Versos de moral etérea / Douglas Gómez Barrueta

Verses of Ethereal Morality

The poems of the Venezuelan Eleonora Requena serve to build an Ethics of Air, the book that was baptized last Saturday with the presence of Rafael Cadenas.

Eleonora Requena’s verse couldn’t be contained in the pages of Ética del aire and it took up all the spaces of the Lectura bookstore in Chacaíto last Saturday at noon. “Don’t spy, don’t get worked up, / don’t lie to yourself, don’t demand, / don’t list, / don’t reiterate, don’t blame yourself / if you’re happy, / if you’re extremely sad,” read aloud the poet Rafael Cadenas during the presentation of the book, edited by Bid & Co., which includes two collections by Requena: Ética del aire, which gives the volume its title, and Mandados, which in 2000 won the Poetry Mention at the V José Rafael Pocaterra Latin American Biennial.

The words floated, as minutes later would the soap bubbles with which the ceremony culminated, assisted by the voice of the poet Cadenas: “Protect the heart / from ravines, / from falling into the precarious / pleasure of falling / into ravines, / protect the heart / falling deep / stones below, / protect it / from stumbles, / let it / fall / hopelessly.” Minutes before, Harry Almela, the former editor of La Liebre Libre publishers and a poet as well, recalled that during his time as a judge for the José Rafael Pocaterra Biennial he was surprised by Requena’s verse. “I thought it was by a writer from abroad, because it broke with everything written by women in this country.”

Almela reminisced that after a few of Requena’s verses were published in El Nacional’s Papel Literario, the now disappeared Salvador Garmendia wrote a note full of praise to the poet. This text, along with another one by Almela himself, forms part of the epilogue to Ética del aire. He also mentioned that during the presentation of Mandados, “during one of the book fairs from before,” the recipients of the National Prize for Literature Elizabeth Schön, Eugenio Montejo and Rafael Cadenas were all present. An unusual occurrence, considering it was “barely” the young poet’s second book.

Requena was born in Caracas in 1968, and from the time her first book Sed was published ten years ago by Eclepsidra she became one of the protagonists of the poetry by women that burst into Venezuelan literature at the end of the previous century. Her poems are anthologized in Las voces de la hidra: la poesía venezolana de los años 90 and El hilo de la voz: antología crítica de las escritoras venezolanas del siglo XX.

She has also published Es de día (2004) and La noche y sus agüeros (2007), both under the imprint El Pez Soluble. She won the Premio Italia 2007 for poetry in the category “Mediterranean and Caribbean,” sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Poetry at the University of Bologna.

Almela explained that a love poem can only presume to be one if it moves between two spaces: that of the event and that of consciousness. The first one “occurs in the poem as a lived thing, and it belongs to the experience of the speaking subject in that movement towards the other.” The second one happens “in the minor or major capacity it might have to become consciousness for the reader. Something that can only happen thanks to the nickname, or the synecdoche, a rhetorical figure where a part of something is used to represent the whole or, vice versa, where the whole is used to represent one part.”

According to Almela, the center of the love poem is not the subject who sings but rather the absent one, as well as the reader: “who recreates the imaginary now expressed in words, already detached from the experience that motivates it.” As he sees it, within Ética del aire moves “the fissure that remains between the space of the experience and the space of consciousness.”

Requena had words of gratitude for the editor Bernardo Infante Daboín, for taking a risk and publishing books of poetry; for Cadenas, for his generosity in reading her poems and accompanying her; for Almela, for always encouraging her to write and for being a “tutor;” for “Salvador Garmendia, the great absent one,” for the words that stimulated her to keep exploring the path of poetry; and for the poet and scientist Jesús Alberto León, who wrote the blurb for the book, where he affirms: “In this poetry we notice there is no place. The remote pedagogy of air, the titillating orbits of the birds, offering only elusive enigmas: no shelter from deterioration. Neglect, the tremulous risk, the storm, these are the promised certitudes, the inevitable burns of a wounded eroticism that is a suffering pleasure, a panting that groans under the breath, at the jagged edge of breathing…”

The air of the Lectura bookstore, a space managed by Walter Rodríguez located in the basement of the Chacaíto shopping center, was already full of poems from Ética del aire, but that didn’t stop Requena from closing the event by reading the poem “Word Kit I Conjure to Get You Out of My Head”: “corkscrew, ringlet, crossed out word / solar eclipse, rat poison, liquor, dissolvent, / exterminating angel, waste basket, catapult, / armor, freezer, white out, soap / surgical tape, delete, delete, it’s over.”

Translator’s note: Harry Almela’s epilogue for Ética del aire can be read here at his blog (in Spanish).

{ Douglas Gómez Barrueta, Tal Cual, 8 December 2008 }

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