“Unfortunately, very little Catalan literature is available in English. This is a shame, since it’s a rich brew, as various as the region itself, where mountains tower over half-moon-shaped beaches and snow falls 20 minutes’ drive from the seaside.” De Solitud, at @nytimesbooks
Recently the website ‘Música de poetes‘ launched a Spotify playing list dedicated to Catalan female voices. Listen to the music of Judit Nedderman, Meritxell Gené, Gemma Humet, Anaïs Vila, Mirna Vilasís and other women who, all in their own style, interpret work of several Catalan poets.
Click here to listen to the playing list or first get a taste for what these artists have in store for you watching this video in which jazz singer Celeste Alías performs ‘Sovint diem’ (‘We often say’), a poem by Montserrat Abelló set to music by Celeste herself.
Like the verse not written
that sharpens the senses
the poem bites
Com el vers no escrit
que aviva els sentits
mossega el poema
From: Cel rebel (Rebellious Sky), Proa, 2001 By: Tònia Passola, born on this day in 1952.
Translation: Marga Demmers
Listen to Tònia reciting some poems from this collection on ‘Fonoteca de Poesia’:
“The fact is that, like some poets as Eluard, Chard or Octavio Paz, Felícia Fuster has an existential touch which achieves its aims through research on the meaning of language“.
Francesc Parcerisas, poet and literary critic
This quote appears on the website of the Fundació Felícia Fuster, a private, non-profit organization created by the poet and artist Felicia Fuster herself. Its aims are “introducing the poetry and art of the author, awarding young artists’ projects, and spreading Catalan language abroad. The Foundation also provides scholarships for people without financial means.”
Felícia was born in 1921, so this year it is time to celebrate the ‘Any Felíca Fuster‘. That is why you will regularly read a post concerning this versatile woman.
“Marta Orriols doesn’t talk to plants, and neither does Paula, the main character of the widely acclaimed novel that turned Orriols into a household name in contemporary Catalan literature.
Published in 2018, Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes (translated as Learning to Talk to Plants) tells the story of unexpected loss and how a 40-year-old neonatologist must cope with grief while navigating through bustling Barcelona life.
“She must learn to do what plants do in real life, to set roots, go to the light, and open up to other people,” Orriols said in an interview with Catalan News.”
For the rest of the article in which she talks about book clubs, Barcelona and translations of Catalan literature and more, click here.
Celebrating Sant Jordi today!
Another two weeks and it is 23 April: Sant Jordi, and nowadays also World Book Day. So the perfect occasion to visit your local bookshop and buy or order some books and surprise your loved one (or yourself, of course) with works written by Catalan women poets and novelists.
If you do not master (sufficiently) the language, you can browse the catalogue of literary translations from Catalan into other languages on TRAC, the database of the Institut Ramon Llull, or ask your bookseller. Here are some suggestions.
In case you like to read fiction, look for
- Caterina Albert who wrote under the penname of Victor Català (Solitud)
- Maria Barbal (Pedra de tartera, País íntim)
- Carme Riera (Dins el darrer blau, La meitat de l’ànima)
- Mercè Rodoreda (La Plaça del Diamant, El carrer de les Camèlies, Jardí vora el mar, Mirall trencat)
- Montserrat Roig (Ramona, adéu, El temps de les cireres, La veu melodiosa)
or novels by a new generation of writers:
- Eva Baltasar ( Permagel, Boulder)
- Najat El Hachmi (L’últim patriarca, La filla estrangera)
- Marta Orriols (Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes)
- Marta Rojals (L’altra)
- Irene Solà (Bèstia, Canto jo i la muntanya balla)
- Tina Vallès (La memòria de l’arbre)
For poetry ideas:
- Montserrat Abelló
- Maria-Mercè Marçal
- anthologies (for example Survivors), in which appear poets like Maria Àngels Anglada, Clementina Arderiu, Mireia Calafell, Felícia Fuster, Rosa Leveroni, Dolors Miquel, Susana Rafart, etc.
To celebrate this day two poems by Margarita Ballester (1941):
The vegetal dimension of time
Death comes to a stop over me;
it doesn’t scare me, but rather comes
under the heading of nuisance.
And life slips by, down the slope,
with its many surplus hours
while death grows in the trees
that are surviving in their place.
There echoes in my head, the vegetal
dimension of the time that I shall not live
and nor will they write for us:
the time of tortoises
I shall hide my book,
and the bad luck of not having
more than life for writing.
Because I wanted it … All.
Translations: Julie Wark.
For more of her poems visit Lyrikline.
‘Either you rebel or you submit. If you submit, it is possible that you no longer suffer, but for me submittal means distress.’
Núria Pompeia, a pioneer feminist cartoonist, depicted collective experiences and denounced the discrimination of women in all spheres.
I have abandoned on the shore
-oh, fear, the fear!-
the tender nursing spirit
-fragrance and care.
For those who stole our spring
there can be no forgiveness.
Say it is so,
say it is no.
The once-lively flowers
-April and satin-
languish like our lives
with no direction,
not even fearless in dreams
-though once intrepid.
Too often I say no,
too often, yes.
The fogginess that haunts us,
-oh, for the sun!-
loses battles, wins battles,
-just hear the din!
Spring seems strange to us,
and the yes and the no.
Those who robbed us of spring
can know no mercy.
Clementina Arderiu (1889-1976)
Translation: Mary Ann Newman
For World Poetry Day (21 March).
The shadow of my homeless love.
The bullet that pierces the shadow of my homeless love.
The leaves that cover the bullet that pierces the shadow of my homeless love.
The wind that snatches the leaves that cover the bullet that pierces the shadow of my homeless love.
My eyes that root in the wind that snatches the leaves that cover the bullet that pierces the shadow of my homeless love.
My love that is reflected in the eyes that root in the wind that snatches the leaves that cover the bullet that pierces the shadow of my homeless love.
A poem by Marta Pessarrodona:
Ever since, without your latent,
we have all been, more or less,
half nun and half harlot,
half cloistered, half streetwalker.
We haven’t had your sense of shame:
we lack the cleverness
of the secret surname,
the talent of a loud-sounding mask.
My poet didn’t value
or crumpled maps.
Like yours, however,
screaming children annoyed him,
and he didn’t crave after tea and jam
or hysterical ladies.
Our time, for sure,
has not been as pathetic as yours.
This is why, perhaps,
we must pay homage to you;
even more for your poems,
of such golden pins;
for your wisdom,
not even betrayals could conceal.
Also because they have sung more lines
to you than you ever wrote yourself;
so jealous, they wanted to immortalize you
with pencils, brushes and cameras;
and because you will always be
so far away and yet so close
to our victories,
to our downfalls.
Ever since, without your talent,
we have all felt like you,
half nun, half harlot,
so many days, on so many repeated occasions.
Translation by Sam D. Abrams.
For the original text in Catalan and more poems of Marta Pessarrodona, visit Lyrikline. In case you want to read about the Russian poet Anna Gorenko (pen name Anna Akhmatova), look here.
One hundred years ago on 8 October 1919 author, journalist and political activist Teresa Pàmies was born in Balaguer (Lleida). Her work, consisting of novels, diary prose, narrative and article, is an alive witness of the Spanish Civil War and exile and has an autobiographical background.
Apart from her literary work, Teresa collaborated in radio and press as well as in scientific and cultural magazines; she was also active in politics. For example, she joined the Unified Socialist Youth of Catalonia (1937), of which she would become the leader.
At the end of the Civil War that meant the Republican’s defeat two years later she marched into exile with her father, only to return in 1971 thanks to a visa to receive the Josep Pla Award for Testament in Prague (Testament a Praga).
This book contains a transcription of autobiographical memoires of her father Tomàs Pàmies, a Marxist politicial leader, alternated with messages and texts in which she is reflecting on communism, especially related to the Prague Spring (1968).
The English translation by Melissa Stewart titled Testament in Prague was published in 2005 by University Press of the South, New Orleans.
For more information on Teresa Pàmies, click here.
A poem by Mireia Calafell:
Slowly ─no other choice─, she takes off her clothes.
Shirt buttons are difficult for fingers
that tremble. And the trousers, the trousers
are a test of her balance, patience and dignity,
as if to say I cannot the way things are. How to put it, how things are.
When she is naked she gets dressed again, resuming the ritual.
And so until the end of the day, and the end of her days.
She cannot accept that only snakes, while shedding,
lose their scales and their wounds together.
The original text in Catalan was published in Tantes mudes (Perifèric edicions, 2014). Translation by Graciella Edo and Ester Pou.
For the Catalan text and more of her poems go to Lyrikline.
I am grateful to fate for three gifts: to have been born a woman, from the working class and an oppressed nation.
And the turbid azur of being three times a rebel.
The original text in Catalan has been painted on the wall of the Bar Patagònia, Carrer Abeurador, 14 in Banyoles.
A poem by Dolors Miquel:
If a man were to cross through Paradise in a dream, and they gave him a flower as a proof that he had been there, and if, upon awaking, he were to find that flower in his hand… what then? Coleridge
I crossed through Paradise in a dream
and they gave me a flower.
The flower was there when I woke up,
on the sheets. It was gorgeous.
I showed it to my mother
who lived shut up in the heart of an artichoke
weaving the silk from her eyes, working it
into marvellous shrouds of a thousand hues.
‘I’ve visited paradise, mother’, I told her.
And she took from her pocket
an identical dried flower.
Then I knew
a visit to paradise
was not enough.
The original text in Catalan was published in La flor invisible (Bromera Poesia, 2010). Translation by Peter Bush, Poetàrium (2010), IRLL.
For more of her poems, go to Lyrikline.
This special day calls for a special poet: Dolors Miquel (Lleida, 1960). Recently English translations have appeared on ‘Double Dialogues’, an online art journal.
Kristine Doll translated five of Miquel’s poems that are quite something else. Read them for yourself: The Pink Plastic Glove and Other Prose Poems. Please give your comments on this unusual poetry.
This morning the cultural organisation Òmnium Cultural has announced that author Marta Pessarrodona has been awarded the 51st Premi d’Honor de les Lletres Catalanes for her work as a poet, narrator, literary critic, translator, editor and essayist.
The jury praised her among other things for the constant dialogue she has established between Catalan and European literature, especially the Anglosaxon.
The following poem translated into English is symbolic for this connection, as it refers to three women poets (Maria Antònia Salvà, Caterina Albert and Clementina Arderiu) who wrote in Catalan.
FOR MARIA ANTONIA, CATERINA AND CLEMENTINA AND SO MANY, BUT NOT THAT MANY, OTHERS
I knew that you could,
despite a lot of things,
always explain to us
fragments of what we wanted.
I knew that you knew
far more than you wrote down,
were more daring, even,
than could have been expected.
I knew that there was, behind
so many obstacles, so many bolts,
so many doors, learned and locked,
a spring to ease thirst and hunger.
I knew that you had seeds of everything
(I’ve almost always known it)
beyond the patronising silence
it kept my style plain.
I knew I had to search you out
(rummage for out-of-print books),
to read you attentively, closely–you
forerunners of our fallen lives.
Translation: Poetry Ireland
This year we celebrate the life and work of poet Montserrat Abelló (#AnyMontserratAbello). Over the next months some of her poems will appear on this blog, beginning with an audio of ‘Pleasure of Living’, where you can hear the poet herself. In these verses she describes the joy of being alive, one of her main themes. Enjoy the poem!
Plaer de viure
Plaer de viure, d’estar
asseguda i contemplar
com cau la tarda.
Tarda d’un gris lluminós
ara que el dia s’allarga.
I ser feliç com Epicur
amb el poc que vull
al meu abast.
I, en no esperar
ja res d’un més enllà,
no tenir por de la vida
ni de la mort.
Pleasure of Living
Pleasure of living
To be seated gazing
at the fading afternoon
Today in a glittering grey
now that days become longer.
And to feel happy as Epicurus
with the few things I want
at arm’s reach.
And in not expecting
anything from an everafter,
not to be afraid of life
From: Memòria de tu i de mi
València: Edicions de la Guerra, 2006
Audio production: Institut Ramon Llull
For more videos and audios of poets and their work, go to Lyrikline.
Today, 1st February, is the one hundred years ago that Montserrat Abelló was born, a prolific poet full of energy who died in 2014 at the age of 96.
‘Abelló’s poetry, which has been collected into one volume entitled At the Heart of the Words. Collected poems 1963-2002, for which she received the 2003 Lletra d’Or Prize, is notable for a voice that is at once firm and intimate, and for its overall consistency and unity of direction. Although, when Abelló began to write, she was influenced by the socially committed poetry, her situation as a woman and mother after the birth of a mentally handicapped child pushed her into responding to her urge to write.
Over the years, her poetic expression would become sparer and increasingly refined. Themes like love, loneliness, the passing of time and poetic creation acquire in her poetry an incisive and personal touch, recalling the best of the twentieth-century English-language women writers.’