Introduction

 

Writing this book has been the greatest and best challenge I have faced in life.

The chosen ones presents a brief summary on Uruguayan poets, biographical summary and a personal look of the authors, each followed by some poems translated from Spanish.

“The major difficulty in translating from Spanish, I think, is that Spanish is a rhyme-rich language; English isn’t,” said Ed Ochester, the poetry editor for the Pittsburg Press. “So maintaining the same ‘tone’ or sound from one language to the other isn’t easy.”

Certainly one could simply translate the Spanish “vacio” to the English “empty,” but to do so would change the texture of the poem, Kercheval said.

“English has words that come from Latin, but those tend to be words that are fancier,” she said. “In Spanish, ‘vacio’ means empty. In English we have ‘vacant,’ but a house is vacant; you wouldn’t really use it to describe a chair. Just the lilting rhythmic sound of it is really different in Spanish, but the effect [Maia’s] trying to go for is to use a really simple language.”

Choosing complicated English words rooted in Latin may be more pleasing to the ear, but would cloud the poems and spoil Maia’s attempt to make her poems easily understood.

“In general, Americans are afraid of poetry much more than people in many other cultures,” Orchester said. “Good poetry isn’t necessarily more difficult than good fiction or non-fiction. My own view is that poetry should be only as difficult as it needs to be— anything more is pretension, as it is in any other kind of writing.”

Complicated and subjective as the process might be, when it’s done right it makes a difference. A culture—a world—that might previously have gone unvisited by the reader is opened up to them.

“Poetry is often where any language finds its fullest expression, where it obtains aesthetic magnitude,” said Aron Aji, the University of Iowa’s director of M.F.A. in Literary Translation. “Carrying a poem from one language to another is like transplanting a mature tree, a difficult operation. If you are successful, then you have a good translation. But if you can also carry some of the original climate, the water, the salt in the air, then you have a great translation.”

Without any more preambles, let us proceed to develop the theme that summons us:

 

The chosen poets

Mario Benedetti

 Mario Benedetti was born Sept. 14, 1920, Paso de los Toros, Uruguay—died May 17, 2009, Montevideo), Uruguayan writer who was best known for his short stories.

Benedetti was born to a prosperous family of Italian immigrants. His father was a viticulturist and a chemist. At age four the boy was taken to Montevideo, where he received a superior education at a private school. He was deeply affected by his early experience of the capital city. Benedetti began his literary career by publishing poetry, but he soon turned to the short story and the novel. In these he painted a realistic and critical portrait of the ascendant Uruguayan middle class, to which he belonged. His most accomplished stories appeared in the collection Montevideanos(1959; “Montevideans”), a title that recalls James Joyce’s Dubliners. Like Joyce, Benedetti was enthralled by urban life, and he became the chronicler of the Uruguayan capital’s bourgeoisie, though, unlike Joyce, Benedetti often remained at a descriptive level lacking depth. But his works became best sellers in Uruguay, and by the 1960s his reputation had spread throughout Latin America. His novel La tregua (1960; The Truce) was widely read, as was his allegorical novel El cumpleaños de Juan Angel (1971; Juan Angel’s Birthday). Benedetti had the misfortune of peaking as a writer at the same time as Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others who brought about what is known as the “boom of the Latin American novel” and with whom he could not compete.

In 1959 Benedetti went to New York City on a fellowship, and during the 1960s he traveled a great deal. Beginning in the late 1960s, he spent lengthy periods in Cuba. A supporter of Castro’s regime, he eventually based himself in Cuba, where his works took a more political turn, particularly after the 1973 military coup in Uruguay. Sometime later he moved to Madrid. Subsequently Benedetti published Despistes y franquezas (1989; “Errors and Sincere Statements”) and La borra del café (1992; “Coffee Grounds”). In addition to short stories, novels, and poetry, Benedetti wrote plays and essays. A collection of his short stories was translated into English as Blood Pact and Other Stories (1997).

 

More about Mario Benedetti

A powerful voice for social justice and the rights of common people, and a long-time opponent of repressive governments in his native Uruguay and around the world, Mario Benedetti published over 80 books of poetry, short stories, novels, essays, literary criticism, and advocacy journalism in over 1200 editions and has been translated into over 25 languages. His song lyrics have been performed by more than 40 singers, including Joan Manuel Serrat, Nacha Guevara, Los Olimareños, Daniel Viglietti, Alfredo Zitarrosa, Pablo Milanés, Soledad Bravo, Amparo Ochoa, Laura Canoura, Rosa León, los Gambino, Eduardo Darnauchans, Adriana Varela, Numa Moraes, Tania Libertad, Marilina Ross, etc.

He has been on the juries for film prizes in International Festivals held in Havana, San Sebastian, Valladolid and for literature prizes in Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba, México, Ecuador, Panamá and Spain.

The Cuban Council of State awarded him the Order of Felix Varela prize in 1982 and the Haydée Santmaría medal in 1989. In 1987 in Brussels, Amnesty International awarded him the Golden Flame prize for his novel, spring with a Broken Corner. In Chile, he was awarded both the Gabriela Mistral medal in 1995 and the Pablo Neruda medal in 2005. In 1996 in Uruguay, he received the Bartolomé Hidalgo Prize for his essays. In 1993 he was awarded an honorary professorship by the University of Buenos Aires, and in 1996 in Uruguay, he was named Professor Emeritus by the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences. In 1997, he received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Alicante, Valladolid and Havana, and in 2004, he received the same honor from the National University in Montevideo. In 1999 in Spain, he was awarded the 8th Reina Sofía Prize for Latin American Poetry. That same year, in Uruguay, the Ministry of Education and Culture awarded him the National Prize for Intellectual Achievement (shared with Julio Da Rosa). In 1999, the Colombian Chamber of Deputies awarded him the Order of Democracy Prize at the Gran Cruz level. In 2005, he was awarded the International Menéndez y Pelayo award in Santander, Spain. In 2007, he received the Alba Prize for Letters and a first class appointment to the Order of Francisco de Miranda from the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, and in 2008, an honorary doctorate from the University of Córdoba, Argentina. He died in 2009.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Make a Deal

 

 

When you feel your wound about to bleed

when you feel your voice about to sob

Count on me.

Partner, you know

You can count on me

Not up to two

Or up to ten,

But count on me.

If sometimes you notice

That I look into your eyes

And a vein of love

You recognize in mine

Don't alert your rifles

Nor think "what a delirium",

In spite of the vein

Or perhaps because it exists

You can count on me.

If several time you feel me

Unsociable without reason

don’t think "what a slack",

the same way you can count On me.

But let´s make a deal,

I would like to count on you,

It is so nice to know you exist,

One feels alive

And when I say this

I mean count

Even though it´s up to two

or even though it´s up to five,

Not to make you come Hasty to my aid

But to know certainly

That you know you can Count on me.

 

 

 

 

 

Love in the Afternoon

 

It’s a shame you’re not with me

when I look at the clock and it’s four

and I finish the payroll accounts and think for ten minutes

and stretch my legs like every afternoon

and I do the same with my shoulders to loosen my back

and I fold my fingers and crack my knuckles.

It’s a shame you’re not with me

when I look at the clock and it’s five

and I’m a handle that calculates interests

or two hands that pounce on forty keys

or an ear that listens to how the telephone barks

or someone who makes up numbers and derives truth from them.

It’s a shame you’re not with me

when I look at the clock and it’s six.

You could approach me by surprise

and say “How are you?” and we would end up with

me with the red smudge from your lips

you with the blue soot from my carbon.

 

 

 

 

 

Armored heart

 

 

Because I have you and I don’t

because I think about you

because the night is wide-eyed

because the night passes and I say love

because you have come to reclaim your image

and you are better than all your images

because you are beautiful from foot to soul

because you are good from soul to me

because you hide yourself sweet in pride

small and sweet

armored heart

because you are mine

because you aren’t mine

because I look at you and die

and worse than dying

is not seeing you love

not seeing you

because always you exist everywhere

but you exist better where I love you

because your mouth is blood

and you are cold

I have to love you love

I have to love you

even though this wound hurts like two

even though I search for you without finding you

and even though

the night passes and I have you

and not…

 

 

 

 

How Do I Let You Know

 

 

 

 

FROM THE AFFECTIONS

 

How do I let you know that there is always time?

That oneself has to seek it and give it himself

That no one sets rules, but life

That life without rules loses form

That form is not lost when we open up

That to open up does not mean to love indiscriminately

That is not forbidden to love

That you can also hate

That hatred and love are emotions

That aggression for its own sake hurts a lot

That wounds heal

That the doors should not be closed

That the biggest door is affection

That affection define us

That defining ourselves is not swimming against the current

That the stronger the stroke, the more you draw

That to try to balance does not mean to be warm

That to deny words, is to open distances

That the encounter is so beautiful

That sex is part of the beauty of life

That life departs from sex

That the reason for children has its why

That to want to know about someone, is not just curiosity

That to know everything about everyone is not healthy curiosity

That it never hurts to be thankful

That auto-determination is not to do things alone

That nobody wants to be alone

That you need to give for not to be alone

That to give, we should receive prior

That to receive we must also know how to ask

That to know how to beg is not to give up on yourself

That to give up on yourself is not loving

That to be loved we have to demonstrate who we are

That for someone to be / there to help (needs to be helped)

That help is to encourage and support

That support is not flattering

That adulation is so pernicious as to turn the face

That things are honest face to face

That no one is honest because they don’t steal

That the thief who steals doesn’t do it for pleasure

That when there is no pleasure in things you’re not living

That to feel alive you have to forget that death exists

That one may be dead while living

That one feels with the body and mind

That you hear with your ears

That it costs to be sensitive and not get hurt

That hurt is not bleed to death

That to not get hurt, we build walls

That who sows walls, won’t get anything

That almost we all are builders of walls

That it would be better to build bridges

That on them we reach the other side and also come back

That return does not mean go backward

That to go backwards may mean to advance

That to advance faster does not mean to raise closer to the sun

How do I let you know that no one set rules, but life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Give Up

 

 

Don't give up, you still have time

to reach up and start anew,

Accept your shadows,

Bury your fears,

Free your burdens,

Fly again.

Don't give up, that's what life is

Continue the journey,

Follow your dreams,

Unstuck time,

Move the rubble,

And uncover the sky.

Don't give up, please don't give way,

Even if the cold burns,

Even if fear bites,

Even if the sun sets,

And the wind goes silent,

There is still fire in your soul

There is still life in your dreams.

Because life is yours and yours is the desire

Because you have loved it and because I love you

Because wine exists and love is true.

Because there are no wounds that time doesn't cure.

To open the doors,

Take away the locks,

Abandon the walls that have protected you,

To live life and accept the challenge

Get back laughter,

Practice a song,

Lower the guard and extend the hands

Open the wings

And try again,

Celebrate life and take back the skies.

Don't give up, please don't give way,

Even if the cold burns,

Even if fear bites,

Even if the sun sets,

And the wind goes silent,

There is still fire in your soul

There is still life in your dreams.

Because every day is a new beginning,

Because this is the hour and the best moment.

Because you are not alone, because I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The people I like

 

 

I like the people that vibrate, that don’t need to be pushed, that you don’t have to tell them to do stuff, because they know what needs to be done and just do it.

 

 

I like the people that cultivate their dreams until those dreams take over their own reality.

 

 

I like the people that are able to face the consequences of their actions, people that risk what’s true for what’s uncertain to go after a dream, people that allow themselves to run from “sensitive advice” leaving solutions in the hands of our father God.

 

 

I like the people that are fair with their own people and themselves, people that are thankful for each new day, the good things existing in their life, people who live every hour with good enthusiasm giving their best, thankful for being alive, for being able to give smiles, for being able to offer their hands and help kindly, waiting for nothing in return.

 

 

I like the people that are capable of criticizing me constructively and up front, but without hurting me. People with tact.

 

 

I like the people with sense of justice. These are the people I call my friends.

 

 

I like the people that acknowledge the importance of joy and preaches about it.

 

 

I like the people that with jokes teach us to conceive life with humor.

 

 

I like the people that never stop being childish.

 

I like the people that are sincere and honest, capable of opposing with reasonable arguments to anyone’s decisions.

 

 

I like the people that are loyal and persistent, that fight tirelessly for their goals and ideas. I like people with criteria, that are never ashamed of recognizing a mistake or recognizing ignorance about something.

 

 

People that, when accepting their mistakes, genuinely make an effort not to make them again.

 

 

People that fight against adversities. People that look for solutions. People that think and meditate. People that value their equals not by a social stereotype or how they look. People that don’t judge and don’t let others judge. I like people with personality.

 

 

People capable of understanding that humanity’s biggest mistake is to try to get out of their head something that won’t go out of their heart.

 

 

Sensitivity, courage, solidarity, kindness, respect, peace, values, joy, humility, faith, happiness, tact, trust, hope, gratitude, wisdom, dreams, regret, and love for others and oneself are fundamental things to be called PEOPLE.

 

 

With people like this, I can commit to anything for the rest of my life, because just by having them next to me, I consider myself well rewarded.

 

 

Impossible to win without learning to lose.

Impossible to walk without learning to fall.

Impossible to be right without knowing to be wrong.

Impossible to live without knowing to revive.

 

Glory doesn’t consist in never falling, but in getting up whenever’s necessary.

AND THAT IS SOMETHING VERY FEW PEOPLE HAVE THE PRIVILEDGE TO EXPERIMENT.

 

 

Blessed are those who have received with the same naturalness winning or losing, right or wrong, triumph and defeat.

 

 

 

In defense of joy

 

Defend joy as a trench

defend it from scandal and routine

from misery and miserable

from temporary absences

and from definitive ones.

 

Defend joy as a principle

defend it from wonder and nightmares

from neutrals and neutrons

from sweet infamies

and serious diagnoses

 

Defend joy as a flag

defend it from ray and melancholy

from nerves and rogues

from rhetoric and cardiac attacks

from endemics and academics

 

Defend joy as a destination

defend it from fire and firefighters

from suicidal and homicidal

from vacations and burden

from the obligation of being happy.

 

Defend joy as a certainty

defend it from oxide and dirt

from the famous brushwork of time

from dew and opportunism

from pimps of laughter

 

Defend joy as a Right

defend it from God and winter

from capital letters and death

from surnames and sorrows

from chance

                        and from joy itself.

 

 

 

Tactics and Strategy

 

 

Tactics and Strategy

My tactic is to look at you

To learn how you are

Love you as you are

My tactic is to talk to you

And listen to you

And construct with words

An indestructible bridge

My tactic is to stay in your memory,

I don't know how

Nor with what pretext

But stay within you

My tactic is to be honest

And know you are too

And that we don't sell each other illusions

So that between us there is no curtain or abyss

My strategy instead is

Deeper and simpler.

My strategy is that some day

I don't know how, nor with what pretext

That finally you need me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping Basket

 

 

Today I went out with my basket

to stock up on ways to lift my spirits

but they're not easy to come by

or come across

the sky is nothing but clouds

why bother looking up

in the entryways there are no lovers

in others' gazes no questions

 

I'm as lonely as a tiny isle

where not even castaways set foot

 

I've got someone else's poem for company

but there's a hemistich I find annoying

and I don't dare replace it

that would be rude

 

I don't even have a camera

to snap pictures of this or that hope

other people's of course

 

I'm face-to-face now

with a print by a favorite painter

and meekly I inhale its restful blues

on an almost nonexistent rack

I spot Vivaldi and Gardel

perhaps in a little while

I'll wake up without my gloom

then I can rummage through those shops

but today I can't

 

I feel almost like a deaf mute

when it comes to music and caresses

I look down

at the palms of my hands

and my basket is still empty

 

Roster

 

On my roster of happy things

just a few stand out for me /

sparkles in drabness

beauty in ugliness

the pulsing of rocks

and most of all most of all

your steadfast heart

that I touch with mine

 

 

 

Sonata for Farewell and Flute

 

You're going off as alone as ever

you're sure to be missed by all

our twilight embraces will miss you

and I and my body and soul

 

your long shadow is reluctant

to desert us / albeit

you've decided to take it with you

whatever the risk

 

in any case I'd never want you

to lay your dream to rest

that dream where your love of no one

was like an all-time first

 

you're off yet again I don't know where

and your farewell is an echo

that lingers and speaks your name

as a final gesture

 

you've never kept your tenderness

for later on like bread

I'm always sure to find it

tucked loosely between your breasts

 

you act like you've been defeated

but I find that hard to believe

you've always won the war of words

against hatred and fear

 

who knows what awaits you out there

in that far-off barren place

where there are no more swallows

only winter / only waste

 

but should you stray off course at twilight

between your mirror and the sea

please don't ever forget that I

and my soul and my body are here

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Moods

 

 

A happy

man

is but one more

in the choir

of happy

people

 

a sad

one

is sad

like

no

other

 

 

 

 

Heaven

 

Our torturers are generally catholic

they believe in the holy trinity

and martyr their fellow creatures as a means

of combating the antichrist

but when they die they don't go to heaven

because murderers aren't allowed there

 

their victims on the other hand are martyrs

and might even be angels or saints

they'd rather be butchered than be traitors

but they don't go to heaven either

because to them there's no such thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 My Way

 

Hope so gentle

so polished so sad

a vow so lightly taken

is not my way

 

hope so docile

is not my way

 

rage so meek

so humble so weak

anger so discreet

is not my way

 

so much sensible rage

is not my way

 

a scream so precise

when the weather is nice

a howl so genteel

is not my way

 

so much well-behaved thunder

is not my way

 

bravery so mild

courage so half-hearted

rashness so sluggish

is not my way

 

daring so tepid

is not my way

 

my way is life

lived fully 'til death

a heart on alert

that is my way

 

trust gaining ground

is my way

 

my way is your gaze

so giving yet firm

your silence so guileless

is my way

 

your exemplary life

is my way

 

my way is your future

your present freely changing

your struggle unbaiting

is my way

 

your undecorated battle

is my way

 

my way is the modest reach

of your possible pride

your unwavering hand

is my way

 

your way confidante

is my way.

 

 

 

That Battle

How to reconcile

the devastating

notion of death

with this invincible

lust for life?

 

How can our horror

of the void that awaits us

contend with the overpowering joy

of mortal but true

love?

 

How to defuse gravestones

with furrowed fields?

A scythe

with a carnation?

 

For all we know man is just that

that battle...

 

 


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