viernes, 8 de abril de 2016

LARRY LEVIS [18.389]


Larry Levis 

Nació en Fresno, California, en 1946. Larry Levis murió en 1996. Su primer libro de poemas, Wrecking Crew, ganó el Premio en Estados Unidos the International Poetry Forum, y fue publicado en la Serie de Poesía Pitt en 1972. Su segundo libro, The Afterlife, ganó el Premio Lamont de la Academia Americana de Poetas en 1976. En 1981, The Dollmaker's Ghost fue el ganador del concurso general de la Serie Nacional de Poesía. Entre sus otros premios fueron tres becas en poesía de la Fundación Nacional para las Artes, una beca Fulbrigh, y una beca Guggenheim. 




EL POEMA QUE PEDISTE

Mi poema no comía nada.
Quise darle agua
pero dijo no,

preocupándome.
Día tras día
lo puse a contraluz,

le daba vueltas
pero sólo apretaba más los labios.

Se volvió sombrío, como un sapo
cansado de que lo molesten.
Le ofrecí todo mi dinero,

mi ropa, mi coche con el depósito lleno.
Pero el poema miraba al suelo.
Al fin lo recogí

entre mis manos, lo llevé cuidadosamente
afuera, al aire suave, al
tráfico de la tarde, preguntándome cómo

terminar las cosas entre nosotros.
Porque había empezado a respirar,
añadiendo más y

más duros anillos de carne.
Y el poema pedía comida,
se bebió toda el agua,

me golpeó, me quitó mi dinero,
arrancó las ropas desteñidas
de mi espalda,

dijo Mierda
y se alejó despacio
alisándose el cabello.

Dijo que iba
a tu casa.

 Traducción de Claribel Alegría y D. J. Flakoll.
    de "Poesía minimalista norteamericana" Los libros de Orfeo.



¿entonces se permite, al menos, 
una visión franca de la llanura?

Sapo, verraco, asesino, espejo.
Algunas de sus palabras favoritas, lo que es aliento.
O escritura: la larga cola de la “y” que desaparece
en un granero como cola de roedor,
y de repente es invierno después de todo.
¿Después de todo qué?
Después de que se sequen las acequias a mediados de agosto
y los niños tiren alfileres en cada cañón para escuchar el eco.
Otra pregunta por favor.
¿De qué sexo es si tiene alguno?
Es un varón. Es un varón blanco caucásico.
Sin ninguna marca explícita de nacimiento, la típica verruga en la barbilla.
Visto por última vez en un trasluz de Omaha.
Parece inteligente.
¿Pero acaso la mayor parte de los estadounidenses
no ha visto este poema al menos una vez ya?
Al menos una vez. Entonces, ¿cómo se le comunica… la enfermedad?
Por lo que podemos constatar se le comunica completamente por la duda.
Tan pronto como los poetas alcanzan la veintena empiezan a vivir detrás del seto.
Al otro lado del seto alguien que es atractivo se ríe o bien de ellos,
o bien con un amante durante el acto sexual.
Así que es como una fiesta en la universidad.
Sí. ¿Pero qué fin el de la fiesta? El fin está dentro del roedor.
Es el granero que se viene abajo un día de verano.
Dentro de las entrañas del roedor.
¿Entonces se permite, al menos, una visión franca de la llanura?
Sí, ¿y qué habrá entonces en la llanura? Un jinete que se acerca con un rictus,
que no ve que su caballo tiene rosas blancas en lugar de ojos.
¿Quieres decir… todo otra vez desde el principio?
Desgraciadamente, sí, o al menos en lo que la vista alcanza.


EL ÚLTIMO TRAPECIO DE LARRY LEVIS

Por GERARDO CÁRDENAS



The Self sounds like a guy raking leaves
Off his walk. It sounds like the scrape of the rake.
The soul is just a story the scraping tells.

LARRY LEVIS, The Darkening Trapeze

Rebuscar entre los papeles de un escritor muerto es correr un peligro: el de encontrarse con trozos, fragmentos y aproximaciones de lo que pudieron ser una o muchas obras, y pensar que ese material es suficiente para cerrar o completar el ciclo de ese autor. La obsesión de cerrar las cosas, de no dejar cabos sueltos, nos persigue: ahí está, por ejemplo, la continua persecución de la obra inacabada de Roberto Bolaño que ha vuelto un negocio la transformación de fragmentos narrativos en libros, algo así como un Frankenstein editorial.

Lo mismo pudo haber ocurrido con los poemas del estadounidense Larry Levis (1946-1996). Muerto hace 20 años, Levis había publicado cinco poemarios y ganado algunos premios. Tras su muerte, aparecieron dos poemarios póstumos: Elegy, cuyos poemas fueron recopilados por familiares y amigos a manera de despedida; y The Selected Levis, que es una antología de lo publicado en vida.

Desde su muerte, Levis ha ido creciendo en el imaginario de la poesía estadounidense y hoy está considerado un poeta de culto. Su lucha a muerte con la psicología y la fe religiosa, su estilo extremo, la contundencia de sus imágenes (el alma como la historia que cuenta un rastrillo que recoge hojas muertas), así como la brevedad de su vida, lo colocan en ese nicho de casi perfección en que quedan muchos autores que mueren cuando aún son considerados jóvenes, o cuando se encontrarían a la mitad de su trayectoria creativa. Es uno de muchos poetas estadounidenses que merecen un mayor número de traducciones, empezando por el español.

La fuerza de los poemas de Levis crecía con el tiempo. De ahí, tal vez, la tentación que uno de sus mejores amigos, el también poeta David St. John, sintió por buscar qué otros trabajos de Levis que no hubieran sido publicados en Elegy podrían quedar aún en las cajas que había acumulado y que contenían borradores enviados por Levis a sus amigos.

St. John fue poco a poco encontrando poemas que estaban suficientemente trabajados para no ser considerados borradores, pero que habían sido ignorados previamente, o que no entraban en el tema y tono de Elegy. En poco tiempo, St. John se dio cuenta que tenía un nuevo libro en manos.

The Darkening Trapeze (Graywolf Press, 2016) es, a decir de St. John, el Duino Elegies, el Book of Nightmares es Levis y es también donde el poeta revela de forma incontestable su profunda relación con el cine, la fotografía y la pintura, en especial con la fotografía del checo Josef Koudelka y con la pintura del inglés Francis Bacon.

……Who
would have ever thought
The body could be poured? Like anything else?
Who would have supposed
The body pouring out the body in the stench
Of resurrection?

De: The Space

Es imposible saber si Levis presentía el final de su vida: muchos de los poemas contenidos en The Darkening Trapeze anuncian un cansancio avasallador, mecido entre una continua rebeldía y un triste sarcasmo. El título del volumen se refiere, por un lado, a uno de sus poemas –Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside it– y por otro lado nos remite a Tryptich, un cuadro de Francis Bacon.

The only surviving son of Jesus Christ was Karl Marx.
You can tell by the last letter of his name,
Which has the shape & frail balance of an overturned cross.

….

The only surviving son of Jesus Christ survives now
Mostly in English departments & untended graves

De: Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside it

St. John quiso dar a The Darkening Trapeze un tono especialmente póstumo, aún si Elegy había precedido a este volumen por varios años. Su continua búsqueda de más poemas de Levis lo llevó a toparse con God is Always Seventeen, un poema que Levis escribió para su hijo Nick, y que St. John editó con base en notas dejadas a mano por el poeta. Levis, al contrario de lo que normalmente hacía, no circuló el borrador con muchas amistades. Es un poema más íntimo y que si bien no rompe el tono del libro, está colocado al final como precisamente eso: un cierre, porque nuestra naturaleza aborrece los cabos sueltos.




At the Grave of My Guardian Angel: 
St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans

for Gerald Stern

At sixteen I was so vulnerable to every influence
That the overcast light, making the trash of addicts & sunbathers suddenly clearer
On the paths of the city park, seemed death itself spreading its shade   
Over the leaves, the swan boats, the gum wrappers, and the quarreling ducks.
It took nothing more than a few clouds straying over the sun,
And I would begin falling through myself like an anvil or a girl's comb or a feather
Dropped, tossed, or spiraling by pure chance down the silent air shaft of a warehouse,
The spiderweb in one fourth-floor window catching, in that moment, the sunset.
For in such a moment, to fall was to be simplified & pure,
With a neck snapped like a stem instead
Of whoever I turned out to be,
Wiping the window glass clear with one cuff
To gaze out at a two-hundred-year-old live oak tethering
The courtyard to its quiet,
The tree so old it has outlived even its life as a cliché,
And has survived, with no apparent effort, every boy who marched, like a wilderness
Himself, past it on his way to enlist in Lee’s army,
And now it swells gently in the mist & the early sunlight.
So who saved me? And for what purpose?
Beneath the small angel cut from cheap stone, there was nothing   
But my name & the years 1947-1949,
And the tense, muggy little quiet of a place where singing ends,
And where there is only the leftover colored chalk & the delusions of voodoo,
The small bones & X’s on stones signifying the practitioner’s absence,   
Entirely voluntary, from the gnat swirl & humming of time;
To which the chalked X on stone is the final theory; it is even illiterate.   
It is not even a lock of hair on a grave. It is not even
The small crowd of roughnecks at Poe’s funeral, nor the blind drunkard   
Laughing there, the white of his eyes the unfurling of a cold surf below a cliff—
Which is the blank wave sprawl of fact receding under the cries of gulls—
Which is not enough.

*

I should rush out to my office & eat a small, freckled apple leftover   
From 1970 & entirely wizened & rotted by sunlight now,
Then lay my head on my desk & dream again of horses grazing, riderless & still saddled,
Under the smog of the freeway cloverleaf & within earshot of the music waltzing with itself out
Of the topless bars & laundromats of East L.A.

I should go back again & try to talk my friend out of his diet
Of methamphetamine & vodka yogurts & the look of resignation spreading over his face
Like the gray shade of a tree spreading over a sleeper in the park—

For it is all or nothing in this life, for there is no other.
And without beauty, Bakunin will go on making his forlorn & unreliable little bombs in the cold, & Oswald will adjust   
The lenses on the scope of his rifle, the one
Friend he has carried with him all the way out of his childhood,
The silent wood of its stock as musical to him in its grain as any violin.   
This must have been what they meant,
Lincoln & Whitman, joining hands one overcast spring afternoon   
To stroll together through the mud of Washington at the end   
Of the war, the tears welling up in both their eyes,
Neither one of them saying a word, their hands clasped tightly together   
As they walk for block after block past
The bay, sorrel, chestnut, and dapple-gray tail swish of horses,
And waiting carriages, & neither one of them noticing, as they stroll & weave,
The harness gall on the winters of a mare,
Nor the gnats swarming over it, alighting now on the first trickle of blood uncaking from the sore;
And the underfed rib cage showing through its coat each time it inhales   
Like the tines of a rake combing the battleground to overturn   
Something that might identify the dead at Antietam.
The rake keeps flashing in the late autumn light.
And Bakunin, with a face impassive as a barn owl’s & never straying from the one true text of flames?
And Lincoln, absentmindedly trying to brush away the wart on his cheek   
As he dresses for the last time,
As he fumbles for a pair of cuff links in a silk-lined box,
As he anticipates some pure & frivolous pleasure,
As he dreams for a moment, & is a woman for a moment,
And in his floating joy has no idea what is going to happen to him in the next hour?
And Oswald dozing over a pamphlet by Trotsky in the student union?   
Oh live oak, thoughtless beauty in a century of pulpy memoirs,   
Spreading into the early morning sunlight
As if it could never be otherwise, as if it were all a pure proclamation of leaves & a final quiet—

*

But it’s all or nothing in this life; it’s smallpox, quicklime, & fire.
It’s the extinct whistling of an infantry; it is all the faded rosettes of blood
Turning into this amnesia of billboards & the ceaseless hunh? of traffic.   
It goes on & I go with it; it spreads into the sun & air & throws out a fast shade
That will never sleep, and I go with it; it breaks Lincoln & Poe into small drops of oil spreading
Into endless swirls on the water, & I recognize the pattern:

*

There there now, Nothing.
Stop your sniveling. Stop sifting dirt through your fingers into your glass of milk,
A milk still white as stone; whiter even. Why don’t you finish it?
We’d better be getting on our way soon, sweet Nothing.
I’ll buy you something pretty from the store.
I’ll let you wear the flower in your hair even though you can only vanish entirely underneath its brown, implacable petals.
Stop your sniveling. I can almost see the all night diner looming   
Up ahead, with its lights & its flashing sign a testimony to failure.
I can almost see our little apartment under the freeway overpass, the cups on the mantle rattling continually—
The Mojave one way; the Pacific the other.
At least we’ll have each other’s company.
And it’s not as if you held your one wing, tattered as it was, in contempt   
For being only one. It’s not as if you were frivolous.
It’s not like that. It’s not like that at all.
Riding beside me, your seat belt around your invisible waist. Sweet Nothing.   
Sweet, sweet Nothing.

“At the Grave of My Guardian Angel” is from THE SELECTED LEVIS: SELECTED AND WITH AN AFTERWORD BY DAVID ST. JOHN by Larry Levis Copyright © 2000. 



Childhood Ideogram

I lay my head sideways on the desk,
My fingers interlocked under my cheekbones,   
My eyes closed. It was a three-room schoolhouse,   
White, with a small bell tower, an oak tree.   
From where I sat, on still days, I’d watch   
The oak, the prisoner of that sky, or read   
The desk carved with adults’ names: Marietta   
Martin, Truman Finnell, Marjorie Elm;   
The wood hacked or lovingly hollowed, the flies   
Settling on the obsolete & built-in inkwells.   
I remember, tonight, only details, how   
Mrs. Avery, now gone, was standing then   
In her beige dress, its quiet, gazelle print   
Still dark with lines of perspiration from   
The day before; how Gracie Chin had just   
Shown me how to draw, with chalk, a Chinese   
Ideogram. Where did she go, white thigh   
With one still freckle, lost in silk?
No one would say for sure, so that I’d know,   
So that all shapes, for days after, seemed   
Brushstrokes in Chinese: countries on maps   
That shifted, changed colors, or disappeared:   
Lithuania, Prussia, Bessarabia;
The numbers four & seven; the question mark.   
That year, I ate almost nothing.
I thought my parents weren’t my real parents,   
I thought there’d been some terrible mistake.   
At recess I would sit alone, seeing
In the print of each leaf shadow, an ideogram—
Still, indecipherable, beneath the green sound   
The bell still made, even after it had faded,   
When the dust-covered leaves of the oak tree   
Quivered, slightly, if I looked up in time.
And my father, so distant in those days,
Where did he go, that autumn, when he chose   
The chaste, faint ideogram of ash, & I had
To leave him there, white bones in a puzzle   
By a plum tree, the sun rising over
The Sierras? It is not Chinese, but English—
When the past tense, when you first learn to use it   
As a child, throws all the verbs in the language   
Into the long, flat shade of houses you
Ride past, & into town. Your father’s driving.
On winter evenings, the lights would come on earlier.   
People would be shopping for Christmas. Each hand,   
With the one whorl of its fingerprints, with twenty   
Delicate bones inside it, reaching up
To touch some bolt of cloth, or choose a gift,   
A little different from any other hand.
You know how the past tense turns a sentence dark,   
But leaves names, lovers, places showing through:   
Gracie Chin, my father, Lithuania;
A beige dress where dark gazelles hold still?   
Outside, it’s snowing, cold, & a New Year.   
The trees & streets are turning white.
I always thought he would come back like this.   
I always thought he wouldn’t dare be seen.

Larry Levis, “Childhood Ideogram” from Winter Stars. Copyright © 1985 by Larry Levis. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. 




Elegy with a Chimneysweep Falling Inside It

Those twenty-six letters filling the blackboard   
Compose the dark, compose
The illiterate summer sky & its stars as they appear   

One by one, above the schoolyard.

If the soul had a written history, nothing would have happened:   
A bird would still be riding the back of a horse,   

And the horse would go on grazing in a field, & the gleaners,

At one with the land, the wind, the sun examining   
Their faces, would go on working,

Each moment forgotten in the swipe of a scythe.   

But the walls of the labyrinth have already acquired   
Their rose tint from the blood of slaves
Crushed into the stone used to build them, & the windows   

Of stained glass are held in place by the shriek   

And sighing body of a falling chimneysweep through
The baked & blackened air. This ash was once a village,   

That snowflake, time itself.

But until the day it is permitted to curl up in a doorway,   
And try to sleep, the snow falling just beyond it,   

There’s nothing for it to do:

The soul rests its head in its hands & stares out
From its desk at the trash-littered schoolyard,

It stays where it was left.
When the window fills with pain, the soul bears witness,   
But it doesn’t write. Nor does it write home

Having no need to, having no home.   
In this way, & in no other

Was the soul gradually replaced by the tens of thousands   
Of things meant to represent it—

All of which proclaimed, or else lamented, its absence.

Until, in the drone of auditoriums & lecture halls, it became   
No more than the scraping of a branch   
Against the side of a house, no more than the wincing

Of a patient on a couch, or the pinched, nasal tenor   
Of the strung-out addict’s voice,

While this sound of scratching, this tapping all night,   
Enlarging the quiet instead of making a music within it,

Is just a way of joining one thing to another,

Myself to whoever it is—sitting there in the schoolroom,

Sitting there while also being led through the schoolyard   
Where prisoners are exercising in the cold light—

A way of joining or trying to join one thing to another,   
So that the stillness of the clouds & the sky

Opening beneath the blindfold of the prisoner, & the cop   
Who leads him toward it, toward the blank

Sail of the sky at the end of the world, are bewildered

So that everything, in this moment, bewilders

Them: the odd gentleness each feels in the hand
Of the other, & how they don’t stop walking, not now

Not for anything.

Larry Levis, “Elegy with a Chimneysweep Falling Inside It” from Elegy. Copyright © 1997 by Larry Levis. 



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