What  do  you  need  to  know  about  Juan  Carlos  Galeano?  Juan  Carlos Galeano  is  a  poet,  translator,  and  essayist  born  in  the Amazon  region of  Colombia  He  knows  the  magic  by which  words penetrate deep like  a  river. And he  like few others can  tell about  the  river  and  life  on  the  riverbank from his own experience. That’s what he  did  in  his  new  film. He  is  a  wonderful  storyteller!  He is  a  wonderful  conversationalist!  He  subtly  feels  poetry and  knows  the importance of  translating  poems  so  that  they  do  not  lose  their melody   and   meaning.   Just   read   this   interview   and   enjoy   Juan Carlos’s answers! JBN: Tell us about how being from Colombia influenced your personality? Juan Carlos Galeano: I think that much of my personality has something from Colombia. Particularly the part of Colombia where I was born, the Caquetá area, the region of the Caquetá (Yapurá) river located in the Amazon basin. Regarding my background, I must say that in our species and other species too, we all are beings with situated stories. Any person, and a writer too, has many biographies; the biography situated and influenced by the lands where he was born, the biography of his ancestors, the biography of his country and the biography of the literary tradition to which he or she belongs to, etc. All fabric of life and of our lives is made of others, human and non-human too, all kind of otherness.   JBN: What inspired you to write your poetry?   Juan Carlos Galeano: I believe that I got my original inspiration from the lands, rivers and stories of peoples from Amazonia. For since I was a little one I was in a constant fascination by those rivers, forests and stories of indigenous peoples. Being surrounded by that environment, you definitely develop a different way of experiencing the world. Obviously, to that you add the influence of the books and writers that you have read as a child. I read writers of adventure books like Julio Verne and later Hemingway, and Dostoevsky, for example. I think that you end up writing because you are fascinated by the way they write about other places of the world different than yours.  You want to do the same thing about the trees, rivers, peoples that you know best and that is what moves you to start writing about your places and people around, right? But this doesn’t mean that the poetry that I wrote as an adolescent about the place make it worthy of being shared with others. Most of the poems were imitations of Lorca and Neruda or Baudelaire or Arthur Rimbaud poetry in my late teens and the years when I moved to Bogotá. What facilitated my writing about Amazonia later were my memories of childhood and the many years I spent in many the rivers of the basin listening the oral narratives of Amazonian riverine and forests people. So I could say that, myth and storytelling influenced my poetry writing as well as my exposure in my late adolescent years to Japanese poetry, European Surrealism and to the sense of irony of Latin American poets such Nicanor Parra, Cardenal and others.   JBN: You translate some poets into Spanish, how do you choose the author? What do you like about translating? Juan Carlos Galeano: For the most part, you choose a poet that you translate not only because the subject that she or he writes about speaks to your heart but also because you like their language diction. The poets that I have translated are poets whose poetic constructs are colloquial and imagistic. And This has to do with the fact that when I came to the states in my youth I knew very little English and the only poetry that was easy for me to read was Japanese poetry, particularly haikus as well as some poetry from American poets like EE cummings and William Carlos Williams. What I like about translation is that above all, it is an act of creation. A creation that is very challenging because you have to be creative in a respectful way of the poetry of another poet. You have to interpret the original world of that author and come up with the right new language and emotion that the poems had in their original language and bring it to a new world, that you know well, which is that of your mother tongue. And all this needs to be done in the most austere way. But, you know, in reality translation is something humans do. We are constantly interpreting the world and the world of others to relate to them. Humans simply use an array of signs and mediums to translate their surrounding realities.    JBN: I read that in your childhood you loved playing soccer. Do you have a favorite team or player? Juan Carlos Galeano: Well, I think that soccer is almost a universal religion on Earth. And yes, when we were kids and when we weren’t swimming, fishing and hanging out in canoes we were playing soccer on the beaches or in the sand bars during the dry season. I played soccer almost everyday, in the rain under the rain and in lightning, we were little so we didn’t care. During those years of childhood in Amazonia, those were only radio days, and our pastime on Sunday afternoon was to get together with other friends to listen to, on the short wave radios, the games of the soccer teams in Bogotá the capital city of Colombia and other distant places. Back in the day, I wanted to become a goalie and my hero was the Russian goalie Lev Ivánovich Yashin, known as “la araña negra” (the black spider).  At age of 10 I had a black sweater and wanted to be like him.  My favorite team was the Brazilian national soccer team, and the beloved player for us Latin Americans was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, of course. JBN: What did you learn from writing poetry? Juan Carlos Galeano: Among the array of challenges and joys of writing is that of the possibility of being the bearer of k news of the world surrounding and beyond us. In all places on earth, through love songs, chants, prayers, spells, rituals, myths sung in thatched- roof longhouses, temples or under the stars, writing on a piece of paper the poetic oral and written languages have expressed our human emotions of love, happiness, calls for justice, etc.  But I think that in order to write, you have to inhabit the multiple subjectivities of the world you are writing about. Which means also to allow those subjectivities to inhabit you. In that sense that expression of Arthur Rimbaud “I is Other”, meant for many people a phrase in connection to the multiples “others”, beings in our human species,  I would interpret it in connection to all beings human and non-human and places of the universe.  Something like let the earth with emotion speaking through your body, the body that writes the poems, right?  I like to think also about the poet as a shaman. In traditional cultures, as you imagine, the shaman, through a spiritual ecology, is able to restore the healthy relationships between humans and the natural world representing in his narratives and chants the world of spirits of waters and forest. Well, I imagine that the poet summons rivers, cities, trees, rocks, peoples etc., through the magic spell of metaphors, similes, and alliterations, in the mythical space of the white page of his/her poem. The poet and I say that any artist, as poet Federico Garcia Lorca said in his book Teoría y juego del Duende, wants to bring “the tender intimacy of volcanoes, ants, great winds, and the big night, all of them tightly connected to the Milky Way waist”. How does the poet know the thoughts of a cloud or a mountain?  I would like to think of the poet allowing him or herself to inhabit other beings in a participatory relationship, learning from the natural world. But, here I must also say that the poetic imagination is something given to all members of our species. It is that possibility and sense of wonder that allows us to connect the dots in the universe that surrounds us too. In that sense, a good farmer, a fisherman, a doctor, a mechanic have that possibility. A poet is simply, as somebody said, a person who has made a profession of working with words.   JBN: You are also a filmmaker. Tell us what you want to convey in your films Juan Carlos Galeano: I don’t know if I would really consider my identity as that of a filmmaker. I only have made a couple of documentaries The Trees Have a Mother and this recent one El Río. I think the messages that I attempt to put in them is the poetic view of the world coming from the perspective of Amazonians. Their stories and sense of brotherhood with trees and rivers serve as seeing instruments for our Western societies during the Anthropocene. Their stories and daily narratives are cautionary tales for us. The legacy of their poetic oral narratives shows the spiritual reality of nature, the powerful agency of Nature. In Amerindian mythical narratives, the human and non-human world speak to each other in a reciprocal way. JBN: What is your film El Río about? What inspired you to create it? Juan Carlos Galeano: The river focuses on the water systems of Amazonia, I wanted to make a film featuring riverbank dwellers who consider the river an ally, as a sentient being, as a mother. And I think that the project of making this documentary El Río is framed in the contemporary ecological way of thinking as we are in the midst of a big crisis in the Western civilization. This is not an economic crisis, a political crisis. It is a systemic crisis, where we see the ecosystems that sustain all life on Earth starting to collapse. While it is true that in the XX and XXI centuries the Western world reached small i m p r o v e m e n t s with the problems of gender, racism, u n e q u a l distribution of wealth, the great challenge for now in the XXI century is presented by a land devastated by the climate change and the d i s a p p e a r a n c e of species, and collapsing of life everywhere. We have fought for m u l t i c u l t u r a l i s m and that is very good. But now, as some say, it is time to advocate a multinaturalism. A reciprocity with other species and entities different to our human nature. And that's what the film wants: to inspire us to have better relations with the earth and other species, with the air, the trees and specially with rivers and water ecosystems. JBN: Do you feel support from the people around you? Juan Carlos Galeano: Although there has been some collaboration and help from international filmmakers, this film is mainly made by Amazonians. Since I wanted to give a different perspective on the region as compared to images propagated by Hollywood, television, our modern school systems, and other cultural media, through the XX century, I thought this film would be most effective if Amazonians themselves told us the story of their rivers and the materiality and sentience of water itself. I wanted to show how the materiality of place has a spirituality. The film recognizes Amazonians as the direct narrators of the lives of their rivers, and the creators of their own theories about the problematic relationship between nature and culture. And who better than Amazonians themselves telling their stories and Amazonian filmmakers using their own lenses and eyes, to give credence to their rivers? Relying on the participation of indigenous Amazonians during preproduction, production and, as much as possible, during the post-production stages, I wanted them to be part of El Río not as subjects of a study, but as participants, partners and collaborators. They are the ones that have been in closest contact with their land. The film needed to revolve around their sense of place and poetic view of the Amazon. JBN: One last question, what three facts would you like people to know about you? Juan Carlos Galeano: I am a person who, in the midst of our times, strongly believes in the need of a poetic view, an interconnectedness view of the world for our human species. As an advocate for a multispecies harmony, I believe in the combined efforts and all member of the societies for creation of new practices and ways of experiencing life, the creation of a new ethics for the Earth.
Johnson’s Billings News
Hosted by Johnson Computing
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
Juan Carlos Galeano - an advocate for a multispecies harmony
Interview
Herons By Juan Carlos Galeano The fishermen who scale and gut their catch discover a river in the bellies of the fish. In the river shines a sandbar where some boys play soccer. A few herons come to the beach, take off their feathers, and go for a swim. The fishermen wink at the boys goading them to bathe with the herons. But the boys prefer to hide the herons’ clothes. Then the fishermen who scale and gut their fish laugh so hard they fall down, choking. The herons dress themselves in the fish scales and dive into the river. Translated by James Kimbrell and Rebecca Morgan
Table By Juan Carlos Galeano The table often dreams of having been an animal. But if she had been an animal, she would not be a table. If she had been an animal, she would have run away like the others when the chainsaws came to take the trees that would become tables. In the house a woman comes every night and rubs a warm rag over the table’s haunches as if she were an animal. With her four legs, the table could leave the house. But she thinks about the chairs surrounding her, and an animal would not abandon her family. What the table likes best is for the woman to tickle her as she gathers the breadcrumbs left behind by the children. Translated by James Kimbrell and Rebecca Morgan
What  do  you  need  to  know  about  Juan  Carlos  Galeano?  Juan  Carlos Galeano  is  a  poet,  translator,  and  essayist  born  in  the Amazon  region of  Colombia  He  knows  the  magic  by which  words penetrate deep like  a  river. And he  like few others can  tell about  the  river  and  life  on  the  riverbank from his own experience. That’s what he  did  in  his  new  film. He  is  a  wonderful  storyteller!  He is  a  wonderful  conversationalist!  He  subtly  feels  poetry and  knows  the importance of  translating  poems  so  that  they  do  not  lose  their melody   and   meaning.   Just   read   this   interview   and   enjoy   Juan Carlos’s answers! JBN: Tell us about how being from Colombia influenced your personality? Juan Carlos Galeano: I think that much of my personality has something from Colombia. Particularly the part of Colombia where I was born, the Caquetá area, the region of the Caquetá (Yapurá) river located in the Amazon basin. Regarding my background, I must say that in our species and other species too, we all are beings with situated stories. Any person, and a writer too, has many biographies; the biography situated and influenced by the lands where he was born, the biography of his ancestors, the biography of his country and the biography of the literary tradition to which he or she belongs to, etc. All fabric of life and of our lives is made of others, human and non-human too, all kind of otherness.   JBN: What inspired you to write your poetry?   Juan Carlos Galeano: I believe that I got my original inspiration from the lands, rivers and stories of peoples from Amazonia. For since I was a little one I was in a constant fascination by those rivers, forests and stories of indigenous peoples. Being surrounded by that environment, you definitely develop a different way of experiencing the world. Obviously, to that you add the influence of the books and writers that you have read as a child. I read writers of adventure books like Julio Verne and later Hemingway, and Dostoevsky, for example. I think that you end up writing because you are fascinated by the way they write about other places of the world different than yours.  You want to do the same thing about the trees, rivers, peoples that you know best and that is what moves you to start writing about your places and people around, right? But this doesn’t mean that the poetry that I wrote as an adolescent about the place make it worthy of being shared with others. Most of the poems were imitations of Lorca and Neruda or Baudelaire or Arthur Rimbaud poetry in my late teens and the years when I moved to Bogotá. What facilitated my writing about Amazonia later were my memories of childhood and the many years I spent in many the rivers of the basin listening the oral narratives of Amazonian riverine and forests people. So I could say that, myth and storytelling influenced my poetry writing as well as my exposure in my late adolescent years to Japanese poetry, European Surrealism and to the sense of irony of Latin American poets such Nicanor Parra, Cardenal and others.   JBN: You translate some poets into Spanish, how do you choose the author? What do you like about translating? Juan Carlos Galeano: For the most part, you choose a poet that you translate not only because the subject that she or he writes about speaks to your heart but also because you like their language diction. The poets that I have translated are poets whose poetic constructs are colloquial and imagistic. And This has to do with the fact that when I came to the states in my youth I knew very little English and the only poetry that was easy for me to read was Japanese poetry, particularly haikus as well as some poetry from American poets like EE cummings and William Carlos Williams. What I like about translation is that above all, it is an act of creation. A creation that is very challenging because you have to be creative in a respectful way of the poetry of another poet. You have to interpret the original world of that author and come up with the right new language and emotion that the poems had in their original language and bring it to a new world, that you know well, which is that of your mother tongue. And all this needs to be done in the most austere way. But, you know, in reality translation is something humans do. We are constantly interpreting the world and the world of others to relate to them. Humans simply use an array of signs and mediums to translate their surrounding realities.    JBN: I read that in your childhood you loved playing soccer. Do you have a favorite team or player? Juan Carlos Galeano: Well, I think that soccer is almost a universal religion on Earth. And yes, when we were kids and when we weren’t swimming, fishing and hanging out in canoes we were playing soccer on the beaches or in the sand bars during the dry season. I played soccer almost everyday, in the rain under the rain and in lightning, we were little so we didn’t care. During those years of childhood in Amazonia, those were only radio days, and our pastime on Sunday afternoon was to get together with other friends to listen to, on the short wave radios, the games of the soccer teams in Bogotá the capital city of Colombia and other distant places. Back in the day, I wanted to become a goalie and my hero was the Russian goalie Lev Ivánovich Yashin, known as “la araña negra” (the black spider).  At age of 10 I had a black sweater and wanted to be like him.  My favorite team was the Brazilian national soccer team, and the beloved player for us Latin Americans was Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, of course. JBN: What did you learn from writing poetry? Juan Carlos Galeano: Among the array of challenges and joys of writing is that of the possibility of being the bearer of k news of the world surrounding and beyond us. In all places on earth, through love songs, chants, prayers, spells, rituals, myths sung in thatched-roof longhouses, temples or under the stars, writing on a piece of paper the poetic oral and written languages have expressed our human emotions of love, happiness, calls for justice, etc.  But I think that in order to write, you have to inhabit the multiple subjectivities of the world you are writing about. Which means also to allow those subjectivities to inhabit you. In that sense that expression of Arthur Rimbaud “I is Other”, meant for many people a phrase in connection to the multiples “others”, beings in our human species,  I would interpret it in connection to all beings human and non-human and places of the universe.  Something like let the earth with emotion speaking through your body, the body that writes the poems, right?  I like to think also about the poet as a shaman. In traditional cultures, as you imagine, the shaman, through a spiritual ecology, is able to restore the healthy relationships between humans and the natural world representing in his narratives and chants the world of spirits of waters and forest. Well, I imagine that the poet summons rivers, cities, trees, rocks, peoples etc., through the magic spell of metaphors, similes, and alliterations, in the mythical space of the white page of his/her poem. The poet and I say that any artist, as poet Federico Garcia Lorca said in his book Teoría y juego del Duende, wants to bring “the tender intimacy of volcanoes, ants, great winds, and the big night, all of them tightly connected to the Milky Way waist”. How does the poet know the thoughts of a cloud or a mountain?  I would like to think of the poet allowing him or herself to inhabit other beings in a participatory relationship, learning from the natural world. But, here I must also say that the poetic imagination is something given to all members of our species. It is that possibility and sense of wonder that allows us to connect the dots in the universe that surrounds us too. In that sense, a good farmer, a fisherman, a doctor, a mechanic have that possibility. A poet is simply, as somebody said, a person who has made a profession of working with words.   JBN: You are also a filmmaker. Tell us what you want to convey in your films Juan Carlos Galeano: I don’t know if I would really consider my identity as that of a filmmaker. I only have made a couple of documentaries The Trees Have a Mother and this recent one El Río. I think the messages that I attempt to put in them is the poetic view of the world coming from the perspective of Amazonians. Their stories and sense of brotherhood with trees and rivers serve as seeing instruments for our Western societies during the Anthropocene. Their stories and daily narratives are cautionary tales for us. The legacy of their poetic oral narratives shows the spiritual reality of nature, the powerful agency of Nature. In Amerindian mythical narratives, the human and non- human world speak to each other in a reciprocal way. JBN: What is your film El Río about? What inspired you to create it? Juan Carlos Galeano: The river focuses on the water systems of Amazonia, I wanted to make a film featuring riverbank dwellers who consider the river an ally, as a sentient being, as a mother. And I think that the project of making this documentary El Río is framed in the contemporary ecological way of thinking as we are in the midst of a big crisis in the Western civilization. This is not an economic crisis, a political crisis. It is a systemic crisis, where we see the ecosystems that sustain all life on Earth starting to collapse. While it is true that in the XX and XXI centuries the Western world reached small improvements with the problems of gender, racism, unequal distribution of wealth, the great challenge for now in the XXI century is presented by a land devastated by the climate change and the disappearance of species, and collapsing of life everywhere. We have fought for multiculturalism and that is very good. But now, as some say, it is time to advocate a multinaturalism. A reciprocity with other species and entities different to our human nature. And that's what the film wants: to inspire us to have better relations with the earth and other species, with the air, the trees and specially with rivers and water ecosystems. JBN: Do you feel support from the people around you? Juan Carlos Galeano: Although there has been some collaboration and help from international filmmakers, this film is mainly made by Amazonians. Since I wanted to give a different perspective on the region as compared to images propagated by Hollywood, television, our modern school systems, and other cultural media, through the XX century, I thought this film would be most effective if Amazonians themselves told us the story of their rivers and the materiality and sentience of water itself. I wanted to show how the materiality of place has a spirituality. The film recognizes Amazonians as the direct narrators of the lives of their rivers, and the creators of their own theories about the problematic relationship between nature and culture. And who better than Amazonians themselves telling their stories and
Johnson’s Billings News
Interview
Hosted by Johnson Computing
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
Juan Carlos Galeano - an advocate for a multispecies harmony
Herons By Juan Carlos Galeano The fishermen who scale and gut their catch discover a river in the bellies of the fish. In the river shines a sandbar where some boys play soccer. A few herons come to the beach, take off their feathers, and go for a swim. The fishermen wink at the boys goading them to bathe with the herons. But the boys prefer to hide the herons’ clothes. Then the fishermen who scale and gut their fish laugh so hard they fall down, choking. The herons dress themselves in the fish scales and dive into the river. Translated by James Kimbrell and Rebecca
Table By Juan Carlos Galeano The table often dreams of having been an animal. But if she had been an animal, she would not be a table. If she had been an animal, she would have run away like the others when the chainsaws came to take the trees that would become tables. In the house a woman comes every night and rubs a warm rag over the table’s haunches as if she were an animal. With her four legs, the table could leave the house. But she thinks about the chairs surrounding her, and an animal would not abandon her family. What the table likes best is for the woman to tickle her as she gathers the breadcrumbs left behind by the children. Translated by James Kimbrell and Rebecca Morgan