Poetry set to music

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.

Bite

Bite
Like the verse not written
that sharpens the senses
the poem bites
desperation.

October 1982

Original text:
Mossec
Com el vers no escrit
que aviva els sentits
mossega el poema
la desesperança.


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 voice of Mariona Sagarra

Today is World Voice Day with the central theme ‘One World, Many Voices’. So it is the perfect moment to enjoy this video of performer Mariona Sagarra, voice and effects unit, who loves to explore the possibilities of her voice combining it with poetry: ‘Dues dones’ (‘Two Women’), a poem by Maria-Mercè Marçal.

On her website Mariona describes her art as follows: ‘Music, voice and poetry. My intention has been to weave different worlds together, internal dynamics, possible combinations, improvisations and surprises, timbres and emotions. Sonorities tainted with tradition.’

Her latest CD is called ‘Deixa’m tornar-te a dir’ (‘Let me tell you once more’), inspired by Montserrat Abelló’s poetry.

World Poetry Day

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
and bibliophiles.

Post-scriptum

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.

'Spring'

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).

‘My homeless love’ (for Valentine’s Day)

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.

Maria-Mercè Marçal

Poem of the Month: January

A poem by Marta Pessarrodona:

Anna Gorenko

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
white peacocks,
religious music,
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.

Conxita Badia interprets Frederic Mompou

Conxita Badia sings the poem Damunt de tu, només les flors, written and composed by Frederic Mompou who also accompanies her on the piano.

This concert took place in the gardens of the Villa-Museum Pau Casals, in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès region), where she used to sing every summer accompanied by Pau Casals till the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936.

Click here for an English translation of the poem. Photos: @Fons Conxita Badia, Biblioteca de Catalunya.

Poem of the month: September

A poem by Mireia Calafell:

Shedding

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.

Poem of the Month: August

A poem by Dolors Miquel:

Paradise

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.

World Poetry Day: Dolors Miquel

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.

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Photo: dm

Marta Pessarrodona honoured

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

Foto: Joan Cortadellas

Listen to ‘Pleasure of Living’, a poem by Montserrat Abelló

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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
or death.

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.

Montserrat Abelló, poet

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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.’

This quotation is the introduction to Abelló’s page Who I Am and Why I Write, where she tells more about her life and work. Read more

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