Adam in Barca

July 23, 2009, 12:59 pm
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I’ve gotten a bit backed up in my blog postings, busy traveling near Barcelona and getting immersed in the sensory overload that is Spain. But I’ll catch up soon.

Otherwise, I’ve been spending a lot of my time reading/writing in cafes, practicing Spanish, exploring the different barrios and parks that Barcelona has to offer, and doing some translating/research for Jose Ángel Valente. He was good friends with a few Catalan artists, like Antoni Tapies, an abstract painter who lived in Barcelona. They have a museum devoted to him here.

I found “A Moveable Feast” — Hemingway’s semi-fictionalized essays on his time as a young, poor writer in Paris — in a second-hand bookshop, and devoured that pretty quickly and enjoyed it (even though, as my fellow traveler Dan pointed out, many of the stories are of dubious factuality). Last week, I stumbled upon a series of small, mostly free, contemporary art museums near my neighborhood. There’s a new 3-floor modern art museum that rotates exhibitions (and is basically free for students). And then there is a small museum for Joan Brossa, the Catalan poet and artist. He’s well known for his “visual poems” which, after seeing them in person, I would say aren’t really “poems”—they’re just works of visual art that occasionally use language. That being said, they’re very playful and enjoyable. Some are mini-sculptures, and others are extended series of art prints.

Here’s one example, that I liked:


Lorca on Barcelona
July 14, 2009, 11:37 am
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Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, in a letter about visiting his friend Salvador Dalí in Barcelona, wrote: “Barcelona is very different, isn’t it?…”

There one finds the Mediterranean, the spirit, the adventure, the elevated dream of perfect love. There are palms, people from every country, surprising advertisements, gothic towers, and the rich urban high tide created by typewriters. How I enjoy being there, with that air and that passion. (“Sebastian’s Arrows,” 6)

Some Miró and Gaudi
July 13, 2009, 9:37 am
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Art i poesia.
July 10, 2009, 6:44 pm
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poesiaA lucky coincidence. Yesterday I made a trip to the museum devoted to the work of Spanish artist Joan Miró, who was born in Barcelona and spent much of his life here. As I approached the museum, I was surprised to read the posters around the entrance: “Miró-Dupin. Art i poesia.”m

As it turns out, the current exhibition is devoted to Miró’s life-long interest in poetry and literature, with a particular focus on collaborations with French poet Jacques Dupin. Since this topic is part of what I’m here to study, the timing feels quite auspicious. Although I knew Miró’s work, I wasn’t aware of his interest in poetry. Like so many Spanish artists of his generation, Miró spent time in Paris, and while he was there, fell in love with the work of the French symbolist poets, including Apollinaire and Mallermé. Later, he became friends with French poets of his own generation, including Dupin, and his painting and sculpture was influenced by their work.

An excerpt from the exhibit: “In their shared belief that the purpose of art and poetry is not simply representation, they collaborated together on numerous projects during the nearly three decades of their friendship… Joan Miró’s interest in literature can be seen in the books from his private library that are on display along with a selection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from the Foundation’s collections. Parallel to this, a selection of books and poems by Jacques Dupin, illustrated by different contemporary artists, guide us through his world of poetry.”

It’s a fascinating and beautiful exhibit, and I’m looking forward to returning to it again after I have read more of Dupin’s poetry.

“Es poeta.”
July 7, 2009, 10:01 am
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I have to admit, the lack of internet isn’t such a bad thing. Since I’m an internet and e-mail junkie, it’s nice being forcefully cut-off for once.

I’m all settled in my flat, which is in a lovely northern barrio of Barcelona, called Gracía. My neighborhood has many of the same architectural charms of Old Town without the constant flow of tourists. Many of Gracía’s streets, as in Barrio Gotico, are small and winding — but it’s less crowded, and a stroll in any direction turns up beautiful plazas with fountains, statues, and orange trees; no matter the time of day, local residents are socializing over cañas and vino at an endless number of cafés.

My flat is on the fourth floor, and big windows open onto a tiny backstreet, where faint chatter from a popular Catalan restaurant drifts up from three floors below.

My Spanish is certainly rusty, but it’s apparently been enough to occasionally trick people into thinking I’m not a foreigner. At a dinner party this weekend—where conversation was about half in Spanish, half in English—one person said my “American accent’ sounded really authentic… before she realized I was American.

People here ask what I’m doing in Barcelona, and I usually launch into a long-winded explanation of the Pinsky fellowship, about my interest in Spanish poetry and art; but the other day, one of my friends answered for me: “Él es poeta” (he’s a poet). Her succinct answer seemed to work better than mine, so I might stick to that from now on.

Besides unpacking and getting settled, I’ve read a bit of Spanish and English books and practiced the language when I can. In the next few days I’m going to start visiting museums. I was introduced to a Barcelona art promoter, who owns a gallery and promotes local artists; he invited us to some upcoming events, so I’m hoping I’ll get to see the work of younger Spanish artists while also doing the traditional, museum-oriented study of visual art.

When technology allows, I’ll start posting pictures too.

Due to technical difficulities…
July 6, 2009, 12:05 pm
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…it might be a few days before I start posting. I don´t have internet in the apartment, but I´ll get that figured out soon. Otherwise, things are perfect in Barcelona! I´ve gotten settled and have been exploring the city. More on all that soon.

Travel Elegy by Wisława Szymborska
June 25, 2009, 8:35 pm
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To introduce my BU thesis (in an epigraph), I excerpted parts of this poem by the incredible Polish Nobel Laureate, Szymborska; as I’m about to embark on my writing-travel fellowship, it seemed apt to include the poem in its entirety here.

Travel Elegy by Wisława Szymborska

(translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Everything’s mine but just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

Memories come to mind like excavated statues
that have misplaced their heads.

From the town of Samokov, only rain
and more rain.

Paris from Louvre to fingernail
grows web-eyed by the moment.

Boulevard Saint-Martin: some stairs
leading into a fadeout.

Only a bridge and a half
from Leningrad of the bridges.

Poor Uppsala, reduced to a splinter
of its mighty cathedral.

Sofia’s hapless dancer,
a form without a face.

Then separately, his face without eyes;
separately again, eyes with no pupils,
and, finally, the pupils of a cat.

A Caucasian eagle soars
above a reproduction of a canyon,
the fool’s gold of the sun,
the phony stones.

Everything’s mine but just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

Inexhaustible, unembraceable,
but particular to the smallest fiber,
grain of sand, drop of water –

I won’t retain one blade of grass
as it’s truly seen.

Salutation and farewell
in a single glance.

For surplus and absence alike,
a single motion of the neck.