burnt ornito root,
always green in the calcareous room,
representing the crime of murder
the offence of fratricide,
pusillanimous between swift steeds,
fast in the sustained windiness of D minor.
Yes! It is absolutely true,
and I say it without shame,
true, and also certain,
the fiercely tight shorts impel the concrete man to eternalize himself.
Torrents of satisfaction sprout from the multi-coloured stirrup,
the degeneration of a cornered premolar,
afloat in the pan of absurdity.
It is true that two and two make five,
but also, it is true, that two times two make five,
so that my bed will always have five consolations,
five consolations wing to wing;
it seems that the five consolations
even when the stay is not the same
are always born,
reproduce and die in the same house.
-The operation is indifferent-
Morir en tu calma (Antología poética 1988-2010)
(Santiago: Follas Novas, 2013)
This book popped out of my book pile when I was transferring it to some new shelves in the room where I paint and write. I must have bought it in Santiago at the end of a Camino but I have no memory of the act: it appeared in a gesture of surreal magic.
Surreal magic describes the creative process of Juan Vidales. The word play makes me think of a domesticated Kurt Schwitters: the use of numbers, the absurd metaphors, the rhythmic flow. It also made me think of a young rock musician, Javi, who stayed at our house in Asturias as a volunteer: he also wrote songs that flowed down the page in torrents.
The poem I was looking at yesterday was also forcing against formal constraints. Blas Otero does not obey poetic conventions in rebellion against the Garcilasan strain in post-war Spanish poetry. Garcilaso de la Vega was the sixteenth-century poet who introduced the Petrarchan sonnet to Spain: a model of classical restraint, concision and balance. The revival of rule-bound poetry following a poet from the glorious past of Spain, clearly appealed to fascists. Breaking moulds and renouncing formalism became the sine que non of democrats.
Vidales was born in the same year as I was: 1965. Although I am not Spanish I have a gut-level sense of the cultural background to his work: he has studied the same art, read the same books and listened to the same music as me. It is no coincidence that he makes me think of Javi: there is a clear line from Dada through the Happenings of the Sixties to the rock spectacular, anthemic love songs, lyrics that adolescents puzzled over in their bedsits, the culture of the album cover, poetry performance. You might even say that Vidales was “trippy”.
This rejection of metrics is no longer unconventional. The poems in this collection have a curiously conventional range of themes and images in spite of all the wordplay and invention: romantic love and sex washing around in recurrent images of waves, surges, billows and blows. I read the poems as wildly fantastic courtship display. This is what gives them their contemporary tinge: the feeling that they belong to the same world as rock lyrics, advertising campaigns and non-stop imagery jittering across a screen.
Anyway I like the fiercely tight shorts. It makes me think of Charles Olson.