Su Señoría. Santiago Espel. Buenos Aires: La carta de Oliver. 2020.
I reckon this book to be an ars poetica-artifact that encompasses the three protagonists of poetry: the author, the text, and the reading. It is divided into three parts respectively entitled “Dodecahedron,” “Marginalia,” and “Post scriptum,” presumably as an allusion to the mythical number of perfection or the divine.
Su Señoría, by Santiago Espel, belongs to a mental avant-garde, a sort of Duchamp’s “Urinal,” a literary and playful artifact that exposes (so to speak), transmits, installs an ars poetica that shows the reader the work of an author by means of a serious and humorous creation.
In the first part, twelve poems with identical text but different titles, interrogate the process of poetic creation in four steps, divided by warnings highlighted in italics. The second part proposes a very free text in relation to the title of each poem, something like indications in the margin, fragmented and anarchic, which, nevertheless, contribute or suggest meaning. The third is a varied and exhaustive interrogation, in the form of an essay, on the diversity of potential readings and readers.
In “Dodecahedron,” like a prism with twelve equal yet different sides, the process of creation is repeated twelve times (it is cyclical but not identical, like the hours of the day or the months of the year), because the repetition differs with the variation of the different titles. The process is the same and has, as I have already noted, four steps necessary to arrive at the poem, contained in each of the four stanzas.
First step. It lets the reader know that the most sensitive and, at the same time, painful part is the beginning of the process of creation as it needs “Impulse” and “verb,” but also poison, “hemlock,” a discomfort, a non-conformity, something that hurts the most sensitive part, “the nerve.”
Second step. It requires warning or, rather, knowledge and caution. Pay no attention to flattery, beware of “praises” that are repeated and are “ashes.”
Third step. The “imprisoned,” “knotted,” mute, and impotent tongue searches deeply, rummages in the deep and firm, in the “bone”: it tries its luck by pulling the “swarm” of words, tangled threads that must be untangled, chosen and discarded.
Fourth step. The day is over (the sought-after light is not enough), it gets dark, there is no clarity, there is no sense; but in that dark penumbra the imponderable opens up, “the prophecy,” which finally turns that first “impulse” into a poem, which others call inspiration. What ceases to be language, to be illumination, but illumination sought, provoked, strengthened in the previous work with words, in the knowledge of the craft, in readings, in those tools forged by the poets of all times.
The “Dodecahedron” proposes or, better yet, describes a path of effort and risks to reach the poem. It also helps by pointing out certainties, interspersed between the stanzas and highlighted in italics.
First certainty. From the first step, from its being on the prowl, the desire and the decision are born: “the hunger.”
Second certainty. Complacency does not help; on the contrary, it takes away or satiates “the hunger,” the desire, the creative force of “the sowing,” of the work of searching, clearing, and preparing the fertile soil to plant the poetic word.
Third certainty. “The flesh,” the living, carnal matter that installs a poem in the world, is always like a leap year; it has one more day, one more something that is rarely reached (every four years, in his metaphor). And that happens when the author abandons himself to the shadows of intuition, when there was already experience and everything was ready; then “the lips of prophecy” open and the poem is born. A nocturnal child of prophecy and sowing, conceived by impulse and verb, it manages to become flesh and bring life to the world.
We could label this book (with the risks that come with any labeling) as post-avant-garde. The title of the last poem, “Res non verba,” summarizes all the effort of creation, alluded to in the different titles: “the gesticulation,” “the purge,” “the hypnosis,” among others, but it also warns that “laughter can end in tears” and finally in “the obsequies of civilization.”
At the end, “Res non verba” brings Latin, the mother of many languages, as a cipher and key to the word, to poetry and to “its never fulfilled sentence,” always unfinished. Because the poem, the unceasing search, expires at the very moment of its illumination, “the wick is extinguished before it is lit.” Poetry is sought, but not fully achieved, and that is its nature: the certificate of eternity of the aesthetic fact, put into action by the poet and each reader.
This is my review of an experiment that works. According to the proposal of the book itself, there are many other possible readings, depending on the readers that this original and motivating artifact has and will have.
Translated by Maikel Ramírez