Helene Cardona is the daughter of the Spanish poet Jose Manuel Cardona, whose work she has translated and published in various literary magazines. She is multilingual and a citizen of the U. S., France, and Spain. Since birth she has been groomed to write poetry in several different languages and to view the world from multiple cultural viewpoints. Her latest book, Dreaming My Animal Selves, was first written in English and then translated into French by Helene. The English and French versions of the poems appear side-by-side in the book.
Her multinational upbringing has blessed Helene Cardona with, as Joseph Campbell would say, “a vision transcending the scope of normal human destiny, and amounting to a glimpse of the essential nature of the cosmos.” In Dreaming My Animal Selves , Helene presents her cosmic vision through mythic identifications with animal spirits and animal morphologies. One poem from the book that encapsulates this vision is “Isle of the Immortals.” I present the English version:
Phosphorescent light bathes morning.
Deer cross the road, entice
me to meander through birches.
A winged hare offers
a turtle with ancient markings.
Solicited by playful spirits
I part the swelling mist,
chance upon heathrush, clover, broom
and shepherd’s purse.
Translucent face of Tibetan monk
vanishes above the dew, reflects
the hidden side of moon.
Through the glow I witness
the melodious dance of the wistful
wizard, statuesque sleek crane.
He spirals down the water
tunnel, wings a blur, whispers,
it can be windy, hang on to me.
You’re learning to live in two worlds at once.
You’ll find everything at the core of the earth.
Animals are allies.
All is kin, one consciousness.
The ultimate aim is reverence for the universe.
The ultimate aim is love for life.
The ultimate aim is harmony within oneself.
The way seeds need darkness to germinate
I hibernate and emerge into condensed light,
cultivate a relationship with the future.
The frog part of me lays an egg
from which the pelican sheer joy is born.
Under the crane’s guidance, our boat
in the clouds reaches the Isle
of the Immortals, the soul resplendent.
I am the space holder, twin
inside myself, blend
with the life giver, trickster
bound by higher laws.
If you are a reader from our beloved cultural district in Fairfield, Iowa, you will agree Helene Cardona is preaching to the choir. Helene has a lot of the same sensibilities as the poet Diane Frank, who we all know very well, and whose books are well circulated in our community, and whose workshops we’ve all attended. Helene and Diane both live in California, Diane in San Francisco and Helene in L.A., and I wonder if their paths will ever cross. If they happen to meet each other, they would have a lot to share.
Helene, by the way, is also a film actress and has had roles in major films like Chocolat, Mumford, and Serendipity. Can you imagine getting to hang out with Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, and Judi Dench and being a poet too?
If you liked the above sampling of Helene’s poetry, give her book Dreaming My Animal Selves a read.