Tiempo y poesía / Ludovico Silva

Time and Poetry

The End of the Year is indefinable.

The stars have wanted, obeying an infinite poetics, for earthly time, human time, to be divided into hours, months, years. Men have gathered that celestial requirement and in this way they provide a magical category, ritual, to the end of the month, the end of the year. Apart from the, let us say it this way, financial interest of these human rituals, there is the no less defined ritual of the Celebration, latent in all earthly beings. Dionysian, Farious, Nefarious, Idus, Christmas, New Year, Carnavals, etc. are all celebrations dedicated to the exaltation of time. Of Time itself, as a basic ingredient of cells. In sum, everything that in a part of history has been called religion and which is perhaps better called the political condition of matter. Because regardless of how attached we might be to the practical, within our mysterious matter boils the thirst of the unknown, the intense desire to create, the poetic condition that propels us towards everything magic, ritualistic, fantastic and miraculous. I can already hear a multitude of fanatics saying: “Miracles don’t exist! Miracles don’t exist!” But those fanatics remind me of the anecdote according to which Baudelaire, when a friend asked him why he had abandoned a certain discussion at a café in anger, responded: “Of course I’m leaving! How can you discuss anything with a person who doesn’t believe in miracles?” That is: how can we consider an individual fully human if within his matter there doesn’t exist even an atom of poetic force, an atom of absurdity, a portion of magic?

Poetry has cracked the skulls of many philosophers. From Plato to Heidegger, philosophers have tried to arrive at a definition of poetry. But despite their brilliant speculations (brilliant, the majority of the time, in the same measure in which they are genuinely poetic) they’ve almost always incurred in a contradiction: Trying to give an atemporal definition – definitive!– for something that is temporal. We could argue that, no matter what differences exist between Homeric poetry, for example, and that written in the space age, it will always be an atemporal essence: poetry. The argument is of rank Socratic lineage; but Socrates, as Nietzsche said in The Birth of Tragedy, despite having provided great services to humanity, had injected it with his worst intellectual vices. Poetry, like man himself, is time, but it is also the word in time (A. Machado); and being the word in time, it is impossible to define it by any means other than the poetic word itself. But not words ad usum poetarum (this expression is from professor García Bacca) nor words for technical use in philosophy, but words: poetry.

With this I wanted to say that the poetic condition of human matter is indefinable, or better yet, its only definition is men themselves, flesh and bone definitions, and thus it is useless or impossible to try and define celebrations such as the end of the year, because they belong to the poetic-temporal movements of human life.

Poetry is something perpetually perfectible; its goal is always that: beyond poetry itself. We can always imagine a poem being better, more perfect. And that’s why we can’t bind it in a definition, without risking its assassination. Just as we can’t stop time.

Translator’s note: The original Spanish version of this essay can be read online at the January 2009 issue (#42) of El Cautivo.

{ Ludovico Silva, Teoría poética, Caracas: Editorial Equinoccio, 2008 }


Mark said...

Wow. What is the context of this? I love the idea of pragmatists as "fanatics." One of the more interesting things I've read about poetry in a long time.

Guillermo Parra said...

Hey Mark,

Silva was a Marxist philosopher, poet (& hippie). He's known for his work on Marx and philosophy. I've only read his poems at this point, need to read more.(I've translated some of his older brother's work here, Hector Silva Michelena, who's still alive.)

This text comes from a book that's just been released in Caracas, a selection of his unpublished writings on poetry & poetics, edited by the poet Edda Armas.

I've been enjoying translating some of his poetry over the last few years and this essay just blew me away. I love the anecdote about Baudelaire & I complete agree with him about magic.