[ by Charles Cameron — the public square, that is, and specifically Tahrir Square ]
The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim — a documentary tracking the lives of six people in Tahrir Square through the two recent Egyptian revolutions — just won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming, 2014, and is up for the Documentary Feature Oscar. Here’s what struck me right off the bat:
Yevtushenko had that sort of impact in Russia, Neruda in Chile. Poetry speaks where the oppressed are silent — is such a phrase, “we will fill the world with our poetry” conceivable in the cultured west?
Russia, Chile. Yevtushenko, Neruda.
Yevtushenko wrote a poem for Neruda, mentioning Bilbao — which Bilbao? a statue where? — which may give us a clue to poetry and its power:
over there, among the puddles and garbage,
standing up under the red lamps
stands Bilbao — with the soul
of a poet — in bronze.
Bilbao was a tramp and a rebel.
they set up the monument, fenced off
by a chain, with due pomp, right in the center,
although the poet had lived in the slums.
Then there was some minor overthrow or other,
and the poet was thrown out, beyond the gates.
to a filthy little red-light district.
And the poet stood,
as the sailor’s adopted brother,
against a background
you might call native to him.
And Neruda comments, with a hint of slyness:
“A poet is
beyond the rise and fall of values.
It’s not hard to remove us from the center,
but the spot where they set us down
becomes the center!”