Friday, November 14, 2008

Dirty, Poorly Dressed

I've been reading Roberto Bolano's poems, in a new collection called THE ROMANTIC DOGS, translated by Laura Healy and published by New Directions. I am not completely convinced by these translations, which seem faithful but don't necessarily make for vivid poems in English. But there are amazing moments along the way. Here's the opening of a poem called Sucio, Mal Vestido (or, in English, Dirty, Poorly Dressed)

On the dogs' path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered, but alive,
dirty, poorly dressed, and filled with love.
On the dogs' path, there where no one wants to go.
A path that only poets travel
when they have nothing left to do.
But I still have so many things to do!


Kelly Thompson said...

I like this poem a lot, especially the first half. I am wondering what the "dogs path" represents to the poet. It could be anything, of course; what comes to mind is a path that is somehow considered less than or inferior to the path of the soul. The soul comes upon it and the heart and sees/recognizes itself in the "poorly dressed", "dirty", heart "filled with love". It seems, again, referring to "the path", that only the heart is willing to go "where no one wants to go". That, once a "poet" (artist) has exhausted the more cerebral realms of his/her art (or love?), once he/she is done with the images, the heart alone is left to speak. For some reason, I also think of Rilke when I read this.
Only a dog loves completely.

Mark Doty said...

Well, the dogs' path -- down in the dirt, off the big highway, nose close to the ground, path of the body,
path where the unwanted or the unseen walk...?

Kelly Thompson said...

Thanks Mark. I read this completely differently the second time around. The soul finds its heart on the dogs one wants to go there, to, as you say," get down in the dirt, off the big highway, nose to the ground," except, according to Bolano, a poet with nothing left to do. This is such a powerful image, the soul traveling the dogs' path - finding the shattered heart in the life of the body...a place I know I avoid even though, paradoxically, it is where, I think, we enter eternity.

I picture my dog Clyde on our daily walks, his nose to the ground and imagine him coming upon Bolano's heart in the grass, looking up at me as if to say, "Let's see you do better!"

This has been a good meditation.

Thanks, Mark!

russel said...

I was actually working on those poems last year, with Dr. Baker. Agree that the extant translations seem literal (if not faithful) but they don't really breathe, you know?