CANCELLED - The color of the flowers in the dark
Sharon Olds and Mercedes Cebrián
CANCELLED for health reasons. New date to be announced soon
A talk by Sharon Olds, with the writer Mercedes Cebrián
Espai 4. Simultaneous translation into Spanish
Free entrance. Limited places
"Like the color of the flowers in the dark": so it is with poetic images. The final verse of the anniversary poem that Sharon Olds dedicates to her grandmother in The Dead and the Living can be used to consider what images are in relation to literature and what literature is in relation to images. How do we perceive the colour of flowers in the dark? Does an image exist only when there is a visual stimulus? Is poetry only found in the poem? Olds’s writing is unearthly and generous, with a direct language that shuns artifice and builds a radically personal imaginary through comparisons. She uses comparisons rather than metaphors (which she considers a substitute for reality) precisely because her poetry flees from nothing. Her poetry is rooted in life experience: in The Father (1992) she describes the process of her father's death, and in Stag's Leap (2012) she explores the emotions of a separation. She also shows her contemporaneity in poems such as Ideographs, The Abandoned Newborn and Photograph of the Girl, which are based on photographs of war conflicts or newspaper clippings.
BIRTHDAY POEM FOR MY GRANDMOTHER
(for L. B. M. C., 1890-1975)
I stood on the porch tonight- which way do we
face to talk to the dead? I thought of the
new rose, and went out over the
grey lawn - things really
have no color at night. I descended
the stone steps, as if to the place where one
speaks to the dead. The rose stood
half-uncurled, glowing white in the
black air. Later I remembered
your birthday. You would have been ninety and getting
roses from me. Are the dead there
if we do not speak to them? When I came to see you
you were always sitting quietly in the chair,
not knitting, beause of the arthritis,
not reading, because of the blindness,
just sitting. I never knew how you
did it or what you were thinking. Now I
sometimes sit on the porch, waiting,
trying to feel you there like the color of the
flowers in the dark.
Sharon Olds (San Francisco, 1942) is one of the most outstanding American poets. Her first collection, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award, and was followed by The One Girl at the Boys' Party (1983), The Dead and the Living (1984), The Victims (1987), The Gold Cell (1987), The Father (1992), The Wellspring (1996), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Unswept Room (2002), Strike Sparks (an anthology, 2004), One Secret Thing (2008), Stag's Leap (2012) and Odes (2016). Her work has been included in more than a hundred anthologies and she has received awards such as the Lamont Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Award, the T.S. Eliot Award, the Lila Wallace-Readers's Digest Award, the Harriet Monroe Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Mercedes Cebrián (Madrid, 1971) has published the books Verano azul: unas vacaciones en el corazón de la transición (Alpha Decay, 2016), El genuino sabor (Literatura Random House, 2014), Oremos por nuestros pasaportes. Antología (Mondadori Argentina, 2012), La nueva taxidermia (Mondadori, 2011) (finalist of the Tigre Juan Award in 2012), El malestar al alcance de todos and Mercado Común (both in Caballo de Troya, 2004 and 2006), and Cul-de-sac (Alpha Decay, 2009). She has worked as a columnist for the newspaper Público and frequently writes for the supplements El Viajero and Babelia of El País, and Cultura/s of La Vanguardia. She has translated into Spanish works by Georges Perec, Alan Sillitoe, Miranda July and Alain de Botton.