23 ene. 2011

Raw Meat for the Watch-Dog

Tomorrow starts my class on violence, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, and music in modern Spanish poetry.

I don't like thinking in themes, usually, but I've decided on this multi-thematic focus for the graduate course. The "theme" is like the raw meat for the watch-dog. In other words, it is the attractive nuisance that overcomes resistance to reading poetry. Once the thief is in the store, anything can happen. The insights that come out of the course may or may not have anything to do directly with those particular subject matter.

The idea of a "pure poetry" emerged out of French symbolism. Yet out this same movement there came also a new sense of the urban landscape, the idea of "artificial paradises" induced by absinthe or hashish, new forms of sexual imagination (Rimbaud; Wilde). So the purity of poetry doesn't mean turning away from these things. Aestheticism itself is a kind of mind-altering intoxication.

Music, too, affects the brain like a drug.

Here's a poem by Miguel Hernández for you to start with:
Déjame que me vaya,
madre, a la guerra.
Déjame, blanca hermana,
novia morena.

Y después de dejarme
junto a las balas,
mándame a la trinchera
besos y cartas.

(Let me go to the war, mother. Let me, white sister, dark girlfriend Let me. And after leaving me next to the bullets send me in the trenches kisses and letters. Send me.)