Charles Bernstein, Norbert Lange, Ernesto Livon-Grosman, Collective à Royaumont, Haroldo de Campos, and Leevi Lehto
A Test of Poetry
“A Test of Poetry” was written in 1992 and published in My Way: Speeches and Poems (University of Chicago Press, 1999). The poem is based on a letter from the Chinese scholar Ziquing Zhang, who translated poems from Rough Trades and The Sophist for Selected Language Poems (Chengdu, China: Sichuan Literature and Art Publishing House, 1993); quotations from the poems are italicized. It seemed to me that Ziquing Zhang’s questions provided both an incisive commentary on my poems and also raised a set of imponderble yet giddy, not to say fundamental, translation issues. Several poets have take up the task of translating this poem, and we here compile the results: Norbert Lange into German, Ernesto Livon-Grosman into Spanish, Collective à Royaumont dans le cadre de l’Atelier Cosmopolite into French (originally published as a pamphlet by Format Américain), Haroldo de Campos into Portuguese, and Levi Lehto into Finnish.
Last year, I wrote an essay on sound in contemporary Brazilian poetry that was published in Portuguese in Deslocamentos Críticos (Lisbon: Babel; São Paulo, Itaú Cultural, 2011). I am glad to share the English version of the essay here over the next several posts. My great thanks to Rumos Literatura do Itaú Cultural, the literary criticism program of Itaú Cultural, for their support of this research.
Brazilian Poetic Sound Work: 1980-2010
In the course of performing Um Ano Entre Os Humanos, poet Ricardo Aleixo (b. 1960) recites and sings.1 He plays guitar and bits of hardware. He dj’s from a laptop. Some of these sounds are scripted; others, improvised. All complement the visual aspects of the performance, which include video, a simple set of a chair and table holding just the laptop, a microphone, and percussion instruments, and Aleixo and his co-performer’s both choreographed and spontaneous movements. Sound contrasts, however, with the piece’s most striking visual symbol: the poemanto, a large black cloth emblazoned with white letters that Aleixo wraps himself in and animates for part of the performance, and that appears in a video that plays for part of the piece.