El cuerpo del silencio. María Agustina Pardini. Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires Poetry, 2020. 58 pages.
El cuerpo del silencio [The body of silence] is the first book by Argentine poet and translator María Agustina Pardini (Buenos Aires, 1989). Her publication joins the list of works that were printed in the year of the pandemic (which now not only covers 2020 but also goes into 2021). This book, like many others, will take its place in the personal bibliographic records and inventories to come; it will mark a dividing line, a before and after of the terrifying virus.
María Agustina is a graduate of the School of Scientific & Literary English Translation at the Universidad del Salvador (Buenos Aires). Motivated by her work as a translator and her readings in the English language, the examples the poet works with in El cuerpo del silencio take on the English of diverse authors, eras, and regions: T. S Eliot, R. K. Narayan, William Blake, and Allen Ginsberg.
Without sections or partitions, El cuerpo del silencio consists of 22 poems. Examining the index, readers will come to appreciate the character and theme of the book from the beginning. That is, they will notice an ambiance that avoids the day-to-day, that only skirts around it. While it is true that the author mentions concrete spaces, what prevails is the use of images that evoke abstract, undefined places. Every line seeks its own forcefulness. On occasions, this practice productively reaches its objective (María Agustina beautifully says, “Tu distancia está en mi altura” [Your distance is in my height], as a loving maxim). She also surprises us with lucid beginnings (“Hubo un tiempo de pensamientos ordenados/ sin espacios entre mi cabeza y el cielo” [There was a time of ordered thoughts/ without space between my head and the sky]). Nevertheless, in other moments of her writing, that same desire is weakened or loses weight (“El sol llegó como un ave/ al acecho de su presa” [The sun arrived like a bird/ in wait for its prey]).
A narrative interest pushes the first poems of this grouping forward. It made me think of a story drawn up in verses or lines where intimate actions set out by the author appear. El cuerpo del silencio partially pulls me toward a few narrative atmospheres. In the first poem, “Velo (Sudario para un alma)” [Veil (Shroud for a soul)], a locked-up angel appears. This captive angel, in captivity by the coast, sets a tone that the poet will continue in other texts. This is a book of escapes. The poems seem to take discernible paths, perhaps seeking to reaffirm themselves before each other and the other poems of the book. The author’s effort is noticeable in adhering the poems to, and directing them towards, the ideal of thematic unity. But it does not always turn out like this; what appears to be rope, in some moments, turns out to be scissors.
The movements of El cuerpo del silencio go in four directions: the body itself and its organicness, the surrounding space (what occurs on Earth), outer space (the stars and their archetypes), and the psychological and emotional interior. These four directions (or perhaps seasons) come together or coincide in the poem “Al borde de la finitud” [On the brink of finiteness]. A revealing epigraph by Blake opens this world created by Pardini. In the third stanza, the longest of all, this coincidence appears: “El mundo interior replegado/ hacia el orden del inconsciente/ disocia el cuerpo de la luz/ se acostumbra a la forma…” [The interior world withdrawn/ to the order of the subconscious/ dissociates the body from the light/ gets used to the form…]. The poem with the most attributes, the most tranquil and refined, the way I see it, is the one titled “Oliden,” which appeals in its “Machado-like” simplicity, its musical choices (the Argentine manner of speech), and the descriptions of a natural wilderness that come to us by way of the interaction of the senses. It is the interaction of the poetic voice and, we presume, the loving voice, together with the sensations that same vegetal force summons.
I see great strength in some of María Agunstina Pardini’s poems. When she assumes risk and indignation with clarity and repose (writing after the emotion, evoking its memory), she transforms pain into power and reaches the solid state of the image: “Veo a las mujeres de mi generación de la mano./ Forman una barrera protectora que camina junto al grito” [I see the women of my generation hand in hand./ They form a protective barrier that walks beside the outcry].
Translated by Jared Peterson