Friday, March 04, 2005

Isaac Calderón's "Winterreise"

My former student, el baroquista Francisco M., introduced me via e-mail to a true daemon, the Valencia-based young wordslinger Isaac Calderón (1978-). In exchanging words and works, he sent me a copy of his (currently) unpublished manuscript, Menarchia del Ave Adolescente, or in English, Menarche of an Adolescent Bird.
Yes, the title is as fanciful and bizarre as it sounds, and the little collection, though brief, manages to do it justice: it is florid, fanciful, and freely ranging in its quotations and lyric exuberance, presenting an autolibretto of passionate surrealistic transformation that reaches, in its incantations (not to be sung, Calderón tells, us: no cantes) towards a sacred music beyond literal transparency as it desacralizes the poetic body. The "rot's dominion" of the winter journey below isn't an idle note.

Here then is one of the poems in the first section, "Música," which draws its title from the lyric song-cycle of Franz Schubert, followed by my translation. (As always, I greatly appreciate any suggestions for improving the translation!)

Winterreise: a journey for a winter Friday in Chicago.


El blanco es un silencio que de pronto puede comprenderse

Wassily Kandinsky

Escribo para que la muerte me encuentre vacío

Juan Ramón Jiménez


Alma, me vacío: invierno la palabra invierno la palabra invierno
la palabra florece y el invierno es azar que la cercena es una virgen prócida el invierno
sagrado enterramiento de lo que es sagrado y aún refulge

yo vivo en el invierno de navíos nervados que se vierten
en la orilla del blanco del silencio blanco del silencio blanco
vivo en el navío del invierno

cuando la muerte hable desde la adolescencia de los árboles desnudos que aún duermen
-su cabello es el bosque, yo crezco en sus raíces- encontrará su eco,
porque flores futuras son las que yo espero, y flores dejaré sobre la tierra

cuyo latido sea contra el dominio de la podredumbre,
y el viento no será tan viento para poder arrebatarlas
y el hombre no será tan ángel para poder ajarlas

cuando la muerte cante dentro de mi invierno
me encontrará vacío como un silencio blanco
ondeado por la mariposa de los días

*Obra de Franz Schubert. Este poema encabeza la tesis doctoral de David Freudenthal

--Isaac Calderón, Copyright, 2005.

My translation:

White is a silence which suddenly can be understood

Wassily Kandinsky

I write so that death will find me empty

Juan Ramón Jiménez


Soul, I empty myself out: winter the word winter the word winter
the word blooms and winter is the chance that the trimming is a death-seeking virgin winter
sacred burial of what is sacred and still glitters

I live in the winter of ribbed ships that are spilling
in the border of the white of the white silence of the white silence
I live in the ship of winter

when death speaks from the adolescence of the stripped trees which still sleep
--its hair is the forest, in its roots I grow—it will meet with its echo
because future flowers are what I wait for, and I will leave flowers all over the earth

whose beat stands against rot's dominion
and the wind will not be such a wind that it can weed them
and man will not be such an angel that he can stir them

when death sings within my winter
it will find me empty as a white silence
waved by the days' butterfly

*Work by Franz Schubert. This poem heads the doctoral thesis of David Freudenthal.

--Translation by John Keene, Copyright 2005.


  1. Amazing poem. Such deepness, it sounds like an ancient prophet. Who is the author? Where can I find more of him?

    1. Hello, Virgilus. Thank you so much for the compliments. You can find my last book (only in Spanish for now) in here:ábola-del-arcoíris-canción-antiguo/dp/8494515861/