Passion & War : K.F. Pearson
Passion & War; A Flamenco Libretto is a work of great simplicity, terror and hope. It dramatizes the human events and consequences of the Spanish Civil War.
K.F. Pearson knits his translations of Spanish poets of the time (Juan Ramón Jiminéz, Frederico García Lorca, Miguel Hernández and others) into a narrative of the war. Each poet is a separate character. Their ringing words reach out to us now.
Passion & War is a plea for peace, understanding and civic co-operation.
I found myself moved by your translations and evocations of those Spanish Civil War poets, many of them dead so young, and I was intrigued by the way you stitched their poems together into a grand AIDS-like quilt with the threads of your own lines - a book both original and yet within the tradition of homenajes which has been explored more in Spanish than in English.
John Ridland (US academic and poet)
Writer and Reader - By the Sea: Some Recent Australian Poetry
The second ‘experimental’ collection [after Jennifer Harrison, Graham Henderson and K.F. Pearson, Mosaics & Mirrors] is also by one of the authors of the ‘composite poems’, K. F. Pearson. Passion & War is described as ‘A Flamenco Libretto for voice, guitar and dance, incorporating the author’s translations from the Spanish’. Judgement of the ‘libretto’ alone must be partial. However, Pearson gives few clues as to how the piece would be performed (or even whether or not it has been performed) which suggests that he feels the work can stand on its own. Though the publishers claim that the work ‘knits... translations of Spanish poets of the time... into a narrative of the war’, the Spanish Civil War remains more of a ghostly outline, since the sense of narrative can only be marginal at best when the work concentrates on the extraordinary imagistic Spanish lyric poetry of the time. Poets translated include Juan Ramón Jiménez, Federico Garcíia Lorca, and Miguel Hernández. While Pearson’s original material which binds these poems together is sometimes laboured, many of the poems themselves are arresting in their simplicity. An image of the dislocation of the war is presented by Antonio Machado: ‘You will sleep many hours / yet on the old shore, / and one fine morning find your / boat moored on the other shore’ (‘The clock struck twelve...’).
Poetry among ruins - Alan Wearne reads the pain of Spain
This is a suite of Spanish lyric verse in translation. Linked by a quasi-narrative, and originally written to be accompanied by flamenco guitar and dancer, the poems chart the years leading to the Spanish Civil war, the war itself, and a few aspects of its aftermath.
The poets K.F. Pearson chooses include Jimenez, Garcia Lorca, Machardo and Hernandez. Of these, Garcia Lorca is probably the most well-known in Australia: his poetry and plays are available in most literate bookshops, his murder by the fascists is one of the century’s great symbolic crimes.
But then, once the Civil War was underway, these poets became well aware that to a monolithic ideology and regime, they and their achievements counted for very little.
Like their Russian contemporaries Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandlestam and Pasternak, they lived in the knowledge that the penalty for being who they were and what they wrote could be death.
Exile might have been an option, of course, but exile due to ideology and/or a regime is a lot different to wanting a change from the supposed provincialities of Melbourne or Sydney.
What the Spaniards and the Russians suffered puts in a wonderful relief those whingeings about the Australia Council by certain of our over-rated bardic blowhards.
Indeed, for any Australian writer bleating about their lot in life, how the lack of national appreciation puts their profile on a par with, say, lacrosse players, I’d have them read every available biography of these writers, paying close attention to the conditions under which their verse flourished.
K.F. Pearson is to be thanked for this homage to these writers. The sheer love of his work comes across formidably. If the poems seem to be colored with a consistent seriousness, it is because they are products of consistently serious years.
Perhaps Pearson’s linking verse is a little too declamatory at times, though this hardly detracts from the book’s laudable ambition.
A more major criticism might be that there didn’t seem to be a sufficient difference in tone between each of the writers under translation.
If this is true, however, one does receive a word portrait of a nation consumed by civil war; perhaps it is Spain, or at least the translator’s vision of Spain, which is speaking: a not inconsiderable piece of imagination.
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Passion and War
Alan D. Laslett
Kevin Pearson's translations and his ability to pick up the essence of feeling, evoke the mood and convey the nuances of emotion and give them meaning in a language not originally intended. His translation of the Miguel Henandez poem 'Waltz of Those in Love and United Forever' is controlled and sensitive. Juxtapozed with the sensitivity of those first lines
They haven't ever left
the orchard of their embrace
is an external threatening violence represented through 'rancorous hurricanes', 'inflexible lightning', shipwrecks, torment and oppression. Basically, I gue3ss, the simple message is that love surmounts all storms and aggtression.