Intimate conversations, soliloquies, patches of burned diaries, existential definitions of beauty, pain, and personal discovery come together in Music for Bamboo Strings. A subtle tapestry of music imbues the story and cinematography of each poem. This bilingual collection by Cuban-American poet Carlos Pintado has been masterfully translated by Lawrence Schimel, a recipient of the 2023 Sundial Literary Translation Award. Música para cuerdas de bambú / Music for Bamboo Strings is a lyric journey through several cultures and themes: a reinterpretation of Kawabata’s Snow Country or Vincent van Gogh’s Field with Crows, for instance. These poems also evoke Pintado’s quieter moments, while he’s subdued by flickering flames in the small hours or captivated by a fleeting face in a crowd. Music for Bamboo Strings is a territory of fear and beauty that wonders what may be revealed through poetry and plots an emotional cartography of paths that might be followed.
Music for Bamboo Strings will be available on March 1, 2024 from Sundial House.
From Music for Bamboo Strings
THE GREEK VASE
They fought on the vase an impossible war: the vase had resisted years of horror, of blows. He remained, naked, above his adversary; the adversary, perhaps too young, also showed a certain nakedness. They fought like lovers, like enemies, immobile. Without declaring themselves victor or vanquished. Near them wait strong men with bull’s legs. We observe the vase, that eternity from which we’ll never drink.
LANDSCAPE ON A POSTCARD
I could stretch out my hand and touch the object, the pure flesh, sleeping beside that body. I saw everything like someone looking at the landscape of a postcard. When I closed my eyes, your face and my face were lost: someone sang a love song. Horns sounded, the fruit rolled along my hand. We are made from simple things, I thought; more or less human things, repeated until exhaustion. I could guess that ancient scent. There was a lamp, some bodies in silk and an early morning. I would lie with elegance: it happened in Istanbul, my hands resting upon the book, his body beside my own, promising disaster.
While the birds pecked the fruits, we argued about the taste of rotting meat. Without subtlety. Without beauty. As if we were contemplating an old photograph or a black and white movie. The calling of ascetics or madmen, they said. Frightened by something that we’d never know; the birds took flight. With a certain slowness we approached the site of their feast: the scent of the fruits burning on their lips. Still life without other attributes.
The light upon the so-red awnings and the city that doesn’t know how much beauty shall remain of this. We speak little, just the essential, someone might say. Nobody promised anything. Your hand brushed mine from time to time, artlessly. We had the sea, desire, and some words we spoke with heaviness, like someone acting out of habit.
THE PEACE OF PORTRAITS
The body falls. The shadow insinuates a gesture. We search for herring on the Sebald coast. To be there, I wet my body with leaves, drew circles in the palm of my hand while the fishermen spoke of the wind and the stone moon. Everything happens in the peace that portraits imagine. Dogs barked without any echo; a body trembled beside my own. I shall dream very simple things: the movement of wind through the leaves, an adolescent face, a forgotten amphora.
Translated by Lawrence Schimel