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Joseph / Prohens


I was enthusiastic but time (about a fortnight) was desperately short. I may react quickly but take a long time to finalize it in words sufficiently to show anyone, let alone publish and exhibit as part of another’s work. If I had a single poem to translate I would want to read as much as possible of the writer’s work; know what in his/her language that writer had been brought up on, and reckoned; read and hear something of current poetry and something of the poetic forms that language had developed inherently from its grammar and rhythms. I wanted to be able to tune in to Prohens’ drawings in the same way. All I knew was, that he was Catalan, lived in Mallorca and was prolific in painting and sculpture as well as drawing. There were the two dozen drawings in the gallery and a note he’d written for a book he did with a poet in the 1990s. Of the drawings still without a text I picked five. I put them up together on a shelf to see which one I could best do something with and found myself re-arranging them like a hand of cards into suits. Mulling over copies at home I realized a sequence was forming and I would use the five. Two had titles: Penitents (or Penitence?) on the one I put second; a Spanish saying which translated as ‘So what if we lose the button?’ on my fifth and which apparently meant ‘What does it (anything?) matter?’ I had noticed there were quite a few animals in Prohens’ pictures. Churches and priests figured. The anti-clericalism I recognized in Prohens might well have come from the satirical cartoon tradition he had absorbed rather than his personal stance, as with his portrayal of secular authority, but religion and politics were there in what he drew. You can only write something to order quickly if it somehow connects with what you’ve been turning over in your mind. For the past three years I’d been immersed in George Orwell’s writing, particularly what emerged from his and his wife Eileen’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War and the development of his position on authoritarianism. I have also for

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