Sunday, August 23, 2009

poetry is a metaphor.

Signs of a good weekend: 16 miles on a yellow vintage bike, a long brunch with favorites, strolling in my city, crazy summer storms seen through my window while making risotto for tonight and polenta for tomorrow, finishing the book I started in Barcelona (yes, that was on July 31st)

True to form, in Spain I packed up my fear of being without ample reading material for each spare moment and brought 3 books. It is a bit of a blow to my pride to admit that I didn't finish one of them, but not for lack of trying. The Savage Detectives was a long one and I'm not even sure how to approach writing about this book, as what I really need is a college lit class to unpack it all in the context of post modern Latin American writing.

Roberto Bolano sandwiches the book with journal entries of a boy that tell the story of a three month adventure with the two main characters, poets Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, the founders of the "visceral realist" poetry movement in Mexico. The middle of the book tells their story from almost every possible perspective except their own.

Bolano is quoted in the introduction to the English translation as saying "All of Latin America is sown with the bones of its forgotten youths." I cannot get this quotation out of my mind; that what is most true and most representative of a people is lost in those whose faces deemed not worth knowing, words not worth believing, voices not worth hearing. In The Savage Detectives, these youth are resurrected, but in such a fleeting, poetic manner that the reader is not quite sure how to hold onto or even respond to them.

One of the narrators is an older man, haunted by the poetry of his youth and fascinated by the young poets he finds in front of him. This passage speaks volumes:

Like so many Mexicans, I too, gave up poetry. Like so many thousands of Mexicans, I too turned my back on poetry. Like so many hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, I too, when the moment came, stopped writing and reading poetry. From then on, my life proceeded along the drabbest course you can imagine.

Do we grow up and forget the poetry of our own youth? Is the poetry of the youths most likely forgotten too painful to bear? Too close to our own? Too much of a reminder of what defines actual life?

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