segunda-feira, abril 27, 2009

The Unthinkable Tenderness of Juan Gelman

The Unthinkable Tenderness of Juan Gelman
Written by Reeling / Tito Genova Valiente /
Monday, 27 April 2009 23:30

HE lost his 20-year-old son Marcelo and a pregnant daughter-in-law, Maria Claudia, during the harsh dictatorship in Argentina. These two became part of the desaparecidos, the “disappeared ones.” His granddaughter, born before the disappearance and death of Maria Claudia, was brought to Uruguay and adopted by a progovernment family. He would look for them even as they, like many others, disappeared without a trace. He would find his granddaughter some 23 years later.

Through these years, he would become a writer of significance. Even the country—Argentina—where his metaphors for pain and politics found their wellspring could not deny him the grandest place in the pantheon of literary greats. Argentina would award him the top literary award. In 2007 the poet would receive the Premio Cervantez, the highest literary prize in the Spanish-speaking world. For Gelman, however, that pantheon where he has an august place would not be about living honor but also about death. Fortunately for us, Gelman would share with us the hurt and the healing (this we wish upon him) through poems that have been described as eloquent and haunting.
The evening of April 23 saw Juan Gelman being welcomed at the Instituto Cervantes. In the Salon de los Actos of the institute, Gelman would read in quick succession many poems. His sonorous voice did not seem to belong to one who was a witness to brutality and violence and came out of the darkness proud of the wounds because he could write about them.
Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, summed up the importance of Gelman by reminding us how we have always been overdependent on English literature, forgetting about the wealth of words from Latin America. Lumbera, himself a poet of the political and the magnificent Everyday, described Gelman as “the sovereign light to our darkness.”
Some of the poems read that night came from his collection of poetry bearing the title of Unthinkable Tenderness. Like Lumbera’s comments, critics who introduced the collection routinely underscored how many people in the English-speaking worlds do not know much about him and his works. We, too, did not know much about him and his works until he started reading them that night. There was no oratory in his reading, no dramatization. Perhaps, that was the best thing one can do with his poetry. His poems were enough. They were angry poems, lonely poems. The lines were tears of the soul and the rhythm conversational and colloquial. The narratives when we caught them were folktales and memories of a man whose power over the losses around him was in his ability to arrange them by word and lines.
One poem elicited laughter: “Sobre La Poesia” (“Regarding Poetry”). Gelman in his poem denigrated, tongue-in-cheek, how very few people read poetry and also talked about his Tio Juan, who died of hunger. There was no money for the coffin and when the truck from the municipio came to fetch the corpse, Tio Juan became like a pajarito, a small bird. The poet says, however, “Tio Juan era asi/le gustaba cantar/y no vela por que lo muerte era motivo no cantar [Tio Juan is really like that/he loves to sing/and he does not understand how death could be a reason for one to stop singing].” At the end, the poet goes back to his poetry and declares that it is good to know that it is alright to sing/squeak in unusual times. The dead man did this and the poet is doing it as well so that he will be loved.
For someone whose poetry has become a symbol of resistance against dictatorship and other forms of oppression, Gelman sometimes points to a world—cynical and utilitarian—where literature has lost its value. Again from his Unthinkable Tenderness, there is one poem called “Confianzas,” or “Confidences.” Once more, he describes a poet: he sits down at the table and writes/“with this poem you won’t take power” he says/“with these verses you won’t make the Revolution” he says/“nor with thousands of verses will you make the Revolution” he says. For Gelman, the poem would not “keep him dry in the rain/nor get him grace or forgiveness.”
Born to Ukrainian parents and with Jewish roots, Juan Gelman’s universe is also about diaspora as it is about disappearances. In the opening program, he read a poem, “Oracion de Un Descupado,” which was translated by Lumbera into “Orasyon ng Isang Nasesante sa Trabaho.” Lumbera opted to keep the word oracion even if the word could be translated into “prayer,” or panalangin. In Filipino folk culture, panalangin, or prayer, always has this quiet, receptive quality; orasyon takes on the magical, the nearly occult, powerful subversion of faith.
Juan Gelman opened the International Book Day, or Dia Internacional del Libro, at Instituto Cervantes. The three-day activity was brought over to the Philippines in 2006. Jose “Pepe” Rodriquez, the director of the institute, continues the event by working around activities that are populist and popular. Already, the institute initiated a radical introduction of poetry through “Berso sa Metro,” in which lines from famous Spanish poets, along with Filipinos who wrote in Spanish, are laid out on the wall of the trains of LRT1, LRT2 and MRT. Gelman himself is there in the trains with his poem. For this year, the Dia Internacional del Libro included music, dance, film and discussion about publishing and other contemporary concerns.
The session of Juan Gelman was called “Escribiendo cartas al silencio,” or “Writing Letters to Silence”. In Pilipino: “Ang Pagsusulat sa Katahimikan.” It cannot be denied that Gelman is able to capture silences, and discover the voices of those who cannot be seen any longer, or dance anymore. The lesson in all this is that if Philippine-Spanish relations are to blossom, it will find its fertile soil in the arts and respective languages of the countries. We look more to Instituto Cervantes, in cooperation with cultural workers of this country, to work in those areas of cultures where beauty of thoughts mingles as naturally with the not-so-pleasant pasts and realities that we somehow do not ordinarily celebrate.

FONTE (foto incluída): Business Mirror - Philippines

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