21 jul. 2011

El emperrado corazón amora

(282) Juan Gelman. El emperrado corazón amora. Barcelona: Tusquets, 2011. 296 pp.

This is very difficult poetry. The neologisms, of which there are two in the title, present the least of the difficulties. The problem is more that there is little to grasp on to. It is a long book, with little variety of style. The poems, with cryptic titles, all seem the same. Still, I like it.

Here's one of my favorites, "Evaporaciones":
Cómo baila el ahorcadito
del poeta que se subió a sí mismo,
creído. Se le apagaron las
versiones del ser, los
sobresaltos del bien y el mal de la palabra.

So far, it's pretty obvious what it's about. The poet is a little hanged man, dancing. He climbed onto himself, too credulous or trusting, but he ran out of different versions of being, as well as the sudden shifts when language seemed marvelous or horrible to him.
Huyó del deber de los lirios,
de la quinta décima de la luna,
de esa cosa caliente, la sangre.

The poet took flight from traditional themes, the "obligation of the lily," or the fifth "décima" of the moon. The décima is a poetic form. Gelman is perhaps playing on the sound the "quintaesencia" (quintessence). Otherwise I have no idea why this should be the fifth and not the fourth or the sixth.
Su decir mancha
el saco, las tías, los barcos
que ofician y todo lo que gime.

The poet's speech stains various things. A sportscoat, aunts, officiating boats, and everything that moans. This technique is known as "chaotic enumeration," as defined by Amado Alonso in a pioneering study of Neruda's poetry. Poetry is seen, then, as a force of negativity.
El otoño marchita la corona
que se puso sin hojas de verdad.

Autumn always means decline. Autumn wilts the poet's crown of laurel, the traditional symbol of poetic authority. It's leaves were not really leaves anyway. Hojas means leaves but also the pages of a book.
Asiste a su entierro impasible,
se reza por las dudas,
sigue con el día que sigue.

The poet attends his own funeral without emotion. Since he is still alive, the funeral is really for the traditional role of the poet, who must go on like Samuel Becket, continuing with the day that continues.

So pretty much the poem is understandable on a first reading. About 10% remains difficult to explain. The book, however, contains more than 100 poems like this. Gelman complains about the decline of poetry but fully embodies the seemingly decrepit role. Deeply ambivalent, he is halfway between the colloquial irony of Parra and the prophetic voice of Neruda.