Friday, August 30, 2019

Before You Came

Before You Came

By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Translated by Agha Shahid Ali

Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was merely a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a colour at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the colour of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don't leave now that you're here-
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz from Pakistan is widely regarded as the greatest Urdu poet of the twentieth century and the iconic voice of a generation. Had he not been from the Indian subcontinent, he would have received Nobel Prize which he richly deserved. Although he is best remembered for his revolutionary verses that decried tyranny and called for justice, his oeuvre also extended to scintillating, soulful poems of love, solitude and separation. 

This poem shows how his beloved has transformed everything mundane into radiant and how her absence has made the same sights dismal and dreary.
Source: The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Author), Agha Shahid Ali (Translator)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Before I Could Call Myself Ángel Gonzalez

Before I Could Call Myself Ángel Gonzalez

By Angel Gonzalez

Translated by Steven Ford Brown

Before I could call myself Ángel Gonzalez,
before the earth could support the weight of my body,
a long time
and a great space were necessary:
men from all the seas and all the lands,
fertile wombs of women, and bodies
and more bodies, incessantly fusing
into another new body.
Solstices and equinoxes illuminated
with their changing lights, and variegated skies,
the millenary trip of my flesh
as it climbed over centuries and bones.
Of its slow and painful journey,
of its escape to the end, surviving
shipwrecks, anchoring itself
to the last sigh of the dead,
I am only the result, the fruit,
what’s left, rotting, among the remains;
what you see here,
is just that:
tenacious trash resisting
its ruin, fighting against wind,
walking streets that go
nowhere. The success
of all failures. The insane
force of dismay…

Angel Gonzalez (1925-2008) was one of the most important Spanish poets of Twentieth century. I have been reading his selected poetry titled “Astonishing World", brilliantly translated by Steven Ford Brown.

Like Neruda, the range of his poetry is quite vast and varied. A sense of solitude, an awareness of losses caused by time (and love too), a search for solutions based on the intensity of living on the one hand and on solidarity among people on the other are some of the recurring motifs in his poems. There are in this collection beautiful poems on love, nature, music, philosophy, science, politics (the failure of Spanish Republic under Franco) and history.

The above poem is outstanding as it traces his own evolution through epochs overcoming many odds by his strength of resistance and his survival after many geological, biological and political changes