El arte de singar. Pedro Antonio Valdez. Santo Domingo: Ediciones Hojarasca, 2015.
The Dominican writer Pedro Antonio Valdez, author of novels such as Bachata del ángel caído, El carnaval de Sodoma, La salamandra, and of a collection of stories titled Última flor del naufragio, has written a book of porno-erotic poems that celebrates fucking and describes it poetically as an encounter of two eager and desiring bodies. From the book’s cover, the daring title El arte de singar boasts a condom branded “Shield/Profamilia,” which somewhat contradicts the anxiety of these poems that are not written for procreation but to enjoy and give and receive pleasure. But it maintains the theme of “safe sex” because upon using the condom the couple controls any exchange of fluids, although we know that condoms are only effective 97% of the time, according to the box. An extraliterary detail is that “Profamilia” is a Dominican NGO in opposition to traditional family values, in favor of alternative forms of reproductive control, and which embodies the opposite of the Judeo-Christian spirit that poses sex as a form of reproduction and not one of mere pleasure.
The book of poems is dedicated in English, “Poems to Samantha Ritz”, and there is no further reference to this name throughout the green hardcover book, with stiff paper decorated with ivy-like leaves, also green, to affirm the naturalness of this sexual and romantic encounter between two bodies, as masculine as they are feminine. This detail of the book as an object is evidenced in a natural language, as lyrical as it is coarse in speaking of sexual and romantic encounters, as we will see later. Curiously, the voice censors itself when it has used grandiose language and returns to the lyricism of expressing the fusion of two bodies beyond the flesh.
In 47 pages and 35 brief poems, the macho lyrical voice portrays a diction and a flesh that saturates us with its haste towards the female: “Un pozo tubular,/ una piedra amarrada al extremo de un palo./ Esa suma logramos ser/ cuando estamos solos/ y el sol es una mancha/ que se borra en polvo de carbón/ o se resume en cada pieza sólida/ que te recorre y amuebla tu alma”[A tubular well,/a stone tied to the end of a stick./ That sum we achieve/ when we are alone/and the son is a spot/ that is erased in carbon dust/ or disolves into each solid piece/ that that runs through you and furneshes your soul] (“Singar contigo”). The encounters advance and become more intense: “Singar es la forma pura/ de estar juntos./ Aplastar la lejanía,/ transfigurarla en sal/ río abajo bajo el fuego./ Singar es dar tijera al siglo,/ reducir la distancia al grado 0” [Fucking is the pure form/ of being together./ To crush the distance, / to transfigure it into salt/ downstream under fire./ Fucking is to cut the century to shreds,/ reduce the distance to the 0 degree] (“Grado 0”). The bodies calm down after making love and the speaker reflects using the agricultural metaphor of sowing: “Lo bello es sembrarte/ mientras rozas con tus plantas/ el paso de pluma de las nubes,/ es que brotan de ti/ rosas de leche,/ frutas de leche,/ pasto de leche…/ lácteas serpentinas en mi tallo/ que se aferra a las raíces/ regadas por tu vientre” [The beautiful thing is to be sown / while you graze your plants / the passage of a feather of clouds, / is that they sprout from you / roses of cum / fruits of cum / pasture of cum … / serpentine cum on my stem / that clings to the roots / watered by your belly] (“Sembrarte”). Despite the direct allusion to penetration (penetrate/sow), the voice turns for a few moments to a more lyrical language traditional of the rhetoric of conversational Hispanic American antipoetry, as in other moments, in the long tradition of Nicanor Parra, Ernesto Cardenal, Roque Dalton, or José Emilio Pacheco, among many others.
Love also becomes a protagonist of the poems beyond sex and obsesses the lyrical speaker: “El amor/ estuvo sin hacerse/ desde la chispa/ que lanzó de un tiro la existencia. /Se deslizó en las caricias/ de pésimos amantes, / justificando su búsqueda/ entre gritos/ y sudores inservibles” [Love / was not done / from the spark / who shot existence in a single throw. / / It slid in the caresses / of terrible lovers, / justifying their search / amid screams / and useless sweating] (“Haciendo el amor”). The most interesting thing in this pendulous sex/love movement is that one leads to another and the voice of Pedro Antonio Valdez reminds us “esa forma de venirte/ evaporada/ de la niebla// esa burla alquímica/ de mezclar leches humanas/ y convertir mi odio en amor,/ mi piedra en pan, mi sol en agua” [that way of coming / evaporated / from the fog / that alchemical mocking / of mixing human cum / and converting my hate into love, / my stone into bread, my sun into water] (“Carne de corazón”). This is a prelude to the deepest sentiment that this poetry communicates: “Singar con amor tiene su cuchillo./ Siempre se juega al reloj/ de esta materia:// el semen se transparenta en lágrimas,/ la piel corteza de una/ oruga quemada hace mil/ hojas,/ duele el jadeo porque es rasgar/ las cuerdas de una cítara/ en su cartucho de lava” [Fucking with love has its knife. / The clock is always played / of this material: // semen shows itself in tears, / the skin crust of a / / burnt caterpillar makes a thousand, / leaves,/ panting hurts because it is to tear / the strings of a zither / in its cartridge of lava] (“Sexo triste”). There is a personal nostalgia for the achievement of deep love that the voice enunciates in the same poem: “En el sexo sin amor habita un mérito” [In Loveless Sex a Merit Resides] that of not falling in love and giving ourselves over to pleasure and nothing more. Or as he concludes in “Tu amor” [Your Love] toward the end of the book of poems: “Si quilibrara tu vagina/ en la punta de mi lengua/ donde estalla la/ galaxia en desorden de/ saliva,/ y me faltara tu amor,/ no tendría nada.// Yo podría hablarte/ todas las palabras de la carne,/ regar con las historias más sucias/ el pabellón de tu oreja,/ pero si me faltara tu amor,/ no tuviera nada” [If you balance your vagina / on the tip of my tongue / where the/ galaxy breaks out in disorder of / saliva,/ and I lacked your love, / I wouldn’t have anything.// I could speak to you / all the words of the flesh, / spraying with the dirtiest stories / the pavilion of your ear, / but if I lacked your love, / I wouldn’t have anything]. This comes close to an experimentation on the neo-Baroque phrase that rewrites and recontextualizes the famous passage of the Corinthians of Paul the Apostle in its reflection regarding the lack of charity or of love. Irony and parody refer to Severo Sarduy and his homoerotic book of poems Un testigo fugaz y disfrazado [A Masked and Fleeting Witness] (1985) or one of Salvador Novo’s erotic poems.
“Tronco negro” [Black Trunk] is a good example of a language that relates to nature in order to establish the naturality of the romantic and sexual encounter: “El tronco al que te abres/ para enterrarlo en ti/ y enchufe su relámpago en tu masa,/ regado en la cartografía/ de un beso negro,/ el tallo con su perfil/ de cosa enorme,/ de estrellas con puntas que no cabe,/el tronco que sufre si se trasplanta,/ que en el culo se te ordeña/ si la muerte/ lo derriba en su fanfarria” [The trunk to which you open / to bury it in you / and plugs its lightning into your mass, / sprayed in the cartography / of a black kiss, / the stem with its profile / of a huge thing, / of stars with points that do not fit, / the trunk that suffers if it is transplanted, / that is milked in your ass is / if death / fells it in its fanfare]. This tree trunk to which the “you” in the poems opens prefigures the penis that enters through the body’s various orifices and the moment is the electricity of a lightning bolt that touches the substance of that body. The stars with points that don’t fit are mentioned in this penetration toward anal sex that brings the subject to the little death of orgasm through a language that is detained in elements of nature to communicate the beauty of copulation.
The conclusion of this erotic adventure in poetry makes Pedro Antonio Valdez’s El arte de singar a refreshing book of poetry that celebrates the constants in love and sex between couples, balancing on the loose tightrope between pleasure and compromise. As “La nada que te queda” [The Nothingness that Remains for You] the poem that closes the book, says: “He aquí…/ Ave Fénix, macho y Pedro,/ con el corazón más grande/ que todas las piedras reunidas” [Behold … / Phoenix Bird, male and Peter, / with the heart larger / than all the stones gathered]. Love triumphs over desire in the balance of these poems and confirms that an internationally recognized storyteller and novelist like Pedro Antonio Valdez can also be a poet and hand down to us a word that is written in the flesh of the loved.
Poetry collections such as these bring us closer to contemporary Dominican literature, a literature that is perhaps less known beyond our one and only Caribbean. Authors like Pedro Antonio Valdez (Premio Nacional 1998) and Ángela Hernández Núñez (Premio Nacional de Literatura 2016) are good examples of the new installments that this literature has given to the corpus of new Latin American contemporary literature.
Translated by Adrian Demopulos