The Julia de Burgos Project
Julia de Burgos is a poet from Puerto Rico in the early part of the 20th century. Her poetry has been described as some of the most essential work defining the Puerto Rican and immigration experience in America. Using her poetry as inspiration, create images that help to illustrate her work. The poems are on our website www.yap.tallerpr.org. Pick one or two poems to illustrate. You will need to create a total of 6 – 8 images. The images will be turned into a book which will then be part of a small Anthology the Youth Artist Program is publishing and selling through our Gift Shop in-store and online.
Farewell from Welfare Island It has to come from here, right this instance, my cry into the world. The past is only a shadow emerging from nowhere. Life was somewhere forgotten and sought refuge in depths of tears and sorrows; over this vast empire of solitude and darkness. Where is the voice of freedom, freedom to laugh, to move without the heavy phantom of despair? Where is the form of beauty unshaken in its veil, simple and pure? Where is the warmth of heaven pouring its dreams of love in broken spirits? It has to be from here, right this instance, my cry into the world. My cry that is no more mine, but hers and his forever, the comrades of my silence, the phantoms of my grave. It has to be from here, forgotten but unshaken, among comrades of silence deep into Welfare Island my farewell to the world.
I Was the Most Quiet I was the most quiet, Among those who voyaged to your harbor. No obscene social events announced me, Nor the hushed bells of ancestral reflexes; My route was the wild music of birds Which flung into the air my kindness...fluttering. Neither did vessels laden with opulence bear me, Nor oriental rugs support my body; Over the vessels my face appeared Whistling in the wind's aimless simplicity. I did not measure the harmony of trivial ambitions Offered by your full-of-promises hand. I perceived, only, in the depths of my frail spirit, The tragic abandon hidden in your gesture. Your constant duality was marked by my avid thirst. You were like the sea, resonant and discreet. Over you I spent my wasted hours. You hovered above, as the sun on petals. And I strolled in the breeze of your fallen anguish In the naive sadness of knowing the truth: Your life was a deep struggle of restless springs An awesome white river rushing to the desert. One day, by the yellow banks of hysteria, Many ambitious, hidden faces trailed you; Through your surge of tears ripped from the cosmos Other voices encroached without discovering your mystery... I was the most quiet. My voice, hardly an echo. Conscience difused in a sound of anguish, Dissipated and sweet, throughout all silences. I was the most quiet. One who sprang from the earth with no other weapon but a verse. I stand before you... stars, Disarmed and gentle... his love in my breast!
Poem Detained in a Daybreak No one. I went alone. No one. Painting the daybreaks with my only color of solitude. Repeating myself in all the desperations. Silencing within me the scream of looking for you. Adding ideals to myself in each broken truth. Wounding the blossoms with my sorrow of lifting you. Oh, disappeared one! How I grafted my should in the blue to find you! And thus, crazy, gazing upwards, boiling my eyes in the reddest light to attain you how I followed the fleeing of my most avid emotion through the hospitable twilight golds! Until one morning… one night… one evening… I was left like a curled-up dove, and I found my eyes through your blood. Daybreaks of Gods marvelously awoke my valleys. Take offs! Riverbeds! Swallows! Stars! Hard and agile dawns! Everything in you: Savage sun! And I?
“Alta Mar y Gaviota” (High Sea and Seagull) “For your life I am … in your eyes I live the harmony of the eternal. The emotion is irrigated, and my blood widens in the veins of the world. I do not give echoes matches. The unchanging keeps sliding me to the bottom of my own conscience. In you I love the last virginal escapes from the hands of dawn, and by arming the infinite I love you between the human doors that link you. In you I quiet the open branches of space, and renew in my artery your blood with my blood. You multiply! You grow up! And threats to stay with my wild meadow! You are a mad race where my steps advance, attentive as dawns to the germinative sun that you carry in your impulse. For your life I am high sea and seagull: in it I vibrate and grow…”
To Julia de Burgos People now murmur that I am your enemy For they claim that in verses I reveal your essence to the world. They lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de Burgos. The voice uplifted in my verses is not your own: it is mine, For you are garment and I essence; And the greatest abyss lies between the two. You are the cold-blooded puppet of social deceit, And I, the driving splendour of human truth. You, of courtesan hypocrisies…the honey; not I; Whose heart is revealed in my poems…all. You are like your world, selfish; not I; Who dares all to be what I truly am. You are merely the implacable, elegant lady; Not I; I am life, I am strength, I am woman. You belong to your husband, to your master; not I; I belong to no one, or to everyone, because to all, everyone, In wholesome feeling and thought, I give myself. You curl your locks and paint yourself, not I; I am curled by the wind; brightened by the sun. You are homebound, resigned, submissive, Confined to the whims of men; not I; I am Rocinante galloping recklessly Wandering through the boundaries of God’s justice. You are not in command of self; everyone rules you: You are ruled by your husband, your parents, relatives, The priest, the seamstress, theatre, club, The car, jewels, the banquet, champagne, Heaven and hell and… social hearsay. But not me, I am ruled by my heart alone, My sole thought; it is “I” who rules myself. You, aristocratic blossom; and I, the people’s blossom. You are well provided for, but are indebted to everyone, While I, my nothingness to no one owe. You, nailed to the stagnant ancestral dividend; And I, but one digit in the social cipher. We are the encroaching, inevitable duel to the death. When the multitude uncontrolled runs, The ashes of injustices, burnt, left behind, And when with the torch of the seven virtues, The throng to the seven sins gives chase, I will be against you and against all That is unjust and inhuman. Upholding the torch… I shall be among the throng.
Ay, Ay, Ay of the Black Grifa Ay, ay, ay, that am kinky-haired and pure black kinks in my hair, Kafir in my lips; and my flat nose Mozambiques. Black of pure tint, I cry and laugh the vibration of being a black statue; a chunk of night, in which my white teeth are lightning; and to be a black vine which entwines in the black and curves the black nest in which the raven lies. Black chunk of black in which I sculpt myself, ay, ay, ay, my statue is all black. They tell me that my grandfather was the slave for whom the master paid thirty coins. Ay, ay, ay, that the slave was my grandfather is my sadness, is my sadness. If he had been the master it would be my shame: that in men, as in nations, if being the slave is having no rights being the master is having no conscience. Ay, ay, ay wash the sins of the white King in forgiveness black Queen. Ay, ay, ay, the race escapes me and buzzes and flies toward the white race, to sink in its clear water; or perhaps the white will be shadowed in the black. Ay, ay, ay my black race flees and with the white runs to become bronzed; to be one for the future, fraternity of America!
The Sea and You The stroke of the sea upon my door is blue sensation between my toes, and your impetuous leap through my spirit is no less blue, an eternal birth. All the color of awakened aurora the sea and you swim to my encounter, and in the madness of loving me until the shipwreck you both go breaking the ports and the oars. If I just had a ship of seagulls, and could for an instant stop them, and shout my voice that they fight in a simple duel of mystery! That one in the other might find his own voice, interweave their dreams in the wind, bind stars in their eyes so that they give, united, their beams. May there be a duel of music in the air the opened magnolias of their kisses, that the waves dress in passions and the passion dress in sailboats. All the color of awakened aurora may the sea and you expand it into a dream that it carry my ship of seagulls and leave me in the water of two skies.