You shut the door tight and barely hear
Much more at your back than the striking
Hard and dry of wood and iron.
You’re not going out, no, but in to the hearth
Where all that awaits you, if you’re lucky,
Is the electric groan of the fridge,
The tired turning of the washing machine,
The warm smell of the butane stove.
You drop some packages on the kitchen table
Hang your coat up neatly in the wardrobe;
You light a pipe, you empty a glass;
You try not to think about the pain you feel.
You lay out, in your room now, pen and paper.
You set yourself to write a new poem
-you start it off with some old verse-
And try to feel the pain you think,
And lie as best you can with the truth in your hands.
This is the opening poem of Cuartetu de la Criación (Trabe: Uviéu, 2010) p. 59, by Xosé Antonio García. It is a short collection, first published in 1989 when the poet was 28 years old. Starting with the quotation from Dante, threads of literary reference are shot through the fabric of the collection, which mediates on the process of writing through precisely drawn mataphors and symbols taken from the writer’s everyday surroundings. The poets that García chooses to refer to are big names in “universal” literature: he reduces Eliot to TESRIP, which is cocky and self-assured as only a young poet can be!
The meta-poetical posturing could seem an artificial construct to show off his learning, but García is not a pseudo. Even though I tend to veer more towards Hardy and Housman than Pound I find these poems fascinating. The poet never fails to make his ideas and images fresh and convincing and he is not threatened by the urbane, cosmopolitan weight of the greats he alludes to.
In this sense the Cuartetu is a valuable starting point for contemporary writing in Asturianu. It shows that international and world culture can enter and invigorate poetry coming from Mieres. Furthermore, beyond posturing and posing, he shows that for a poet being in Rome (or New York) is not so important. It seems to me that Xuan Bello might have been thinking of this when he wrote Historia Universal de Paniceiros that curious little masterpiece, which refracts a world of learning through the particular and precise observation of a local environment.
I have been reading into and around books taken down from my shelves recently. I shall bring some of that to these pages in the next month or so: the graceful writing of Castelao in Sempre Galiza, going back through Pondal and Cabanillas just for the sound of the poetry, and several cancioneros. Then, at Christmas, Carmen surprised me with two marvellous books of poetry by Acebal and Xosé Antonio García, so that I find my poetry time has been fully absorbed with their worlds.