Category Archives: Poetry

Le vendredi

I am perfectly well, perhaps the best ever, but so introverted. It is possible that other people have these phases as well, when they are on sabbatical. I am not working on teaching, research or service, I am going through my books and creating a more amenable, and also more up to date work environment for myself. I’ve needed to do this for some time but now I am impelled. I always question people who say they did something because they could not resist but I do understand.

When I went into shock in November, 1991 I bookmarked my books and journals, to come back to later. I have kept all of these since, but not read them. Now they are yellow. I should stop listing what I discard here, and create an electronic library, and I will; for now, though, I want to say I am discarding:

— a copy of Luis Alberto Sánchez, VALDELOMAR O LA BELLE EPOQUE (México: FCE, 1976), which is of historical interest;
— Tom Weiskel’s THE ROMANTIC SUBLIME: STUDIES IN THE STRUCTURE AND PSYCHOLOGY OF TRANSCENDENCE (1976), which I had because I thought/think that if one understood these sources one might understand more about subjectivity, shadows and terror in Vallejo;
— CRITICAL INQUIRY 13:3 (Spring 1987), a special issue on “Politics and Poetic Value,” which I had kept by now in large part for Rob Nixon’s article on Caribbean and African appropriations of Shakespeare’s Tempest, which I thought would be good for teaching but which obviously, if I still need to see a piece this old, I can look up again.
— a bound photocopy of Meo Zilio, STILE E POESIA IN CESAR VALLEJO. It is a classic, but I do not believe I will ever have the patience for it.

I also got rid of two thick files of student papers and exams from some semester several years ago, and my 2006 TEI materials. I still think a digital archive of Vallejo with text versioning would be a good thing to have, but these materials are out of date and digital humanities irritate me. That is the project I’d like to do at the end, or start at the end of my life.

Because of the obsolescence of digital platforms this is a series of experiments I would like to do with text versions, and then write articles about.

Axé.

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The idea of houses

I sold my earrings at the gold store to buy a silver ring in
the market. I swapped that for old ink and a black notebook.
This was before I forgot my pages on the seat of a train
that was supposed to take me home. Whenever I arrived
in a city, it seemed my home was in a different one.
Olga says, without my having told her any of this, “Your
home is never really home until you sell it. Then you discover
all the things you could do with the garden and the big rooms—
as if seeing it through the eyes of a broker. You’ve stored your
nightmares in the attic and now you have to pack them in a
suitcase or two at best.” Olga goes silent then smiles suddenly,
like a queen among her subjects, there in the kitchen between
her coffee machine and a window with a view of flowers.
Olga’s husband wasn’t there to witness this regal
episode. Maybe this is why he still thinks the house will
be a loyal friend when he goes blind—a house whose
foundations will hold him steady and whose stairs, out
of mercy, will protect him from falls in the dark.
I’m looking for a key that always gets lost in the bottom of
my handbag, where neither Olga nor her husband can see me
drilling myself in reality so I can give up the idea of houses.
Every time you go back home with the dirt of the world
under your nails, you stuff everything you were able to carry
with you into its closets. But you refuse to define home as
the future of junk—a place where dead things were once
confused with hope. Let home be that place where you
never notice the bad lighting, let it be a wall whose cracks
keep growing until one day you take them for doors.

Iman Mersal.

Axé.

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“César Moro between indigenism and surrealism”

That is the title of this really interesting dissertation.

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ACLA possibility

Who is speaking? Sense and self in Vallejo

César Vallejo is considered one of the most important Latin American writers of the twentieth century. Yet with the complexity of his texts, his doubled, branching voices, and the controversies over his editions and manuscript traditions, he became both myth and interpretive battleground before most of his work was available to read. Vallejo’s transformation into a cultural artifact began in the 1920s, when critic José Carlos Mariátegui sought a prototypical Peruvianness in his work. The marketing of Vallejo after his death presents a mysterious, but also unchanging figure: the shadowy voice of a body speaking of orphanhood, poverty and the pain of being. The early critics’ attachment to this dark image promoted reductive readings. The postmodernist corrective, to see Vallejo as a writer of fractured subjectivity, has value but more useful are the ideas of cultural layering and a subjectivity that is neither unitary nor “fragmented,” but plural, distributed, mobile. This presentation would consider Vallejo in light of Foucault’s “What is an author?” Angamben’s “The author as gesture,” and some contemporary Vallejo criticism (Clayton, Granados, Hart, González Viaña). Key texts are the prose poem “Las ventanas se han estremecido” [The windows have shuddered, 1924], the novella “Fabla salvaje” [Savage Fable/Wild Speech, 1923], the novel El tungsteno [Tungsten, 1931] and the post-epic poetry of España, aparta de mí este cáliz [Spain, take this cup from me, 1938].

Axé.

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Not of general interest

So: for that ALFS article, for which I have so much material and so much writing, but not a clear enough shape, I have these thoughts:

1. We have this situation:

Les valeurs d’émancipation et d’égalité n’animent plus le système universitaire, qui est devenu un système de tri de la population. Durant mon enfance, l’éducation était émancipatrice. Il y avait un bon niveau de tolérance à la déviance. Il y avait des profs d’histoire ou de philo communistes, anarchistes… Aujourd’hui, un impératif de perfection et donc de conformisme s’est mis en place. La fonction objective du système est de trier les gens et de retenir ceux qui sont les plus disciplinés et conformes. Au bout du bout, les gens qui finissent à la tête du pays sont incapables d’avoir une idée – je vous laisse imaginer à qui je pense.

But since liberal values are still invoked and a lexicon alluding to them is still used, the situation is hard to see. At the same time (and coming from the other direction), most people now were born to a university system where these values had already been abridged and the neo-liberal or corporate, or even the entrepreneurial university had already begun to take shape.

2. Can I afford to go to ACLA and if I try, should I present on Vallejo…or what? I have NOT written my Vallejo panelists as I had planned to do, or Emmanuel on a modernism / primitivism panel, and I should keep these ideas in mind.

3. My notes after ACLA in Utrecht: “Keep working on this paper. Keep working in general, you deserve it.” It is very hard for me to remember such things when I am here at Vichy State-Maringouin, but I am getting a bit better at it.

(Now I will go to the library, and then I will continue to think about the ACLA question.)

Axé.

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Estos, Fabio

Estos, Fabio, ¡ay dolor!, que ves ahora
campos de soledad, mustio collado,
fueron un tiempo Itálica famosa.
Aquí de Cipión la vencedora
colonia fue; por tierra derribado
yace el temido honor de la espantosa
muralla, y lastimosa
reliquia es solamente
de su invencible gente.
Sólo quedan memorias funerales
donde erraron ya sombras de alto ejemplo
este llano fue plaza, allí fue templo;
de todo apenas quedan las señales.
Del gimnasio y las termas regaladas
leves vuelan cenizas desdichadas;
las torres que desprecio al aire fueron
a su gran pesadumbre se rindieron.
Este despedazado anfiteatro,
impío honor de los dioses, cuya afrenta
publica el amarillo jaramago,
ya reducido a trágico teatro,
¡oh fábula del tiempo, representa
cuánta fue su grandeza y es su estrago!

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Un poème

While I was driving I thought of various poems I would have written when I stopped, except that I never got to stop early enough because of road construction and traffic. They were in a certain style and now the New Yorker has published one like them. I do not generally like the poems the New Yorker publishes, but sometimes I do. This is Origin Story.

Axé.

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