Wednesday, March 01, 2006


A slow sullen weekend.

No kids. Just Woolly Days, Naruda and Gus Van Sant. And his Gerries without Mercy.

Reading Naruda in a slightly disembodied Spanish. On the facing page is the translation in English. Translating poetry is always difficult but Naruda’s sparse and descriptive poems lend themselves to good translation.

The same imagery re-appears in poem after poem: “paloma” (the dove), invierno (Winter) and ‘inmobil’ (immobile). He likes to speak of death and black water. He has an ear for discordant phrases “knees like knots” (rodillos como nudos) and “the walls have a sad crocodile colour (las paredes tienen un triste color de crocodilo).

The book is entitled Residence on Earth, a selection of Naruda’s poetry from 1926 to 1945. He sympathised with the Spanish poet Lorca as he thought they both wrote in a lesser language and therefore would be ignored by the world. Naruda did not suffer that fate and was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1971.

He is Chile’s greatest gift to modern literature and deservedly lionised in the country of his birth. Lorca was less fortunate and was assassinated by the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

Meanwhile, back in the near present tense, Woolly Days has just watched Gus Van Sant’s film ‘Gerry’. It is an almost wordless, plotless tale of two men named Gerry.

The Gerrys are played by Matt Damon and Casey Affleck who co-wrote what can loosely be called a ‘script’ with Van Sant.

The real star of the film is the Arizona desert wilderness where they get lost on a half-hearted nature walk towards an unnamed ‘Thing’.

The pair almost casually veer off the trail and become disoriented when they decide to call off the quest. They spent three days trying to find their way back to civilisation. Their lack of preparedness is underscored by their total lack of water.

Van Sant delights in long tracking shots with the backdrop of silent scrubby mountains hiding their innate sense of danger.

Ultimately the film ends in tragedy but it barely registers. The main characters are too remote, too self-absorbed and under-developed. This film is about something else again.

Perhaps only Van Sant himself knows exactly what that is. Gerry Mander perhaps.

Behaviour at the Edge of Time

I want to be your action stunt double
you can be yourself right up to the edge of conversation
then as it all turns nasty and mad
I jump out of the telephone jackboot
throw away my disguise
I look you in the eyes and say
“I’ll do it from here”

You stare, pull your head back and laugh
Jackanape, put back on your false eyes
I’ve met your double visions and
I’ve seen your credit cards
How can you imitate my madness
when you are too often safely sane
Avoiding it from here

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