Pérez on Vallejo

Pérez on Vallejo. Notes on Rolando Pérez, “Vallejo on Language and Politics,” Letras Hispanas 5:2 (2008). http://letrashispanas.unlv.edu/vol5iss2/perez.htm

Epigraph from A. Ferrari: “CV is a revolution in Spanish language poetry.”

– V is a revolution in language, a revolution in literary and poetic terms, a revolutionary writer with respect to his Marxian politics, and he was equally loyal to both his poetic and political projects.

– He is “neo-Baroque” – see the disjunctive binary oppositions of surface (e.g. linguistic non-sense) and depth (the political vision), which are kept unresolved so as to keep interacting with and transforming each other (that is dialectics).

– This is achieved through an understanding of the soul/body of literature/politics which simultaneously embraces the immanent and the transcendental dimension of man. The revolution is as much a struggle for language as it is for economic justice (Communist society/Kingdom of God) – a theoretical and practical endeavor.

– On the relation of HN to T: HN has more T-like characteristics than is commonly said. And it anticipates a relation to language that will remain constant throughout his works. And it has a politics (see the poems on the indigenous peoples and the poor). “It is not so much ‘God’ whom V rediscovers in E, but rather the inherent socialist ethics and principles of Christianity that are already longed for in HN’s “La cena miserable.”

– For V freedom from the strictures of grammaticality is a form of liberation and has a connection with social liberation. He noted in the mid 1930s that grammar and politics often re-enforce each other. See his brief piece “Grammatical Rule” – each poet creates his own grammar (while still keeping to a common language).

– In T, V sacrifices social communication to existential and artistic freedom. But he says in Regla gramatical that this linguistic freedom does not make poetry more individualistic, but more universal (because it democratizes language; remember that he does not believe in inventing whole new languages or private languages, but does believe in inventing new modes of expression). And this is in part an anti-colonial rebellion against Castilian.

– By going so far in T, V comes to a semantic and social dead end. But there were inklings of a materialist poetics in HN, and T’s poetics are materialistically imminent. Now V has dismantled language and arrived at a degree zero of writing, and the next step is to escape pure language and pure materiality. He joins his materialist poetics with Marxian scientific thought. Thus he reconciles the synchronic with the diachronic, the syntactical with the historical, while having the body serve as the axis of both.

– V sees poems as bodies: “A poem is a much more organic living entity than an organic being in nature. An animal can have a limb amputated and continue living … but if a poem has a line amputated, a letter, a word, a punctuation mark, it dies.” (1978: 69).

– Therefore the discussion of the body in so many T poems is also a discussion of the poem.  Poems reduce abstract ideas to the body (cf. “Pienso en tu sexo.”) Thence all the emphasis on birth and death. Roberto Paoli:  “V’s poetry communicates emotionally, almost physically, through a language that shakes and upsets and chilles, the friction or bumping against the hostile and harsh material world, the solidary contact among people, the communion of our peniuries, of our painful material, which is not only  a soothing agent but a concrete perspective of overcoming and of liberation.” (1981:52) See “El momento en que el tenista,” where the belief in the soul is an effect of bodily experience / a bodily organ.

– T and PP to PH: shift from Darwinian thought to Marxian. In Against the Professional Secret Vallejo writes: “Who makes more money! Who dances more! Record of fasting, of singing, of laughter, of marriages, of divorces, of assassinatios, etc. This is the capitalist criterion of all progress. The spirit of the “match” and of the “record” comes to us from Taylorism, from sports, and logically, offers the same vices and contradictions of the capitalist system of competition in general. Nobody does anything any longer without looking at their rival.”

– So a genteel competition between tennis players becomes a fight to the death. But in V, the other is not a rival but one’s own mirror image. And that is a politics.

– From the state of being orphaned to fraternity: that is the trajectory from T to E.

– E: Christian/Marxian fraternity, the book, the word made flesh; the volunteer s for the Spanish Republic are “volunteers for / on the side of life.”

– T moves cinematically; Vallejo says technique is everything. As Orrego said, Vallejo’s style and technique are part of his compromise with humanity. The particularity of individual speech is not unconnected to universal thought. And T is thus not just a “windowless, monadic work” but a text with a dialectical connection to a life-world. Yet it is in E that he really creates a dialectical relationship between the world and the self; this happens through the body.

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