Friday, 12 March 2010

The rain in Spain

The rain in Spain falls,
and falls, and falls, everywhere.
That's why Spain's so wet.

6 March

The Spanish sense of time


27 Feb
La Zenia (Orihuela Costa)

The hands on my watch said twenty past four. The metadata attached to the photo shows 16:22, which makes sense because it was taken on my iPhone, which I had switched to Spanish time.

Yet the sun is saying just past III on the dial. So who is right - Spanish time, or the sun?

The Longitude here - on Spain's Eastern coast - is 0°43'W, which suggests that the true time should if anything be a few minutes behind GMT. And, going by the sun, the rest of the country should be even further behind. However Spain uses CET (Central European Time), which is an hour ahead of GMT, ie an hour ahead of where they should be. And yet the Spanish don't seem to have much of a reputation for doing things ahead of time . . .

Monday, 8 March 2010

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Pablo Milanés in Orihuela

Fri 26 Feb

Nothing to do with the Miguel Hernández centenary, Pablo Milanés just happened to be on in Orihuela the day I arrived. Somebody up there is looking down on me . . .

Pablo has been a leading figure in the Cuban 'Nueva Trova' movement since the late 1960s. His songs have served as models for generations of singer-songwriters in Spain and Latin America, and he is adored throughout the Spanish speaking world. He sings for listening, not for dancing; his songs are personal, lyrical, often romantic, and at times express his social and political commitment.

Pablo MilanésIt was very much a concert of two parts. The first consisted of what I took to be new material - nobody in the audience recognised them - and in the second he gave some of the old favourites an airing, and we got a chance to sing along with Yolanda
Yolanda, Yolanda,
eternamente Yolanda.
Eternally Yolanda. Click the button in the video above and you can sing along too :-)

One of my favourites has always been Homenaje, the first of his songs I was aware of:
Donde yo nací, eh
dónde me crié.
Dónde me formaron, caramba
cómo vine aquí.

Where I was born, eh
where I grew up.
Where I was brought up,
how I got here.
And then the second part, the fade-out, in son montuno style:
Un homenaje 
para tu ausencia
lo llenas todo
con tu presencia

A homage
to your absence
you fill everything
with your presence

In the videoclips he's performing with a big band, but here there were just two with him - the keyboard and violin players who appear in the Yolanda clip above.

According to the listing on his website, this is his first outing since last summer, and he appears to be doing concerts mostly in small to medium-sized towns, almost all in Spain. He was at the Barbican in London last June, I think on his first visit to the UK, and I missed him - so it was great to have the chance to see him here. Now I must have a good listen to the records again!

Miguel Hernández: 40 Poems

Fri 26 Feb

Margarita had warned me they had something to give me that they knew I would like. What could it be? Well it didn't take long for me to find out - and yes, it did involve Miguel Hernández, and poems - that's why I was there, after all. But it wasn't a book.

The Asociación Cultural Orihuela 2010 have published a folder consisting of a selection of 40 of Hernández's poems, each one illustrated by a local artist and accompanied by a commentary placing the poem in the context of his life and development as a poet. There is also a set of postcard-size reproductions of the illustrations.

The material for each poem is set out in a four-page A4 size spread, on card, with the poem occupying the first, and sometimes the second, page, the illustration on the third, and the commentary on the last. The artists were given free rein to respond to the poems as they wished, and have used a variety of approaches and techniques; the illustrations, like the poems, are always thought-provoking. The commentaries are clearly written, and very helpful. The younger Hernández seemed to delight in tying the Spanish language in knots, and the editors' clarifications and explanations are certainly helping me work through some of the ensuing difficulties.

The selection covers the full range of Hernández's poetry, from the early years when he was searching for a personal style, through playful love poems, heart-felt elegies, and poems written in the heat of battle, to some from the powerful and moving collection Cancionero y Romancero de Ausencias (Songs of Absence), written in prison not long before he died.

This collection is the most lovingly assembled work of literature I have ever set my hands on. It is available in bookshops in the area, for around €20, and directly from the Asociación, although I can't find it on sale on their website at the moment.

There appear to be very few opportunities to read Hernández's poems in English - I have only been able to find a couple of dual-language anthologies, and they have not been easy to get hold of. That may change this centenary year, of course, though as yet I have not heard of any new publications in the pipeline.

However, the Asociación website does have 16 of his most well-known poems in English translation, and also the illustrations from the 40 Poems folder.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Miguel Hernández: Orihuela celebrates his centenary

Fri 26 Feb

This year is the centenary of the birth of Miguel Hernández, one of the major Spanish poets of the 20th century. Despite his youth he became one of the leading cultural figures of the Spanish Republic during the Civil War (1936-39). In the aftermath of the war he was imprisoned, and died in jail in 1942, aged 31.

He was from Orihuela, a small town in SE Spain, and my friends there are involved in the Asociación Cultural Orihuela 2010, which is promoting and organising all sorts of events to mark the centenary. I went over this weekend to discuss the possibility of participating in some way (more on this later), and was amazed by the amount and variety of activity going on, and even more impressed by the sheer quality of it all.

I'll be posting here as things come up, starting with a few brief reflections on what I saw this weekend.