from The Common, Issue No. 9
What Always Pulls at Me
What always pulls at me, like a persistent hand tugging on my shirt sleeve or at my pant leg, is the poem I haven't written. Hey, it asks me, when is it my turn?
The blank code of my unwritten poem is inflated with announcements of what it could be and swagger. Much more than a poem already written, where limitations have already ended up imposing themselves and where initial intentions end up lowering their head in embarrassment ...
My unwritten poem drinks from the tap of several varieties of common language, from the language of my family, my friends, bus stops, buses, trains, cell phone conversations, television, internet ... and it comes to a stop when it thinks it finds fresh nuances, shiny threads, newly unsatisfied necessities that it feels are urgent and intimate.
My unwritten poem believes, absolutely, in the expressive capacity of language, but at the same time it feels, naturally, its helplessness. Two points of tension and a resulting movement of words, which accomplish little but attempt everything, and which do not like to elevate themselves to another category unless it is the category of enormous effort, one of implied difficulty.
Even in spite of the visible shortcomings of my poems that one day took a step and passed through the thin membrane of writing, my unwritten poem—which bid them farewell with a white handkerchief in the same airport from which it hopes to depart one day—intends for its words to reach the many spaces that it imagines are reserved just for them. Spaces that it pampers and that have forms molded by a whim, some soft or brittle, others strangely offensive and airy.
My unwritten poem often thinks that it enjoys a kind of purgatory. Is it suffering for something, maybe it's paying for someone else's sins, or are they its own? Purgatory grants it, in any case, the possibility to imagine a formidable body for itself, elasticity, amusement, luminosity, strength, as well as unusual tours, reversible adventures, the astonishment of new landscapes and everyday landscapes suddenly discovered.
My unwritten poem thinks it is one of those who notices everything, and when it realizes how many things it misses, its first reaction is one of helplessness and anger, of demoralization and self-defiance, but immediately after, it feels the relief of its unwritten condition, of its coming and going without exposing itself, of the benefits of its long wait.
My unwritten poem has a clearly contemplative vocation, not only for the inevitable observation of things that it usually submits itself to, which comes from a kind of intimate slowness, but because it believes that poetry is born there—Santa Teresa de Jesús famously meditating "a long time on what water is"—and also because sometimes it aspires to represent the very act of contemplation in its own lines.
My unwritten poem thinks that poetry, more than any hybrid between the physical and metaphysical, or between the figurative and the abstract, is their coincidence.
My unwritten poem believes that its only possibility for growth is to connect with forms that promise a sense of the elusiveness of life—images, stories, ideas, sensations—and that to converse with and debate the poetic tradition, with the electricity of the right now, is one of these forms.
My unwritten poem has the illusion that it will belong to a family of written poems, among which are some by Ida Vitale, Juan Gelman, Luis Antonio de Villena, Adam Zagajewski, and John Burnside, but also belong to their unwritten poems, those that it thinks it can sense, as through opaque glass.
My unwritten poem has, naturally, its collection of phobias, of aversions, but it doesn't believe that now is the time for that.
Poetry Never Stops Defining and Redefining Its Terrain
Poetry never stops defining and redefining its terrain. It has done so throughout history, since Aristotle, Cascales, or Antonio Minturno. But this task, which seems like a kind of prison sentence, is also a fountain of intensity, a force.
Poetry is obligated to move, like a nomadic tribe. And in that motion, in the stops along that route that so often has the character of an escape and of exhaustion, it paradoxically becomes invigorated, fortified.
Poetry leaves its marks on history, and in doing so leaves marks in front of itself. The fingerprint of a poet is in that poet's struggle to mark out the territory of the poetry of his time.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, if we can refer to the poetry I prefer, poetry has modulated its intonation—its intertwined specialty and its temporality—in its capacity to create symbols—episodes, stories, characters, images ... the fleeting arithmetics that reveal something of the function of human nature.
But the poetry I prefer defines its situation as a zone of intersection between the world of what one has and the world that escapes us, between what one can know more or less logically and what one can only know intuitively. The poet is the hunter of symbols in this zone of intersection, which is also the zone that matches the same artifact in the verbal world of concepts, of attachments and sensations. A hunter, then, of correspondences, to use Baudelaire's beloved word, who, with the trajectory of his shots, unites.
Translated from the Spanish by Curtis Bauer
Text in the original Spanish
* * *
About the Author
Luis Muñoz is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Querido silencio (Dear Silence) and Limpiar pescado. Poesia reunida (Cleaning Fish: Collected Poetry). He has received several prizes for his work, including the Generación del 27 and Ojo Critico awards. For ten years he was the literary advisor for the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, and since 2012 he has taught in the MFA in Spanish Creative Writing program at the University of Iowa. He divides his time between Iowa City and Madrid.
Curtis Bauer is a poet and translator. His most recent collection of poetry
is The Real Cause for Your Absence (C&R Press, 2013); his recent
translations include Eros Is More by Juan Antonio González Iglesias (Alice
James Books, 2014), From Behind What Landscape by Luis Muñoz (forthcoming
from Vaso Roto Ediciones in Fall 2015), and Baghdad and Other Poems, a
bilingual chapbook of poems by Jorge Gimeno (forthcoming from Poets@Work
Press in 2015). Bauer is the publisher and editor of Q Avenue Press
Chapbooks and Broadsides, and Spanish translations editor for From the
Fishouse. He teaches at Texas Tech University.
Editor in Chief: Jennifer Acker
Poetry Editor: John Hennessy