jueves, 9 de abril de 2015

Flesh, Meat and Beef; Daniel Rojas Pachas Poetry

Flesh, Meat and Beef; Daniel Rojas Pachas Poetry

Translated by  Arturo Ruiz Ortega

Why this poet?

I met him three or four years ago. That is a short time of friendship for poets of my generation. We all met each other decades before, during high school or college. We normally met in poetry meetings organized somewhere out of Santiago in the summer. In meetings like those I met poets like Andrés Andwanter, Yoyi Koda or Elicura Chihuailaf. I think that the main reason for not meeting him before, was that I was not a poet anymore, at least not publicly. Like many others, I abandoned the public exercise of poetry for something with more social recognition. In my case that was the scriptwriting. In some other cases it was a high school classroom or legal practice. At the time I met Daniel, I already had a career as scriptwriter and I was about to publish my first book: a novel. My past as a poet was almost forgotten and I was happy about that. Poetry became a strange institution that had no link with the rest of the community, not even with scholars. They took different Chilean associations of writers and they turned them into a feud of mediocre poets who decided who would win the next poetry contest. It was common that the president of the jury of a contest became the winner of the next one. The circle of poets became an iron circle and I was out of it.
 A while before meeting Daniel I publicly declared that I dismissed poetry and especially Chilean poets. That was in the nineties and then I found a much more fair environment in the audiovisual industry. My poetry went into the closet until the Internet. 
In spite of my self-exile from the poetic world, I had plenty of closeted poems and I had no idea about what to do with them. People began to publish blogs, but I was reluctant. Everybody was then a poet and I was afraid of remaining lost among the amateurs. Finally I decided to go on line. My personal goals were in script writing and in prose in general; I realized that in poetry I became an amateur like everybody else. There was no way to get money from my poems and a website was a good way to be there, even if ‘there’ meant just the web. In the profile section of my blog, I put my resume as writer and scriptwriter and I went online as a poet.
Daniel Rojas was one of the first poets who understood the importance of the Internet. He created Cinosargo, an electronic journal, while I created a virtual community called The Letters of Evil. We found each other online. I do not remember who found whom first. I liked Daniel’s poetry and he liked my work. We asked each other for pieces for our respective websites and we published on each other’s site. However, his site turned to be much more interesting than mine –partly because my site was a Ning community and Ning began to charge for a service that was for free before; that meant the declining of that platform –Ning was a social network like Facebook. I became a collaborator of his Cinosargo just for fun; I didn’t know the importance of his project.
His name began to come back to me from other people. I realized that he was a professor at Universidad de Tarapacá and that his project was not like the anarchist initiative of mine, but that his magazine began to be printed! When we met I did not know anything about him being part of the establishment and having published books of poetry, awards and recognition. He could perfectly use his professor status to impress me, but he remained just another writer. Soon he became also a publisher and now he is publishing books of poetry from young authors from the north of Chile. When I asked him if I could use his poetry for this workshop, he immediately said yes, but he also presented me with some books of his fellow poets and disciples to look over.
Nevertheless, I was already interested in translating his work. I feel his work has something to do with my own writing, even though our poems seem very different at the first sight: while my poetry is formal and it mostly has the décima structure that is traditional to the Chilean poetry, his poetry is strictly free verse and sometimes even in prose; my own poetry renounced metaphors and the poetic images, and his is plenty of images. I am conversational and narrative; he is obscure and declamatory. However, I thought and I still think that we have so much in common.
Though Daniel is a college professor, he still remains underground like most of our generation. The references he uses the most in his work are from American movies, XXX films or Chilean pop culture –our pop culture is greatly influenced by American pop culture.
            His poetry is not pretty and his images are frequently obscene. They hold no respect for the sacred or for the profane and there is a Ginsberg aroma to his work. His poetry do not represent an ontology or an epistemology.
As he told me, “I began to write poetry as a teenager, and it was mostly because of rage.” Daniel plays with the symbols and forms to reflect the culture and the society. Sentimental Education 1 is a poem in prose that simulates the testimony of the killer of a woman. The speaker is not very intelligent, but his description is accurate.
Then I stood up and kicked her to finish the killing. I put my shoe on her throat and leaned all my weight. When she stopped moving I felt I was coming again. At the end my knees were trembling and I was afraid of fainting.
In Chile there is a newspaper called La Cuarta. This newspaper mixes crimes and national show business news. It has a great circulation among the low classes and it is the bestseller newspaper. I only read that newspaper when I was a comedy scriptwriter and it was a sad duty. I needed to know what was happening in show business to mix some anecdotes from that world with the anecdotes of politics –the effect was hilarious. La Cuarta is tasteless and completely dispensable, however, all the stories in the paper are true. Most of the crimes are the same: a drunken man that comes home and kills his wife, or rapes his daughter. Sometimes the man doesn’t even remember what happened. Sentimental Education 1 reflects perfectly that reality.
Daniel’s voice is urban, social and conscious about the people who surround him. I could translate many poets that are already famous and had become sacred cows. I am thinking in Nicanor Parra, or Raúl Zurita. I could even trespass the limits of my own borders and go to Mario Benedetti, the Uruguayan poet that is my favorite of all times, or take the politically committed poetry of the Salvadorian Roque Dalton that also represents me. But I was interested in my own generation: the generation that was mostly voiceless. All those big names that I mentioned are recognizable by most of the educated people of Chile. My generation is underground. Even Daniel is known only in the inner circle of poetry lovers. Liberal politicians often quote Roque Dalton, Benedetti is almost a god, and so is the nearly centenary Nicanor Parra. All of them were already consecrated when they were my age. What happened to us? Was poetry dead for my country?

Daniel’s Surroundings

Daniel Rojas Pachas was born in 1983 in Lima, Peru. His father is Chilean. He lived most of his childhood in his homeland, therefore his knowledge about the Chilean dictatorship was through his father. However, in Peru he had to confront the terrorism of Sendero Luminoso. He was exposed too early to political violence and he shares that mark with Chileans.
Maybe there is not a relation as complex between two nations as the one between Chile and Peru. In 1879 Chile went to war against Peru and Bolivia. Chile expanded its border to the north, gaining Peruvian and Bolivian territories. Peruvians never forgave Chileans for the plundering of Lima and the occupation government of the Chilean Patricio Lynch. Chileans have already forgotten that war, even though we have a holy day to remember one of its battles in May
This is a delicate matter and is not an easy subject to talk about with Daniel. It is like making him choose between his father and his mother. However, after Ollanta Humala –the new Peruvian president who used to have a harsh anti-Chilean discourse during his campaign– won the election, I asked Daniel what would he do in the case of a new war.
“I should destroy myself in a supreme act of loyalty,” was his answer. Humala fortunately forgot about Chile after he won the presidency.
The hard reality is that Chilean and Peruvian economies are now completely interconnected. Many Peruvian immigrants had found new lives in Chile and Chilean businesses have enormous investments in Peru. I was in Peru long time ago, and just that once. Nevertheless, judging by the flux of migrating people, post dictatorial Chile seems to be a better place to live, even for a poet. Daniel chose Chile for living. That makes him a full Chilean poet of the generation X, my generation. I share that honor, but I don’t know if I like it.
In Chile, most of the poets of the establishment are already dead or they are at least past sixty years old. The Dictatorship created a gap between two generations and those generations just cannot find a common ground. Daniel’s work reflects this gap by using pop culture images and including the American icons that make the old guys vomit. America used to be the bad guy; the CIA was the main conspirator against Allende, together with the Chilean rich oligarchy. How could a poet dare to use such images and even to use English language as the tittle for a poem in Spanish? In the old school, a poet had to be protesting against the influence of the empire and praising the authentic Chilean and Latin American identity. Daniel is not a right winged poet. However, he is not a dogmatic Marxist. For us America is not the bad guy anymore. The bad guys have to be found inside the country, among those who are now the owners of the whole country.
Daniel’s poetry is part of an aesthetic rebellion:
I began to write poetry when I was a teenager and essentially because of rage. In this first stage, that hate against everything and everybody existed because I was not able to understand my surrounding. I don’t want to sound as the cliché of the un-understood artist. It was exactly the opposite. I was too simple to understand the masks that surrounded me.
            As his work demonstrates, he was very inspired by pop culture; Like Tears in The Rain (the title is in English in the original) is inspired by the movies Blade Runner and ET:
Two of the most beautiful moments:
seeing my older brother
trying to mix the sound of a Blade Runner VHS
with the Original Sound Track of Vangelis
0n tape.
and years after…
taking my daughter out to ask for candy on Halloween,
costumed as ET with a sweater and a grey hood,
and carrying, through the alleys
in her tiny hands,
the plush Spielberg’s creature,
that my old man bought for me at Universal Studios,
when I was just a little shit
This embrace of pop culture and especially American pop culture was the first dissonance he had with the Peruvian and Chilean establishment. In Daniel’s words, “I felt denied because I had different and extravagant musical tastes, a passion for comics and other things that they considered childish.” This judgment was not only aesthetic but it was also political. Being on the left is normally considered as being the opposite of conservative. However, people of the left can be conservative in their own way. In Chile and in Latin America in general, there were certain themes that were considered revolutionary and accepted by a poetry establishment that was mostly –if not entirely –composed by people of the left.
            It was ok to write about tortured people, about the natives of the south or the north, about the dead people of the dictatorship and about how bad the Americans are. “It came flying[1]” is an old, but still popular song by Patricio Manns (born 1937): “The raven came flying over my soil/ To plant ruin and grief/ During the long centuries the yanaconas[2]/ Gave him the keys to the crown…” The raven is a symbol for the Spaniards first and for the Americans later. Another and a little younger poet (born 1953), Mauricio Redolés wrote, “A little old woman under a bridge/ was plucking chickens with boiling water;/ and she plucked them with stoicism/ because she waited for socialism.[3]” Themes like those are perfectly canonical in the Latin American scene. Redolés’ poem also quotes a children’s traditional rhyme and gives it another meaning. In that way his poetry accomplishes what the canon understands as revolutionary and affirmative of Chilean or at least Latin American identity. One of the most important living Chilean poets is Raúl Zurita. His poetry already is less political and its images have more classic reminiscences, “i. The deserts of Atacama are blue. / ii. The deserts of Atacama are not blue. Ok, ok, tell me what ever you want./ iii. The deserts of Atacama are not blue because/ The spirit of Jesus Christ didn’t fly there. He was a lost soul.” His poetry is metaphysical and it could be included in a more academic tradition. However, he was a militant communist, and like many poets of his generation (born 1950), he was exiled by Pinochet. He was here in Washington DC for the last AWP conference and he is maybe the poet with the largest international recognition of Chile. His poetry have been translated into English, German, Swedish, Bengali, Chinese, Italian and Russian and now he is the canonical poet of Chile. Even though his poetry is not political anymore, his background in exile gives him the heroic aura of his generation. Zurita is now in the position of defining what the canon is. However, he still is the voice of other generation and even unwillingly, he imposes his esthetics to younger generations as Daniel’s and mine.
Daniel’s themes are not very typical and they seem controversial. His constant references to American movies and even his use of some sentences and titles in English was somehow intolerable. However Daniel was not alone in his revolution against the old “revolutionary” establishment.
            A few years before the Internet, Chile saw an explosion of alternative art. It was just the end of Pinochet’s government and the beginning of the new democracy. In those years –I was twenty and Daniel was ten- one of the most interesting products was precisely comic. The most important magazine of that movement was Trauko Comics. Its circulation was restricted to the metropolitan area and it was rather expensive for a comic magazine. Trauko was the first censored media during democracy. One of the artists dared to draw Virgin Mary’s labour for Christmas and the representation was too realist for the taste of the democratic (Christian Democrat) administration. Trauko became very popular, however its price was too high to become a mass distribution magazine. The publisher tried to sell space for advertisement on the magazine, but nobody wanted to advertise there. The right winged businesses considered the magazine immoral and also did the “conservative left”, even though for different reasons. For them, Trauko and some other comic magazines like Matucana or Ácido were just counterrevolutionary magazines that were disconnected with the authentic values of the People of Chile. They could not understand that this pop culture was the new face of a new revolution.
            With his books and his magazine in electronic and printed format, Daniel is opening a new space for new reflections and new ways of revolutionary thinking and praxis. In the recent marches against the government, students had used pop culture characters to show their discontent against Piñera’s education policies. This year, the hammers of the British movie The Wall marched by Alameda –the main street of Santiago– it was a performance by the protesting students; zombies danced before the government palace, and Goku, the character of Dragonball Z, confronted the police forces in Santiago’s protests. Pop culture is revolutionary again. Long before, Daniel already understood the revolutionary potential of this pop culture and the Internet, and he began to use its images in his poetry. He was right.

[1] Patricio Manns Llegó Volando http://letras.terra.com.br/patricio-manns/839559/

[2] Yanacona was the name that Incas gave to their slaves. They allied with the Spaniards against their former masters. It became the equivalent of Malinche in the southern part of South America. It basically means traitor.
[3] Mauricio Redolés Tangolpeando http://letras.s5.com/redoles31.htm

Like Tears in the Rain...

Iʹve seen things you people wouldnʹt believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C‐beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time...
(Blade Runner, Roy Batty)

Two of the most beautiful moments:
seeing my older brother
trying to mix the sound of a Blade Runner VHS
with the Original Sound Track of Vangelis
0n tape.
and years after…
taking my daughter out to ask for candy on Halloween,
costumed as ET with a sweater and a grey hood,
and carrying, through the alleys
in her tiny hands,
the plush Spielberg’s monster
that my old man bought for me at Universal Studios,
when I was just a little shit.

From the book Carne

Sentimental Education (why we need it)

To Boris Vian

I’d never heard a woman screaming like that. Suddenly I realized that I was coming in my underwear. It was a shock as I had never felt before, but I was afraid that someone would find me. I lit a match and saw she was bleeding like a jet! Then I beat her, at first only with the right fist on the jaw. I heard her teeth breaking and I continued banging her. I wanted her to stop screaming. I hit her harder and then I picked up her skirt. I put my dick in her mouth and then I sat on her head. She writhed like a worm. I never dreamed that she was so attached to life! She made a movement so violent that I thought she would take out my left forearm. I realized that I was so out of myself. I could skin her. Then I stood up and kicked her to finish the killing. I put my shoe on her throat and leaned all my weight. When she stopped moving I felt I was coming again. At the end my knees were trembling and I was afraid of fainting.


 (A.K.A: Palatdisiac )

Digitß--------------------------------------------------------------------à Flesh
Tasting the painful corners:
                            : your vaporous
                   and thermo-dynamic
between  your open and retractile
legs____________________________ BURNED.

Your wet altar and your humid rejection
pronounce the verdict sipping the bile of every optic palm,
melting with EVERY mute silence
that moves.
They pronounce the verdict,
tou-ching the oppressive insinuation.
The clumsy asphyxiation; it is yours,
a little bit his
a little bit of everybody
it is de-cadent theirs-----------------------------------------------------------AND
It’s melting shit: PRECIOUS LIKE YOUR SMILE in intense GREY in the luminal night and the stars are fierce in your fierce ambiguity.
Your smile hangs above that chicken they stole from the market to devour the sexy metal sternum among its guts.
Typing EVERY hair
EVERY stain
EVERY freckle and fragile fissure with EVERY genital smashed for the eye in blood, ardent
                                                And it is a per-formed declining.
                                      “The intravenous connection:
                                      :remains beating
                                      with sweetness”           


“Sun rises,/ The poem opens./ Birds open their wings. (…) The City
awakes. The city stands up. (…) Door-letters opens./ The journals open
 The wounds open”.
Gonzalo Millán – The City”

The previous thing (((written)))

Has been a rehearsal for birth

The previous thing had no feet or hands

I had my retina like a boiler and a body that made its way

Barthes says about wrestling, with amazement and predilection he watched this sportive artifice, subject in its very structure to asyndeton and anacoluthon, figures of interruption and short-circuiting.

The street,

By the power of motorcycles, is full of violence

Clowns at 75 miles per hour

test our rage on one hand.

On the other hand the gong sounds

and she

loses control…

Another story of brothers interrupted: Ha! Do you like what you are hearing? Does it make you mad? Ok, Kaneda[1], WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?

Building of words; gunshots that break faces and machines; a Coca-Cola sign precedes the city of neon.

It is a whole experience to live on fear, isn’t it? That is being a slave.

The landscape of this factory (a tear in the rain) is nothing but a closing,

and she…

a traffic of proposed revelations

is like the sound for a blind man,

it is like drunken looks that lie before an origami unicorn…

Above the mountains there are plastic and verb…

A replicant, the gang, a clumsy boy and the detective

are giving birth to pain.

                                      All those moments will be lost in time…

[1]  Kaneda is the main character of Akira, the comic book and motion picture by Katsushiro Otomo.

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Cinosargo es un proyecto multimedia transfronterizo que abarca la difusión digital del arte a través de su revista, y la producción y distribución del libro impreso gracias a la editorial y la organización de Ferias, Festivales y Congresos