Residence on earth, p.1
en la tierra
Introduction by JIM HARRISON
Translated by DONALD D. WALSH
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOK
INTRODUCTION BY JIM HARRISON
RESIDENCIA I / RESIDENCE I (1925-31)
Galope muerto / Dead Gallop
Alianza (Sonata) / Alliance (Sonata)
Caballo de los sueños / Dream Horse
Débil del alba / The Dawn's Debility
Unidad / Unity
Sabor / Taste
Ausencia de Joaquín / Joachim’s Absence
Madrigal escrito en invierno / Madrigal Written in Winter
Fantasma / Phantom
Lamento lento / Slow Lament
Colección nocturna / Nocturnal Collection
Juntos nosotros / We Together
Tiranía / Tyranny
Serenata / Serenade
Diurno doliente / Daily Mourner
Monzón de mayo / May Monsoon
Arte poética / Ars Poetica
Sistema sombrío / Somber System
Angela adónica / Adonic Angela
Sonata y destrucciones / Sonata and Destructions
La noche del soldado / The Night of the Soldier
Communicaciones desmentidas / Contradicted Communications
El deshabitado / The Uninhabited One
El joven monarca / The Young Monarch
Establecimientos nocturnos / Nocturnal Establishments
Entierro en el este / Burial in the East
Cabellero solo / Single Gentleman
Ritual de mis piernas / Ritual of My Legs
El fantasma del buque de carga / The Ghost of the Cargo Boat
Tango del viudo / The Widower’s Tango
Cantares / Songs
Trabajo frío / Cold Work
Significa sombras / It Means Shadows
RESIDENCIA II / RESIDENCE II (1931-35)
Un día sobresale / One Day Stands Out
Sólo la muerte / Only Death
Barcarola / Barcarole
El sur del océano / The Southern Ocean
Walking Around / Walking Around
Desespediente / Disaction
La calle destruida / The Destroyed Street
Melancolía en las familias / Melancholy in the Families
Maternidad / Maternity
Enfermedades en mi casa / Illnesses in My Home
Oda con un lamento / Ode with a Lament
Material nupcial / Nuptial Substance
Agua sexual / Sexual Water
IV TRES CANTOS MATERIALES / THREE MATERIAL SONGS
Entrada a la madera / Entrance to Wood
Apogeo del apio / The Apogee of Celery
Estatuto del vino / Ordinance of Wine
Oda a Federico Garcia Lorca / Ode to Federico Garcia Lorca
Alberto Rojas Jimenez viene volando / Alberto Rojas Jiménez Comes Flying
El desenterrado / The Disinterred One
El reloj caído en el mar / The Clock Fallen into the Sea
Vuelve el otoño / Autumn Returns
No hay olvido (Sonata) / There Is No Oblivion (Sonata)
Josie Bliss / Josie Bliss
TERCERA RESIDENCIA / THIRD RESIDENCE (1935-1945)
La ahogada del cielo / The Drowned Woman of the Sky
Alianza (Sonata) / Alliance (Sonata)
Vals / Waltz
Bruselas / Brussels
El abandonado / The Abandoned One
Naciendo en los bosques / Born in the Woods
II LAS FURIAS Y LAS PENAS / FURIES AND SORROWS
III REUNION BAJO LAS NUEVAS BANDERAS / MEETING UNDER NEW FLAGS
IV ESPAÑA EN EL CORAZÓN / SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS
Invocación / Invocation
Bombardeo Maldición / Bombardment Curse
España pobre por culpa de los ricos / Spain Poor Through the Fault of the Rich
La tradición / Tradition
Madrid (1936) / Madrid (1936)
Explico algunas cosas / I Explain a Few Things
Canto a las madres de los milicianos muertos / Song for the Mothers of Slain Militiamen
Cómo era España / What Spain Was Like
Llegada a Madrid de La Brigada Internacional / Arrival in Madrid of the International Brigade
Batalia del río Jarama / Battle of the Jarama River
Almería / Almería
Tierras ofendidas / Offended Lands
Sanjurjo en los infiernos / Sanjujo in Hell
Mola en los infiernos / Mola in Hell
El general Franco en los infiernos / General Franco in Hell
Canto sobre unas ruinas / Song about Some Ruins
La victoria de las armas del pueblo / The Victory of the Arms of the People
Los gremios en el frente / The Unions at the Front
Triunfo / Triumph
Paisaje después de una batalla / Landscape After a Battle
Antitanquistas / Antitankers
Madrid (1937) / Madrid (1937)
Oda solar al Ejército del Pueblo / Solar Ode to the Army of the People
Canto a Stalingrado / Song to Stalingrad
Nuevo canto de amor a Stalingrado / A New Love Song to Stalingrad
Tina Modotti ha muerto / Tina Modotti Is Dead
7 de noviembre: Oda a un día de victorias / 7th of November: Ode to a Day of Victories
Un canto para Bolivar / A Song for Bolivar
Canto a los ríos de Alemania / Song to the Rivers of Germany
Canto en la muerte y resurrección de Luis Companys / Song on the Death and Resurrection of Luis Companys
Dura elegía / Harsh Elegy
Canto al ejército rojo a su llegada a las puertas de Prusia / Song to the Red Army on Its Arrival at the Gates of Prussia
by JIM HARRISON
Genius always leaves us wishing the meal could continue. Why didn’t that layabout Shakespeare produce twice as much? How grand it could have been if Dostoevsky had written a novel about what happened after he died. We were severely cheated when Caravaggio and Mozart fled earth so early in their lives.
Neruda achieved his full dimensions if any poet did. He led a whole life both publicly and privately. It is boggling to read his Memoirs and try to map his exterior and interior voyages, from the rawest perils to the Stockholm ceremony that reminded him oddly of a school graduation, to his transcendent Buenos Aires “poetry slam” with Federico Garcia Lorca which will raise the hairs on your body as if they are throwing off infinitesimal lightning bolts. That evening both poets stood athwart poetry’s third rail.
I lost my first copy of Neruda’s Residence on Earth in Key West in the mid-seventies. I left it in one of a dozen possible bars on a verminish hot night during May tarpon season with the air dense with flowers, overflowing garbage cans, the low tide deliquescing crustaceans, and where, while swimming before dawn off a pier, the moonlight illumined a fatal shark whose face looked like a battered Volkswagen. I retraced my steps the next day but found nothing. I had underlined too much of the book anyway.
At that time back in the twentieth century I was addicted to Spanish-speaking poets such as Neruda,Vallejo, Hernandez, Lorca, Parra, Paz, whenever I could find translations, but also Yesenin, Rilke, and Yeats. What a sacred mishmash. In northern Michigan I was far from a good library but my brother John was a librarian first at Harvard and then at
• • •
It’s important to offer here what constitutes Neruda’s credo:
SOME THOUGHTS ON IMPURE POETRY
It is worth one’s while, at certain hours of the day or night, to scrutinize useful objects in repose: wheels that have rolled across long, dusty distances with their enormous loads of crops or ore, charcoal sacks, barrels, baskets, the hafts and handles of carpenter’s tools. The contact these objects have had with man and earth may serve as a valuable lesson to a tortured lyric poet. Worn surfaces, the wear inflicted by human hands, the sometimes tragic, always pathetic, emanations from these objects give reality a magnetism that should not be scorned.
Man’s nebulous impurity can be perceived in them: the affinity for groups, the use and obsolescence of materials, the mark of a hand or a foot, the constancy of the human presence that permeates every surface.
This is the poetry we are seeking, corroded, as if by acid, by the labors of man’s hand, pervaded by sweat and smoke, reeking of urine and of lilies soiled by diverse professions in and outside the law.
A poetry as impure as a suit or a body, a poetry stained by food and shame, a poetry with wrinkles, observations, dreams, waking, prophecies, declarations of love and hatred, beasts, blows, idylls, manifestos, denials, doubts, affirmations, taxes.
The sacred law of the madrigal and the decrees of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing, the desire for justice and sexual desire, the sound of the ocean, nothing deliberately excluded, a plunge into unplumbed depths in an excess of ungovernable love. And the poetic product will be stamped with digital doves, with the scars of teeth and ice, a poetry slightly consumed by sweat and war. Until one achieves a surface worn as smooth as a constantly played instrument, the hard softness of rubbed wood, or arrogant iron. Flowers, wheat, and water also have that special consistency, the same tactile majesty.
But we must not overlook melancholy, the sentimentalism of another age, the perfect impure fruit whose marvels have been cast aside by the mania for pedantry: moonlight, the swan at dusk, “my beloved,” are, beyond question, the elemental and essential matter of poetry. He who would flee from bad taste is riding for a fall.
(translated by Margaret Sayers Peden)
How is an ordinary mortal to look at this statement? I am reminded that at the Hard Luck Ranch on the Mexican border where I have a little studio, a number of cows died of thirst several years ago in clear sight of Lake Patagonia across the fence. Neruda ran through every fence he encountered except Stalinism over which he tripped grotesquely. But earlier in his life, in his twenties, when he began Residence on Earth, he was trapped in a variety of minor consular posts in the misery of Rangoon and Burma and other remote outposts. It is lucky for us that he hadn’t been dispatched to a place he would have loved like Paris. He was lonely well beyond desperation but with an energetic anguish that sent him on the inner voyage of Residence on Earth. There was no ballast for him except the next part of this long poem. In every line you trace with great difficulty the bruised consciousness that produced it because, unlike most poetry, it proceeds from the inner to the world outside the poet.
Of course I’m not an astute critic. Perhaps Residence on Earth is one of those very rare poems you must drown in. You don’t understand it in discursive terms, you experience it. To read Residence on Earth is to take a long exhausting swim across the Mindanao trench, which is said to be the deepest part of the world’s oceans. In other words, the territory could not be less reassuring or secure. For me the poem is the most palatable and grand of all work immersed in surrealism, lacking as it does the French hauteur of intellect. It always returns to earth.
Once, in my thirties, I thought I had invented a brilliant definition of metaphor but then I misplaced it and decided recently that nothing is worth searching the contents of seventy cartons of papers. Boris Pasternak inferred that metaphor is the shorthand of the gods, those who with overfull mental plates must move in leaps rather than walk like other mortals. When midway through Residence on Earth you read “Ode to Federico Garcia Lorca,” you are startled to discover that it was written a year before Lorca’s execution because the metaphors so perfectly illumine and presage Lorca’s death. In the past century there is no poet so profligate and exquisite in the realm of metaphor than Neruda. Neruda haunts our bodies on an actual Earth with the same power that Rilke haunts the more solitary aspects of our minds. Rilke holds no one’s hand, while Neruda, like his idol Walt Whitman, attempts to hold everyone’s.
There is a troubling matter when we re-read Neruda’s apologia in “Some Thoughts on Impure Poetry.” In my own lifetime our country had reversed the quotient of seventy percent rural and thirty percent urban. In an interview with Robert Bly in the 1960s, Neruda joked, “Perhaps I am a foolish writer of nature like your Henry David Thoreau.” In recent years I have noticed that two Buddhist magazines I read have largely abandoned their traditional dependence on the language of nature in favor of nounless abstractions. It is less pronounced, but I have also noticed this in the language of poetry in my own lifetime. I recall as a teenager in reading Robert Graves’ White Goddess how young poets under the tutelage of a female Ollave, a witch of poetry, would learn all the names of trees, plants, flowers, birds, and animals. Once in reaction to the anemic MFA programs I’ve come in contact with, and while being banally prescriptive in the manner of northern Midwesterners, I conceived of a program where poets would work for a year in the country, then a year in the city, all the while keeping journals and studying the perhaps three hundred central texts of world poetry, and after that a third year at the university. Our bifurcated and predatory culture crushes and strains the economically non-viable language of earth from our lives. In contrast, Neruda, in his monumental Residence on Earth, superbly and sincerely translated by Donald Walsh, tells us to break down all barriers of language, that there are no poetic subjects per se, and that we aren’t romantic soloists on this sky island of earth.
For more years than I clearly remember I have had photos of Faulkner, Dostoevsky, Whitman’s tomb, Rimbaud, and the stunning Jill Krementz photo of Neruda holding an immense chambered nautilus on the wall of my home studio. They belong together.
January 6, 2004
RESIDENCE I 1925-31
Como cenizas, como mares poblándose,
en la sumergida lentitud, en lo informe,
o como se oyen desde el alto de los caminos
cruzar las campanadas en cruz,
teniendo ese sonido ya aparte del metal,
confuso, pesando, haciéndose polvo
en. el mismo molino de las formas demasiado lejos,
o recordadas o no vistas,
y el perfume de las ciruelas que rodando a tierra
se pudren en el tiempo, infinitamente verdes.
Aquello todo tan rápido, tan viviente,
esas ruedas de los motores, en fin.
Existiendo como las puntadas secas en las costuras del árbol,
callado, por alrededor, de tal modo,
mezclando todos los limbos sus colas.
Es que de dónde, por dónde, en qué orilla?
El rodeo constante, incierto, tan mudo,
como las lilas alrededor del convento
o la llegada de la muerte a la lengua del buey
que cae a tumbos, guardabajo, y cuyos cuernos
Por eso, en lo inmóvil, deteniéndose, percibir,
entonces, como aleteo inmenso, encima,
como abejas muertas o números,
ay, lo que mi corazón pálido no puede abarcar,
en multitudes, en lágrimas saliendo apenas,
y esfuerzos humanos, tormentas,
acciones negras descubiertas de repente
como hielos, desorden vasto,
oceánico, para mí que entro cantando,
como con una espada entre indefensos.
Ahora bien, de qué está hecho ese surgir de palomas
que hay entre la noche y el tiempo, como una barranca húmeda?
Ese sonido ya tan largo
que cae listando de piedras los caminos,
más bien, cuando sólo una hora
crece de improviso, extendiéndose sin tregua.
Adentro del anillo del verano
una vez los grandes zapallos escuchan,
estirando sus plantas conmovedoras,
de eso, de lo que solicitándose mucho,
de lo lleno, oscuros de pesadas gotas.
Like ashes, like seas peopling themselves,
in the submerged slowness, in the shapelessness,
or as one hears from the crest of the roads
the crossed bells crossing,
having that sound now sundered from the metal,
confused, ponderous, turning to dust
in the very milling of the too distant forms,