Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cante Jondo: Deep Song

It's marvelous luck to find welcoming editors. I've been fortunate to find Peter Robertson, editor of The International Literary Quarterly, which has just published my poem, "Opening Night: Ainadamar by Osvaldo Golijov." Golijov's opera is an elegy for Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by Fascists in 1936.


If I die,
leave the balcony open.

The little boy is eating oranges.
(From my balcony I can see him.)

The reaper is harvesting the wheat.
(From my balcony I can hear him.)

If I die,
leave the balcony open!

El Balcón

Si muero
Dejad el balcón abierto

El niño come naranjas
(Desde mi balcón lo veo)

El segador siega el trigo
(Desde mi balcón lo siento)

Si muero
Dejad el balcón abierto

You are invited to read the current issue of The International Poetry Quarterly.


  1. Hey Miriam, Thank you for your wonderful poem! I read it twice, first time I did not know who Osvaldo Golijov was and I had not yet read this Lorca poem. On my second reading, I had looked up Golijov and read Farewell (just gorgeous), so your poem really sprang to life for me, though I had enjoyed it the first time too. I also love your photo, you just look like a poet, which I mean in the most flattering way! You also have a beautiful face. Yes, thank god for welcoming editors.

  2. Nice to see you back on line!

    I did not care much Golijov's opera. I found it all over the place, saved by some brilliant flamenco guitar solos and a few emotional bits of orchestral music. I have heard wonderful songs by Golijov, but this opera got away from him (and me) and almost seemed a parody of Garcia Lorca"s theatre pieces. Shame: thinking such bad thoughts in the context of the life of the sainted poet. But the emotional extremes of flamenco culture are broad and so deep that it is hard to wrangle them into the usual forms. One did it and we know who he is!

    In your excellent poem you mention the balcony at the theatre and I was put in mind of several important uses of balconies and rooftops in Garcia Lorca. I think especially of Romance Sonambulo (Sleepwalker's Ballad), a major work. And there are others. To me they are more than vantage points but places of separation from life, of murder, suicide, pursuit and death. The other side, that mystical final space is just a step away. Some have suggested these themes are rooted in the poet's supposed conflicts about his homosexuality. But I think this is simplistic Anyway, glimpses at this life and terrible death foretold with such poignancy in his own work are always moving.

  3. Ah, shucks, dear NMJ, you're so generous to praise my poem and my appearance. I hesitated to post the poem along with Garcia Lorca's poem, but it helped to put him first. With memories of your home city--that beautiful city!

    Happy to hear from you, Bluedog, and hear your ideas! I agree you with about the quality of the opera, but the good bits transported me as I sat in the high seat. Right now I'm looking out through the open door to a balcony that's washed in light, the ocean beyond. Yours for vantage points.

    1. More thoughts on your post.

      The translator above took the liberty of turning "Balcon" (balcony) of the title into "Farewell". This makes no sense and robs the poet of his poetry, especially if one entertains my notion of the symbolic uses of balconies, etc. I wonder if he has read "A Balcony to Arms" by E. Hemingway?

      The translator seems to be trying to give meaning. Not his job. The language is so straight forward that it would seem impossible to screw it up -- but he did.

      I learned this literary grumpsmanship from Nabokov. It is great fun.

  4. Wonderful, Bluedog. I also cannot understand his changing the title to "Farewell." Makes no sense. Garcia Lorca's poem is not a farewell. "If I die," he writes--a big "if"--and positions himself on the balcony, that perch, which defies commitment, a place from which to see and hear and escape the action. I haven't read the Hemingway you mention.

    Thanks for coming back!

  5. I totally agree with Bluedog. The translator was trying to be clever.

    Now, saying that (am Iabout to indulge in a euphemism here? :-D), I also sympathise with him. Lorca is hard work. His lyricism will always get the better of the best translators.

    About your poem, what I can say? Evocative and vivid. Plus, Lorca would have loved the "half-naked angels" detail.

    And before I forget, yes, janitor, in another era. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  6. Hello, Cuban: Happy to reconnect! Yes, Lorca is difficult to translate, especially the surreal New York poems, but this little balcony poem, a simpler matter. All the best to you in London, and thanks for your kind words about my poem.

    O Bluedog, I completely missed the joke about "Farewell to Arms," until I reread your post.

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