segunda-feira, 5 de abril de 2010

Let there be peace

One of the discoveries I liked most in the last month is by poet Lemn Sissay, South Bank Artist in Residence. I first heard of him in early 2009, during a photographic exhibition about poets in the National Portrait Gallery. Well, anything that comes from Ethiopia, where Lemn Sissay was born in 1967, calls my attention, but his "Love Poem" which was featured along with his portrait by Madeleine Waller captivated me even more:

"You remind me
Define me
Incline me

If you died

Here is the first poem of his book "Listener", which can be also read as a song, "(...) his poems are songs of the street", according to the Independent newspaper:

Let There be Peace

"Let there be peace
So frowns fly away like albatross
And skeletons foxtrot from cupboards;
So war correspondents become travel show presenters
And magpies bring back lost property,
Children, engagement rings, broken things.

Let there be peace
So storms can go out to sea to be
Angry and return to me calm;
So the broken can rise and dance in the hospitals.
Let the aged Ethiopian man in the grey block of flats
Peer through his window and see Addis before him
So his thrilled outstretched arms become frames
For his dreams.

Let there be peace.
Let tears evaporate to form clouds, cleanse themselves
And fall into reservoirs of drinking water.
Let harsh memories burst into fireworks that melt
In the dark pupils of a child's eyes
And disappear like shoals of darting silver fish.
And let the waves reach the shore with a
Shhhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhh shhhhhhhhhhh."

sábado, 30 de janeiro de 2010

Silver lining

They say the days are getting longer...

sábado, 23 de janeiro de 2010

New York 2

This reference to New York is made by Hans van den Broek, the protagonist of "Netherland", written by Joseph O'Neill (Harper Perennial, 2009) and suggested by the book club of my beloved local library, Dulwich Library, in London. "You might say, if you're the type prone to general observations, that New York City insists on memory's repetitive mower - on the sort of purposeful post-mortem that has the effect, so one is told and forlornly hopes, of cutting the grassy past to manageable proportions. For it keeps growing back, of course". Van den Broek is a cricket player.

sábado, 26 de dezembro de 2009

Parallels, paradoxes and peace

The legendary conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim will be performing in the end of January/beginning of February 2010 in the Royal Festival Hall, in London. I was meant to get tickets to see him conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle through Beethoven and Schoenberg masterpieces, but too late... The cheapest tickets had already been sold out!
I first heard of Barenboim not through music, but through literature. He wrote with the late critic Edward W. Said "Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society". I got the Portuguese version a long time ago in Brazil (Companhia das Letras, 2002) and it has been one of my favourite books since then, those ones you take wherever you go and which comforts your soul.
Close friends, Barenboim (1945), a Jewish Israeli-Argentinian, and Said (1935-2003) , a Christian Palestine, created in 1999 the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to bring together young musicians from Israel and the Middle East, to provide them with a space to share skills about music and to encourage dialogue and appreciation among people whose countries have been torn apart by an endless war. The Barenboim-Said Foundation has been developing remarkable initiatives in terms of music education, such as the production of the first Palestinian opera and a music kindergarten in Ramallah.
Music helps to build mutual understanding because it touches universal emotions. It sees no boundaries, frontiers, colours or shapes, political or religious differences and stimulate you to look beyond the visible and foreseeable. As the title of a film made to register the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra suggests, knowledge is the beginning to create a world with more peace and respect to others.
Because of the orchestra, young people from countries which had experienced war in the past (or present) had to sit down and work together. It led to memorable situations, as Barenboim describes in "Parallels and Paradoxes". "A Syrian boy told me he had never met a Israeli boy and that the word Israeli meant everything negative that you could imagine to happen to your country and to the Arab world. But after a while both had to share the same music stand. They were trying to play the same note, play with the same dynamics, the same arch movement, the same sound, the same expression. They were trying to do something together. Simple like that. They were trying to do something together, something they both liked, something they were passionate about. Well, after they had managed to play the same note together, they could not look at each other on the same way as before, because they had shared a common experience (...)". (note: free translation from the Portuguese translation)
Barenboim is considered to be the first person to hold both Israeli and Palestinian passports, a fact that irritated many people. When he was granted the Palestinian citizenship, two years ago, Barenboim told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he had accepted the new status "(...) because I believe that the destinies of...the Israeli people and the Palestinian are inextricably linked. We are blessed - or cursed - to live with each other. And I prefer the first".

Me too.

sexta-feira, 5 de junho de 2009

New York

In the book "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid, the narrator meets a young American tourist in a café in Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan. Well educated and articulated, he describes the impact of urbanization in the districts of Lahore, but refers to the old parts of the city, particularly to the one where they are staying, as "more democratically urban". That is when the American asks him if the Pakistani would compare it with Manhattan:
"(...) Yes, precisely! And that was one of the reasons why for me moving to New York felt - so unexpectedly - like coming home. But there were other reasons as well: the fact that Urdu was spoken by taxi-cab drivers; the presence, only two blocks from my East Village apartment, of a samosa- and channa-serving establishment called the Pak-Punjab Deli; the coincidence of crossing Fifth Avenue during a parade and hearing, from loudspeakers mounted on the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Association float, a song to which I had danced at my cousin´s wedding.
In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the color spectrum. On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions. I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker. What? My voice is rising? You are right; I tend to become sentimental when I think of that city. It still occupies a place of great fondness in my heart, which is quite something, I must say, given the circumstances under which, after only eight months of residence, I would later depart."


This blog has been taking a different path in the last few weeks or months. Inspired by the books I have been reading in the last year, I started to post excerpts that spoke to my heart, words that reminded me of situations lived in the past. Books also lead us to cities. And, of course, there are the unforgettable ones: the cities that made us whom we are today.

sábado, 23 de maio de 2009


"Spring´s pardon comes, a sweetening of the air,
the light made fairer by an hour, time
as forgiveness, granted in the murmured colouring
of flowers, rain´s mantra of reprieve, reprieve, reprieve.
The lovers waking in the lightening rooms believe
that something holds them, as they hold themselves,
within a kind of grace, a soft embrace, an absolution
from their stolen hours, their necessary lies. And this is wise:
to know that music's gold is carried in the frayed purse
of a bird, to pick affection´s herb, to see the sun and moon
half-rhyme their light across the vacant, papery sky.
Trees, in their blossoms, young queens, flounce for clemency"
(by Carol Ann Duffy, in the book Rapture, 2005, Picador)