15 ago. 2012


The first section of Libro del frío, a major long poem by Antonio Gamoneda, bears the Virgilian title "Geórgicas." It consists of 11 short sections, each consisting of 2-3 paragraphs of poeetic prose. Georgics comes from a Greek word meaning "farming," and the poem is a kind of anti-pastoral: "this house was dedicated to farming and death." "I saw serenity in the eyes of the cattle destined for industrial knives." Industry, or modernity itself, is off-stage, but the rural world is in decay.

The most characteristic rhetorical trope is syntactic parallelism. The most salient phrasing is noun + past particle + prepositional phrase: "Esta casa estuvo dedicada a la labranza y la muerte" / "las maderas atormentadas por la lluvia" [wood tormented by rain] This pattern appears in virtually every section of this first section of the poem. [As I write this entry, I hear Gamoneda come on randomly on my ipod! He is reading a different poem, but one with almost identical structure. The noun + participle + prepositional phrase pattern appears several times.]

The most common verbs are those of perception or cognition in first-person singular: I heard / I saw / I remember, or the existential there is / there are. There are also verbs of motion: rising and falling. Very few other human agents appear aside from the 1st person speaker, who adopts a grave, prophetic voice. The only one I notice is a "neighbor woman" who "washes the funereal clothes." The result is a kind of ghostly world, in which the speaker has no other close human companions.

Semantic elements recur from section to section. Rain and lightning. Dampness. Farms animals or stables. A flock of sheep. Images of rot or decay. Shadows. Tears, lamentation, or weeping. The repetition of nearly identical phrases or images undercuts the independence of each section, creating a kind of plotless narrative. In other words, each section seems to recount an anecdote, but the evocative lyrical repetitions overshadow any kind of narrative coherence. Is this the same narrative told in 11 different ways? Or 11 stages of the same story? We could easily imagine a more straightforward prose narrative treatment of each anecdote. One phrase from the poem gave rise, possibly, to the title of Gamoneda's memoir.

The next section will be "El vigilante de la nieve," in which the narrative elements become stronger, and the 1st person gives way to the third.

I wrote this entry in 25 minutes, giving myself a kind of "test" on the poem, which I recently memorized.

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