To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vitezslav Nezval: Fireworks 1924, A Cinemagenic Poem

Translation from Czech by Jerome Rothenberg & Milos Sovak

1 a gunshot (fade in)
2 a hand illuminated holding a revolver (dissolve into)
3 a hand sporting a diamond ring that
4 blows to pieces like a fireworks display with the inscription ALL THIS BECAUSE OF LOVE (double exposures moving from one image to another) a dance pavilion (full shot) & the sparks dying away
5 a street corner (fade out) the helmets of 3 policemen
6 a coffee house a lady on the phone (full shot)
7 it rings a few times
8 a gentleman’s quarters (full shot)
9 the telephone bell (close up)
10 the lady setting the receiver down
11 the clock on the clocktower moonlight 10 o’clock
12 in the fields a hare is running down a path
13 sniffing with whiskers erect (dissolve)
14 the hare standing up on its hind legs
15 from the bushes a gentleman with monocle steps out
16 a coffee house (full shot)
17 a detective observes a lady’s hand move nervously along a marble table
18 the diamond transmutes into
19 a show window with a passing tram’s reflection
20 the detective pays his check & as he hands the money over surreptitiously displays
21 his badge (dissolve into close-up)
22 the detective goes to the lady’s table
23 asks for permission
24 thumbs thru magazines
25 & newspapers (dissolve into close-up)
27 the detective while choosing a magazine stares deep into the lady’s eyes (medium close shot)
28 the lady getting up (full shot)
29 the detective grabs his heart & sinks down to the floor (fade out)
30 a crowd of guests & waiters
31 the lady puts a handkerchief on the detective’s head
32 (close-up) the detective’s hand picking a photo & 2 tram tickets from the lady’s bag
33 in the fields the hare is pricking up its ears
34 a railway station where a train is being boarded
35 a gentleman with monocle at ticket counter
36 a hand plugging lines in at the phone exchange
37 the detective makes a call while staring at the tram ticket
38 index finger in the book
39 the tram ticket held in two hands as it grows in size till it dissolves into
40 the image of the tram (interior)
41 the dispatcher in his office struggling to recall something (medium close shot)
42 presses his index finger to his forehead (full shot)
43 & gives a smile (medium close shot)
44 giving a large banknote to the gentleman with the monocle seated beside the lady in the tram
45 a maze of telegraph wires
46 a postal clerk pondering a telegram
47 a lookout post in front of which there stands a yardman
48 the yardman runs into the lookout
49 a corridor inside the train down which the man with monocle is passing
50 he is entering the toilet
51 dumping his revolver
52 his pocket watch
53 (fade out) in the dark a sign HOTEL
54 the lady in bed turning from side to side
55 (medium close shot) opening her eyes, a sad look
56 the yardman presses a button
57 the semaphore (dissolving into medium close shot) is moving slowly up & down
58 an automobile in motion
59 (medium close shot) detective holds an open timetable in his hand
60 the dispatcher looking at the man with monocle & at the lady who are walking over to an island lit by lanterns (dissolves)
61 (medium close shot) the dispatcher talking to a policeman
62 the train is stopping
63 the auto speeding up approaching
64 the lady hand on bed a handkerchief to forehead
65 the locomotive whistle
66 the detective standing on the train steps
67 the hare has reared up on its hind legs
68 a hand with a revolver
69 an eye behind a monocle
70 the monocle falls to the floor & shatters
71 the gentleman standing without moving
72 a gunshot (fade in)
73 a hand illuminated holding a revolver (dissolves into) a diamond
74 into a shrapnel burst with the title ALL THIS BECAUSE OF LOVE (double exposure) a pavilion full of dancing couples
75 the leg of a jazz drummer at his drums
76 (medium close shot) a band stand lined with sheets of music & the title ALL THIS BECAUSE OF LOVE
77 in front of a shooting gallery the man with the monocle & the lady he takes aim & fires
78 (close-up) a metal rabbit painted silver falling over
79 (medium close shot) the gentleman & lady laughing fit to burst
80 the gentleman is rubbing at his eyes
81 a kiss behind the parasol
82 the hare’s whiskers & one side of the hare’s face moving & dissolving into a fountain its waters turning drop by drop into the words


NOTE. Nezval (1900-1958) was, with Velimir Holan, one of the two great early poets of Czech experimental modernism. Like other innovators then & now, he worked through a prolific sweep of modes & genres: open & closed forms of verse; novels drawn from his childhood & more surreal, chance-oriented prose works; avant-garde theater collaborations; numerous translations of his modern counterparts & predecessors (Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Neruda, Lorca, Eluard, et al.); & forays as composer, painter, journalist, photographer, & (from 1945 to 1951) director of the film section of the Information & Culture Ministry in Prague. His commitment to communism came early (1924), & his politics before & after made him a prominent member of that network of tolerated avant-gardists/poet-heroes that included Neruda, Brecht, Picasso, Hikmet, Eluard, & Tzara, among others (with some of whom he shared pro-forma hymns to Stalin in the early postwar years). As with many of them also, a Surrealist connection was clearly in evidence but should in no sense diminish the originality of his own practice & its contribution to ours.

The poem presented here – an early venture into film writing – is from a longer selection, Antilyrik & Other Poems, translated by myself & Milos Sovak & published by Green Integer Books in 2001. An additional translation from Nezval can be found here. (JR)


Ed Baker said...

just now finishing-up reading so's to sort-of
'fill in the blanks

Roger Shattuck's Selected Writings of Guillaume Apollinaire

some terrific "stuff" went on say from 1885 through 1930's there in Paris!

now into Shattuck's THE BANQUET YEARS

heck, the first 10 pages WORTH the priceofadmission!

can't get to the quote of Apollinaire re: poetry gonna equal and issue-forth via phonograph AND film

had I 'discovered' these ...pioneers
back in my UTE say around 1960

I certainly would have {....}
and paid attention to my French Language lessons
& a bit of German....

"film writing" THAT S

only "film writing" I know is that
dos Passos "stuff"


Foxe aka Elitsa Ganeva said...

very good! thank you for that!! I've read him only in Bulgarian and now here in English! wonderful text!