Una poética pensante / Yolanda Pantin

A Thinking Poetics

Meanwhile, thought. Will it continue to be that slightly bluish light where the sands of the sea's concave circle are found?

All poetry has its hour, which is why there is no need to ever force it to tell us. And it's just that when one is young one usually lets oneself be seduced by the flash of the images in the poem, and by the emotion that springs from the song. That is youth and that is the obligation of young poets: to have blind faith in words, to let oneself be dragged by the verbal torrent until we reach the "floor." Thus, it is not the same thing to be a reader at 20 years of age than at 40. Youth is impatient, doesn't contain itself, wants to be moved down to the bones, lose its head. But Elizabeth Schön's poetry is contained from its beginnings, a poetry that according to my understanding was written in full conscience and responsibility, a poetry that wants to communicate what it thinks, a reflective poetry to be read in a removed part of the house, with nothing to distract us.

We have seen that many poets value more what surges from the unconscious like a brute force than what results from intellectual effort. But Elizabeth Schön's poetry congregates both forces because it is impossible to separate the heart from the head, sensibility from reason, poetry being the balancing point: its is not thought, it is not emotion.

And it is because of the confluence of both forces that her poetry seems profoundly human to me, since it doesn't separate, it doesn't disintegrate and for which reason I perceive it as being close to the searches of some contemporary artists.

But now I want to highlight the importance that, in my view, the exercise of thought has in her work, which is made very evident in the book La granja bella de la casa. There is a poem by María Clara Salas that speaks of how we depend on the "thread" of thought in order to not lose our sanity. The thread of thought is an image that also makes me remember an artist contemporary to Elizabeth and among those with whom I've been able to establish a relationship: it is Gego, that woman who sat down to thread space, to create infinite universes of relations from nothingness.

It is very stimulating to see these two great artists in front of their contemporaries, how they sustained their discourses from the isolated place that inevitably and fortunately conditions the fact of being a woman: Gego, without letting herself be tempted by the titanic endeavors of the "founders of modernity" (I'm thinking above all about Alejandro Otero and Jesús Rafael Soto) and Elizabeth, as well, but with an interesting particularity, in my view. Although younger, she respectfully removes herself from the production of the women who were her contemporaries: from that of Ida Gramcko who was a very close friend of hers; from that of Antonia Palacios given over to the will of her ghosts; from that of Ana Enriqueta Terán seduced by the great agrarian captains that were her ancestors and from that of Luz Machado, prisoner of that house that denied her right to exist. While all that occured, that is to say: while the history of Venezuelan literature and art happened, Gego and Elizabeth Schön remained concentrated in their quiet task. Time has ratified them in the choice they sustained against the tides brought by the wind. Because what I admire about both of them is the coherence and the faithfulness to their thought.

But in the same way Gego threaded those nets that gather us from the void, Elizabeth Schön's poetry gathers us from the passion and exalted emotion in the warp threaded by her "thought."

In an article about the book El antiguo labrador (in: Ensayos temporales, El Libro Menor, Academia de la Historia, Caracas, 1984) Ludovico Silva sees how "in this poetry a thought appears that is like a complicated warp." A "reticularean warp" adds Ludovico...

Moreover, she herself told me in a recent conversation that hers was "a thinking poetics." But "what does it mean to think?" the poet asks herself in a fragment of the book and she herself answers Heidegger's question: "it seems to be to think Being."

When I went to say hello to her for the first time in Los Rosales I saw how she had filled that place that is her home with meaning: a place populated by her being. But now she tells us, following Heidegger's thought (language is the house of being) that the word is the house of being. And we have spoken about this many times because Elizabeth has confided in me how over the years it has become more and more evident what poetry means to her profoundly. Poetry receives all of us since it is the power of metaphor to annul contrary signs, the opposites and contradictions among parts.

La granja bella de la casa is an essay but also a very beautiful poem interwoven with emotion and intellect, without any source prevailing over the other. Thus, starting from the phrase of the German philosopher that opens Letter on Humanism, the poet begins to open the many relations that have unchained the image of the house, to touch that theme I speak, and which now can be seen as the one that gives meaning to all of her work.

Now I realize that it is because of this that Luisana Itriago highlights in Elizabeth's poetry her desire for linking, the same one that in my view runs through Gego's work.

But the link can only be given without traumas, without violence, the link is only made real through metaphor and it is because of this that only poetry can congregate us in this hour of fractures and divisions. She says it herself: "metaphor, live and unbreakable hoop, is the property of a people who do not admit separations; this as much as the images carry within themselves an indivisible watchword."

When I mentioned the relationship of Elizabeth's poetry with the work of her contemporaries, I thought of the goddesses of Greek mythology and in the one she chose out of all of them to accompany her, a goddess considered "minor" as the tone of her poetry can be "minor," since it is not bombastic or grandiloquent, since it does not seek to be more than what it can reach.

She chose the one that cared for the fire at home so it remained lit, and the one who in her modesty hid her face behind a veil. It was not in Hestia to show herself but rather to allow for heat, light, while she removed herself. Hestia was not a protagonist but a facilitator, although Elizabeth gives the covered face of the goddess a novel interpretation: Liberty is announced from the invisible stillness of Hestia's face. That is where the desire to know her factions begins, and it is the void that embraces us with its unlimited darkness.

Hestia represents the "unnamable" where the possibility of the poem that can or cannot be written exists: It is when the word opens to the patio of the house where the pillars and the rooftops are and someone announces: beautiful to not be named, beautiful a face completely unknown to daily contingency, walking.

Elizabeth Schön has been faithful to her thought, but it has required an entire life, a life given over to words, so as to have gathered it in a pristine poetics: La granja bella de la casa where she argues sustained by a "poetic thinking" that being is within the word : "What is the job of Being?—she asks—He lodges in the word and she is who expresses, because it is thinking that allows the rose to grow within itself..." And later on she adds: "By existing the word adopts a reality as potent as that of a hill or a red, acquiring in this way the dignity of a linguistic entity." It is a matter of an indivisible all because "Being and the word touch the sky." Both in univocal silence, with no division, with no demands, just like Elizabeth's link with poetry. In this way, how can one not feel admiration for her? Because I also admire how poetry lives in her, how she expresses herself not only through means of writing, but also through sensible and intelligent conversation, as it is shown in the spaces she inhabits, in that generous patio, full of green and flowers beneath the Caracas sky.

Listening to and reading Elizabeth Schön I realize the value she gives to words in an ethical sense—since there is also no separation between her poetry and her being, between what she thinks and what she is—, corresponds with the harmony between the things of heaven and earth. A harmony she somehow manages to communicate and which therefore moves her poetry and her presence so much. "And what is the universe?—the poet asks herself in a moment from this essay that can also be read as a prose poem—Perhaps the star that protects amid its shine the round and sonorous house of Being?"

Because of her I have been able to understand that everything has meaning because nothing is contrary or opposed: everything is part of a mystery, the one represented by the covered face of Hestia and from where the poem calls us. It remains up to us, through the intelligence we were given, through the gift of discernment, to make an effort to move beyond the limits that are also our jails: In the place where the poem's possibility exists, liberty also exists, as does the annulment of the forces that separate us from the indivisible Being within the word.

Elizabeth has certainly provided us a lesson by offering her life to the talent that was given to her. She knew how to value it, appreciate it; she knew how to share it with us, her friends and her readers. She did not disdain it, she gave it a place at the center of her house, like the bread upon the table, since her relationship to poetry is not only literary. Let us listen then to what this major poet has to tell us.

{ Yolanda Pantin, El Nacional, Papel Literario, 3 December 2005 }

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