Poesía por mandato. Antología personal, de Juan Calzadilla / Néstor Mendoza

Poetry by Mandate: Personal Anthology, by Juan Calzadilla

Words don’t reflect us like mirrors, exactly,
though I would hope so.
I write with an obsessive question in my ears:
Is this the exact word or is it the echo of another one
not more beautiful but more speculative?
José Watanabe

I return to Juan Calzadilla’s writing, after several years of opportune silence. I have voluntarily allowed it to become a natural pulse. I stopped reading him with an adolescent fruition: now I approach him with the necessary tranquility so as to not say too much or too little, to not fall for the embrace that compresses or the forced greeting.

As I write these notes I appeal to strangeness. If a poet is capable of resisting second and third readings, after years of rest and forgetfulness, then he has attained the virtue of permanence. The voluntary distancing clears up the arguments somewhat, defines the outlines more clearly. I’ve been able to corroborate this in his poem “Los cazadores orantes” [The Praying Hunters]; the long breath of the versification, the measured and delicate description that renews taste and closeness: “Mystery shelters / and turns the dusk clouds into a prodigy / of the image that while sliding by / leaves only the mobile resonance / of a frond changing colors.”

I warm up, stretch my muscles and prepare myself for this new contact. It’s no longer about habitual topics, about the I that fragments itself or about the city’s contradictory pedestrians. What attracts me isn’t the meta-textual discourse, that tends to seduce at first glance. Now I search the folds and wrinkles, the slight whistling to be found inside the shell. Calzadilla is more stimulating whenever he momentarily eludes the reflections of alterity: when he forgets about the hall of mirrors.

Since approximately two decades ago, nearly all his publications have appeared as anthologies. The texts configure new volumes: they occupy a new place and a new distribution. One might say it’s a game in which the cards (pieces, poems) permute their original positions, in this way achieving new readings and visions. He has expressed this in his own work: “My mobility is what brings it to life.” Calzadilla is a proofreader, incisive and demanding.

We could highlight one thing: in this recent book, our poet has defined his texts discursively and thematically. Poesía por mandato gathers lyrical poems in dialogue with meta-fictional writing; in other words, poems with diverse motives, poetic prose, glosses, microfictions and aphorisms. A book with these qualities changes the critical perspective. You begin to have doubts regarding the borders of genre, the distribution of texts, the prose and the verses. This compilation, as Calzadilla has so opportunely subtitled it, is a “personal” anthology and not a “poetry” anthology. Maybe he’s trying to clear up for us that, besides poems (according to the traditional manner of conceiving them), there are also other expressive varieties that coexist, all those facets he has explored. His writing, varied and elastic, doesn’t transit through one single terrain; on the contrary, it bifurcates, branches and extends. Poesía por mandato is a meta-anthology, a major anthology.

I try to take an inventory of the titles he’s released up to now. There are many of them, no doubt. He’s a prolific poet: the number of anthologies is likewise numerous. Placed in perspective, it’s possible for one to believe that this eagerness for publication and corrections follows a concrete motive: the definitive piece, carved over and over. For Calzadilla, the poem is perfectible and fallible. I can almost recreate a hypothetical scene: an old artisan who isn’t satisfied with the final touches on a piece, who returns to it, with rigor and watchfulness, and displays it generaously for everyone to see.

This Poesía por mandato isn’t dictated by a pack of hounds but rather by serenity and reflection. It tends toward the free theorization of the poem, the ironic precept. Calzadilla argues and orients: he narrates, displays, argues, describes, dialogues, gives orders.

Calzadilla’s oeuvre is tinged by a certain degree of culture: citations, epigraphs, mentions and reinventions of certain passages in art and literary history (Bretón, Balzac, Rodin, Picasso, Pessoa, Ithaca, Ramos Sucre, Reverón). Each one of those presences, in this symphonic colloquium, defines and articulates his style (his styles).

Poesía por mandato accomplishes what Gustavo Guerrero has called transversal writing, which “blends different genres of discourse and often plays with the borders of the literary institution.” The consolidated valorization of him as an urban poet, belonging to the city, becomes diffuse. Calzadilla’s motivations aren’t thematic but instead discursive. The topic lies beneath the great skin of the discourse.

Texts read during the presentation of the book Poesía por mandato. Antología personal, by Juan Calzadilla (Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, 2014); at the 11th World Poetry Festival of Venezuela 2014.

{ Néstor Mendoza, Monte Ávila Editores, September 2014 }



Aprovecho este espacio para agradecerte el gran gesto de la traducción. Me ha tomado por sorpresa, apreciado Guillermo. Un fuerte abrazo.

Néstor Mendoza

Guillermo Parra said...

Gracias a ti por tu labor con la obra de Juan Calzadilla, Néstor. Espero publicar más traducciones de tus ensayos y poesía en el futuro, mi pana. Un abrazo.