Thursday, December 10, 2009


Not that I really know anything about meta-poetics, but I've been finding similarities in my reading and translating habits of late that lead me to suspect it might be something I'm interested in thinking more about. For example, the titles of some books I've been reading and translating recently are Armando Roa Vial's El apocalipsis de las palabras [The Apocalypse of Words], La dicha de enmudecer [Joyful Falling Silent - which I'm not totally satisfied with yet, because "dicha" sounds so much like "dicho" from the verb "decir" which means "to say" and that's just lost in it's literal rendering as "joyful"] and Efráin Barquero's El poema en el poema [The Poem in the Poem]. Poems from the first book are titled things like "De la palabra en la palabra" [On the Word in the Word] and "De la palabra recordar" [On the Word Remember].

It's not quite as simple as that, anyway. There's an inter-literary bent to Roa Vial that keeps me spinning - half the book is a response to Browning's Sordello, the other half invokes poets like Joseph Borowski and Victor Holan. It's rather staggering, really, to think about all this poetry talking between all these languages.

And maybe that's the relationship between what I'm thinking might fall under the category of meta (but not in a post-modern sort of way, or maybe in a meta-post-modern sort of way). Maybe the difference is that here the meta is not narrative but poetic. Maybe poetry has always contained the possibility of meta in a less self conscious way than narrative. Language in poetry is more expansive in some ways - the words take on their own shadows and slip outside of the regular usage. In my mind this is what is meant when someone praises a prose writer as being "poetic" - the expansion of the possibility of language.

In these poems the language is expansive and slippery, sonorous and silent. It's conscious but not self-conscious. Intentional without too much intent. That is the meta that fascinates me.

There's also a post in here - but not the post of post-modern. The word post itself attracts's temporal duality at once before and after the word it modifies (as a prefix it literally and semantically comes before the word, but as a referent it signs an afterward). Now that I'm thinking of the word, I notice the orange button at the bottom of the screen telling me to "publish post" which is another interesting usage of the word. I'll have to come back to post.

It just seems like language becomes slippery in these works - a slipping that invites you to consider that none of this language means anything without all other possible language and as readers limited by mortality and capacity we are unable to access those possibilities. At the same time, poets, translators, writers of these words are equally isolated from the expansive potential of their words, which puts language into a very threatening role. It can mock you, disparage you, cheat you, betray you just as easily as it can open up for you the spaces between meaning.

But really, I should be researching and not reflecting on my strange and randomly consistent reading habits.

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