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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Two Versions of a Neruda Poem

1st version
this is an audio post - click to play


2nd version
this is an audio post - click to play


Part of this poem was posted in the comments on the previous Neruda post. The text of the first version I'm reading can be found here. That translation is by Robert Bly. The second version is translated by Donald D. Walsh and the text of it (from this book) can be found below. I'm not sure which I like better, though I'm leaning towards the Walsh at the moment because it seems to me to be more succinct somehow, sharper, more focused.

Only Death

There are lone cemeteries,
tombs filled with soundless bones,
the heart passing through a tunnel
dark, dark, dark;
like a shipwreck we die inward,
like smothering in our hearts,
like slowly falling from our skin down to our soul.

There are corpses,
there are feet of sticky, cold gravestone,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
like a bark without a dog,
coming from certain bells, from certain tombs,
growing in the dampness like teardrops or raindrops.

I see alone, at times,
coffins with sails
weighing anchor with pale corpses, with dead-tressed women,
with bakers white as angels,
with pensive girls married to notaries,
coffins going up the vertical river of the dead,
the dark purple river,
upstream, with sails swollen by the sound of death,
swollen by the silent sound of death.

To resonance comes death
like a shoe without a foot, like a suit without a man,
she comes to knock with a stoneless and fingerless ring,
she comes to shout without mouth, without tongue, without throat.
Yet her steps sound
and her dress sounds, silent, like a tree.

I know little, I am not well-accquainted, I can scarcely see,
but I think that her song has the color of moist violets,
of violets accustomed to the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death is green,
with the sharp dampness of a violet leaf
and its dark color of exasperated winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
she licks the ground looking for corpses,
death is in the broom,
it is death's tongue looking for dead bodies,
it is death's needle looking for thread.

Death is in the cots:
in the slow mattresses, in the black blankets
she lives stretched out, and she suddenly blows:
she blows a dark sound that puffs out sheets,
and there are beds sailing to a port
where she is waiting, dressed as an admiral.




Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More White Sox

In a recent comment on this post about the Chicago White Sox, The Gazetteer asks if my June 2 take on the team needs to be revised now that we're at the end of June and, contrary to my expectations, they still have a .676 winning percentage and lead the AL Central by nine games. I think my analysis was fairly sound, and I still think that the Sox pitchers will come back to earth sometime in the near future. Although, at this point in the season those pitchers may have outperformed their career norms long enough that even a return to those norms (or even falling below those norms briefly) might not be damaging enough to keep the Sox from winning their division.

Better math minds than mine have looked at this team and seen its performance as unsustainable. Dan Agonistes on June 20, for instance. In a sort follow-up article to that post yesterday at the Hardball Times, Dan looked at the Pythagorean formula for teams' expected winning percentages.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

To The Dead Poor Man (a Pablo Neruda poem)

this is an audio post - click to play

This is not Neruda's best poem, nor is it my favourite poem of his. It's a poem with flaws — at least, I feel there are flaws in this translation — but a good poem despite them because it still manages to stand up under its own weight. This version was translated by Alastair Reid. I'm reading from this book. Here's the text:

To The Dead Poor Man

Today we are burying our own poor man;
our poor poor man.

He was always so badly off
that this is the first time
his person is personified.

For he had neither house nor land,
nor alphabet nor sheets,
nor roast meat,
and so from one place to another, on the roads,
he went, dying from lack of life,
dying little by little—
that was the way of it from his birth.

Luckily (and strangely) they were all of the same mind,
from the bishop to the judge,
in assuring him of his share of heaven;
and dead now, properly dead, our own poor man,
oh, our poor poor man,
he will not know what to do with so much sky.
Can he plow it or sow it or harvest it?

He did that always; cruelly
he struggled with raw land,
and now the sky lies easy to his plow,
and later, among the fruits of heaven,
he will have his share, and at his table,
at such a height, everything is set
for him to eat his fill of heaven,
our poor man, who brings, as his fortune,
from below, some sixty years of hunger
to be satisfied, finally, as is just and proper,
with no more batterings from life,
without being victimized for eating;
safe as houses in his box under the ground,
now he no longer moves to protect himself,
now he will not struggle over wages.
He never hoped for such justice, did this man.
Suddenly they have filled his cup, and it cheers him;
now he has fallen dumb with happiness.

How heavy is he now, the poor poor man!
He was a bag of bones, with black eyes,
and now we know, by the weight of him alone,
the oh so many things he always lacked,
for if this strength had gone on and on,
digging up raw land, combing out stones,
harvesting wheat, soaking clay,
grinding down sulfur, lugging firewood,
if this so weighty man did not have shoes,
oh, misery, if this whole separate man
of tendon and muscle didn't ever have
justice in life, and all men beat him,
all men did him down, and even so
he went on laboring away, now, lifting him up,
in his coffin, on our shoulders,
now at least we know how much life he didn't have,
that we did not help him in his life on earth.

Now it dawns on us we are taking on
all that we never gave him, and now it is late;
he weighs on us, and we cannot take his weight.

How many people does our dead one weigh?

He weighs as much as this world does, and we go on
taking this dead one on our shoulders. It's clear
that heaven must abound in bread baking.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Wislawa Szymborska's Sky

Well, audioblogger is up and running again. And, finally, here is the last audiopost I tried to do a couple of months back:

this is an audio post - click to play

The text of the poem can be found in this post.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The New Old Canadian Science Fiction?

Brenda Schmidt links to an article by Peter Darbyshire on Canadian SF, and to Canadian SF writer Edward Willet's blog entry about the article.

For myself, as I noted on Willet's blog, I find it hard to believe that an article on contemporary Canadian science fiction could be written and contain no mention of James Alan Gardner. Although I suppose that, given the article's premise of there being a resurgence of "classic" SF underway in Canada at the expense of the younger cyberpunk tradition, it would be inconvenient to mention that the best (IMHO) actual storyteller working in the field seems to have found a way to successfully blend space opera with cyberpunk. It might just be that Darbyshire has yet to encounter a Gardner novel , much as I have yet to encounter Karl Schroeder's work. (Am I right, Peter?)

I have read some Robert J. Sawyer (though not recently), and it was a bit dry for my taste. Of Robert Charles Wilson's work, I can say that The Chronoliths seemed to me to be the most successful as a novel, in that the characters had some fullness to them and the ideas spent less time interfering with the story than in Blind Lake or Darwinia.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Crooked Is As Crooked Does

There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
Baseball. If I allowed the business of the game to occupy space in my mind for more than an hour at a time, my enjoyment of the game itself might be choked out of its little patch of soil by the virulent stinkweed that is Bud Selig and his crooked circle of cronies.

For instance, John Brattain takes a look at the opening round of the bidding for the Washington ex-Expos. His conclusion:
It will be a happy day when Bud Selig oozes his purulent ways [sic] out of baseball.
Amen.



Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Chi-Sox Charade

Here we are in the first week of June and the Chicago White Sox still lead the majors with a 35-20 record, which gives them a 5 game lead in the AL Central over the Minnesota Twins. That lead will not hold up. By the end of June I expect the Sox to be 4 games behind the Twins, and trying to hold off the Cleveland Indians for second place in the division. Why? Couple of reasons:
  • The Sox are currently out-performing their expected winning percentage by 4 games. (Expected or Pythagorean winning percentage is based on a team's runs scored and runs allowed. You can find the expected WP for all teams here. The only team luckier than the Sox so far this season is the Arizona Diamondbacks.)
  • They are out-performing their EWP by virtue of a handful of lucky pitchers: Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras in the rotation; and Dustin Hermanson in the bullpen.

  • The offence is not good enough to offset the inevitable pitching decline. Their hitters simply make too many outs and hit with too little power for them to score the runs they are going to need to stay competitive in the division.
As far as the pitching goes, Garland especially, with his extremely low K/9 rate of 4.5 should come crashing back to earth this month — in his next couple of starts, I'd expect. Garcia and Contreras will also decline (possibly Mark Buerhle as well, but he has a track record of being successful with a low K/9), though Contreras should be the best of the three over the remainder of the season. In the bullpen, Hermanson will suffer a severe regression, Politte a less severe one. Damaso Marte will be the best pitcher in that pen by season's end.