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Posts tagged as “poetry”

Climate Change A sonnet By: Miranda Robin

Special To Topanga Journal

hues of green and blue, colors of land, of sea, and sky

fragile structure filled with knowledge of educated hope 

storms brewing, sea levels rising and we know why 

climate is changing and denied by a small orange dope

Miranda Robin

By Miranda Robin

the conversation is here, the dialogue is now 

heat waves and health risks, irreversible sadness 

extinction real, saving lives essential, help presents how 

working together to better the worlds immediate madness 

“temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood…” Miranda Robin

temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood

this is a reality, a fact, watching coastal populations before us die 

water dwindles, some ignore, concerned humans out for blood 

the discussion is clear, forward momentum, no longer a silent sigh  

ice is melting matching the beat of the heart, we know the planets worth 

she opened her arms to our dreams, protect our magical mother earth 


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Nobel Prize Winning Poet Pablo Neruda’s Twilight (Crepusculario)

Special To Topanga Journal

Nobel Prize Winning poet Pablo Neruda sold his poet’s “suit” to publish his first poetry book, translator William O’Daly tells us in his introduction to Pablo Neruda Book Of Twilight (Crepusculario). This is the ninth Neruda translation from O’Daly published by the independent publisher, Copper Canyon Press. Suprisingly, the printing of this book was funded in part by the right-wing poet, and this is very surprisng since Neruda was known for his left-wing views, Hernan Diaz Arrieta, O’Daly tells us. These are just a few of the tidbits we learn about this master poet’s life in the introduction to Twilight. This is the first time this book has been published in its entirety in the United States

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Pablo Neruda is a pen name. His legal name was Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. He was born in Parral, Chile July 12, 1904. Neruda was awarded the Nobel in 1971. He died September 23, 1973, after which there were investigations into whether he might have been poisoned.

Even at the tender age of 19, Neruda’s poetic work in Twilight was bold, evocative, sexy and dark. Neruda delves into the rich world of emotional love, not skin deep, but passionate and alluring, sensual and arousing devotion found in the darkest corners of our mythos. Controversial from the very beginning, he aroused an entire nation behind him with his words. Poets can be dangerous for the politician. He lost friends to political upheaval. He lost romances to love’s political woes. In the end, he rose up to become a Nobel Prize winning poet. Though he never forgot his humble beginnings. In Twilight, we see the maturation of Neruda as a rising poetic star in Chile. The removal of his poet’s suit is a metaphor for the reveal of his poetic prowess.

“They had little money, but I think Mistral, at least by osmosis, opened his eyes more widely to social injustice, as well as to the breadth and scope of poetry.” William O’Daly

Topanga Journal conducted a Q&A with O’Daly on his translation of Pablo Neruda Book Of Twilight (Crepusculario). In this session with O’Daly we find out more about Neruda’s love affairs, his ability to use poetry to his advantage in love and the fleetingness of love in Neruda’s life.

TJ: You mention in the introduction, Neruda sold his poet’s suit and cape and nearly all his possessions to publish Twilight. Can you tell us more about this story, and his first effort to publish his poetry?

BILL: In 1920, at age 16, Neruda rode by train to Santiago from what was then the “frontier” town of Temuco. Already having published individual poems, he arrived in black pants, black shirt, and black cape and hat. He called it his “poet’s suit.” Very dramatic. In that sense, he played the role of poet. Baudelaire was a big influence. He was already writing some of the poems that would become Book of Twilight. Claridad, a journal he wrote for and the publishing house of the University of Chile, accepted the book. At that time it was common for a young poet to pay for printing. There was no money for first books, and the printer insisted Neruda pay for the entire print run before he would release any copies to him. So the young Neruda sold his poet’s suit, his father’s watch, which he had received as a parting gift, and sold much of the little furniture he had acquired. He was studying to be a teacher of French and existed largely on the allowance his father sent. Once that stopped, because his father didn’t think he was applying himself toward his studies, which was true, he would hit up relatives or friends for money. He wrote articles and picked up a little money in other ways. It was hand to mouth, but often there was red wine, passionate literary discussion with friends, the reading to one another of favorite poems and passages and political camaraderie.

TJ: Can you tell us more about Neruda’s relationship with his poetic mentor, the rising star Gabriela Mistral?

BILL: What I’ve always found fascinating is Gabriela Mistral was the first Nobel Prize winning poet of Chile. Many years later Neruda was the second. In addition to being a marvelous, emotional, darkly lyrical poet, Mistral was a dedicated educator and would make a lasting mark in Latin American education. She also was an advocate for the poor and especially for women, and worked against social injustice, most notably as wreaked on the Mapuche people. Beginning in 1918, she spent two years teaching in the small town of Punta Arenas. Then, before Neruda left for Santiago, she was transferred to serve as principal of the Liceo de Niñas in Temuco. Neruda was in his final year at the Liceo de Hombres. When they met, he asked if she would mentor him. Neruda would visit her after school, and she would steer him toward certain poets and writers whose work she felt would be helpful to him. She encouraged and advised him to meet other poets. He needed a cultural milieu, which at that time in Chile meant Santiago. The teenage Neruda shared Mistral’s concern for the plight of the Mapuche, and he himself had been raised by a railroad worker and stepmother. They had little money, but I think Mistral, at least by osmosis, opened his eyes more widely to social injustice, as well as to the breadth and scope of poetry.

TJ: Can you tell us a bit more about how the execution by Falangists of his good friend Federico Garcia Lorca influenced his thinking and poetry?

BILL: After Neruda first arrived in Santiago and started studying at the Pedagogical Institute, he spent a lot of time listening to anarchist speeches instead of going to class. There had recently been strikes and protests by workers and students against the oligarchy, and he was thinking about those issues. He wrote political articles for Claridad, as well as published his poems there. Then, as Chilean consul in Ceylon, Burma, and elsewhere, he was quite lonely and witnessed devastating poverty on a mass scale.

Jumping ahead, he was living with his first wife and his daughter in Madrid before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Lorca became a great friend, and he championed Neruda’s work among the Spanish poets. When Lorca, against nearly all better judgment, decided to return to his family’s summer home in Granada as the war was breaking out, it seems Neruda respected his decision, even as he feared for him. After Lorca was assassinated near Alfacar, Neruda felt he had lost a brother. There’s nothing like losing a close friend or family member to brutal political violence to clarify one’s commitments. Neruda would publish the third Residencia about 10 years later, with its poem about the civil war: Come and see the blood in the streets. / Come and see / The blood in the streets. / Come and see the blood / In the streets. Politics isn’t ever present in Neruda’s middle work, but it imbues Canto General. In the late work, you’ll find laments and invective about colonization and war, the inhumanity and smallness of politicos and the vulnerability of humankind. In his poetry book World’s End, he apologizes for his support of Stalin, which took him too long to renounce. So profound was his hope that he chalked up news of the atrocities to Western disinformation, fake news. He didn’t want to believe it.

TJ: How did Neruda’s poetry skill affect his love life?

BILL: It helped immensely. The young poet friends he made after arriving in Santiago told themselves, and each other, that the only reason the tall consumptive-looking poet did so well with the young ladies was because of his poetry. What else could it be? And I don’t think they were deluding themselves. But he was a good-looking guy, not unhandsome. I’ve heard from reliable sources that, at times, he was capable of tenderness beyond his age. He was described by some women later in his life as timid. He was high maintenance at times, in fact, often in his marriages. He was a romantic, and young women loved him.

TJ: What do you see in the poem Bridges? What is its intent?

BILL: In a way, when Neruda talks about the loneliness of bridges, he’s talking about himself. The poet depends on them, creates them, and yet many take them for granted. They welcome us with open arms. We pass over them. Trains pass over them. We say good-bye before departing over them. The birds fly over them. We are indifferent to them, coming and going without so much as a wave. In their slight movements they are forever stationary, always there. They exist purely to connect us to one another, to the surfaces of the earth, and the earth to itself. They’re fascinating structures. When they connect person to person, they are constructs of the heart. Jumping to the opposite end of his career, in The Hands of Day he calls himself a “poet of bridges.” Both Bridges and The Curved Bridge of the Maldonado Bar in Uruguay, in Hands, serve loosely as ars poeticas (the art of poetry). The poet is a bridge.

TJ: The poem The Head of Hair seems to have themes about the cycles of creation and destruction, built on the mythic characters Melisanda and Pelleas. But knowing Neruda, what was going on around him during the time he wrote this poem?

BILL: Among other things, he was developing a tragic sense of love, set against an ideal of love. I’m not sure of the exact timing of the composition of Melisanda and Pelleas, but as Twilight was being readied for print, he was still mourning the loss of his relationships with two women whom he loved intensely, among his many girlfriends and sexual encounters.

I was returning to him as a different poet and human being than when I had started translating him. Though much older, I was somehow younger than I had been, more agile in some ways. Many have pegged me as an “old soul.” The Actor’s Studio, teaching, some hard knocks and a whole bunch else taught my inner life how to be young. It’s how I responded to those karmic lessons. I couldn’t pass up the marvelous symmetry and was finally ready to translate Neruda’s first book. At the end of the day, the translation turned out to be the most challenging of them all.

TJ: In Book of Twilight, you acknowledge the poet and Spanish-language editor Paco Márquez for assisting your translation. How did you work with Paco to complete the translation?

BILL: I have always had a Spanish-language editor review my translations of Neruda. It’s best practice and honors the quality of Neruda’s work, as well as the difficulty of translating it accurately, particularly the music, the tone, the spirit. Paco is a wonderful poet and a careful reader. Paco had been a student in a poetry and translation workshop I’d taught at UC Davis. I had a strong sense of what he was capable of. He would walk with me to my car after class, just as I had done with Philip Levine when I studied with him many years before. Our poetries are quite different, but we share many values in our approaches to poetry and translation. We became friends. I asked him to be my Spanish-language editor on a manuscript of Neruda’s work that, as it turned out, was not published. But in working together on that manuscript, we established a process that worked beautifully for Twilight. I would send Paco a section of the book in an advanced draft. He would comment and make suggestions. His judgment is balanced, and given the difficulty of some of the passages in Twilight, with its aspects of Latin American modernismo, even Paco would say, “well, it could be this or could be that, but I think your translation nails it or misses it in this way.” He made some excellent suggestions, but even he, whose first language is Spanish, was initially mystified by a few of the passages. I was really grateful for his participation, his good spirit, for how fully he invested himself in the work. That was no less true when we interpreted things differently. We had a great time, and in the end I made the choices I believed in. I did my best to inhabit young Neruda’s world and to reinvent the music of the original.
O’Daly presents the English translations en face with the original Spanish.

Pablo Neruda Book Of Twilight is available for purchase from Copper Canyon Press: 

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Pablo Neruda: Fin de Mundo or World’s End Translated by William O’Daly

It is not often you hold in your hands the works of a poet of this caliber. Malibu Arts Journal had the privilege of reviewing Neruda in 2008 with the Copper Canyon Press release of The Hands Of Day, with translation by the Neruda guru William O’Daly. It is the Journal’s distinct pleasure to once again review the world renowned poet Pablo Neruda in his book-length poem Fin de mundo, or World’s End. William O’Daly’s eighth and final translation of Neruda’s late and posthumous work, he writes in his Translator’s Acknowledgements, “has its roots as far back as 1976, and in certain ways earlier than that.” The fastidious level of work O’Daly put into Fin de Mundo is obvious. The work is in its original form on the left hand side of the page, and on the right, the English translation.

Neruda was always known as the people’s poet, venerated throughout Latin America and later in the States, as one of the all-time greatest poets. He begins World’s End with “What a ceaseless century!” then works his way into “When the Bomb dropped / (people, insects, incinerated fish) / we thought to leave with a hobo’s bundle / for a change of heavenly body and race. . .” and soon we find ourselves in the middle of an open air love affair, of “open and sudden sex” – a Neruda hallmark, to speak so fluently of sex, and passionately. We read on to find ourselves in a “Metamorphosis,” where “Everything began on Sunday / which instead of feeling golden / repented its joy. . .”

This one-time candidate for the Chilean Presidency, Senator and Nobel Laureate, also exiled into Mexico, is internationally acclaimed in the literary world. Yet the poet never forgot those who worked with their hands, always aware of the privilege he had to write. Neruda then takes us into the darkness of the century in which he lived, the one now dubbed by sociologists as the Century of Genocide. Neruda digs deep into his once very stern political beliefs in The Enemy where he so eloquently writes:

The Enemy

Today an enemy came to see me
this is a man locked
in his truth, in his castle
as in an iron box,
with his own breath
and his singular swords
that he suckled as punishment.

I saw the years in his face:
in his eyes of weary water,
in the lines of loneliness
that climbed to his temples
slowly, from his pride.

We spoke in the clarity
of a swarming noon
the wind scattering sunlight
and sunlight battling in the sky.
But the man merely held out
the new keys, the pathway
to all the doors. I believe,
that within he was silence,
unable to share himself.
He had a stone in his soul :
he was keeping the hardness.

I thought about his paltry truth
buried with no hope whatsoever
of hurting anyone but himself,
and I watched my poor truth
treated poorly inside of me.

There we were, each of us
with his sharp conviction,
and hardened by time:
like two blind men defending
each other’s darknesses.

Even a quick comparison of other translations of Neruda’s work shows the insight O’Daly had, the keen eye for the fluidity of the poet’s words. Some of the lesser translations do not capture the true spirit of this highly praised poet. It is no easy task to translate a poem into another language. The words, incites and intuitiveness that come with the language can be lost in the conversion. O’Daly’s delicate handling of the lines, phrases and shaping of the poem let the rhythm of the original work present itself as the true intent of Neruda, the master salonnière for the people.

Fin de mundo, or World’s End, by Pablo Neruda is available from Copper Canyon Press for $15.

For more information see

California Poetry: From The Gold Rush To The Present Powerful Beatnik Literature

California Poetry: From The Gold Rush To The Present By Dana Gioia

It’s classic iconic subculture reflections of California’s powerful beatnik literature. The early 20th Century generation of poets are the roots of the beat generation’s impact. Dadaism and Surrealism both had a large influence on the Beats. Dadaism criticized high-culture elitism. Surrealism altered Dadaist’s defiant nature into a positive sociocultural movement with a focus on subconscious revelations. With California the main epicenter of the beatnik impact, “California Poetry: From The Gold Rush to the Present” is an excellent poetry anthology inclusive of many groundbreaking poets that were the mainstays of that movement in addition to their predecessor foundational masters.

Included in the numerous famous poetry and poets in this anthology is the eminent beatnik Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-owner of the one-of-a-kind City Lights Pocket Bookshop, now City Lights Books, in San Francisco and from 1953— the present, founder, publisher, and editor of City Lights Books. The following untitled poem, but popularly known as “In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see. . .” is a disorientating tie between centuries exposing human misery through the condemnation of the dehumanizing of civilized man.

In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
the people of the world
exactly at the moment when
they first attained the title of
‘suffering humanity’
They writhe upon the page
in a veritable rage
of adversity
Heaped up
groaning with babies and bayonets
under cement skies
in an abstract landscape of blasted trees
bent statues bats wings and beaks
slippery gibbets
cadavers and carnivorous cocks
and all the final hollering monsters
of the
‘imagination of disaster’
they are so bloody real
it is as if they really still existed

And they do

Only the landscape is changed

They still are ranged along the roads
plagued by legionnaires
false windmills and demented roosters
They are the same people
only further from home
on freeways fifty lanes wide
on a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

The scene shows fewer tumbrils
but more strung-out citizens
in painted cars
and they have strange license plates
and engines
that devour America

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, [“In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see …”] from Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Charles Bukowski, perhaps most influential to the subculture of Los Angeles, is also part of the middle and perhaps most read section of the anthology.

my old man

16 years old
during the depression
I’d come home drunk
and all my clothing–
shorts, shirts, stockings–
suitcase, and pages of
short stories
would be thrown out on the
front lawn and about the

my mother would be
waiting behind a tree:
“Henry, Henry, don’t
go in . . .he’ll
kill you, he’s read
your stories . . .”

“I can whip his
ass . . .”

“Henry, please take
this . . .and
find yourself a room.”

but it worried him
that I might not
finish high school
so I’d be back

one evening he walked in
with the pages of
one of my short stories
(which I had never submitted
to him)
and he said, “this is
a great short story.”
I said, “o.k.,”
and he handed it to me
and I read it.
it was a story about
a rich man
who had a fight with
his wife and had
gone out into the night
for a cup of coffee
and had observed
the waitress and the spoons
and forks and the
salt and pepper shakers
and the neon sign
in the window
and then had gone back
to his stable
to see and touch his
favorite horse
who then
kicked him in the head
and killed him.

the story held
meaning for him
when I had written it
I had no idea
of what I was
writing about.

so I told him,
“o.k., old man, you can
have it.”

and he took it
and walked out
and closed the door.
I guess that’s
as close
as we ever got.

Suzanne Lummis, a member of the West Coast Advisory Council for the legendary Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice where the famous Wednesday night gathering and the West Coast’s longest running free poetry workshop is held, is also included in this anthology. Her poetry is forceful, feminist and powerful.


In New York they think all of California
is like L.A. And they think everyone in L.A.
has a maid. And they don’t believe you if you try
to tell them. – Radio talk show caller

It’s true, here we are all blonde,
even in the dark, on Mondays
or in slow traffic.

Even in our off-guard moments,
startled by a passer-by,
we are young.

Here we are all privileged,
even in our sleep. At night
the maids hover like sweetly

tranquilized angels over
the glazed or enameled surface
of things, purring clean clean. . .

It’s all true. We girls sip lemon lime through a straw,
make love, Revlon our nails.
We take our long sleek legs out for a walk,
let them catch light.

When someone snaps, “Get real!“
it hurts us, actual pain like we’ve seen
in the news. So we throw beach robes
over our tans, and cruise down the boulevard
tossing Lifesavers into our mouths,
car radios singing am.

New York, is it true
that in the rest of the world it is winter?

Our state is a mosaic of blue pools
even the Mojave, and the palm trees
line up straight to the Sierra Nevadas.
And the surf comes down slow like
delirious laundry, even near Fresno.

New York, is it true that great cold
makes the bones ache as if broken?

We’re sorry we can’t be reached
by plane or bus, sorry one can’t pull
even the tiniest thing out of a dream.
We’re like the landscape inside
a plastic dome filled with water.

But turn us over, then upright.
No snow falls.

The book’s editors are Dana Gioia, Chryss Yost and Jack Hicks, each an outstanding literary artist in their own right. The anthology contains 101 authors across two centuries, with poetic styles ranging from haiku to ballads and progresses into an endless list of acclaimed poets from the region. Published in 2004 by Heyday Books and Santa Clara University, “California Poetry: From The Gold Rush to the Present” was Malibu’s April 2008 “One Book, One City” read.

Poetry From Lower Topanga: Tool’s Snake Pit

From Lower Topanga: Tool's Snake Pit

Tool’s Snake Pit is published by local Topangan Pablo Capra’s outlet, Brass Tacks Press. You know him. He is the publisher who brought us the little green covered poetry book, Idlers Of The Bamboo Grove. You’ve seen it in a bucket at The Reel Inn and all over Topanga, Malibu and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Most of us here know the Snake Pit as part of Lower Topanga near the Rodeo Grounds. Most outside of the area have not even heard of Lower Topanga. They know Topanga as a whole, as a place of Hollywood movie and music star history, past and present. After all Oingo-Boingo’s old place is here, along with a multitude of other icons. There is a part of Topangan history that the outside only knows from some old, crinkled newspaper articles or the take-over of the Rodeo Grounds – that is Lower Topanga.

Tool is an alias for a man who lived in the Snake Pit in a house that did not even have a real roof. It was “just quarter-inch plywood that was warped and never nailed down.” He was in the business of making secret doors. His secret doors were works of art for drug dealers and those who wished to traffic drugs across the border. He got into the idea of manufacturing fake aerosol cans that could traffic drugs across the border. And he could manufacture a spring-loaded gun holster.

But Tool is not all hardcore. He had a heart. He fell for a lady named Holiday. When he could not get in touch with her because she left for Palm Springs with another guy, Tool went on a binge. He was dealing and doing LSD (“L”), at the time of this bad news. He decided to head up his hill, a place we’ve all seen but rarely trek up. He went up there specifically to “forget” about Holiday via a drug-trip. Once there, his walkman ran out of batteries. He had to try and high-tail it to George’s Market for a battery refill before the trip set-in. Unsuccessful, he’d made it back to his sleeping bag on the hill on his hands and knees only to be arrested as a Topanga Sniper. Mistaken for a freeway sniper shooting people in Los Angeles, off to the local pen Tool went.

These are merely excerpts from an ongoing series of beat prose stories about Surfers, drug dealers and artists who lived together in Lower Topanga in the ’70s and ’80s. At once nostalgic and realistic, the prose is moving, revealing and a hippie rhythm of modern times. Panoramic and lacking self-indulgence, the work is true and refreshing vintage prose. There are not many left who can tell the tale of Lower Topanga from a been there, done that perspective. Tool was there, lived it and survived to tell the story.

Along with the beat prose is a series of comix from the underground by Toylit. In true subculture motif, these are original works of art in an authentic and humorous, hippie-inspired comics that deal with social and political subjects like sex, drugs, rock music and various forms of protests. Toylit is the author of the Crap Poetry Manifesto, The Last Nowhere Craplexity, the Children’s Guide To AStral Projection And Prevenge Of The Androgynous Cyborg Pirates From The Future and the Illustrator of Idlers Of The Bamboo Grove, Rat Tales and The Snake Pit, the issue prior to Tool’s Snake Pit. Toylit’s work is part of the re-emergence of a strong California subculture.

Tool’s Snake Pit is available from Brass Tacks Press for $5 here:

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