By Michael Harlow

From New Zealand we read this review on the music of a very short lived Nicaraguan poet, narrator and essayist whose poetic ouvre includes antiwar, love and ethnographic poems. Not to be mistaken for a better known American poet with a very similar surname.

   For Nicaraguan poet Joaquín., that his poems 'go about
on foot' shows that he has not forgotten to keep himself
grounded, without disappearing into the aether.
 It is the astonishing reach of his mytho-poetic imagination
that earmarks the poetry of Pasos. An imagination that goes
around corners with ease and delight to discover what it is
that makes the world such a mysterious place. A place
where the poesía of Pasos opens doorway and windows
to the wider world to explore what the mind and the heart
can make happen when a flying imagination is at play.
   It is a poetry at play that wants to risk delight and happiness,
but also loss and sorrow, life and the death experience, eros
and thanatos. These archetypal, universal experiences transfigured
into extraordinary image making and music making that can and does 
strike the ear and the eye with stunning effect. Taking the ordinary 
and with it 'making strange' what is released from the storehouse 
of language. This is a poetry of soul-making.

	Here I am, and I smile as tall as can be
	With the five fingers of my liberty I recount my travels
	Here I am quivering and joyful like a small boy's heart.
	I like the laughter of words and wear an acrobat's tights.
	I smile and look about like a bird
	.  .  .  .  
	Here I am , here I am
	raising my left arm, with the five fingers of my liberty.
				          [Courtyard, translated by Roger Hickin]

   A poem that is a fulsome declaration by way of a credo of belief,
of what happens when "A Poem Goes About on One Foot". All poems
have shadow texts, and this is one of them. Because Pasos is both
composer and conductor and first chair concert master, we need to hear
the music and the song in its original language, as in his poem "Cuatro"

	Cerrando estoy mi cuerpo con las cuatro paredes,
	en las cuarto ventanas que tu cuerpo me abrió
	Estoy quendando solo con mis cuatro silencíos:
	el tuyo, el mió el del aire, el de Dios
	Voy baihando tranquilo por mis cuatro escaleras,

	voy bajando por dentro, muy adentro de yo,
	donde estan cuatro veces cuatro campos muy grandes.
	Por adentro, muy adentro; ¡qué ancho que soy!

	Y qué pequeña que eres con tus cuatro reales, 
	con tus cuatro vestidos hechosen Nueva York.
	Vas quedando desnuda y pobre ante mis ojos;
	cuatro veces te quise; cuatro veces ya no

                                                                                         Pasos... / 2 / Harlow

Estoy cerrando mi alma, yo no me asomo a verte,
ya no te veo el aire que te diera mi amor;
voy bajando tranquilo con mis cuatro cariños:
el otro, el mío, el de aire, el del Dios.

   This is music and the sound-of-sense striking the ear and the heart 
with lyric wonder.  It is uncanny how like this sonnet is to the sonnets
of Shakespeare in their resplendent music and song, and sheer verbal 
dexterity. This poem Cuatro is poetry as pure act.  As original as one 
can be in search of a language to articulate how it is that love as Eros 
can be so exhilarating, in both its desire, and sorrow and loss.  And you
 can hear the echo of Dante's

	Nessun maggiore dolore, que ricordarsi
	del tempo felice nella miseria

«Taking the ordinary and with it ‘making strange’ what is released from the storehouse of language. This is a poetry of soul-making.»

   There is no greater sadness than to remember times of happiness when 
in misery. Surely a truth of poetry that it makes intimate everything that
 it touches.
   Delineating the surface of a poem, its arabesques and shapes is one thing
and always charming, even sometimes spellbinding. But that is only half
the poetic performance.  It is when Pasos goes deep, when deep equals 
true, that we are treated to a full performance. It is when the unconscious
comes into play, rising into the light of consciousness, its mytho-poetic
images, and words looking for a relationship to other words, to settle down
for the occasion of the poem itself. These are moments of discovery and that 
quick surprise that turns a poem into a number of directions, some of which 
are touched by the surreal, making strange the familiar.  In a Pasos poem 
little if anything is 'like', it is what it is.

	Oh! this is Norway
	with its metal trees
	and itsyoung women reared in refrigerators.
And in his poem, Drop everything

	Drop everything. Drop everything, now
	There are new things to see ...
	     at the shipwreck that awaits us
	the shipwreck our family has marked on the map,
	aboard which the old manservant will take care of gathering
	     the shoes of the dead.

   Much of the music in Pasos' poetry uncoils with a rhythm of lyric wonder.
In this, Pasos is a poet at play discovering that

                                                                             Pasos / 3 / Harlow

	We still don't know what town we're in.

At five in the morning a Polish musician plays a Hungarian flute
and on the second floor of this nameless hotel we all leap out of bed
to toss out the window what's left of last night's money
to see out the window what's left of last night's shadows.
                                                          [X-Town translated by Roger Hickin]
 And we discover at the final stroke, that all of what has taken place 
in X-Town is a love poem, "full of you" It is no wonder that Pasos declares
he is Mad with Joy. It is worth quoting in full his poem Liebpostal to hear
and see his life as a poet alight with joy, risking such delight

	A house. A tree. A road. A dog.
	White house. Green tree. Grey road. Black dog.
	The green tree by the grey road. The black dog by the white house.
	The black dog on the grey road. The green tree above the white house.
	The grey road goes off beyond the green tree. The black dog
		enters the white house.
	    No more black dog, no more grey road.
 	    Alone. Mad with Joy.
	   The green tree and the white house.
   This is song unadulterated. A musical  round. And what it is to be
at play en la casa de poesía, the house of poetry. And it tells a truth
of poetry that L'écriture est la peinture de la voix. [Voltaire].  If there is
a credo as Arts Poetica, somewhere there always must be, we can hear
this in the lyric line of Pasos' poem Day
	   Dark and bright day that reminds me
	   my duty is to sing.
	   Día moreno y brillante que me recuerda
	   mi obligación de cantar.

Michael Harlow is an American born poet of Greek and Ukrainian origin based in New Zealand for over fifty years. In 1968, he was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship and the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship in 2009. In 2018 the New Zealand government conferred him the Primer Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement. He has published twelve books of his own poetry and has also written also the process of writing poetry. We welcome Michael Harlow’s contributions to our magazine.

A Poem Goes About on Foot is a translation in by Robert Hickin of twenty one poems by Joaquín Pasos. Published by Cold Hub Press in a bilingual format