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The light was incredible in my neighborhood today.

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http://www.masg.es/index.php?/ongoing/el-alma-del-mundo/#

The assertion that a picture is worth 1,000 words always struck me as the shop-talk of a propagandist. A picture can strike where we are defenseless, and the pictorial media have been deployed so manipulatively in our era that looking can and should be thought of as a critical act, a skeptical one.

That said, these portraits of people from Cairo may well be worth thousands on thousands of words. Even through skepticism and resistance and all the defensive mental prophylactics, sometimes images of human eyes, human faces, human bodies with their scars and particularities, can be arresting, stirring. I love these faces – their ferocity and vulnerability and plaintiveness and strength. The photographer, Miguel Ángel Sánchez, calls the series The Soul of the World.

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_________

Te dehojé, como una rosa,
para verte tu alma,
y no la vi.

Mas todo en torno
– horizontes de tierras y de mares –,
todo, hasta el infinito,
se colmó de una esencia
inmensa y viva.

– Juan Ramon Jiminez

_____________

I took off petal after petal, as if you were a rose,
in order to see your soul,
and I didn’t see it.

However, everything around –
horizons of fields and oceans –
everything, even what was infinite,
was filled with a perfume,
immense and living.

– Translation by Robert Bly

______________

My own attempt at translation:

I stripped you,
like I would strip a rose of its leaves,
in order to see your soul

And I did not see it. But everything around –
horizons of earth and of ocean – everything, out to infinity
was filled with your perfume
immense and alive.

Mine is a less beautiful way. But I really think there is something specific in the choice of “dehoje” in the first bit. The word is literally ‘to de-leaf,’ maybe best translated as “defoliate.” This seems a very specific choice – the poet is not saying he tore away the PETALS of the rose, but its LEAVES. I like the idea that a rose’s soul is found not in the heart of the flower, but under its leaves….this implies that the soul of the rose is the thorn….That said, I adore the translation on “esencia” as “perfume.” Gorgeous, gorgeous – it could have been “essence,” which is much more abstract and less haunting than perfume.

____________

Poetry by Juan Ramon Jiminez.
Translation by Robert Bly.
Kindly made public by As It Ought to Be.

http://asitoughttobe.com/2010/03/13/saturday-poetry-series-presents-juan-ramo…

Photo by Kyle Griffith, 2001. Accessed through the Cities and Buildings Database of the University of Washington Digital Collection.

http://128.95.104.14/buildingsweb/index.html

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