"In what poetic place do we dwell?"

Several years ago, a good friend of mine had the opportunity to visit the poet Elizabeth Schön at her home in Caracas. My friend recalls the lush tropical garden Schön keeps in her courtyard, with various types of trees, flowers and small plants. Schön told her that whenever she looked at those trees, or wrote about them in her poems, they reminded her of her late husband’s spirit. My friend recalled Schön as a gracious and attentive conversationalist, always open to befriending and listening to younger writers. That personal grace is also evident in Schön’s poems.

She is a writer who has often been overlooked in Venezuela, but whose work has maintained a consistent philosophical and technical rigor throughout her long career. Eileen Tabios has been gracious enough to offer me space in the second issue of her online magazine Galatea Resurrects for a feature on Elizabeth Schön’s poetry (click here).

In an appreciation of Schön’s poetics by the poet and editor Yolanda Pantin, which I’ve translated for this feature, Pantin compares her work to that of her contemporary, the German-born Venezuelan artist Gego (1912-1994). Pantin highlights how both artists use their medium as a way to link the self with the physical and spiritual world, metaphorically and literally.

Schön studied philosophy at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and this influence is clearly evident in the prose poems and essay I've translated for this feature. As she writes in her 2003 essay “Apparitions”: “Where do we find ourselves? In what poetic place do we dwell? Are we still paused between the hidden and the visible? Do we continue to think about the separation of what is seen or unseen?”

No comments: