Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Is Poetry Only for Women?

Leafing through a magazine yesterday, I found a reader’s letter in which a guy said such an opinion.

According to this man, only women have sensibility enough to feel poems. My first reaction was think “such a silly idea!”

Thinking back on it I guess that the man’s problem is he hasn’t read poetry. Talking about poetry as if there is only one poetry is actually ridiculous and shows a lack of culture.

I would like to talk with that man and to ask him some questions.

First of all, how many poems have you read in your life?

Second, do you like music? What about the rock and roll music? Do you like this kind of music? Do you like their lyrics? Aren’t these lyrics poems?

When I am still a young man, I like an American music group called “The Doors”. Their lyrics were full of sex, love, death, … The singer of the group actually had a life as the romantic writers have.

As I was interested in this singer, called Jim Morrison, I picked some books up from the public library and learnt more on him. This way I found the connection between him and William Blake and Dylan Thomas. And reading poems written by those poets I arrived to Allen Ginsberg (and his amazing poem Howl!). After reading the Ginsberg poems I started with other poets and novelists of the Beat Generation.

On the other hand, somebody lent me the book “Poet in New York” by Federico García Lorca. This book was written in the twenties of the 20th century but it is still as strong as if it were written today and it sounds current and fresh. I know some famous music stars like Leonard Cohen are fond of this book. I know what is the reason for this.

In short there are poems for everyone and for every time. Maybe one day you read the following and don’t feel anything,… or maybe start to cry:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly

connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Underground by Haruki Murakami

In the morning of Monday 20th of March of 1995 a group of members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo put several packs of sarin, a poison gas, in the Tokyo’s subway system.

As a result twelve people died and hundred were wounded.

The Japanese well-known writer Haruki Murakami, author of novels such as The Wind Up Bird Chronicle or Norwegian Wood, was shocked by this news and decided to write about it.

This book is the result of his work. In my opinion the book is divided in three parts. The first one is shaped by the testimony of some of the victims. The second one is a transition between the first one and the third one. In it Mr Murakami explain his
reasons to write this book and try to justify why he has included the last part. As the writer says since the subtitle of his book “The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche” he is not only interested in knowing more about the terrorist attack but he want to make the following question: Does all Japanese society reflected in what happened this day?

Moreover he, as a novelist, is interested in the fact that people need to built “narratives” to explain their lifes. This idea has interesting consequences as the following paragraph shows:

“Haven’t you offered up some part of your Self to someone (or something), and taken on a “narrative” in return? Haven’t we entrusted some part of our personality to some greater System or Order? And if so, has not that System at some stage demanded of us some kind of “insanity”? Is the narrative you now possess really and truly you own? Are you dreams really your own dreams? Might not they be someone else’s visions that could sooner or later return into nightmares?”

The last part of the book is shaped by the testimony of some members of the group Aum Shinrikyo. It is not about to understand their reasons. It is only for knowing how ordinary people can join an organization like this.

Although I recommend you this book, I have to warn you that this is not another Murakami’s novel but an essay really hard because is about a terrible terrorist attack.

I wait for your comments.
Thanks in advance

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Do you know Alejandra Pizarnik?

She was an Argentinean woman poet. As a poetess, she was too much good. I mean she could feel too much. She killed herself when sadness was stronger than her.

I do not know how many of her books have been translated into English. I have always read her in Spanish.

I knew her thanks to Julio Cortázar. In my opinion Mr. Cortázar (from now on “Julio”) was one of the best writers. Julio and Ms. Pizarnik (from now on Alejandra) had a strange relationship. I think they never were lovers but there was a strong connection between them. A few days before killing herself, Alejandra sent Julio a very disturbing letter and attached a photo of her nude.

But what is really important is that she was one of the best writers in the last century.

The following is a little example of her poesy (I would like to know your opinion):


The night splintered into stars

watching me dazzled

the air hurls hate

its face embellished with music.

We will go soon

Secret dream

ancestor of my smile

the world is emaciated

and there is a lock but no keys

and there is terror but not tears.

What will I do with myself?

Because to You I owe what I am

But I have no tomorrow

Because to You I...

The night suffers.

You can find a lot of information on Alejandra on Internet. I recommend you this blog: (but most texts are in Spanish).

Saturday, 10 October 2009

In Suddenly

Last Friday Barak Obama was given the Nobel Prize. When I knew the news, my first thought was “which of them?”.

I remember he has wrote at least two books so I thought to myself he could have won the literature one.

This can appear a silly idea but in my opinion it is stranger to win the Peace one when the winner has only been nine months in charge of the USA. I hope Obama to get a lot of important achievements but it is too soon.

However I trust Mr. Obama and I would like him to win the Peace prize but in eight years' time.

I have chosen this title because I read those words in the headline of The New York Times. And, because this pretend to be a literary blog, I want to remember a very good play titled “Suddenly Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams, I recommend it to you.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Seven Houses in France

The author of this book is Bernardo Atxaga. He is one of the best Basque writers.

With his first novel, called Obabakoak, he won several awards such as Euskadi Prize, Prize of the Critique, Prize Millepages and the Spanish National Prize of Narrative.

He has won more awards such as the National Prize of the Critique in Basque language (for his novel Esos cielos) and the Grinzane Cavour Prize and the Mondello Prize for “The accordionist’s son”. He also won the Cesare Pavese Prize for his poetry book “Poemas e híbridos”.

Moreover the Basque film director Montxo Armendariz made a film based on “Obabakoak”. Mr. Armendariz is a well-known film director who was nominated to a Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1998 with his film “Secret of the Heart”.

The story unfolds in Yangambi beside to the Congo River at the very beginning of the past century. At that time this part of Africa was dominated by the king Leopold II of Belgium. With the background of the jungle, the reader knows the life of a group of soldiers.

The captain Lalande Biran is a poet. He is in charge of detachment. The main work of the army is sending stuff such as ivory, natural rubber and mahogany to its mother country. But Mr. Biran and other officers steal part of these materials to make themselves rich men.

Mr Van Thiegel, also known as "Coco", is at the captain's command. He is the darker character in this story. He was a legionary in the past and has been in the army for many years. He is envious and his thought are crazy. He is also dangerous and he will be the main cause of the final disaster.

Another character is Donatien. He is a big and strong man, but he is stupid too. In my opinion he is an example of owed obedience. The same owed obedience which did a lot of Germans helping Hitler in his terrible delirious.

These three people, and most of people in this book, did not think that the African people were human beings. Neither the king Leopold II did.

In every case of domination of a country by another, there are people who collaborate with the invaders. In this book this role is played by Livo. A Pygmy man who works for the Belgians until the drama is inevitable.

The most mysterious person in this novel is Chrysostome Liège. He is a soldier and in fact he is the best shooter. His behaviour is strange for the others. He is a lonely and silent man and appears not to be interested in women. However he lives the only real love story in the novel. His tidy mind is an island of sense among the inhabitants of Yangambi.

In spite of the cruel story in which this book is based on, it has humour and you can smile reading some episodes. For example when Van Thiegel is drunk or when a supposed trip of the king to Yangambi finishes in a trip of a bishop, a journalist and a statue of the Virgin Maria.

Reading this text you can know the thoughts of these people and their different points of view. Spying their mind you know their past and what they want to do in the future.

This book talks about the genocide which was done by the king Leopold II of Belgium. But there are also love stories, psychopaths, greedy people, etc.

Reading this book you can see how of different is what people think about a same fact. While one person is thinking in earn a lot of money to come back to his country, another one only thinks in looking for women and another one thinks in getting a bit of food for his family.

I recommend this book and the reading of “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad.

Maybe these readings change your mind about the European behaviour in Africa in the centuries XIX and XX.

(*) This book has originally been published in Basque. I have read the Spanish translation but I am not sure if it has already been published in English. If not, you can read some of the other books by Mr. Atxaga.