Clarence Major, poeta, novelista y pintor, nació en 1936 en Atlanta, Georgia, EE.UU.. Recibió una licenciatura de la Universidad Estatal de Nueva York y un Ph.D. de Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities.
Sus libros de poesía incluyen Configuraciones:
Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958-1998 (1999); Parking Lots (1992); Some Observations of a Stranger at Zuni in the Latter Part of the Century (1998); Surfaces and Masks (1987); Inside Diameter: The France Poems (1985); Symptoms and Madness (1971); Swallow the Lake (1970); and Fires That Burn in Heaven (1954).
Es autor de más de ocho novelas incluyendo Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel (1996); Painted Turtle: Woman with Guitar (1988); Fun and Games (1988); Such Was the Season (1987); Emergency Exit (1979), and Reflex and Bone Structure (1975).
Ofertas recientes en prosa incluyen Viajes: A Memoir (2001) and Afterthought: Essays and Criticism (2000). he is also the editor of many anthologies and books such as The Garden Thrives: Twentieth-Century African American Poetry (1995); Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1994); and The Dark and Feeling: Black American Writers and Their Work.
Entre sus muchos honores y premios: Fulbright Fellowship, and a National Council on the Arts Fellowship. Clarence Major is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of California, Davis.
Translator: Alexander Best
Sobre la contemplación de una oruga que se transforma en una mariposa
Es un proceso lente, muy lente,
mientras me siento aquí en el porche,
simplemente mirando un macho patoso de
las orugas del algodoncillo
en una mariposa graciosa
mientras colgando del fondo de
una hoja marchita que está oscura con la vida
entre un racimo acre de
otras hojas intensas.
De esta vieja rama
que se inclina sobre mi pasamano,
la oruga está pensando
– en este momento particular de su desarrollo natural –
que puede decidir cual manera quiere escoger: volar o morir.
Y hacer eso por prestar juramento y por soñar de
poseer el atractivo de la mariposa “cuervo”
o las franjas de la mariposa “tigre”.
O quizás quedar en la etapa crisálida
o convertirse en una mariposa “fraile”.
La oruga es un visionario
y un intrigante nato
– en esta luz cambiante donde
gotas con forma de cutícula
brilla y brilla como néctar rojo.
mientras cuelga del fondo de
esta hoja verde. Está calzado firmemente,
casi como atrancado con resortes metálicos;
y lanzando esa luz
– una luz plateada y purpurina,
y delineado en oro
– adornos dorados.
On Watching a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly
It’s a slow, slow process
sitting here on the porch
just watching a clumsy male
slowly turning itself
into a graceful butterfly while
hanging from the underside
of a withered leaf dark with life
among a pungent cluster
of other rich leaves
from this old branch
leaning over my banister
at a certain point
in its natural growth
probably caterpillar thinks it can
decide which way
it wants to go – to fly or die,
by simply taking an oath and dreaming
of having the loveliness
of, say, the male crow butterfly
or having the stripes
of the tiger butterfly
or maybe stay in the chrysalis stage
or become a friar butterfly
caterpillar is a dreamer
and a natural schemer
in this changing light where
cuticle-shaped drops of fluid
glow and glow
like red nectar
as it hangs from the bottom
of this green leaf
as though bolted
with metal springs,
throwing off that light,
a light of silver-purple
outlined in gold –
No One Goes to Paris in August
A Montparnasse August
with view of the Cimetière. A yard of bones.
We wake to it. Close curtains to it.
Wake to its lanes. Rows of coffin-stones in varying light.
Walking here. Late with shade low, low, long.
We’re passing through, just passing through
neat aisles of gray mausoleums.
(From Paris. Send this postcard. This one.
Calm water lilies. Water lilies.
It’s morning. Baudelaire’s tomb.
Tree limbs casting shadow west.
This, a lot of time under a looming sky.
Nobody has time like this.
(Time to go to Le Mandarin for coffee
every day. We’re not complaining.
They bring the milk separate.
Watch the passersby on Saint-Germain.)
Nothing to ponder. This is the plight.
Pause by Pigeon in bed with his wife —
both fully dressed.
Pink flowers, pink flowers,
just beneath de Beauvoir’s name.
When she lived she lived two doors down.
Went south in August.
All of us smell of heat all the time.
We are the living. Oh dear!
There are the dead ones there.
Their thoughts more familiar, though.
Lives finished, nearly clear.
And they make it possible for us to go on living
as we do in their blue shade.
"No One Goes to Paris in August" from Waiting for Sweet Betty.
The Painting After Lunch
It wasn’t working. Didn’t look back. Needed something else. So
I went out. After lunch I saw it in a different light, like a thing
emerging from behind a fever bush, something reaching the
senses with the smell of seaweed boiling, and as visible as yellow
snowdrops on black earth. Tasted it too, on the tongue Jamaica
pepper. To the touch, a velvet flower. Dragging and scumming, I
gave myself to it stroke after stroke. It kept coming in bits and fits,
fragments and snags. I even heard it singing but in the wrong key
like a deranged bird in wild cherries, having the time of its life.
"The Painting After Lunch" from Waiting for Sweet Betty.
Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving
based on an old photograph bought in a
shop at Half Moon Bay, summer, 1999
No sound, the whole thing.
Unknown folk. People waving from a hillside of ripple grass
to people below in an ongoing meadow.
Side rows of trees waving in a tide of wind,
and because what is moving is not moving,
you catch a state of stasis.
Opposite of this inactivity
you imagine distant music and buzzing and crickets
and that special hot smell of summer.
To the garden past the Bay to the meadow,
cliff sheltered with low clouds, offset by nodding thistle.
Tatter-wort and Stinking Tommy along footpath
worn down by locals. But who and why?
In the photograph itself you’re now looking the other way
to unknown clusters of houses.
Where forces are balanced to near perfection.
Who could live
in such a great swollen silence and solitude?
You hear church bells
from Our Lady’s Tears breaking that silence nicely
but just in the right way so silence continues
as though nothing else matters day after day.
And anyway, each face seems so familiar.
What do you do when you wave back?
You wave vigorously.
You remember your own meadow,
your cliffside and town,
the halfhearted motion of your hand,
your grandmother’s church-folk
gathering on a Sunday afternoon in saintly quietness.
You name the people
whose names are not written on the back.
You forgive them for wrapping themselves in silence.
You enter house after house and open top-floor windows
and you wave down to future generations like this.
"Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving" from Waiting for Sweet Betty
Revelation at Cap Ferrat
It’s not solely the dance
of the juggler but his spirit:
with its turkey wings, perfect thighs,
sensuous hips, large round flat eye.
This eye smiles like lips.
Watch this eye—
it’s not a donkey eye.
It’s not solely the dancer
who moves like a circus animal
as though to children’s music—no,
it’s the girl in the swing’s rhythm,
the ticking of the clock at night,
the strut of the cock, the flight
of the holy family to the remains.
The nipple that feeds
the infant is an eye looking
into his future.
It’s not even the village square
with its musicians and happy faces
that makes the difference—no,
because if it were, weddings
with violins, harps, flutes
would have settled the question:
no, it is the rising and lifting,
the failing and catching of
that unknown sense of self
before it crashes, that matters.
“Revelation at Cap Ferrat” from Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958-1998.
San Diego and Matisse
1. INSIDE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A TREE
Beautiful women in smoky blue culottes
lying around on fluffy pink pillows
beneath windows onto charming views,
sea views, seasonal leaves and trees.
Inside is outside and outside inside.
Smell of saltwater swimming in the room.
2. OUTSIDE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A ROCKING CHAIR
Shadow of lighthouse along the beach.
Whales spotted every day lately
though winter’s two months yet.
The evening is as warm as an interior.
Silverlight lagoonlight, snorkeling light.
And a line of joggers against last light.
Blue smoke snaking up the pink sky.
"San Diego and Matisse" from Waiting for Sweet Betty.