The sunset is a dog
all mangy-coloured that circles around in a
corner of the sky looking for
a place to lie down. Cobalt
fugitive and frothy saffron. The shadow
of a sparrowhawk suddenly has
the fatal quality of a burnt tyre,
it is a tragic skidmark in the middle of
the road. A blue echo leaves
despairing brushstrokes on the warehouses. All those people
with moss on their teeth because their smile
always gives onto the north, recognising
the longing for suicide in the faces
that lean against the windows of the bus
as it crosses the viaduct. The sunset
is a joint of rusty colours nailed
on the hinge of the horizon: night screeches
harshly as it closes on us. That
voice that from the burning breadshop
screams my name.
Héctor Pérez Iglesias
La mano vacía (Llibrería Académica, Uviéu, 2013)
I took this book out of Avilés library and read it in one go- as I usually do- with a coffee: it seemed to be describing the town I was in and the people I could see in the bar. Héctor Pérez Iglesias can write poetry about Facebook: “I think about these things when I open up Facebook and see// that some friends have put up the echograph of the child they are expecting…” He does not take his eye away from the world around him. He offers a bleak modern landscape illuminated by brief flashes of light.
That is a good quality, isn’t it? To cut through sentimentality and prettified imagery and describe in a few sharp strokes something around you, and then to redeem the sheer awful ugliness of it with touches of beauty. The ugliness and the sadness are not borrowed from some stock of images: they are the result of direct experience.
This does not take away from the artfulness of the poems. Take that word I translate as “longing”- “señardá” in Asturianu. In other posts I have talked about “saudade” in Galician poetry and you might be familiar with “saudade” in Portuguese song-writing and philosophy. It is a fertile concept that generates many trains of thought, attitudes and visions. When I hear “señardá” I think of Xosé Antonio García. Does this mean that there is an Asturian aesthetic at work in this poetry?
Héctor Pérez Iglesias has been reading other poets. He has a curiously inventive line that reminds me of fifties Americans like Robert Creeley. He makes the line-ending spin on a preposition. This gives the poems a jazzy feel. They do not settle into the classic architecture of stable line-length and syllable-counting:
…that circles around in a
corner of the sky…
…in the middle of
W.H. Auden said that it was never wrong to pause at the end of a poetic line. Try it out with this poem and you get something ressembling an improvised musical riff.
The other quality I notice and appreciate here is the painterliness of the writing. Spain’s painter/poets and poet/painters are a major part of her aesthetic traditions. When I have some more time I shall investigate Héctor Pérez Iglesias more: it would not surprise me to find that he also paints.