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The veiled language

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Poetry by other means: poetry should not only be made by all – any means to experience it can also be valid. And the importance lies precisely in this: in the experience of poetry, not its expression (verbal or visual), which in this case would limit its value as bearing witness to a specific event1. The ability of the poet writer would have lost its insolent superiority. Speaking of poetry as an experience, means to speak of poetry in everyday life, to release it from the neat shell in which it lives like a sleepwalker. Poetry is a luxury available to everyone. And here analog or symbolic thought comes into play, which, like a sieve of thought makes it possible for us to move through the daily flow, sifting the miserable and miserabilist aspect of everyday life to illuminate the subversive mirrors of a vision returned to its insatiable appetite to see / to which its insatiable appetite to see has been restored.

We could speak in this sense of a physics of poetry, of a material and sensual experience of poetry, as losing some of its abstract and intellectual nature, it suddenly acquires the qualities of matter, of any matter: it can be rough as the bark of some trees, acid as a quick sip of lemon juice, red like the wake of the sun on the sea at any sunset...

But this poetry by other means is not an aesthetic means or a method of contemplation. Poetry will no longer rhythm the action, it will precede it. Artaud puts it another way: If our life lacks sulphur, that is, a magic constant, it is because we prefer to contemplate our own actions and lose ourselves in considerations about the imagined forms of those acts, rather than let them impel us (emphasis mine). Poetry, therefore, implies a movement in action, a political commitment in the direction to subvert an order and a state of things that turn man into a homunculus convinced of his own servitude.

There is a fundamental element that distinguishes this experience of poetry from any poetic convention: it has no pretensions, the aesthetic or artistic hierarchies have been abolished, and what is flowing above all artificial social prestige, is an excitation detached from any routine. It may be the encounter with a person, with an object, with a daily and concrete element that causes this internal excitation that urges us to continue seeking and tie up the loose ends to finally unbind what we had only sensed in an obscure way. There is nothing strange here, neither any metaphysical or mystical lucubration, only the marvelous real that can be felt, smelled, heard and seen in complete darkness, within the bitter light through which we routinely proudly wander, refusing to accept that life is renewed every twenty-four hours.


The fish is only saved in the lightning
César Dávila Andrade

All language – and I will refer exclusively to written language – expressed outside its institutionalized boundaries (the book, for example) consists mainly of a strong subversive element, which also means, in certain circumstances, a relative dose of risk in its practical application – I mean street graffiti – leaving aside a not much efficient and unnecessary taxonomy, and it is clear that this universal and primeval form of communication serves both the reactionaries and the revolutionaries (and all sorts of stupid persons), there is a kind of very particular graffti phrases: the kind that is characterized not by a desire (at least apparent) to incite to revolt, but that rather seeks to undermine our look, not to leave us blind, but to keep our retina shiny.


These are phrases that involuntarily surprise us with no profit motive in mind, unlike the countless commercial signs, decoys sometimes exquisite, sometimes even surprising, that haunt us daily with endless greed (tnothing better, in order to fight such logorrhea, than the way proposed by Jose Manuel Rojo in his excellent article Such is poetry this morning published in number six of the journal Salamandra).


It matters little that these phrases are original or not in the hand of whom gives expression to them, and it is irrelevant whether they are stated anonymously or they are signed (although the signature of the latter is usually as anonymous as the lack of signature of the former). Communication, once exceeded the minimum level of understanding of the used words, reaches it deepest layer, which is none other than the one achieved by means of amazement  for amazement's sake, that puts us on the edge of ourselves, that makes us doubt of our own credibility. Nothing or everything is to be found beyond certain walls.


It is poignant that, in the era of telecommunications and telematics immediacy, people are able to communicate – and how passionately! – through writing in broad daylight on the walls that delimit any street. I saw for example in Miguel Servet street in Madrid (and I am for sure not the only one) an unusual and unprecedented love story. First the sentence Joel, I love you appeared written in big red letters. A few days later an answer followed, on the same wall, next to the first statement: Bianca, I love you written in stunning red letters too, as if the acoustic power of these silent echoes stood in relationship with the size of the letters.

These sentences were erased by the public services. But a few months later, the lovers of Miguel Servet street reappeared, and with purified blood; this time the color of the declaration was no longer red but green: Joel, I still love you. Is it necessary to recall that Miguel Servet was burned at the stake for heresy, that it was he who discovered the fundamental role played by the pulmonary circulation in blood purification?


These words, often strange ones, always always dazzling, doomed to disappear sooner or later from where they were written, only find salvation in their immediacy and futility, the latter being the foundation of poetry and of the marvelous. If language, somehow, is one of the principles of man, this poetry by other means, this language, still not detached from its basic function of communication but resolutely opposed to the subjugating language that supports capitalism, puts us in direct contact with the living language of myth, a language that tends to connect all beings and all things in the world, not to decorate or mystify it, but to unravel it. This protean and slippery language invites us to jump from the other side of the wall of reality in order to complete our vision and our understanding of the world.


For the past several years I have practiced the simple activity of walking, always with the certainty of getting astray. In several of these wanderings I have encountered the shadowy presence of some stores (disused or closed) which signs have suffered the fall of one of their letters, thereby causing a loss of reference or identity of that same establishment. If a utilitarian function of language is to identify an object and make it intelligible, in this case we witness its hazardous and primeval subversive use. The language of servitude, which is the one that advertising is using, a language that is constantly subjected to a reduction of words and meaning, that prevents the free movement of thought, a made-to-measure language for a man reduced to a mere consumer of objects, has found in itself such an exhausting fatigue that it appears to cause its own slow collapse.

And again before us language as a game, again the possibility of carrying out ”magic experiments with words”. It all starts with a lisp, a wish to say: lack of meaning and rotund presence of a significant that shines like a victim offered in sacrifice. These disjointed words have lost their reference, they were left in the rough weather of sense, forcing the ones who perceive them to reinvent them. No doubt, ”the mysteries of the formation of words, that I never imagined, were now naked before me”.

Here is a dialectic or an alchemy of language whose resolution is one of the secrets of poetic thought: Anz is the embodied expression of anguish. The mental road to be traveled from the n to z is of the same kind as the one that the trapeze artist must follow from one trapeze to the other: it is that minimal moment of tension that swiftly runs through the movement of poetry. Moment of loss if the babble drowns in itself or revelation of another step in the ladder of the possible.

This possible can can be facilitated by the strange interweaving of different languages : as na as is the phonetic spelling of the expression in Czech, ”and you will know”: Warning or invitation? If we turn the mirror – promising mercury or fateful solvent – we read ”samsa”: everyday absurdity opens a chink where to let ourselves go in a vertigo whose end doesn't cease to be inscrutable.

These signs which had been good enough to promote consumer goods have become the propitiatory casualties of a re-enchantment of the city: their mutilation is not in vain, introducing the wait time. And again the dialectical movement emphasizes its persistence. In that interval the possibility of a certainty is being put into play: Are we witnessing the pronouncement of an oracle? Would it be possible, even boldly, to sense the end of the commodity as a symbol of the affirmation of the human being as understood in the society of personal or corporate profit? Can we say, with Maurice Blanchot, that ”everything we say doesn't tend but to conceal the single statement: that everything must disappear ...”.

(Published in Salamandra #15-16, 2005-2006)

  • 1. Lautréamont had declared: Poetry must be made by all (La poésie doit être faite par tous). It would have been necessary to also proclaim: And its experience as well.