I recently learned today, March 21st, was world poetry day.
To celebrate it, instead of imposing one of my poetic meanderings upon you, I'll share a few of my favorite poems/lyrical pieces.
- Corazón Coraza, by Mario Benedetti. This particular poem came to my attention many years ago as a clip from an Argentine movie called El lado oscuro del corazón. Since then, I've been in its thrall and have shared it with friends and romantic interests in any opportunity possible. The yearning and poignancy of it always hit home. There's a clip of a cameo on that movie , with the poet himself, Mario Benedetti, reciting it in German (as far as I know, the translation is his: he learned German as a child).
- I sing the body electric by Walt Whitman (in particular the fourth strophe, the one that begins with "I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough, ". I discovered Leaves of Grass in my "snob french cinema" phase, and I found in Whitman's profoundly musical free verse a connectedness to life that kept me afloat more times than I remember. This particular passage is something that always comes to me when I'm having quality time with friends and family.
- El cómplice and Aquel by Jorge Luis Borges. El cómplice summarizes, for me, what the endeavor of writing poetry really is. And "Aquel" is the últimate Borgesian poem: self-aware, deceivingly simple, to the point, poignant in its cognizance of fatality, decay and futility.
- Hydrogen Jukebox, by Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Glass. The poetry in this modern opera made me realize how riveting and powerful a spoken poem can be; after listening to this I revisited Leaves of Grass and discovered that most of its charm comes from the spoken, not just read, word.
- Das Lied von der Erde, by Gustav Mahler. Like the above, this is between poetry and music, but the chinese poetry translated into German and put to music by Mahler in this piece has haunted me for a decade now: every once in a while, I'll remember passages of it and the imagery—very Taoist imagery, full of nature, hermits, impermanence and epicureanism—and listen to the whole thing again. The passage that most impacted me was "The heavens are ever blue and the Earth/shall stand sure, and blossom in the spring./But you O man, what long life have you?". I've remembered those verses every time I lost something or someone, or have been hiking in the mountains and remembered my place in that perennial scenery.
- Poet in New York, by Federico García Lorca. This collection of poems was in the complete anthology I got as a prize once in a short story competition. At the time, I had never been outside of Honduras so the poems meant nothing to me. Last year, when I moved to New York, I got ahold of a bilingual copy and read it during my morning commute. One can sympathize with how, back in the 1920s, Lorca felt about this city: at times alone and rejected, at times in awe, at times critical of its concrete artificiality. And by having this bond with Lorca, I was able to let his incredibly complex imagery seep into my mind, Lorca changes you, man.
- The Flowers of Evil, by Charles Baudelaire: the gothic/decadent imagery in this volume, and the beautiful verse, were my first foray into poetry. I haven't re-read it since, but I remember many afternoons basking in the banquet that Charles Baudelaire set forth for the wicked in these poems.
I'll be scouring the web to see how people celebrated this day, so much to read, so little time!