“We are everywhere.”

Jerry Rubin’s second book, We are everywhere. (1971) was probably his last to matter. (Enrique Vila-Matas, in Bartleby y compañía (2000), a novel made of footnotes to an imagined text, presents an anecdote about the Peruvian poet Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, an early friend and associate of César Moro in Lima, I translate below. Vila-Matas discusses the phenomenon (or conundrum) of writers who choose to stop writing, including Rimbaud’s only published book and famous renunciation.) I found the Rubin book at a Florida thrift store in 1990. Much of it is outdated, some fine design with color pages and innovative font. Reading alongside shoreline winds or currents of night gusts in the lower coast of Massachusetts.


“The Lima poet Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, born in 1911, developed Peruvian poetry by masterfully combining it with the Spanish poetic tradition and creating a hermetic lyric in two books that, published in 1933 and 1935, amazed their readers: Las ínsulas extrañas and Abolición de la muerte.

After his initial onslaught, he stayed in complete poetic silence throughout forty five years. As Leonardo Valencia has written: “The silence produced by the absence, during forty five years, of any new publications, didn’t banish him to oblivion, but instead it made him stand out, it marked him.”

After those forty five years of silence were over, he returned to poetry quietly with poems – like my friend Pineda’s – of one or two verses. During those forty five years of silence, everyone asked him why he had stopped writing, they asked him on the rare occasions when Westphalen made himself visible, though he didn’t make himself completely visible, since in public he would always cover his face with his left hand, with a nervous hand whose long fingers were those of a pianist, as though it hurt him to be seen in the land of the living. During those forty five years, on the rare occasions he put himself in the fray, the same question emerged, so similar, by the way, to the one they asked Rulfo in Mexico. Always the same question and always, during nearly half a century, covering his face with his left hand, the same – I don’t know if it was enigmatic – answer:

– I’m not disposed.”

(Bartleby y compañía, 158-9)

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