Keeping Quiet

A young poet friend shared a poem with me. Gabriel Garcia Marquez declared the poet – Pablo Neruda – to be the twentieth century’s “greatest poet in any language.”

Such an accolade claims plenty poetic licence: does Mister Marquez read Sanskrit? Korean? Swahili? Arrernte?

Never mind: I think Mister Marquez is a good judge.

What is this power of the artfully selected offering of words?

This power that rivals music?

Read the poem; best of all, have someone read it aloud to you while you sit with your eyes comfortably closed:

Keeping Quiet Pablo Neruda

 

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for one second, and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

On the Passing of a Great Writer

At the time of writing this, I have read scores of tributes to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, all of them as tweets. In other words, I have read nothing so far in mature media, (an expression that identifies me as a culturally bewildered old fart).

Great writers will have their say in traditional media.
Thus far the twitterers. Now me.

I was intrigued as I read these tweets. They poured, a growing stream of tributes, pausing at intervals, I suppose, to gather electronic breath, then flowing again. The process seemed as alive, as dynamic, as the flowing of a swift rivulet that paused on reaching rocks, only to cascade over and around them and plunge downstream in a Gabriel Garcia Marquezswelling spate. I felt excited by the energy I witnessed. I felt I heard the whisperings of legion one-hundred-and-thirty-character authors, everyone of them sounding forty years younger, forty years more at home here than I. Their twittering grew and grew to a chorus.
The energy was mildly thrilling as it gathered strength. It could frighten me if (forget “if”; think ‘\’when!”) it becomes a mob. I remember, too well I remember the cries at Cronulla; the cries of the mob as Dreyfus is cashiered (“Death to the Jew!”).
But I digress. Or do I digress? Only if the medium is not the message.

And what did I hear, what sense as the tweeting reached crescendo?
I heard love. I heard grateful appreciation. Marquez became a beloved writer. And his writing was the antithesis of the tweet. Substantial, considered, it paced itself with the uneven gait of the human.

I was impressed by the way tweeters reached for language worthy. None found his writing “awesome”; no-one said Marquez was “amazing”. No-one buried him in dead language.
Instead they offered back beloved lines. I record the four most quoted in ascending order of popularity:

Fourth: The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.

Third: Nothing in this world was more difficult than love.

Second: Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will never make you cry.

First: What matters in life is not what happens to you but what your remember and how you remember it.

Of these the first three are switches planted onto the pages of Marquez’ writing that light up a remembered feeling, an emotion recognised by the grateful reader.
The lines on memory appear more elusive than allusive. Subtle, demanding a pause, requiring meditation, the memory quote speaks to all who are mortal of what might remain, of the immortal.

What is my own response to Garcia Marquez’ writing? People call it magic realism. I recognise something older. I hear the thrust of story in the bud, bursting into flower. I hear the pulsing of the “Thousand Nights and One Night”. I hear storytelling.