Joaquín Mª Aguirre

Carlos Barbarito, La luz y alguna cosa, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Último Reino, 1998, 78 pp. ISBN: 950-804-062-9

If the novel puts language in tension through confronting it with the world, poetry puts it in tension with the essence of the human. It is poetry's sad destiny to cry out in vain in a cacophonous world
devoid of brightness. To write - yes, to write - poetry nowadays comes down to be driven into desperation as a consequence of social silencing. When poetry enters, it walks on tiptoe, utterly ashamed in a world full of neon lights and advertising fanfares. Rather than with the scandal of the facts, which is proper to the novel, poetry occupies itself with the scandal of being and, intimately bound to this, with the scandal of a language that believes in the tear. Because there is no greater scandal than the very fact of existing, and worse still, than the fact of existing consciously, which is the one that poetry gives account of.

Thus, on tiptoe, the work of a great poet, or the great work of a poet enters, which on the scene of language comes down to the same. From Argentina, a bound gift has come to us, a luxury for those capable of being affected by the word. 'La luz y alguna cosa' is veritable poetry. As Walt Whitman said of his work: whoever touches it, touches a man of flesh and blood.

The book is divided in three parts: '
La luz y alguna cosa' (25 poems), Dispersos (9 poems) and 'Bosques del día y de la noche' (17 poems). Rather than being a poetry of answers, the poems of Carlos Barbarito are questions asked from the being in agony which is man. Devoid of any solution, man faces up to the endless pain of questioning and wondering.

Two aspects stand out in th
is set of poems, but specially in his first part. First of them it is the game of distancing that is realised through the opposition of terms of proximity and distance, of a here and a there, of an inside and an outside, of a space in which once is confronted with the other that abandons himself or by whom he has been expelled. In this part, special importance is given to the form in which infancy is perceived - the child is a recurrent element in many of the poems - infancy which equally appears as a distant 'space', as a lost space. Childhood does not appear as much as a moment in man's coming of age, not so much as a phase, but almost like another dimension of being, like a state of essential difference.

If we have not interpreted wrongly, this dimension extends even into the interior of the maternal womb ("warm bag where I have been basked"), threshold of the irrational world full of pain in which the human being is thrown ("...just come out/ of a mysterious mouth, inside/ of which he heard voice and howling,/and from where he asks,/in another language, without finding answer: /what is that foreboding of needles, eyes, ethers?). Expelled, thrown to the world, man is moving in a world in ruins that makes him long for a return, if not an inversion of history, "destiny in reverse" (p. 24), as the poet writes himself.

The other outstanding element of the poetry of Carlos Barbarito is its capacity to generate basic, fundamental spaces. The diversity is led back to the elementary principle of everything: fire, air, water. Tithe following poem may serve as an example::

Of the bodynot much remains,
some echo, an almost erased track,
a shade, not precisely the most defined,
nothing in it whole and full
to obtain certain grace of the fire,
a hint of absolution of the air,
an afterglow of salvation
whispered through the mouths of the water.

Or that other one:

the wind does not have a language,
the fire does not have a house,
the water does not find
a source,
a vase.
everything is broken and dispersed,
broken and dispersed.

The earth, the flesh, the mud of life, we understand it is those of the human being, authentic scene of the conflict, that acquires, in view of the economy of means, the dimension of eternal conflict, elevated to a mythic level.

It is not easy to generate poetic a universe of one's own, even less to obtain it when using Barbarito's fundamental schematism. But such reductionism, such economy of the touch, , such absence of bold rhetoric for the sake of the torn line, lends his poetry a great expressive force, an immediate character that takes hold of the reader in its nakedness.

In a time when poetry turns upon itself to the point of becoming "metapoesía", such absence of poetry as a subject may surprise us. Only one of the poems -
why more, why indulge in romantic narcissism? - focuses on the figure of the poet as such. In that poem, a very beautiful poem, the figure of the writer is depersonalized to the point of losing itself in a storm of images of darkness, in the poetic turns of the ineffable:

When I write,
she says,
I do not know whether it is male, or female,
or serpent. Or,
which amounts to the same, I say,
she and all we who write
are none and all of these things
at the same time.
And even other ones,
those that reason, or madness
is able to name:
in the dark water, piece of coal,
amulet on the chest of the condemned...
And also that paddle or that oar
that strikes the water up to turning it into foam,
the same foam that persists in the water
or that in the water dilutes.

We have refrained deliberately from playing the game of searching for influences. The poetry of the author is sufficiently personal to sail the sea of poetry in an authentic way, following its own course. Antirethoric, purified, direct, in last instance human, this poetry brings us back to true poetry, to the alchemy of the verb: the capacity to turn the mud, human misery, human fragility ("What of me,/I ask myself, is not fragile/is dot delicate,/brittle, breakable?) into the gold of the language.

But he gives us not the impression that there might be salvation through language in the poetry of the author. No longer is poetry the Promethean fire, the balsam on the wounds. Far more a broken cry, testimony to defeat (How to be born/ if everything pushes us to death?). A poem near the end of the bundle may serve as an illustration of that existential character, thrown into the the absurd, nothingness, the paradox:

We all dig with our hands
toward where a weeping comes.
we know nothing of the sea,
of the waves, of the light of the distant boats,
we know nothing of heaven,
of the clouds and the flocks,
of the slobber of the devil taken by the wind.
We only know to dig,
Of the rest
(the broken nails,
covered with blood,
laboured respiration,
urgent and anguished monosyllables),
of the rest we know nothing today,

A work that elevates to the rank of a poet, 'La luz y alguna cosa' is a poetic island in a sea of boring calm. In a panorama of creative drought it is always a joy to stumble on pages that bring us back to lost corners of the human soul, that invite us to recover the deepest dimensions of our soul.

© Joaquín Mª Aguirre Dpto. Filología Española III -UCM 4/01/99

Reactions: guest book or mail to Carlos Barbarito.

The original document may be found on: