Con los ojos de la penumbra: Notas sobre la poesía de Guillermo Sucre / Gabriela Kizer

With the Eyes of the Penumbra: Notes on the Poetry of Guillermo Sucre

Photo: Lisbeth Salas

From his personal stamp in the “Testimonio” of the literary group Sardio to his essays on Latin American poetry, and throughout the six collections of poetry he has published so far, Guillermo Sucre has investigated the complexity of the poetic fact (action): his searches, the tensions in his relationship with reality, language and the literary tradition. As en essayist, the writer frequently channels the poetry reader’s attention towards the plot and resonance of texts; only in that plot, in those forms —he tells us— could we find the poet: his imaginary and irreducible I, created and transmuted in the word, conditioned to (impassioned by) it. This annotation allows us to glimpse two traits that María Fernanda Palacios has pointed to in her essay on Sucre’s poetry: impersonality and marginality. Perhaps in these is where the poet’s temper is measured: his equal mistrust of subjective and emotional emphasis and of all aesthetic pretensions (illusions); his anxiety for a “rigorous consciousness, trembling with lucidity and with demands”; his eccentricity or way of being in the margins (“those who write to stand out / not to find an exit —is there an exit?”), his critical passion.

The occasion only allows me to note certain essential images, and to barely sketch the way these are prepared and move through his books. If we attend to the chronological order, Mientras suceden los días (1961) begins with an epigraph from Octavio Paz: “Words that are flowers that are fruits that are acts.” This succession, besides showing how within the events of the poem what is different is reconciled and blended, invites us to conceive of the image as a center of energy: it opens a field in which words, things and acts exist (to name is to be, to do, to become?) in a dynamism that gives way to transfigurations and correspondences. The first verse — “Tied as always to your dark river symmetry that flows in my hands”— already brings the intense line of this poetry: can the speaker be tied (prevented from moving) to the flow of a river in his hands? And can that dark river possess the attribute of symmetry? It can. The climate in the penumbra, memory and instant, fire and water, flow and crepitation. Each field is worthy of the other. In fixity we grasp the movement capable of deploying life (the “insaciable copulation”) of desire. But that “motionless vigor” is also a “devouring transmutation of forces,” a “vast dementia.” And under the sign (fate) of the vastness, the dilated space exposes the lovers, and the solitary voice that reveals them, to “what is most real,” to the ancient and secret air of the roots of the earth or the stars or the middle of nothingness. With everything, the force that precipitates also tempers itself. A lucid lamp, thoughtful, hesitant, will simultaneously be a calmness, the containment of an intimacy and a vigil, all continuous in Sucre’s poetry. Under this light, consciousness tests and inquires from the word — “language of exile.”

Exile, referring to the situation of language in poetry, perhaps alludes to a condition that submits it to displacement, to the loss or absence (from the world, from reality, from life?), by which it ceases to be a blind custom in order to plunge into the consciousness of itself. This distancing is elucidated in La mirada (1970): as the (dis)encounter between the act of seeing and what is seen or named transpires, the verse prolonged “with spells” of Mientras suceden los días is provoked; thus the poet, just as he wants to “make the transparency” in which the beauty of the world shines, recognizes himself in the split: “I suffer the hypnosis, refraction, / dilation / of another glance I no longer am. / And from this mirage perhaps my language appears.” But that language, originating in an optical illusion full of magnetism, in the glance of the other (the stone, the wave, death also plot his vision), in the permutation of a personal manner of seeing the world for another in which the I and what no longer is are equally the object of a glance that likewise is unable to be what it contemplates. That language, does it reach a certain reality? Does it lose the world when it dilutes itself within it? What is it able to do, what does it name, what does the word consumate or consume in the poem? “If we truly exist” —asks the writer in Serpiente breve (1977)— “why do we believe ourselves to be illusory?”

In his poetry collection En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976) the glance becomes figuration on the page. A news sense of space disperses and interrupts the signs, condenses or spaces the lines, makes verse and prose coexist. Although what most concerns the poet never ceases to display, as Lezama Lima would say, its “enigmatic reverso” (in helplessness, happiness; in plenitude, dispossession; in disdain, humility; in sharpness, the invisible; in pride, humiliation; in splendor, death), refuses or attenuates the vertiginous succession we alluded to at the beginning: words “are not big flowers that are beasts (that are solitary suns I think).” A type of suspension or interregnum that is filtered with the breathing of the summer, of insomnia, occasions a certain subtle and profound transformation whose vibration is propagated into La vastedad (1990) and La segunda versión (1994). One could point out the emergence of another light or of the “fair dominion” of a light that has been weaving itself with penumbra, “with the eyes of the penumbra,” as if the glance, less dazzled by the glimmers, less blinded by the splendor, incorporated zones of shade and of pause that strip it (relieve it?) of the spectral; also the radical experience of the present merges with memory in an instant of unprecedented beauty: “you lift your eyes not as though you are about to see the afternoon: as though returning from already having seen it.” It’s difficult to give an account of the strange tone that memory has in this poetry, but undoubtedly it ends up configuring that “place without place” which is the vastness, since the poem that “wants to drift / forgetting it is only words” is always marked for a coming back, a return where exile is served: “to come back is not to take shelter in the house / but instead to get lost in the long memory of the house.” We could add that in this movement the voracious and annihilating force mitigates itself in a solicitude of veracity which is not an affirmation but an erasure (“a page you are writing by erasing it”). Experience of space, it is clear, and a no less profound and abysmal experience of time: in what unravels us, the task of “unsaying and contradiction;” in what we are ceasing to be, the recurrence of the mistake, the return to the origin, to “what must be written anew.”

José Balza, in his study of Guillermo Sucre, after expressing the company and consolation of what for him a book like La segunda versión means in these times of hatred and opprobrium, discerns that “secret earth,” the suffering Venezuela that comes like a rumor from the first poetry collection, now illuminated —intuited, pressed— in its pugnacious, violent, dramatically contradictory, even unthreaded plot. It is superflous to say how disturbing and moving the following image is, the desolation by which we inhabit it today: “The howling of lights rises; changes / the scene; the guards, the high walls / even higher; the cells open / or close to a lost and / empty space. No one will be able to leave anymore. / The night has laid down sordidly once again / once again the streets in solitude / shine in the threat and the knife.”

{ Gabriela Kizer, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 2 June 2013 }

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