Saturday, May 16, 2015

Poet, priest, and political polemicist

Just arrived from Nicaragua, Father Ernesto Cardenal read a few of his poems at the University of San Francisco last night.

Cardenal is 90 years old and not much for walking, but mentally active and still outraged by injustice.

The Nicaraguan also sometimes seemed simply amused. He was introduced as perhaps the most important living figure in Latin American literature; since the death of Eduardo Galeano that seems right.

Here's an English rendering of one of the poems he read:

My friend Michel is an army officer
in Somoto up near the Honduran border,
and he told me he had found some contraband parrots
waiting to be smuggled to the United States
to learn to speak English there.

There were 186 parrots
with 47 already dead in their cages.
He drove them back where they’d been taken from
and as the lorry approached a place known as The Plains
near the mountains which were these parrots’ home
(behind those plains the mountains stand up huge)
the parrots got excited, started beating their wings
and shoving against their cage-sides.

When the cages were let open
they all shot out like an arrow shower
straight for their mountains.

The Revolution did the same for us I think:
It freed us from the cages
where they trapped us to talk English,
it gave us back the country
from which we were uprooted,
their green mountains restored to the parrots
by parrot-green comrades.

But there were 47 that died.


At the reception before the reading, Erudite Partner engaged the poet:

Follow this link for photos from the community Padre Ernesto founded on Solentiname Island in Lake Nicaragua. The proposed Chinese-built canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific threatens the ecological health of the lake and the entire country. Father Ernesto is wroth about what he sees as a corrupt sell-off by his government of the health and beauty of his country.


Hattie said...

That is a bright spirit. How wonderful to see him and for your E.P. to converse with him. Wish I could have been there.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, he looks like Christopher Columbus.

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