Friday, October 20, 2006

I’m Not a Poet, Ergo, I Am Real

by Lydia Cortes

Mi Autosicografia ... after Pessoa, Parra and Shailendra

I’m not a poet and so I am
real means royal in Spanish sometimes
I pretend I am
real like in royal pain
I fake even my pleasure
and can do it in 3 languages
I fake the pleasure of the pleasure
even in fantasy if not a poet what
can I fake fuck the pleasure the fuck
fake when and where?

Growing up in Brooklyn at home
I spoke Spanish at school a coarse crash
learn English pretend Americana
hoped most people would believe that
in Italy it was better being ... Porto Ricana,
for that year I was some exotic
islander a place most knew
like me little about I learned
Italian so well most natives believed I was
just from some other place outside
Rome never quite sure who
I was so good at my act never
fake the pleasure pain now
they’ve become the same thing
like washing the dishes
it’ll always be me no one
else will even if I pray
kneeling beneath a grand crucifix and
Christ winks smiling at me I’ll ignore
Him make believe
I didn’t see some things
are too hard to fake like being a poet.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


We also read Fernando Pessoa's "Autopsychographia" (translated by Edwin Honig) and the first verse of Shailendra's "Mera Joota Hai Japani" ("My shoes are Japanese"), from the 1955 film "Shree 420," directed by Raj Kapoor.

Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was born in 1888 in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in 1935. He invented numerous "heteronyms" or pseudonyms, under which he wrote most of his poems.

Read the Wikipedia entry on Pessoa, which includes a translation of the first stanza of "Autopsychographia," here.

Shailendra was born in 1923 in Rawalpindi in what is now Pakistan. He moved to Bombay in 1947. An active participant in the freedom struggle, Shailendra wrote many anthemic poems, which ultimately drew the attention of the young film director, Raj Kapoor, who persuaded Shailendra to write lyrics for some of the songs in his films.

You can hear the song online here, and read about the film here and here.

"Autopsychographia," "Meera Joota Hai Japani," and Nicanor Parra's "The Individual's Soliloquy" (see post below) all offer different approaches to "identity," which we discussed in length during Friday's workshop.

Our assignment for the coming week is to write our own satirical poem (or other piece) taking identity as our subject, or our "object of satire."

As you finish these pieces, feel free to e-mail them to me at garypsullivan at gmail dot com if you would like me to post them on this blog under your name. This is purely optional! If you want, you can save your writing to discuss in class.

Meanwhile, please feel free to visit the links in this post and the post previous.