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the cave at the tip of the lily: 

transliteration, international friendship, and Leonard Cohen’s translation of Lorca poetry.

como estas?

                    actually sentirse muy solitario

                    solitaria

Nooooo :’(

Esta bien tu corazon?

                    just una ola

                    or an oleada? a wave

Si, una ola

Entiendo perfectamente

Hay olas buenas y malas

                    totally

Como estuvo tu dia? 

                    buena, gracias. tranajo un poco. y es bueno sentirse vivo, incluso si es bueno y mal. how was yours?

Si, por supuesto, emociones de la vida. Mi dia estuvo bueno. Pero con mucho sueno. Fue dificil concentrarme. Pero relajado. Mi papa y mi hermano me han tenido ocupado. Ayer caminamos mucho, along the río.

                    How do you say cool? I’m guessing it’s not fresco… but cool- ? Estan tu padre y tu hermano todavio en la ciudad?

I know what you mean. In Chile we have a word for cool, but it only works for us. Peruvians and Mexicans have a different one.

Si si mi padre y mi hermano aun estan aqui.

Vuelven a chile el miercoles.. 

Una semana mas. 

                    Word. Tu forma de pensar es poetica. 

                    Leonard Cohen made this song from a translation of a Fredrico Garcia Lorca poem. I really like the way certain phrases are.

thank you for sending.

What phrase do you like?

                    there’s a piece that was torn from the morning, and it hangs in the gallery of frost.

                    the cave at the tip of the lily

                    the hyacinth wild on your shoulder. & a garland of freshly cut tears. 

out talking

Every word dripping with a sealed potentiality, its meaning leaking out in gestures but coyly, ultimately, inaccessible; Delphic chains of musical language that link and morph through the air over the nut bowl.

 

[friendship] There’s just this nowness, everything becoming something. So yeah, he’s teaching me useful phrases like “Why are these lights wrapped in paper”, and “my dress is not made of the skin of a zebra”.

 

A lot of subjectivity is concentrated in the I pronoun, but not all of it. I did this, I did that, I I I I I I I I I. (It’s almost maddening to not be able to just not be you, for a little bit). I love him (not any specific him, but the abstract him, the hims that I is am are was were love, loved, loving. I and you; she and him, the plurality of he, men; them and they and he and he and her and hers. Does he teach me or do we teach each other? He is so special, to me. I am uniquely un-unusual to I, in fact I am my ultrafamiliar roommate that I have known since infanthood, but I would not say unspecial, in fact I enjoy I / me / my company quite a bit and would not choose to be someone else forever.

 

seria encantador creer eso, pero / por que es la luz envuelta en papel / amo la ciudad por que es muchas trabajos y es muy hermosa.

 

He adjusts my collar, his eyes sparkling off as he tugs on the collar-points, one in each hand. He’s exercising restraint. Thinking about the realm of possibility like you would if you were thinking about buying a little kitten, but you’re not sure, so you put a bow on its head and say, hmm. hmm, as you adjust the bow, concealing your smile.

 

summer nights

MC Solaar- AIWA

Paloma Mami- Not Steady

Bee Gees- How deep is your love

Coldplay- Yellow

Broken Social Scene- World Sick

Frank Ocean- Moon River

Ja Rule & Ashanti- Always on Time

Erykah Badu feat. Stephen Marley-  In love with you

Berlin- Take my breath away 

Carla Bruni- La possibilite d’un Ile

James Blunt- you’re beautiful

Sting- Desert Rose

Korey Dane- Canyon Dogs

Leonard Cohen- A Thousand Kisses Deep

Gypsy Kings- Trista Pena

Rihanna- Stay

Rihanna- Diamonds

 

Why is the light wrapped in paper. (branches into conversation about la ciudad). La luz now more light-like and radiant than light has ever been, apprehende newly as la luz. Papel yet more marvelous, soft, something that light should live in softly, as it chooses. La ciudad is of light, wrapped. Wrapped delicately in steel, shaped and thrown through sky-grazing crystals of glass and girder, thrown out again across the water, the black of the night, softly flowing, as it chooses. We are graced by light and by language that fills these hollow structures, of syntax, of the mind, of the ballad form…

 

As Kafka writes about New York in his final novel Amerika, “and all this was held and penetrated by a mighty light, that was forever being scattered, carried off and eagerly returned by the multitudes of object, and that seemed so palpable to the confused eye that it was like a sheet of glass spread out over the street that was being continually and violently smashed.” 

 

prioritization of formalism in poetry

Shakespeare adhered rigidly to poetic form. In a class I took at Columbia, it seemed like the academic poets are enthusiastic, if not outright passionate, about poetic structure. (I would not prefer to be the one casting around criticism, but the Poetry Foundation does note the term “retrogressive” as a common criticism of the “New Formalist” movement that responded, like mauve florals and women in suits as “power dressing”, to the freedom of the 60’s and 70’s).  

Leonard Cohen made a lot of rhymes, and had a knack for writing a march-like evenness, kind of a steady AB plod reminiscent of a more gothic, secular Battle Hymn of the Republic into the feet of his verse. I think in many cases it’s kind of kitschy and self-effacing, but in Leonard Cohen’s case, the constraints of the verse actually generate some brilliant lines, like the constraints do for Bob Dylan with songs like Visions of Johanna

 

from L.C.’s Bird on a Wire:

 

…Like a worm on a hook

/ Like a knight from some old-fashioned book

/ I have saved all my ribbons for thee

 

… For like a baby, stillborn

/ Like a beast with his horn

/ I have torn everyone who reached out for me…

 

At the Cohen show at the Jewish Museum

Leonard Cohen, speaking from a video whose colors had the soft tints of age: "I could say that when I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when -- when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice; that is, to locate a self, a self that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.”

 

Lorca’s imagistic flair is already vibrant and otherwordly, and to experience the language from the distance of English could only imbue the words with additional wonder; reapprehending the lily, the silver knife, or the torn frost as sonic phenomena, like an Impressionist painter realizing that the image of the flower is not a flower, but crushed rare stones suspended in linseed; colored dust. This sound that makes the knife flash, that makes the torn frost drip, if only in the ontological space of the mind. For example, to read la cueve en la punta del lirio, and to feel newly the round depths of the cave in the vowels of -ueve, and the lyrical curve spiraling into the unknown depths of the lirio, as its edges slowly enclose the r consonant as petals around a pistil.

 

Systems of Language

 

At Columbia University, there was a lot of discourse in 2017-2019 around what was described by some as systemic oppression that’s built into the governmental decision to embrace English as the national language by which testing standards, aptitude, and general ‘educatedness’ are measured. I do not think that at present time it would be a good choice to dismantle the system of having the national language, although the history of how English became the national language is wildly problematic- largely because there is not an effective alternative being proposed, and it would be wildly disruptive and costly compared to other social and governmental endeavors to work toward equality and / or ameliorate human suffering and improve lives. If language is like currency, one’s currency changes value in different geographic locations, and not having shared currency can inhibit the transmission, in language’s case, of ideas, cultural exchange, scientific discourse, and various forms of human interaction and exchange, including friendship and love, not to mention business and politics. Ideally, a national language or international language facilitates effectual exchange, from the most quotidian interactions, to the most abstract and complex dialogues- even things like international diplomacy and the exchange of cultural and literary histories.

 

There have been some moves toward choosing a new, ‘neutral’ international language. The goal of introducing Esperanto as a global language seems to have been almost wholly abandoned as a utopic ‘hippie thing’, and either forgotten by our cultural memory or regarded as silly. Digital computing, and the Google Translate API, reawaken this ideal and make online transliteration instantly accessible, if you’re okay with a translation that has the finesse of say, a ceramic vessel molded with a sledgehammer. Mathematics are a universal language because the measurements are defined by universal, objective facts and metrics (the metre was once standardized by two lines on a bar made of platinum-iridium alloy, kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, before being re-standardized to a measurement based on the wavelength of light emitted by Krypton 86). 

 

Language in religious history

 

Stories from the Christian religious cultural memory about language include the story of Babylon, a city where people tried to build a tower to the heavens, which God deemed as hubristic, and then punished them by making them all speak different languages. In forcing them away from their universal language, he made it impossible for the tower to be built.

 

The cave at the tip of the lily

 

Words shape the lives of people, and what we say and express is a fundamental part of who we are, intellectually, ontologically, spiritually, eternally. That which passes through the mouth defines us. A person or a society can only be what they can express. But what if something is expressed and not understood? If someone cried out for food, but you couldn’t understand the words by which they were asking for help, would you give them aid? If someone was speaking brilliant new truths but no-one could understand them, was it expressed? Or does truth have to be comprehended and disseminated throughout society to be expressed? I think that these are all issues that should be considered, when we take for granted that our voices are heard and understood in an increasingly globalized world, and as we collectively work toward a world of greater love and understanding

To be continued