Poetry Parnassus: The Poet (Cuba)

Poetry Parnassus is a project of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. It ran from June 26 to July 1, and featured 145 poets from around the world. Here is the Guardian’s interactive map, where you can click on a country and read its poem. I will be posting them on a semi-regular basis until they’re done.

The Poet, by Pedro Perez Sarduy (Cuba)

The Poet is the type with class
who is born on some insignificant day
like October 20 on which Arthur Rimbaud
was born in 1854

The Poet is the curiously irresponsible type
practically what has been called
a serious pathological case
because he’s a city mole and changes
his skin constantly
with rare exceptions he always ends up
being militant for some non-just cause or other
professing the latest ideas that are engagées
and giving up that self-worship of his
which is an expression thought up
by some other poet
because

The Poet that is he who goes about ordering
or discovering street poetry is the kind
who likes to preserve his private life to the full
and will go to all lengths to defend it
and always has a pretext
because

The Poet is the type who doesn’t use firearms
unless they’re the harquebuses used
in the age of enlightenment
but that’s beside the point
for example if he is born under Libra
like old Arthur was
he’s unkempt phlegmatic
neurotic as hell
hypersensitive
fit to play golf
and listen to Swan Lake
but if he’s born under Taurus
he’s the kind with violent streak wild
who never thinks twice
about joining the guerrilla struggle
in any part of the world
– even in the most
of Babel’s hotels in the West –
and he’s a real Don Juan
even when he’s not handsome
because

The Poet is in love with love
and knows how to make it only too well
he practises yoga meditates Zen Buddhism
and ceremoniously drinks tea
and ejaculates different coloured stars
with each orgasm…fabulous…!
because

The Poet is the COPYRIGHT type who has no faith
in his glory
or that of the Nobel Prize
he knows other languages especially
Western ones
and buries himself in the country
to study Oriental philosophy
he eats frog’s legs and is a connoisseur
of drinks and aromatic herbs
because

The Poet is a paranoid with copious atomic neurones
and makes no literary bones about rejecting
all that is troglodyte and socially calcified
beat par excellence in his latter years
of lyricism he likes to love
as much as he denies all signs of frigidity
in his lover
because

The Poet is a mythological being almost sacred
as he has been ever since prehistoric times
when he rode on his mammoth
with supernatural powers to presage disasters
he never augurs happiness
because he’s a doubting dilemma
just like his day and age
although at times he prefers to go off
into the country
to cleanse himself of the refined oil
to the strains of a thin flageolet
and he’s so incredulous as to consider
his work superior to that of the singular kind
unmultipliable by two
almost impossible to believe
that he came from a mother’s womb
– sorry [Author’s note] it’s just that

The Poet is the type who is born where
night finds him
what’s more

The Poet is the type who always believes in someone
or something and therein lies the contradiction
no ifs and buts
and he’s so soft that each day
in his solitude
he goes over all his small failures
so as to build the one-and-only-indivisible-collective
for when it’s time for the enchanted dream
because

The Poet is the type to be pitied
but he likes to savour international dishes
and frequently visits
the Volga (Russian food)
the Yang-tse (Chinese food)
the Saint John (American food)
the Fish & Chip Shop (English food)
the Montecatini (Italian food)
the Polynesia (Polynesian food)
the Monseigneur (French food)
the Wakamba (African food)
the Centro Vasco (Spanish food)
La Carreta (Creole food)
because

The Poet is the embittered type who courts trouble
and is always the one to sacrifice himself
to be fucked over and over again
by apocalyptic existence
that is his lot…BAM!
until the moment he acquires
(no, not a Prize…that’s not enough)
social standing and holds
his own space
(not in a spaceship either)
he often holds it in diplomacy
(as a diplomat) that is
he becomes according to historical materialism
a being who sells his intellectual power
at a high price and the crises start
in his work of creation
(I don’t mean Jesus Christ or Buddha
who saw to it that
the poet is subject to the law of the incessant flow of dharma)
because he wavers in his beliefs and…
well, to continue:
that according to him demand of him
certain standards and make him attached to life
(to transform the WORLD to change LIFE)
but there are other who if adapt perfectly
and like their new life as a function-ary
(not from Aryan)
start to travel with importance
or go on their important travels
because

The Poet is the type made for the clouds
which doesn’t mean that
he’s up in the clouds
but that he needs to fly to travel
that is to get to know people
swap emotions and people too
and he always maintains as he does now that
there should be an airline
specially for poets
something like POETA DE AVIACIÓN or
POETANA AIRLINES CORPORATION
with Boeings Ilushin and Super DC-10s
to take them no problem at all
to any corner of this world
as the desire or the inspiration moves them
with no other passport than one of their books
translated into at least five languages
[OK…OK, we’ll bear you in mind for the next Congress…]
because

The Poet is the type who needs love affection
and concern more than any one else in the world
and he needs to meet lord fog madame notre dame
mademoiselle le louvre monsieur d’eiffel
and take a spin on the air metro and sit down
and enjoy himself in the gardens of Rome
and drink port and take a minibath in the
Fontana di Trevi think about Botticelli
Michelangelo or the genius of Dante
and throw three coins in so as to sing
three coins in the fountain
to visit the ruins of Pompeii
and those of the old Roman Empire
(seat of incredible battles) to go see
underdevelopment and compare it with his own
his cosa nostra
and that’s something else
because

The Poet is the type to detest underdevelopment
and yet he doesn’t help eradicate it
he thinks that by carrying unforgivably
silken lectures in his bags
he’s going to de-underdevelop himself
but it does NOT always happen that way
it’s a joke
because

The Poet is thoroughly untrusting
right down to the fallout shelters
because he knows that when all’s said
and done he’ll not be of much use
when the hour of the comics comes around
and he’s had to emigrate in safari
most of the time although not to Africa
but to live in some big old house in
MONTparnasse-pellier-martre
well one or other of those mounts or
along the banks of the Thames
because

The Poet is the metaphysical type caught up in
cycle of rebirth and he goes far very far
to meet with hunger nostalgia and revolution
but he’s a globetrotter
knows his way around cities like
Stockholm Geneva Zurich
Moscow Indianapolis Peking Athens
Mexico City Brussels New York
Berlin Havana Barcelona
because

The Poet is an internationalist
not of the proletarian but of the poetarian
he’s a being who fights like hell
for the collective freedom
and he likes to be steeped in heartache abroad
but he writes the most although to no avail
to justify his being – the rest is bullshit –
HIS BEING
and it’s the worst paid
[this thesis is not universal – Author’s note]
but he has more feelings than cats have
because

The Poet is a scaffold across which the sun creeps
barefoot and naked
he returns in one piece
barefoot
dissipating the illusion that comes
out of materialist desires
I am a beggar
an inoffensive kind of being
not needed anywhere
but to quote Walt Whitman…
‘Don’t cry over me…’

• Translated from the Spanish by Jean Stubbs.

The Poet as Protean sacred monster, in all his or her guises.

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