We are joined by Gibraltarian poet Gabriel Moreno for this installment of Two Poems. Gabriel’s recent work has been concerned with the myth of Orpheus, a story that he has recrafted into a modern day poetry series about searching, loss and renewal.
For this performance, Gabriel has read Ballad of the Moon by Federico Garcia Lorca, and to remain faithful to the original poem, he has read it in both Spanish and English. But to start, Gabriel has performed his own poem, Orpheus and the Maenads.
Let’s start with your poem. It’s coming from a larger body of work about the myth of Orpheus. Can you tell me where it sits within that?
This is nearing the end of the tale, and the collection. After he spends some time without creating, Orpheus comes up with a new song. It’s a song of hope, but also of a more introvert experience and a more monastic kind of life. This pisses the maenads off as all their men follow Orpheus in his new philosophy. They conjure up a Bacchic ritual in which Orpheus is supposed to take part, but really they use the ritual to dismember him. To kill him. After this, Orpheus’ head lands in the river together with his lyre and it travels to Lesbos.
The Lorca poem you chose has a similarly supernatural feel to it. What that part of your decision to include it today?
I chose it for the music (rather than) the content. Obviously it’s also a very mystical and ritualistic poem, but I chose it because this is the kind of Lorcian music I hear in my mind when I am trying to construct my English poems in terms of metre, rhyme and pararhyme. These poems for me would have been inconceivable if hadn’t experienced Lorca. So, in terms of music, Lorca has been my biggest influence in both Spanish and English poetry.
Why did you pick this translation over others?
Of course, the translator tried to be faithful to the meaning as best he could, but mostly I think he concentrated on metrics and on music. Even perhaps changing ways of expressing certain symbols so that they would help the music. Because, for me, one of the most powerful parts of Lorca’s poetry is the music, I think these translations really capture the true sense of Lorca.
Gabriel Moreno is a Gibraltarian poet and musician based in London.
His collection, The Descent and Rise of Orpheus the Bard will be published in December by Orion Contemporary.
He currently runs the hugely successful Lantern Society at The Betsey Trotwood.