The Bandoneon’s Secret

•Tuesday, 28 January 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Bandoneon's Secret

Making Mistakes

•Thursday, 23 January 2014 • 1 Comment

A New Year’s wish from Neil Gaiman, which seems to apply to many things… perhaps especially tango…

   “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

    “Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

    “So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

    “Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

    “Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

– Neil Gaiman

2013 in review

•Tuesday, 31 December 2013 • Leave a Comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Or the flame…

•Thursday, 26 December 2013 • Leave a Comment

“Tango is a sad thought that is danced.”

—Enrique Santos Discépoloo

“But sadness is also beautiful, maybe because it rings so true and goes so deep, because it is about the distances in our lives, the things we lose, the abyss between what the lover and the beloved want and imagine and understand that may widen to become unbridgeable at any moment, the distance between the hope at the outset and the eventual outcome, the journeys we have to travel, including the last one out of being and on past becoming into the unimaginable: the moth flown into the pure dark. Or the flame.”

— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Reasons to Dance

•Wednesday, 25 September 2013 • Leave a Comment

For a cynical, soulful, romantic Bukowski managed often to hit the nail hard and true:

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

From Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way – 2002.


•Saturday, 14 September 2013 • 3 Comments

Photograph taken at La Milonga del Quinto Sabado, Nottingham, 31 March 2013.


Fué un ensueño de dulce amor,
horas de dicha y de querer,
fué el poema de ayer,
que yo soñé,
de dorado color,
vanas quimeras del corazón,
no logrará descifrar jamás,
nido tan fugaz,
fue un ensueño de amor y adoración.

Cuando las flores de tu rosal,
vuelvan mas bellas a florecer,
recordarás mi querer,
y has de saber,
todo mi intenso mal.

De aquel poema embriagador,
ya nada queda entre los dos,
doy mi triste adiós,
sentiras la emoción,
de mi dolor…

A favourite at milongas is Francisco Canaro’s classic 1935 recording of the beautiful tango Poema: music by Mario Malfi, lyrics by Eduardo Bianco. The singer is Roberto Maida.

There are several translations of Bianco’s lyrics on the internet, but translating poetry or lyrics (especially tango lyrics) is fraught with difficulty.  Do you stick to the literal meanings, or do you go deeper and try to convey the feelings and emotions being expressed? And there’s the problem of rhyme and rhythm.

For me, direct translations rarely work as poems or lyrics. Vissarion Belinsky once commented, “To read a work in translation is like kissing a beautiful woman with a handkerchief over her face.” I am grateful to those who take the trouble to translate tango lyrics; they do give a flavour of the original. But to be true to the essence of the song or poem the translator must bring to it much of his own sensibility and that of the language he is translating into. Words and phrases do not mean the same in one language as they do in another.

See also

So these ramblings are really an excuse to proffer my own painfully produced version (‘version’, not ‘translation’):


It was a sweet dream of love,
hours of joy and hope.
Yesterday was a golden poem I dreamed,
a vain construction of my heart
that I can never rebuild.
So quickly lost are
our dreams of love.

When the roses in your garden flower again
you may remember my love,
and understand my sadness and my pain.

Of our intoxicating poem
nothing remains,
So accept my last goodbye
and for one moment
remember all the passion and the pain…

[The photograph above was taken at La Milonga del Quinto Sabado, Nottingham, 31 March 2013.]

The Lion and Jill

•Saturday, 20 July 2013 • Leave a Comment

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.”

What we seek is that moment of connection when things move from the physical to the metaphysical, and the dance just speaks. Nothing is forced or staged. Nothing is unnecessary. Perhaps this is true of many things.

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as it it were sorry, not as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

[Both quotes — in italics — from C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair]

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