elena Walsh (“Como la Cigarra”) – La Cigarra nos inspira metafóricamente – un testigo es el poema siguiente del Padre Ernesto Cardenal…

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Ernesto Cardenal (poeta, sacerdote y político, nace en 1925, Granada, Nicaragua)

En Pascua resucitan las cigarras”

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En Pascua resucitan las cigarras
—enterradas 17 años en estado de larva—
millones y millones de cigarras
que cantan y cantan todo el día
y en la noche todavía están cantando.
Sólo los machos cantan:
las hembras son mudas.
Pero no cantan para las hembras:
porque también son sordas.
Todo el bosque resuena con el canto
y sólo ellas en todo el bosque no los oyen.
¿Para quien cantan los machos?
¿Y porque cantan tanto? ¿Y que cantan?
Cantan como trapenses en el coro
delante de sus Salterios y sus Antifonarios
cantando el Invitatorio de la Resurrección.
Al fin del mes el canto se hace triste,
y uno a uno van callando los cantores,
y después sólo se oyen unos cuantos,
y después ni uno. Cantaron la resurrección.

.     .     .

After a silence of six weeks – cool weather instead of our typical Torontonian hot summer days – the “tymbal” chamber-music of the male cicadas is back in full force, now that temperatures are hitting 30 degrees celsius once again.  The cicada’s “song” attracts a female to mate, and afterwards the cicadas die.   And yet, as with our previous post – María Elena Walsh’s “Like a Cicada” – The Cicada inspires us metaphorically;  witness the following poem by Father Ernesto Cardenal…

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Ernesto Cardenal (poet, priest, politician, born 1925, Granada, Nicaragua)

At Easter-time the cicadas are resurrected”

.

At Easter-time* the cicadas are resurrected

underground 17 years in a larval state –

millions and millions of cicadas

which sing sing sing all day long

and which, at nightfall, are still singing…

Only the males do so – the females are quiet;

because they are also deaf.

The woods resound with cicada-song

and just the female cicadas – among all of us in the woods – don’t hear it.

For whom do these male cicadas sing then?

And why do they sing so much – and what is it that they are singing?

They sing like Trappist monks in a chorus,

before them their open Book of Psalms and “Antifonarios”,

incanting the Invitatory Psalm of the Resurrection.

After a month or more the cicada-song becomes sad,

and, one by one, the “singers” fall silent,

and then we hear just a few,

and, after that, nary a one.

They have sung the Resurrection.

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* Perhaps April in a hotter southern climate, but not till July in Canada

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Traducción en inglés / Translation from Spanish into English: Alexander Best

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María Elena Walsh: “Como la cigarra” / “Like the Cicada”

Cicada

Editor’s note:

Six weeks ago, here in Toronto, we heard the voices of the first cicadas of the summer of 2013…

Their distinctive sound seemed to have gone silent after a week of dreamy buzzing in the heat – because the weather turned cool and rainy, who knows? – but we’ve just now had several days of hot weather again, and the buzzing is back – beautiful “chamber-ensembles” of male cicadas in treetops, calling to potential mates. These are probably Magicicadas, so-called “periodical cicadas” at the end of their 17-year cycle (most of it spent underground feeding on the sap of tree roots, and only the final six to eight weeks lived above ground to mate and then die). Here in Ontario we are at the upper limit of the East Coast Brood or Brood II (whose range is North Carolina to Upstate New York). It is possible, too, that we are hearing adventurers-further-north from the Onondaga Brood.

The cicadas’ distinctive mate-calling sound puts us in mind of a song by María Elena Walsh.

Walsh described the song as originally “about life, an artist’s life. Sometimes you’re very well known, people adore you, and then the next day nobody knows you, no one loves you. That was the idea.”

“Como la Cigarra” was composed in 1972 but ten years later had re-appeared as a poem-song metaphor for survival – specifically, the survival of the Argentinian people as a nation emerging after years of fear living under dictatorships.

(A Special Thanks to The Wyckoff Journal for the quotation from Señora Walsh.)

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María Elena Walsh 

(Argentinian writer/singer-composer, 1930-2011)

Like the Cicada” (1972)
.

I was killed so many times.
I died so many times
however, here I am
reviving myself.
I thank misfortune
and I thank the hand with the dagger
because it killed me so badly
that I went on singing.
.
Singing in the sun
like the Cicada
after a year
under the earth
just like a survivor,
that’s returning from war.
.
So many times was I wiped away
so many times did I disappear,
I went to my own funeral
alone and crying
I tied a knot in my handkerchief
but then I forgot afterwards
that it hadn’t been the only time
and I went on singing.
.
Singing in the sun,
like the Cicada
after a year
under the earth
just like a survivor
that returns from war.
.
So many times will you be killed
so many will you revive
so many years will you spend
despairing.
And at that moment of shipwreck
and of darkness
someone will rescue you
to go on singing.

.
Singing in the sun
like the Cicada,
after a year
below the earth
just like a survivor
returning from war.

María Elena Walsh

(Escritora/cantautora argentina, 1930-2011)

Como la cigarra” (1972)
.

Tantas veces me mataron,
tantas veces me morí,
sin embargo estoy aquí
resucitando.
Gracias doy a la desgracia
y a la mano con puñal,
porque me mató tan mal,
y seguí cantando.
.
Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.
.
Tantas veces me borraron,
tantas desaparecí,
a mi propio entierro fui,
solo y llorando.
Hice un nudo del pañuelo,
pero me olvidé después
que no era la única vez
y seguí cantando.
.
Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.
.
Tantas veces te mataron,
tantas resucitarás
tantas noches pasarás
desesperando.
Y a la hora del naufragio
y a la de la oscuridad
alguien te rescatará,
para ir cantando.
.
Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.