Five Poems /
A bi-lingual chapbook
Poems by Hyam Plutzik
Spanish Translations by
Jose A. Villar-Portela
Carlos A. Del Valle Cruz
“Once I looked on poetry as little more than beautiful language.
Later it was a way of communicating the nuances of the world.
More recently I have begun to look at poetry as the synthesizer,
the humanizer of knowledge.”
(Hyam Plutzik, Poet (1911-1962)
“Alguna vez vi a la poesía como algo más que un hermoso lenguaje.
Más adelante fue una forma de expresar los distintos matices del mundo.
Últimamente la veo como una síntesis del conocimiento humano.”
(Hyam Plutzik, Poet (1911 - 1962)
Translated by Pedro Medina
Five Poems by Hyam Plutzik in Spanish Translation
By Edward Moran
(“The translator is a traitor”)
Umberto Eco famously used this Italian play on words to suggest that, by its very
nature, translation is an imprecise, even deceptive art in that it can never replicate
the nuances of cultural context that frames a text. At best, he conceded, translators
might be dubbed practitioners of “admirable treason” when they captured elusive
meanings with particular elegance.
These translations of poems by Hyam Plutzik have been admirably rendered, thanks
to the elegant ministrations of several translators from different walks of life--a
scholar/translator, a writer for young readers, an award-winning poet, a lawyer..
These are people who breathe a bilingual oxygen--deft scribes with forked tongues
who instinctively know how to delve into the deeper roots of language, roots that
encapsulate “the greater, the remembered beauty” lest “successive layers of leaf
dwindle the sunlight.”
Hyam Plutzik did not write in Spanish, but he was immensely moved by reading the
translations of one of his contemporaries, Federico García Lorca. In the preface to
the centennial edition of Apples from Shinar, Plutzik pays tribute to this Spanish
martyr while warning against those who would kill poets, either by violence or by
indifference. The “labors and agonies” of the poet, he writes, can produce “the final
distillate, the eternal stuff pure and radiant as a drop of uranium.”
In this chapbook, the “pure and radiant” works of a Jewish American poet with roots
in Eastern Europe take on a new, scintillating glow when exposed to the rich radioactivity of a language that was not his own. More than half a century after Plutzik’s
death, these translations attest that his words are not being greeted with indifference. But they are not just being “studied in a distant place”-- they are being retrofitted with new linguistic wings that will enable them to reach and delight a whole new
universe of readers far from his ancestral realms..
Such is the power of a little book, sent aloft through time and space by the art of
THE LAST FISHERMAN
He will set his camp beside a cold lake
And when the great fish leap to his lure, shout high
To three crows battling a northern wind.
Now when the barren twilight closes its circle
Will fear the yearning ghosts come for his catch
And watch intently trees move in the dark.
Fear as the last fire cringes and sputters,
Heap the branches, strike the reluctant ashes,
Lie down restless, rise when the dawn grays.
Time runs out as the hook lashes the water
Day after day, and as the days wane
Wait still for the wonder.
EL ÚLTIMO PESCADOR
Translated by Carlos Pintado
Acampará a la orilla un lago de aguas frías
Y cuando el gran pez atrape la carnada, gritará
A los tres cuervos que luchan contra el viento del norte.
Solo cuando el ocaso estéril agonice,
Tendrá miedo de los fantasmas que se acercan.
Observará cómo se mueven los árboles en lo oscuro.
Cuando el fuego chisporrotee por última vez,
Vendrá el miedo a amontonar las ramas, a esparcir las cenizas,
Se acostará inquieto, se levantará con el alba.
Día tras día el tiempo acaba
Mientras su anzuelo fustiga el agua
y él espera el milagro
ON HEARING THAT MY POEMS WERE
BEING STUDIED IN A DISTANT PLACE
What are they mumbling about me there?
“Here,” they say, “he suffered; here was glad.”
Are words clothes or the putting off of clothes?”
The scene is as follows: my book is open
On thirty desks; the teacher expounds my life.
Outside the window the Pacific roars like a lion.
Beside which my small words rise and fall.
“In this alliteration a tower crashed.”
Are words clothes or the putting off of clothes?
“Here, in the fisherman casting on the water,
He saw the end of the dreamer.
And in that image, death, naked.”
Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.
When I opened my hand, they flew away.”
AL ESCUCHAR QUE MIS POEMAS
FUERON ESTUDIADOS EN UN LUGAR LEJANO
Translated by Pablo Cartaya
¿Qué son ellos murmurando acerca de mí alla?
“Aquí,” dicen, “él sufrió; Aquí estaba alegre.”
Y así como la ropa palabras se ponen y se desnudan.
La escena es la siguiente: mi libro está abierto
En presencia de treinta pupitres; el maestro expone mi vida.
Fuera de la ventana el Pacífico ruge como un león,
A lo largo de ese Pacífico mis pequeñas palabras suben y bajan.
“En esta aliteración se estrelló una torre.”
Y así como la ropa palabras se ponen y se desnudan.
“Aquí, el pescador arroja sobre el agua,
Viendo el fin del soñador.
Y en esa imagen, muerte desnuda.”
En mi vida he creado puñados de palabras
Y cuando las abrí, volaron.
I IMAGINED A PAINTER PAINTING SUCH A WORLD
Like successive layers of leaf that dwindle the sunlight
Are the overlapping cumulative shadows
Projected by things, which huddle in them darkly
Within the greater shadow: suffering.
Breaching the shores of matter a swell of shadows
Destroys all sanctions of formal separateness;
And objects, transposed of vesture, take doubtful values
Like hulks vaguely discerned under the tides.
What inner or outer flames may shine are random
In the one, shadowed sea where all things melt,
While through all, the superior dark, the subjective night
Encloses and bathes the universe.
IMAGINÉ UN PINTOR PINTANDO UN MUNDO TAL
Translated by Jose A. Villar-Portela
Como capas sucesivas de hojarasca que menguan la luz del sol
Se ven las traslapadas sombras acumulativas
Proyectadas por las cosas, que en ellas se agazapan tenebrosas
Dentro de la sombra mayor: el sufrimiento.
Rebosando las orillas materiales una oleada de sombras
Destruye toda sanción de separación formal;
Y los objetos, transpuestos de vestidura, toman dudosos carices
Como moles entrevistos en la marea.
Aleatoria es toda llama que brille interna o externa
En el único, ensombrecido mar donde todo se liquida,
Mientras tanto, la lobreguez superior, la noche subjetiva
Encierra y baña el universo.
A miscellaneous screaming that comes from nowhere
Raises the eyes at last to the moonward-flying
Squadron of wild-geese arcing the spatial cold.
Beyond the hunter’s gun or the will’s range
They press southward, toward the secret marshes
Where the appointed gunmen mark the crossing
Of flight and moment. There is no force stronger
(In the sweep of the monomaniac passion, time)
Than the will toward destiny, which is death.
Value the intermediate splendor of birds.
Translated by Pedro Medina
Un alarido que viene de ninguna lugar
Eleva la mirada al vuelo hacia la luna
En el espacio gélido, un escuadrón de gansos salvajes.
Más allá del cañón del cazador o de su voluntad
Ellos presionan hacia el sur, hacia las marismas secretas
Donde marcan el paso los hombres armados.
En el momento del vuelo
No hay fuerza más fuerte (arrasa la pasión maniática, el tiempo)
Que la voluntad hacia el destino, que es la muerte.
Valora el esplendor de las aves.
SPRIG OF LILAC
Their heads grown weary under the weight of Time—
These few hours on the hither side of silence—
The lilac sprigs bend on the bough to perish.
Though each for its own sake is beautiful,
In each is the greater, the remembered beauty.
Each is exemplar of its ancestors.
Within the flower of the present, uneasy in the wind,
Are the forms of those of the years behind the door.
Their faint aroma touches the edge of the mind.
And the living and the past give to one another.
There is no door between them. They pass freely
Out of themselves; becoming one another.
I see the lilac sprigs bending and withering.
Each year like Adonis they pass through the dumb-show of death,
Waxing and waning on the tree in the brain of a man.
ESPIGA DE LILA
Translated by Carlos A. Del Valle Cruz
Sus cabezas cansadas por el peso del Tiempo Con pocas horas a este lado del silencio Las espigas lilas dobladas en sus varas, prontas a perecer.
Aunque cada es hermosa de por sí,
En cada es mayor la belleza recordada.
Cada un ejemplar de sus antepasados.
Dentro la flor de hoy, trémula en el viento,
Todas las formas de aquellas que por años yacen más allá de la puerta.
Sus leves aromas todavía acarician la periferia del pensamiento.
Y la vida y el pasado se entregan mutuamente.
No hay puerta entre ellos. Se ausentan libres de sí;
convirtiéndose las unas en los otros.
Veo el doblar y marchitarse de las espigas de lilas.
Cada año como Adonis pasan por la pantomima de la muerte,
Creciendo y menguando en el árbol del cerebro del hombre
ABOUT THE POET
Hyam Plutzik was born in Brooklyn on July 13, 1911, the son of recent immigrants
from what is now Belarus. He spoke only Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian until the
age of seven, when he enrolled in grammar school near Southbury, Connecticut,
where his parents owned a farm. Plutzik graduated from Trinity College in 1932,
where he studied under Professor Odell Shepard. He continued graduate
studies at Yale University, becoming one of the first Jewish students there.
His poem “The Three” won the Cooke Prize at Yale in 1933.
After working briefly in Brooklyn, where he wrote features for the Brooklyn Daily
Eagle, Plutzik spent a Thoreauvian year in the Connecticut countryside, writing
his long poem, Death at The Purple Rim, which earned him another Cooke Prize
in 1941, the only student to have won the award twice. During World War II he
served in the U.S. Army Air Force throughout the Amerian South and in Norwich,
England; experiences that inspired many of his poems. After the war, Plutzik
became the first Jewish faculty member at the University of Rochester, serving in
the English Department as the John H. Deane Professor of English until his death
on January 8, 1962. Plutzik’s poems were published in leading poetry publications
and literary journals. He also published three collections during his lifetime:
Aspects of Proteus (Harper and Row,1949); Apples from Shinar (Wesleyan
University Press, 1959); and Horatio (Atheneum, 1961), which made him a finalist
for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that year. To mark the centennial of his birth,
Wesleyan University Press published a new edition of Apples from Shinar in 2011.
In 2016, Letter From a Young Poet (The Watkinson Library at Trinity College/Books &
Books Press) was released, disclosing a young Jewish American man’s spiritual and
literary odyssey through rural Connecticut and urban Brooklyn during the turbulent
1930s. In a finely wrought first-person narrative, young Plutzik tells his mentor, Odell
Shepard what it means for a poet to live an authentic life in the modern world. The
72-page work was discovered in the Watkinson Library’s archives among the papers
of Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar Professor Odell Shepard, Plutzik’s collegiate mentor
in the 1930’s. It was featured in a 2011 exhibition at Trinity commemorating the Plutzik
ABOUT THE ESSAYIST
Edward Moran is literary consultant to the Hyam Plutzik Centennial Project. He was
literary advisor to the 2007 documentary film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, directed
by Oscar nominee Christine Choy and Ku-Ling Siegel. In this capacity, he worked
with the directors in filming interviews with poets Hayden Carruth, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Stanley Kunitz, and Grace Schulman. Prior to his involvement with the
Plutzik project, Moran was associate editor of the World Authors biography reference series published by H. W. Wilson, a project that had originally been published
in 1941 under the direction of Stanley Kunitz.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS
CARLOS PINTADO is a Cuban American writer, playwright, and award-winning poet who immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s. His book
Autorretrato en Azul received the prestigious Sant Jordi International Prize for
Poetry, and his book El Azar y los Tesoros was a finalist for Spain’s Adonais
Prize in 2008. His work has been translated into English, Italian, German, French,
Turkish, Portuguese, and Italian. Nine Coins/Nueve Monedas is his latest
collection of poetry.
JOSE A. VILLAR-PORTELA
José A. Villar-Portela lives on the hyphen between Cuban and American. Some
also call it Miami. When he’s not slaying dragons, he’s working on his PhD in
Hispanic Literature, reading too many books at once and writing hermetic poems.
He’s also a literary translator and professional pet psychic. For more information,
find him at the library. And bring coffee.
Pablo Cartaya is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade books,
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora and Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
(Viking Children’s Books/Penguin Random House), the co-author of the picture
book, Tina Cocolina: Queen of the Cupcakes (Random House Children’s Books),
and contributing author to a forthcoming anthology of Ibero-American authors
living in Miami. He currently teaches creative writing in the low residency
MFA at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe and serves as consultant for
The Betsy – South Beach Literary Programs.
CARLOS A. DEL VALLE CRUZ
Carlos A. Del Valle Cruz is passionate about poetry, and is (also) a Civil Rights &
Public Interest Advocacy Attorney in Puerto Rico.
Pedro Medina is author of the books “Streets of Miami”, “Mañana no te veré
en Miami” and “Lado B” and is editor of “Viaje One Way” - a Miami anthology
of narrators, named Book of the Year by Artes Miami in 2014. Medina is also
editor and director of Suburbano publishing, a leading US cultural magazine and
publishing house. He is also a columnist contributor to El Nuevo Herald and has
taught courses in narrative technique in the Koubek Center in Miami Dade College
(2013 and 2015).
ABOUT ESCRIBE AQUÍ
The Betsy - South Beach and The Writer’s Room at The Betsy have created a new
Ibero-American Literary Festival this fall (September 14 to October 16, 2016) to run
in tandem with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Escribe Aquí honors the diversity
of writers writing in various languages by hosting public events, with various authors
reading across cultures and languages.
These authors also are residents in The Betsy Writer’s Room throughout the year.
They convene to salute their own diversity; thereby transcending the notions of a
dominant society that mistakenly perceives them as having ‘one’ voice. The project
has been recognized with funding for its second year by the Knight Foundation Arts
Printed in a limited edition of 250 copies by
The Writer’s Room at The Betsy-South Beach for
The Betsy’s Escribe Aquí Iberoamerican Cultural Festival 2016.
THE BETSY - SOUTH BEACH
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