Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Billy Collins & 2 Basque paradelles

In his first important book, The Apple That Astonished Paris (University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1988), the American poet Billy Collins included a poem in which the Basque language takes the main role:

ETYMOLOGY

They call Basque an orphan language.
Linguists do not know
what other languages gave it birth.

From the high window of the orphanage
it watches English walking alone to the cemetery
to visit the graves of its parents,
Latin and Anglo-Saxon.


In my book Esku ezkerraz (Utriusque Vasconiae, Donostia, 2011) I translated it into Basque and wrote the following by way of reply:

BILLY COLLINSEN LIBURU BATEAN

Euskara hizkuntza umezurtza dela diote.
Hizkuntzalariek ez dakite
zein hizkuntzek sortu zuten.

Umezurztegiko leiho luzetik
Ingelesari so egoten zaio hilerrirako bidean doala
bere gurasoen hilobiak bisitatzera,
Latinaren eta Anglosaxoiaren hilobiak.


Euskararen adiskide handikoteek,
Gaztelerak eta Frantsesak, ia ez diote lekurik uzten
korridorean dagoen metalezko armairu grisean.

Euskarak hasperen egin du, baita irribarre ere,
tiraderan gordeta zerbait duelako:
                                                  Ingelesari ostutako
(itzultzeko asmotan, musu-truk) poema hau, alegia.

But the relationship between Collins and the Basques does not stop here. Two brilliant poets in Basque, Angel Erro and Rikardo Arregi Diaz de Heredia, have read Collins for fun and poetic profit. Angel has written on The Trouble with Poetry, and Rikardo just used a verse by Collins (from his poem “The Blues”) as inspiration for the title of his celebrated third book, Bitan esan beharra (Alberdania, Irun, 2012).

This book, most probably the best collection of poems published in Basque in the last years, even includes a paradelle! This parody of the villanelle and other strict forms of poetry was invented by Collins, who pretended to have found it “in the langue d'oc love poetry of the eleventh century. It is a poem of four six-line stanzas in which the first and second lines, as well as the third and fourth lines of the first three stanzas, must be identical. The fifth and sixth lines, which traditionally resolve these stanzas, must use all the words from the preceding lines and only those words. Similarly, the final stanza must use every word from all the preceding stanzas and only these words."

Arregi Diaz de Heredia’s paradelle is a poem about love in the vineyard, physical and vibrant:

Mahastietan zure eskuak lanean daude
Mahastietan zure eskuak lanean daude
Nire goruputza jeloskor dabil zuri begira
Nire goruputza jeloskor dabil zuri begira
Nire eskuak zuri begira jeloskor daude
Mahastietan zure gorputza dabil lanean

Lanen izenak ikasten ditut oinak zikindu
Lanen izenak ikasten ditut oinak zikindu
Praka urdinak lasai ikusi lurren desirak
Praka urdinak lasai ikusi lurren desirak
Praka desirak zikindu oinak lurren izenak
Lanen urdinak ditut ikusi lasai ikasten

Traktore gurdi bideen hautsa zure izerdi
Traktore gurdi bideen hautsa zure izerdi
Ur gazi hori da nire ardo jainkoen sua
Ur gazi hori da nire ardo jainkoen sua
Bideen sua da nire ardo ur gazi hori
Zure izerdi jainkoen hautsa traktore gurdi

Lurren urdinak lanean daude zuri begira
Oinak ikasten zikindu ditutu praka izenak
Ur lasai hori nire gorputza traktore sua
Mahastietan jainkoen hautsa da nire ardo
Zure eskuak lanen desirak bideen gurdi
Jeloskor dabil gazi ikusi zure izerdi


The only other Basque paradelle I know of was written in Spanish (by me). Alas, it’s not a love poem, but a clumsy one about our bloody troubles--now a thing of the past, but the past seems to live on forever:

PARADELLE CON EL CONFLICTO DE FONDO (2008)

Familia por la noche.
Familia, por la noche
lo nuestro no es de ellos. Y a
lo nuestro. No es de ellos. Y a
lo nuestro, familia, no es de la noche.
Y a por ellos.

Las bombas. O las normas,
las bombas o las normas
con que abandones el día allá.
Con que abandones el día. Allá,
que abandones allá las bombas.
O el día con normas.

Calma tu estado, la cara nos expongas
calma. Tu estado, la cara, nos expongas
algún mandamiento. Puede. No el de romperte.
Algún mandamiento puede. No el de romperte.
Algún mandamiento puede romperte la calma.
No nos expongas el estado de tu cara.

No abandones lo nuestro
por algún Estado que puede romperte
la cara calma de la noche o el día.
No nos expongas a las bombas
y allá ellos con las normas.
Es el mandamiento de tu familia.

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