Passion & War : K.F. Pearson

Book Description

Book Sample
Ash Magazine
A Flamenco Libretto For Voice, Guitar and Dance Incorporating the author's Translations from the Spanish

K.F. Pearson is to be thanked for this homage to these writers. The sheer love of his work comes across formidably
a not inconsiderable piece of imagination

Book Description

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)

ISBN 1876044004
Published 1995
62 pgs

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Book Sample


Another time, another war
a lover betrayed by a lover
in Andalusia, my friends,
a foreign place, or that which seems
foreign to you, except for this:
each person knows the blow or kiss.

Poet and dancer tonight we show
events both delicate and raw
given in sharp words of those
who lived their lives, as you live yours,
innocent till one event
explodes with murderous intent.

The year is 1934.
The place peninsular Spain.
The sleep before the troubles start.

AntonioMachado, teacher
of French in country schools, and poet
sees eternity in dusty plazas,
in a mule that pulls a waterwheel

(The Waterwheel)

The day drops
sad and dusty.

The water sings
its folk copla
in the scoops
of the slow water

wheel. The mule dreams
poor and old
to rhythms of shadow
the water sounds.

The day drops
sad and dusty.

I do not know what noble
divine poet
mixed with the gall
of the eternal wheel

the sweet harmony
of water that sounds
and bound your eyes
poor and old...

but he was a noble
divine poet
seasoned at heart
with knowledge and shadow.

It seems a world that will burst apart
with excess of joy that it exists.

Untouched as yet by shattered hearts,
lost friends and their physical wounds,

Lorca gloats no Thought explains
our rippling world beneath the sun.


A plenum of cicadas sits in a field.
What do you say, Marcus Aurelius,
of these old philosophers of the plain?
Well, your thought is poor.

The river water runs gentle.
Oh Socrates! What do you see
in the water that goes to sharp death?
Your faith is poor and sad.

The rose leaves fall in the mud.
Oh sweet John of God!
What do you see in these glorious petals?
Your heart is a tiny one!

Tradition is the future,
tradition children
at play in an ancient
quarter of a town.

It is children bear us,
our hope of remembrance,
our shadow stretched out
one early afternoon.

Machado the modernist,
not teaching today
walks the plaza, the children
at skip-rope and ball.

(The plaza and fiery...)

The plaza and fiery orange trees
with smiling and round fruit.

Tumult of children who
escape in disorder from school
fills the air of the
plaza with din of new voices.

Infantile joy at the
coigns of the dead cities!...
And something new of the past we see
to be wandering old streets yet!

Miguel Hernandez, young
has left the country for Madrid.
He makes his name in Cafes there.

Son of a goatherd he is one
who studies Luis de Góngora,
that elaborate 16th century poet.

With Lorca he is one of those
who re-invents a long tradition.
He makes it sharp, he brings it close.

Miguel Hernández, young
before the war will change his style
turns love sonnets on the bullfight.

(For sadness and grief...)

For sadness and grief I am born
like the bull; like the bull I am stamped
by the infernal branding iron in the flank
and as male by the seed in the groin.

Like the bull I find too small
all my immeasurable heart,
and in love with the face of the kiss,
I fight for your love like the bull.

Like the bull I groan under pain,
I have bathed my tongue in my heart,
and wear on my neck a loud gale.

Like the bull I follow and chase,
and I leave my desire on a sword,
mocked like the bull, like the bull.

All Spain owes everything to him,
a delicate 20th century man

founder of magazines and journals,
not one poet here at all

achieved a start to his career
unless Juan Jiménez was there.

His own work won a Nobel Prize.
He gave yet more, the gift of these

younger poets to Spain and us.
The true greats do not fear the next.

Uncontaminated, pure
like conversations to one held dear

he thought true language in a poem
a nude or moon that walks a room.

(Full Moon)

The door is ajar;
the cricket, singing.
Are you wandering naked
through the field?

Like an eternal water
that enters and leaves all.
Are you wandering naked
through the air?

The ant is toiling,
the basil does not sleep.
Are you wandering naked
through the house?


Scent of spikenard,
a naked woman
through the dark corridors.

(I stripped you of leaves...)

I stripped you of leaves like a rose
in order to see your soul,
and I did not see it.

But all around
- horizons of earth and sea -
all, even the infinite,
overflowed with character,
vast and alive.


- a naked woman
madly running through the pure night!

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Writer and Reader - By the Sea: Some Recent Australian Poetry
David McCooey

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...’).

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Poetry among ruins - Alan Wearne reads the pain of Spain
Alan Wearne
Herald-Sun, 4/11/1995

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
Ash Magazine

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.