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Jacket 15 — December 2001   |   # 15  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Homero Aridjis

Two poems

Goethe Said that Architecture

Goethe said architecture
is frozen music,
but I believe it to be petrified music
and cities, symphonies built out of time,
concerts of visible forgetting.

Of sounds and silences wrought 
into iron, wood and air, he said nothing,
perhaps he spoke about the places of verb
where we live, and that way alluded
to us language factories.

Musical streets didn’t concern him either,
although man slips via these walkable rivers
into old age, love, the night,
up to the table, into bed,
like a sonata of flesh and bone.

Tr. George McWhirter

Rain in the Night

It rains in the night
on the old roofs and the wet streets

on the black hills
and on the temples in the dead cities

In the dark I hear the ancestral music of the rain
its ancient footfall      its dissolving voice

More rapid than the dreams of men
the rain makes roads through the air

makes trails through the dust
longer than the footstep of men.

Tomorrow we will die
die twice over

Once as individuals
a second time as a species

and between the bolts of lightning and the white seeds
scattered through the shadows

there’s time for a complete examination of conscience
time to tell the human story

It rains
It will rain in the night

but on the wet streets and black hills
there will be no one to hear rain fall

Tr. George McWhirter

Photo of Homero Aridjis, Berlin 2001
Homero Aridjis

(right, with Eliot Weinberger)
Berlin 2001

Photo: John Tranter

Homero Aridjis is a former Mexican Ambassador to the Nederlands and Switzerland and is most often heard of now in public life as the President of the Group of One Hundred (100 Artists for the Environment), championing — among other things — legislation to halt the slaughter of the sea turtle in Mexico. Several of his thirty books of poetry and prose have been translated into a dozen languages. He appears in all the major anthologies of Mexican and Latin American poetry: New Poetry of Mexico, edited by Octavio Paz, Ali Chumacero, Jose Emilio Pacheco and Homero Aridjis, Dutton, 1966; antología de la poesía hispanoamericana actual (edited by Julio Ortega, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1987), and Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry (edited by Stephen Tapscott, University of Texas Press, 1996). In 1997 he was awarded the Prix Roger Caillois for the ensemble of his work. He is currently President of International PEN. Homero Aridjis was brought up in Contepec, Michoacan. He now lives in Mexico City with his wife, Betty Ferber. He has two daughters, Chloe and Eva.

George McWhirter was born 1939 and raised in Belfast’s Shankill Road district. He left Ireland for Spain 1965, then emigrated to Canada in 1966. He has taught at UBC’s Creative Writing since 1970 and currently leads the poetry and literary translation workshops there while acting as Advisory Editor for PRISM international magazine. In 1998, he was an awarded a Killam Prize for teaching by UBC.

These poems will appear in Eyes to See Otherwise: The Selected Poems of Homero Aridjis, 1960–2000, which George McWhirter co-edited with Betty Ferber and for which he provided the 1980–2000 translations, W.S.Merwin and Eliot Weinberger supplying the principal part of the 1960–2000 translations. It will appear from Carcanet in the fall of 2001 and from New Directions in the spring of 2002.

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