POETS IN NO MAN’S LAND (2012)


How can you try to put
a feeling into for example two lines,
two verses? So its this compressed quality of
poetry, the density that’s it. – I see poems as elemental particles, condensing the mass of the
universe in a few things – Exactly, and I think they’re more
powerful if they don’t blow up, if they are there a moment
before the blow up. Because I think poetry is much
more powerful if it threatens. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments I caught her in the act
of looking through a porn mag. Pointing at a picture of
a naked man, I asked her: What is that? Ceci n’est pas une pipe –
she answered me, taking me into the bracket
of her legs. And today I came home early from work
and in the passage I bumped into a naked man,
and asked: What is that? – pointing
at him, or rather at his manhood freshly smeared
in lipstick. That is a pipe – I heard the answer from the woman, with whom
I’m still sleeping, because I cannot
prove her infidelity. Well I came up with the idea of a workshop
on poetry and translation. I’m interested in the whole way that
difference can be made to tell, how can translation be a subversive and
creative activity. The bottom line in translation is not
equivalence or fidelity because languages are never equivalent
therefore they cannot be faithful but this is not a problem,
it’s exciting to negotiate across spaces inbetween
and be creative about it. I mean I think one of the
misconceptions is that the original is totally sacrosanct, but in effect there is no such
thing as an original in itself. First of all, to me, poetry
itself is no man’s land. It is a land that, so to speak,
belongs to no one. But, for instance, when you find yourself
there, you can become a god, a demiurge.
You can create. In other words, poetry is a
land of imagination, isn’t it ? Imagination belongs to no one, and no
one can take it away from you. It doesn’t belong to the poet, nor the reader,
nor to anyone else. So, in this sense it is
no one’s land . To me the whole thing is exploring spaces between,
and this is what’s happening on this island, I mean we are also in a process of translation and
transformation and negotiation of meaning and every time someone walks across this
space that we have called no man’s land there is something going on in the way
that we translate this meaning. We have different official histories
that contest each other, that are always in negotiation,
but even these official histories may adjust themselves according
to the historical moment. It’s something dynamic,
it’s something that doesn’t stand still. Poetry in itself is always a kind of exile,
but in the case of translation it is as if you have a double
or a triple level of being foreign,
so that sense of strangeness, of feeling and not feeling in your own land,
maybe it can also be applied to poetry. Poems are organic
and are alive and… I see them as growing,
they are continuing their lives and they live in another language.
Maybe they lose some music or some rhythm, but they gain other things
that I cannot give them in my own language. As a poet,
I see myself as a translator and as an interpreter also. The Date-Palm I am a tree, a date-palm
in some Mesaoria cemetary. Civilisations buried in my shade,
their bones in my roots. Forty curly-haired slaves rowed the boats
which brought us from Egypt. My grandfather a Hellene wearing an earing, my
circumciser a converted Ottoman barber, a pederast. I was apprenticed to Aphrodite in spring
Zenon in winter. You may not have realised!
I was the model for the Lusignan architects. Inherited from Venetian merchants this sweet
tongue, chasing pleasure Roman Byzantium. A creation of the British
my exhibition of split personality syndromes. From time to time
my presumption that I am a human being, The more I am licked
the more I hold onto lies. Paranoias
Stitched to a flag cloth, a straitjacket made in Greece
made in Turkey. I see war
when I look in the water! If literature has any function
it is to preserve memories and I think that’s
how I feel about it. If there is a barbed wire it exists
because there is a memory there. If there is separation it is because
people remember how it was before there was separation,
before there was segregation. Because if they didn’t there would be
no need to keep a border. Most of the people that pass from here
don’t even realize that behind this wall is Victoria Street. The street used to be one of the most
important streets of the city. Back then it was actually
in the middle of the conflict and now it is in the middle
of what we call the dead zone. I was living in Victoria street
when the trouble started, everybody fled. They abandoned the guard post
so I went in myself. I was trembling with cold
keeping watch day and night. I stayed here. We were friends with
many Turkish Cypriots. But when the trouble started
everyone was looking after themselves. – Did you notice on the map
Cyprus is together with Africa? That was before we joined
the European Union. The Carob Tree on Google The room with an earthen floor
was the warmest, he helped his aunt sprinkle it
with water and sweep it. Every night he would stroll
round the house and the garden, he even remembered the holes
from the nails on the wall. He would enter all the
houses in Vasili, count the steps to Kanakaria
wander round the nearby villages. When he saw on Google Earth
the carob tree, where he would leave the tractor
as a twelve-year-old boy and run first to the lentisk bush
and then to the sea so as not to burn his feet,
he wept bitterly. Shy of paradise, its not exactly
cast away because shy is… Its worse, in a way.
– You’re shy to go in, you’re reluctant to go in. – Hovering, shy of paradise
– Hovering is when you move… – I know all the words…
but I want to understand the image. – It’s the way a hummingbird moves,
or a helicopter when you go through
the air like this. Do you understand
the movement? – The whole poem is about a
land in between, a limbo, There is no verb in Catalan to describe
how a hummingbird flies. – I asked whether it was a
swift movement because a helicopter is not swift?
It’s a little bumpy. That’s why I put pairar.
– I could use that. – The musicality is very beautiful in Portuguese
em timidez de paraiso, that is in shyness, literally,
of paradise, so… that ambiguity is kept. – If there is an ambiguity in the original
there has to be an ambiguity in the final text. This is the game. Find Peace As swiftly as when the summer takes you
You move in an overflow of surf Hovering shy of paradise You stay within a sky that moves
With rumbling cumuli Touch it with you fingertip tendrils
Smelling of sea wrack jettison You will hear a voice
That roars propitiously with the waves Secreting a sticky lineage
From a stone where few rivers flow And then glimpse at your kith
Far and away now Damascene plums on rooftop terraces
Skins charred shielding their flesh of heated gold Taste their blood
Thick like grape molasses This is the first time
And the last time For a moment, and then another
You are rocked back and forth With gentle ferocity By an earth that turns
While history closes in It’s the arrhythmia in the heart. – It doesn’t need to be the heart.
Sincope means something that’s not… – The rhythm is broken
– Yes, in broken rhythms… – You are talking about the heart.
– No. In Portuguese sincope does not mean
necessarily the heart. – Okay in broken rhythms. – I have to ask about this as well,
redoubt is a literal translation.. Redoubt is a wall or a barrier
built to stop water flow. I think that’s what
it might be. Or a fortification around
a castle… – You build a place
to hold water? – It’s around you
– Reduto can be either to hold water, or it can be what you put
around the castle. Whether we use moat
or whether we use wall we will get the same result. A sense of something
being closed in. – The seed of the original sparks off the life into its multiplicity of forms. Coming to a decision involves an awareness
of this multiplicity of possibilities and of the fact that we are making choices.
Our own choices are influenced by our hidden desires or the histories that have conditioned us
that we don’t even know. – Terra de ninguem. This is a set
expression in Portuguese, it means the space
between the borders. The dead zone, in other words?
– Yes – In Greek it became
the dead zone and if the dead zone means terra de ninguem,
then it is no man’s land this place where everything can happen
and nothing can happen, which continues to remind you
of the violation of rights and of the violation of power. – Domination
– Domination, yes. And my poem is also about that,
seen from a woman’s point of view, it’s a poem
written by a woman. Dead Zone I say: space or whatever concoction
in its place A space in earnest
or dead zone does not pay off the vanquished
at the price of silences, cupboards and disturbing onions With my syncopated rhythms
I built a buttressed wall but it is not enough: butterflies and dreams
wither away within it and the same onions keep
going round in vicious circles I say space or whatever concoction
in my place When I was doing my army service
on the island of Limnos I was called one night to
guard a post for three hours, I was all alone in the middle
of the vastness there and there was
very thick fog that night I couldn’t see anything
except the shape of a tree . And that was it. The Tree A tree
does not have much to say What’s the use?
It’s enough that it sees you It stands there mute in the emptiness
dead most of the time unmoving holding its breath
so as not to distract your attention And your actions
become more and more crude rotten vulgar your words are wind
on its roots and leaves they settle A tree
cannot reply What’s the use?
It’s enough that it sees you To be alone is sad To be alone is sad but you are happy because nobody sees you
and you see it all and the bed’s so big and the ray of sun comes in first
the sun is so alone but so powerful
and alone like you resolute like you when you pull your feet out
from under the sheets to touch the floor
that is still cold your time is brief
just like an heir a bit of a dimwit
with no socks you have your bit of cafe au lait
then stare in the air All time is yours
It’s just for you Bon jour garçon!
you say to the dog Good morning sir!
you say to the glass There’s nothing you’re without
No complaints at all To be alone is sad but you’re happy. I think every good poet is also a destroyer, not simply a person who sings
about the beauty of the world but a hooligan as well. I think it’s much more difficult to write
a poem about happiness, when we are happy we don’t need to share
our happiness with someone else. but… So, maybe I won’t write about this bird singing
but only about these ruins. You can say that my poetry is against God,
against the institutions against many things.
It has anarchistic tendencies. It doesn’t matter what subject I write
it has got to be provocative. Poetry is always
against the border or trying to break through the border
or go beyond the border. Poetry loves contradictions
and paradoxes. Lefkoşa Nicosia you tricked me
to stay on one side Of your divided backyards
sitting under sacred date-palms With those who speak badly
and who got me hooked on hash; Instead of in a house I slept
in the Armenian graveyard And dreamt of
Isabel d’lbelin herself; With a spring mattress dumped
from the shut-down brothel and a second-hand 28-inch bicycle frame,
I exchanged my pride Although the old may still smell jasmine
I smell only the military scent of sweat And wounds in your streets
In your rotten rivers Even if I were to try, I could not
bring down to land a V-necked heron Whiter than your
spinster girls Nicosia, you’ve had my name in your mouth
for too long. Spit it out… Perhaps it’s also
an opportunity in a political situation
such as this or like the one we’ve experienced
under the Franco dictatorship to salvage the language through translation,
through creation… It has made it possible to
open new doors because language
is a vehicle of thought so opportunities can
arise from difficult situations. Catalonia feels like a nation
within another nation. Perhaps instead of thinking
of boundaries and borders, it would be better to
think in terms of how things are embedded
in each other. – So the relationship between
poetry and place is important, and the historical moment
has an impact… You can play creatively to open up new ways
of seeing identity and culture
in the poem. In Cyprus names have often been
changed because of all the conflict so you occupy a place
and change its name. – Here children must wonder
why everything has three names… Shoeburning Lighting the bonfire I remember
my son trying on my shoes as if trying me on. Shoes are a lodging, a home for the feet
the lost son‘s shelter in which lived time resides. Each time we celebrate new shoes
we hope we‘ll get farther than they promise. My son wears my shoes
I don‘t know, still can‘t ascertain if a part of me has returned
to the house of shoes. Or if a part is gone already,
and which part would be better and how many shoe‘s I‘ll be given, and how many
homes I‘ll never live in. I look at the flames
which spirit away my dead father‘s shoes that he‘ll live in forever. Lyric poetry is also
about silences. The meaning is between the words
and in the relationship of the words. What separates the words and what goes through them. This communication between author
and reader happens, in fact, out of the poem
and out of the language. Using words to move the
reader out of the words, to cross these
linguistic borders,. So we need empathy to
understand other cultures but we also need empathy
to better understand ourselves. Translation is about an
inside outside relationship but the idea is that the inside
and outside get mixed up with each other, there’s always an overlap,
I think this dialogue challenges where that boundary is
between self and other, it’s the ability to see
yourself as the Other or to bring the Other into yourself
which is probably already inside you but you are blinded to it.
I think that’s really it. Vanquished souls
Lost nights Bizarre shadows In the Mouraria
A pimp sings Guitars cry Jealous love
Ashes and fire Pain and sin All of this exists
All of this is sorrowful All of this is fado

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