Madrid: Vaso Roto Ediciones. 2022. 75 pages.
Edda Armas (Caracas, 1955) is one of the most representative voices of the generation of Venezuelan poets born in the 1950s. She has published almost twenty titles in the poetry genre since 1975. Her most recent book, Talismanes para la fuga, with an introduction by Amalia Iglesias Serna entitled “Del duende al talismán,” not only reveals a profound deepening of her gaze and speech that has developed over time—it is also a work that transcends the visible in a more resounding way than in previous explorations, with greater dialogue between the visible and the invisible, between memory and the moment.
The book presents readers with a traditional three-part structure of music, drama, and lyrics. There is no symmetry when it comes to the number of poems in each. Herein, I will point out a poem from each part that seems to me representative of what I expound on, despite the fact that the entire book maintains a sustained poetic tension and unity in its aesthetic and ethic. In this case, each section has been labeled “Paraje” [Location]: “Paraje I” (“En colmado espacio de encierro” [In a crowded, confined space]), eighteen poems; “Paraje II” (“Cuadernillo de talismanes imprescindibles” [Booklet of essential talismans]), twelve poems; and “Paraje III” (“Memorias al zarpar” [Memories at setting sail]), five poems.
A location is an isolated, open-air place, according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language. As such, it could be thought that Talismanes para la fuga takes place on three different stages, if we stick to the parenthetical annotations that accompany each part. The structure does not stop dialoguing with the representation of a drama; its possibility of playful representation is an instance to be explored: the self faces a dilemma and sees its resolution through objects it imbues with magical power, including its own words.
Each location has its own ambience. In the first, poetic speech expands, and in the final, it condenses. The poetic word constructs places, both physical and psychological, with intimate depth—they are not simple landscapes. In this way the locus amoenus appears, reinterpreted, both in its idealized diurnal form and in its sinister nocturnal form. Of course, it does not fit the spatial composition established by the Greco-Latin tradition. It responds, without a doubt, to an interior construction that feeds on the location that the poet passes through daily on her walks, and whose testimony has been recorded on her Instagram account.
The first location evokes a time and space of confinement, one linked to the position of a city besieged by totalitarian conditions: there, loss, exile, and ripping apart are expressed. Some indicators also reveal the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to 2020, the national situation already offered suffocating circumstances, lockdowns, and losses, to which were added the impositions brought by the pandemic—I have no doubt that both experiences overlap in the imagination of Venezuelans. The length of this first part is explained if one considers it a statement of the reasons that will justify the escape. In it, personal history intertwined with mythological and symbolic images capture a universe filled with loss. In this part, I would highlight “Menú de sobrevivientes.”
The second location is identified as an internal place of preparation for something imminent. There, the talisman expands as a theme. The philosopher Pierre A. Riffard, who defines the art of the talisman, underscores its beneficial character and its power to repel evil. The talisman is the materialization of a desire or need for protection. Its elaboration responds to the imagination of those who create it, hence its symbolic and diverse meanings. This location is the proper place of talismanic magic, of the knowledge of Paracelsus, of the verbal power of some poets and artists; the various artifacts that the poetic voice builds as its talismans are impregnated with experiences and emotions. On this stage there is room for multiple elements endowed with particular powers; it is also a space-time for death, remembrance, and farewell. One must stop at “Talismán caracol para el adiós,” also an elegy. In these twelve poems, the word is revealed as the major talisman used to make these small elements of protection, all marked by ritual. There is no human act that is not accompanied by a ritual, even in this desecrated age. Thus, this location is that of preparation for setting sail. Always the archetypal image of the ship as an existential metaphor…
Arriving at the third location, “Memorias al zarpar,” we know that the ships are still seaworthy and that the trip is a concrete possibility. This is the shortest location, like the trail left by the escape. The poems, short in their form, are moments of agitated but not anguished breathing, poems of atmosphere, especially the closing poem. Here, I highlight “Los nueve ciegos.” For where is the boat setting sail? Will it return? Is escaping truly a possibility, or simply a wish? For this iteration of preparation, the destination does not seem as important as the talismans that will protect the trip or the desire for it.
Behind all the physical and psychological movement implied by the flight or escape, what these poems reveal is the search for a place, and, therefore, roots and belonging. The first poem clearly indicates this. It is indisputable that the aspiration of the beatus ille marks each poem. “Debe existir un lugar amable / como promesa para la humanidad” [There must be a friendly place / like a promise for humanity]. It is not easy to leave or to stay. But a poem can always be the talisman that protects and embraces in order to “Sobrevivir toda desdicha” [Survive all misfortune].