Now we mock--or rather other people mock & I giggle appreciatively--but there is one country I know of where poets are genuinely popular. Like, really popular. Like they-turn-poems-into-movies popular. Any guesses? Colin Carberry, I know you know. Yep, that's right: the answer's Mexico. Here's an excerpt from Colin's introduction to the Love Poems of Jaime Sabines:
For a poet who shunned publicity and studiously avoided conventional intellectual circles, Sabines was a wildly popular figure in his native Mexico, where his rare public appearances drew hundreds of readers, prompting Elena Poniatowska to declare that “he brought poetry to the streets.” In an email exchange, Émile Martel, Canadian author, former diplomat, and fellow Sabines translator (into Québécois French), described to me his experience of witnessing the poet perform at the Guadalajara Book Fair in 1995: “During the fair, Sabines had a reading; there was such an overflowing crowd in the lecture hall that the reading was broadcast on large screens and hundreds and hundreds of people gathered to watch him. I remember distinctly mouths moving when he read ‘Los amorosos.’ A living classic, I thought.”
Those were the days. "Los amorosos," incidentally, is the poem which was transformed into a film to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Sabines' death. It was directed by Rafael Montero and shot in Chiapas. Here's an interview with Montero:
And, as a NPM tribute to those gloriously overstuffed auditoriums: Los Amorosos.
from Love Poems: Jaime Sabines (translated by Colin Carberry, 2011).
The lovers fall silent.
Love is the finest, the most shuddering,
the most unendurable, silence.
The lovers seek,
they are the ones who relinquish,
those who change, who forget.
Their hearts tell them that what they look for,
what they seek, they will not find.
The lovers go around like lunatics
because they are alone, alone, alone;
yielding, giving themselves up at every turn,
crying because they can’t hold on to their love.
Love obsesses them. The lovers live
for today; knowing little else, it’s all they can do.
They are always going,
forever heading elsewhere.
for nothing, but they wait.
For what they know they’ll never find.
Love is a perpetual prolongation,
always the next, no, the following, step.
The lovers are incorrigible,
those who always –good for them!– have to be alone.
With serpents for arms, the lovers
are the hydra of the tale;
their neck-veins, too, swell up, serpent-
like, in order to throttle them.
The lovers cannot sleep,
for if they did the worms would devour them.
They open their eyes in the darkness
and terror seizes them.
They see scorpions beneath the sheets
and their bed floats as though on a lake.
The lovers are mad, stone mad,
forsaken of God and Satan.
Trembling and famished,
the lovers come out of their caves
to hunt ghosts.
They laugh at those who know everything,
at those who love forever, heart and soul,
those who believe in love as in an lamp filled with inexhaustible oil.
The lovers play at gathering water,
at tattooing smoke, at going nowhere;
they play the long, sorrowful game of love.
You don’t have to give in;
no one has to give in, they say.
The thought of conforming to anything mortifies them.
Hollowed out (picked clean from one rib to the next),
Death gradually distills behind their eyes,
and they cry and wander, adrift, until daybreak,
when trains and roosters bid their painful farewell.
Sometimes, the smells of damp earth, of women
who sleep, soothed, a hand between their thighs,
of trickling water, and of kitchens, reaches them,
and the lovers begin to sing between pursed lips
a song never learned.
And they go on crying, crying for
this beautiful life.