What Always Pulls at Me (English & Spanish)

By LUIS MUÑOZ

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.

 

Translated from the Spanish by Curtis Bauer

LO QUE SIEMPRE TIRA DE MÍ

Lo que siempre tira de mí, como un mano insistente de la manga de mi camisa o de la pernera del pantalón es el poema no escrito. Hey—me pregunta—, cuándo es mi turno.

El código en blanco de mi poema no escrito está inflado de anuncios de lo que puede ser y de ufanía. Mucha más que la de un poema escrito, donde las limitaciones han acabado por imponerse y donde los propósitos iniciales terminan por agachar las orejas.

Mi poema no escrito bebe del grifo de algunas variedades del lenguaje común, del lenguaje de mi familia, mis amigos, las paradas de autobuses, los trenes, las conversaciones cercanas de teléfonos móviles, la televisión, internet…y se detiene cuando cree dar con nuevos matices, con hebras de brillo, con nuevas necesidades insatisfechas, que él siente como apremiantes e íntimas.

Mi poema no escrito cree absolutamente en la capacidad expresiva del lenguaje, pero siente, naturalmente, su impotencia. Dos puntos de tensión y un movimiento resultante de palabras, que consiguen poco pero lo intentan todo, y a los que no les gusta elevarse hasta otra categoría que no sea la del enorme esfuerzo corriente, la de la dificultad sobreentendida.

Aún a pesar de las carencias visibles de los poemas míos que un día dieron el paso y atravesaron la delgada membrana de la escritura, mi poema no escrito —que los despidió con un pañuelo blanco en el mismo aeropuerto del que cree que llegará a partir algún día—, trata que las palabras alcancen los muchos huecos que imagina reservados para ellas. Son huecos que mima y que tienen formas moldeadas a capricho, algunos suaves o rugosos, otros extrañamente hirientes y aéreos.

Mi poema no escrito cree a menudo que goza de una especie de purgatorio. ¿Pena por algo, paga quizá por pecados ajenos, son suyos? El purgatorio le otorga, en todo caso, la posibilidad de imaginar para sí mismo un cuerpo formidable, elasticidad, divertimento, luminosidad, fuerza, además de recorridos insólitos, aventuras reversibles, el asombro de nuevos paisajes y de paisajes cotidianos repentinamente descubiertos.

Mi poema no escrito cree ser de ésos que se fijan en todo, y cuando se da cuenta de las muchas  cosas que se le escapan, su primera reacción es de impotencia y rabia, de desmoralización y autodesafío, pero inmediatamente después siente el descanso de su condición de no escrito, de que puede ir y venir sin exponerse, de las ventajas de su larga espera.

Mi poema no escrito tiene una vocación claramente contemplativa, pero no solo por la inevitable observación de cosas a la que suele someterse, que viene de una especie de lentitud íntima, sino porque cree que la poesía nace de ahí—el famoso contemplar “mucho tiempo lo que es el agua” de Santa Teresa de Jesús—, y, además, porque aspira en ocasiones a poder representar en sus versos el acto mismo de la contemplación.

Mi poema no escrito piensa que la poesía, más que un híbrido entre lo físico y lo metafísico, o entre lo figurativo y lo abstracto, es su coincidencia.

Mi poema no escrito cree que su única posibilidad de crecimiento es conectar con formas prometedoras de sentido de la escurridiza vida—imágenes, historias, ideas, sensaciones—y que la tradición poética conversada y discutida, con la electricidad del ahora mismo, es una de esas formas.

Mi poema no escrito se hace la ilusión de llegar a pertenecer a una familia de poemas escritos entre los que están algunos de Ida Vitale, Juan Gelman, Luis Antonio de Villena, Adam Zagajewski y John Burnside, pero también de poemas no escritos de ellos, a los que cree intuir como a través de un cristal opaco.

Mi poema no escrito tiene, como es natural, su colección de fobias, de repulsiones, pero no cree que ahora sea momento para eso.

Luis Muñoz is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Querido silencio(Dear Silence) and Limpiar pescado. Poesía reunida (Cleaning Fish: Collected Poetry). He has received several prizes for his work, including the Generación del 27 and Ojo Crítico 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.

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What Always Pulls at Me (English & Spanish)

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