Agorafobia crónica / Santiago Acosta & Willy McKey

Chronic Agoraphobia
(El Salmón Poetry Magazine, Part IV)

Rather than nostalgically lamenting the inevitable, El Salmón prefers, in this new installment, to reflect on the disappearance of poetry collectives and the institutionalization of literary magazines.

Instead of a code of static ideas, the notion of a “poetics” can function as a moving, transfigurable and potentially transfiguring exercise. It is, among other things, a medium for evaluating what has been established with the goal of defending it or proposing something: a new sensibility, a new theme, a new literature. For these and other reasons, the majority of Venezuelan manifestos, groups and literary magazines have shared that brusque form of taking a position at a time of aesthetic crisis, whether it’s for supporting a dominant current, getting rid of it or stopping the changes on the horizon. Likewise, these spaces have served as fertile territory for gregarious group experiences, those that give themselves an impulse by means of the public, reactions and polemics.

It’s not easy to explain why that collective need for confronting the problems of literature by means of criticism and poetry for denunciation and counterpoint has extinguished. Perhaps it has become evident that the idea of writing poetry as a group hides a great contradiction: as powerful as the collective impulse might be, the truly significant works are born of the individual, differentiated filter. Groups exist to give flight to the back & forth critics insist on calling process.

Within the base of manifestos, groups and movements, magazines have functioned as common ground, a floor from which one lifts oneself toward that same space of individuality that legitimizes those proposals that were born of an initial collective experience. The typical example is the mythical single issue of the magazine Válvula, thanks to which writers like Antonio Arráiz, J. A. 

Ramos Sucre, Fernando Paz Castillo, Miguel Otero Silva and Uslar Pietri found a place for their voice. Antecedents like Cosmópolis, Alborada and the experience of Ramos Sucre and Cruz Salmerón Acosta with the magazine Broche de Oro, added to the milestone of Válvula, provide evidence of a symptom: collectives don’t intoxicate the work of those who participate in them, but instead serve as an efficient space for speaking in common and not saying common things, at least when the word that opens up manages to find a thirst surrounding it. Was it not Viernes that allowed the publication of Rilke, Rimbaud, Valéry and Eliot, to thank it for a few? You could find there voices such as Pablo Rojas Guardia, Luis Fernando Álvarez and Vicente Gerbasi, but also the revisions that at the time were imperious (each herd knows its own urgencies).

The collectives that were able to momentarily introduce changes into the dominant thematics (we think of Tráfico and Guaire, for example, who brought the very necessary sense of the everyday, urban and prosaic) lose their value if they come to a standstill in the same repeated poetic exercise for fear of contradicting themselves. Once they’ve managed to mitigate the problems they once denounced as a group, nothing remains but to oppose themselves, which leads them to naturally lose their relevance. That return of their members to the tradition they were critiquing, the pact with silence in other instances, gestures that many have interpreted as a betrayal, perhaps reveal a true dynamism, a more genuine and profound search for the poetic word.

Except for magazines such as Babel, by Juan Riquelme, or Ateneo, by Emilcen Rivero (which never cease to appear on the bookstore shelves, insistently displaying new voices and reviewing the others), the possible hemerographic space is paralyzed. The movement of the poetic word is undermined by matters that individualize. Today’s poet is agoraphobic and dependent on editorial favors. Something like Contrapunto would no longer exist (nor Andrés Mariño Palacios sharing with Héctor Mujica, José Ramón Medina, Pedro Díaz Seijas, Antonio Márquez Salas, Eddie Morales Crespo, Alí Lameda, Ernesto Mayz Vallenilla or Luz Machado), but instead individuals micro-published in the extinct magazine Imagen. No more Cantaclaro (nor Miguel García Mackle, Jesús Zambrano or Leopoldo Sucre Figarella) but instead a few poems by Daniel Molina or María Antonieta Flores loose in the pages of Papel Literario. No more Apocalipsis or Cuarenta Grados a la Sombra or Tabla Redonda (with Adriano González León looking at typewritten frescos by Guillermo Sucre, Luis García Morales, Elisa Lerner, Salvador Garmendia, Rodolfo Izaguirre and Efraín Hurtado; or Juan Calzadilla next to pieces by Francisco Pérez Perdomo, Edmundo Aray, Jacobo Borges and Carlos Contramaestre; or Rafael Cadenas flanking unpublished texts by Jesús Sanoja Hernández, Arnaldo Acosta Bello, Eduardo Acevedo and Jesús Enrique Guédez), only outdated reviews in the Revista Nacional de Cultura. After the Pandilla de Lautréamont, should we settle with Poetas en Tránsito? Interesting poetic proposals by young voices that are aligned with the thought that today is the Government have institutionalized themselves within the State’s editorial exercise. All of this makes it more difficult for the poet, as Rafael Cadenas said in Anotaciones, to remain a foreign element to power: to be a contrast. Neither paper nor the hemerographic possibility: ephemeral loose poems (and poets), placebos for the ego scriptor. Institutionalization has diminished the confrontational power of literary magazines.

The group experience in itself is not enough for putting together a significant poetic oeuvre, since if this never transcends the limits of the gregarious in the inverse journey toward particularity, it ends up diluting itself in an impersonal emptiness incapable of transformation. But José Barroeta said, in La Higuera de Otra Edad (1982), that a literature’s change is related to the transformations of a society. As Ángel Rama assures us, in his Antología de El techo de la ballena (1987): terrorism has concluded its cycle and we must live together (reconciled, we would add) with what we tried to overthrow.

{ Santiago Acosta & Willy McKey, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 24 November 2007 }

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