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from the March 2021 issue

Essays, or the Opening and Closing of the Okra Flowers During the Eclipse

Ensaios, Ou as flores de okra abriron e pecharon durante a eclipse

The work of German photographer Karl Blossfeldt and his relationship to plants is reimagined in this poem by 2019 Poems in Translation Contest winner Alba Cid from her collection Atlas.



Light is choral and comes from another world:
we ripple

Alba Cid

And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone.
Edgar Allan Poe

 

1. A catalog for Karl Blossfeldt.
2. A creation that can only be seen head-on, one which celebrates the detail: fingers plucking petals and sepals to discover
3. the corolla (chrysanthemum)
4. the structures (sage)
5. a nearly nonexistent world: interior, spores, silences (nothing better than a panicle to catch a glimpse of silence).
6. With some enlargements, organic matter can become metal, sculpture, a richly split nutcracker, a Tsarine delirium after so many Tsars.
7. After each selection, earthen arrows, brushes, velvet, manipulation, and the play of light and shadow; the wary fascination of botanists.
 


Alba Cid

8. Karl mounts his bicycle and leaves behind the sinewy nucleus of Berlin. We watch him pedal from above, drawing innumerable ellipses on his way to the outskirts, and we think back to a line by Jorie Graham, the line that explains sea creatures’ fascination with the moon’s traces in the water.
9. “Anything that flees so constantly must be desirable.” From “Ambergris,” in Hybrids of Plants and Ghosts, 1980.
10. Revelation can come in Potsdam or Teufelsee, at the foot of an ox-path.
11. Karl kneels before every wild specimen:
12. a blue button, lichens, the motion of a fern as its arms unfurl.
13. It’s hard to deny the evocations, elevation, and curve of the stalk, withdrawing, practically en quatrième position, like a ballerina in the German Staatsballett.

Alba Cid

14. In 1929, Walter Benjamin describes the work of Karl Blossfeldt as “an entire, unsuspected horde of analogies and forms in the existence of plants.” From “News About Flowers,” in the year cited.
15. “Horde,” he writes (which is to write stampede, the tumult of battle), without knowing that the body of photographs taken between 1890 and his death in 1932 will climb to 6,000.
16. Is there a botanical inspiration behind Doric columns? Roman crowns? Gothic choirs?
17. When you say inspiration, what do you really mean?
18. There is a heartbeat in Karl’s words, a certain eagerness for restitution, the ceaseless revelation of the elective affinities between artistic and natural forms, something almost etymological,
19. soft as the word “balm,” which crosses the River Jordan, through the valleys of Syria, anointing lips and bodies.


Alba Cid

20. These, Karl, are close-ups of a Canna indica in black and white.
21. In a certain slant of morning, some of the canna lily’s leaves, oblong and tropical, will begin to let the sunlight through.
22. Light filters through its tissues and marks the ribbing of the plant.
23. It respects stems and transition zones. It illuminates the edges.
24. As day falls, another burst bounces off its waxed surface and makes manifest each ripple, the traces of soil, and rain.
25. And smoothness, can’t you see?
26. As for the Canna, perennial, it can easily grow two meters high, flower and fruit, folding in on itself; it wouldn’t respond well to isolation or extraction.
27. How might we decide between choreography or architecture?
28. Urals or sky?


Alba Cid

29. Smoothness tells a story of more delicate ambitions.
30. What do you know about leaves? (You, not Karl.) About touch?
31. Are you aware of having touched them once in silence?
32. Any one of them could envelop your whole hand, even when unclasped.
33. In the instant your fingertips meet the surface, your mind makes a rapid sketch, a mental image of the thing you’ve touched.
34. The Canna is chutes and rhythms, passageways.
35. Karl parks his bike carelessly. Under his arm, a bunch of marigolds, triumphant and tender:
36. “If I give someone a horsetail, he will have no difficulty making a photographic enlargement of it—anyone can do that. But to observe it, to notice it and discover its forms, is something that only a few are capable of.”


Atlas © 2019 Alba Cid. By arrangement with the author. English Translation © 2021 Megan Berkobien and Jacob Rogers. All rights reserved.

Ensaios, Ou as flores de okra abriron e pecharon durante a eclipse

a luz é coral e vén doutro mundo:
ondeamos

 

And all I lov’d-I lov’d alone.
Edgar Allen Poe

 

 

1. Un catálogo para Karl Blossfeldt.
2. Unha creación onde só se poida mirar frontalmente, e se celebrea sección, o detalle, os dedos que retiran pétalos e sépalospara descubrir
3. a corola (crisantemos)
4. as estrutras (salvia)
5. un mundo que case non existe: interior, esporas, silencios (nada mellor que a paniculata para entrever o silencio).
6. Con varios aumentos, a materia orgánica pode transformarse en metal, escultura, crebanoces profusamente tallado, un delirio tsarino despois dos tsares.
7. Detrás de cada escolla, frechas vexetais, pinceis, veludo, manipulación e xogo de luces; a fascinación receosa dos botánicos.
8. Karl monta na bicicleta e deixa atrás o correúdo núcleo de Berlín. Observámolo pedalear desde as alturas, trazando innúmeras elipses até as aforas, e recordamos un verso de Jorie Graham, o verso que explica a fascinación da criaturas mariñas polo rastro da lúa nas augas:
9. “Algo que foxe tan constantemente debe ser desexábel”. Vid. “Ambergris”, en Hybrids of Plants and Ghosts, 1980.
10. A revelación pode darse en Potsdam ou Teufelsee, ao pé dun carreiro.
11. Karl dóbrase ante calquera espécime salvaxe:
12. un botón azul, liques, o xesto dun fento ao despregar os brazos.
13. Resulta difícil negar as evocacións, elevación e curva do talo, man repregada—practicamente, a quatrième position dunha bailarina no German Staatsballett.
14. En 1929, Walter Benjamin describe o traballo de Karl Blossfeldt como “unha enteira, insospeitada horda de analoxías e formas na existencia das plantas”. Vid. “News about Flowers”, do ano citado.
15. “Horda”, escribe (que é escribir fragor, tumulto de batalla), sen saber que ascenderá a 6000 o conxunto de fotografías de plantas tomadas entre 1890 e a súa morte, en 1932.
16. Era botánica a inspiración das columnas dóricas? Das coroas romanas? Dos coros góticos?
17. Cando dis inspiración, que queres dicir realmente?
18. Latexa, nas palabras de Karl, unha certa ansia de restitución, a revelación constante de afinidades electivas entre as formas artísticas e as naturais, algo case etimolóxico,
19. suave como a palabra “bálsamo”, que cruza o río Xordán, nos vales de Siria, e unxe os labios e os corpos.
20. Isto, Karl, son aproximacións a unha Canna indica en branco e negro.
21. Durante certa franxa da mañá, algunhas das follas oblongas tropicais da cana son capaces de transparentar a luz do sol.
22. A luz fíltrase polos tecidos e subliña as nervaduras da planta.
23. Respecta os talos e as zonas de transición. Prende nos bordes.
24. Co caer do día, outra tanta rebota na superficie encerada e evidencia as ondulacións, as marcas da terra e as chuvias.
25. Tamén a tersura, non ves?
26. En canto a ela, perenne, medra doadamente até os dous metros, presente flor e froito, recóllese sobre si mesma; non respondería ben ao illamento ou a extracción.
27. Como decidir aquí entre coreografía ou arquitectura?
28. Urais ou ceo?

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