Guillermo Pilía

Concerning Desnuda materia

By now for many years I come to affirm that Carlos Barbarito is one of the best poets of the generation which many call 'of 80' and that I prefer to call 'of '78', for reasons that do not concern us here. I do not know whether my judgment has some value or authority, but it is at least unconventional, inasmuch as I myself belong to that generation and inasmuch as it has become common practice to recognize the merits of older or younger poets, but almost never of those who are running in the same race. Be that as it may, Naked matter is a work that could well be taken as a paradigm on which to base that judgment somewhat objectively.

To begin with, the ambiguity of the title is a characteristic that you will easily find in the poetry of Carlos Barbarito. Naked matter is as much the matter that constitutes us, gives sustenance to our existential precariousness, as the naked matter of poetry, the naked word, in the sense of needy and insufficient, but also of devoid of all rhetoric, all artifice that could obscure any raw vision on reality. The word is halfway between nothingness/and dust, sentence that could also apply to man, and the poet does not know whether he will be able to incarnate the diffuse, to block the orifice thatbleeds. The ambiguity, that incessant asking 'who?' or 'what?', is not a mere stylistic device, but rather the consequence of a determined view of reality.

Reality - as the epígraph of Fichte reminds us - is not the chaos that surrounds us, but the frail architecture that the poet creates not to be shipwrecked between dry innocence,/coast on the drift, margin, periphery, between the curtains of mist wherein he is groping. Therefore
is bitter the bread whereupon I feed./And trouble the water that I drink./And the voice that I hear, or believe to hear,/seems to arrive from the other side of the world. The poet constructs, but the office that I exert is hardly reflected light,/deceit, it is continuous interrogation: Does there exist a space of calm, a wave on the surface,/ a rock celestial or earthly, fruit of Edén, of Matisse/ on this linen canvas extended before the eye of the rain?; 'To dream of snowfall where never was snow/ of a downpour where there always has been desert?' And the answers do not exist: To request/ an answer- outbreak of firework,/ an ingenious hypothesis,/ dust in the face that already is almost mere bones?. There is possibly much irrationalism in the genesis of Barbarito's poetry, dionysiac drunkenness. More than for the logical sense of each poem, however, we should look for an emotional meaning in the entire set, because each one of its books is built like a mosaic, by the accumulation of words and emotionally significant images. For that reason, the poet feels to be in spiritual and atemporal communion with Hieronymus Bosch, who, in his Garden of the Delights and its Musical Hell, perhaps offers not so much a distorted image of the reality, as rather a suspiciously lucid image of it. Therefore, he is the painter whom he asks: is there a way, /a truth, a word, a rainbow, / under the haystack that crushes everything?

Barbarito's poetry, we said, is a poetry of the irrational, of ambiguity, of interrogation. But sometimes, in the middle of the frieze, a figure arises with suggestive corporeality, rational, historical statements that carry the weight of a judgment: the earth is ill of a serious evil,/perhaps incurable, - profane prophecies - you will suffer, you will suffer badly,/strange women will bring ointments/and they will blame love, the lightning; certainties of the irreducibility of memory:

notwithstanding the times passed since
the pains and the works, the seen
and the sensed, the loved and the hated
every night of storm I return to that house,
I am again the boy with the closed eyes.

Perhaps a slow, meditative, but above all empathic reading of Naked matter can explain why Carlos Barbarito is, in my opinion, one of the best poets of the generation of '78. We, who belong to that generation, carry in the thigh an ulcer that does not close, in the flank a wound that does not stop bleeding, but continues to show its black mouth. Far from any anecdotal reference, of any direct allusion, the poetry of Carlos Barbarito does recreate, in the etymological sense of 'to create again', a world of anguish without naming the anguish, of desolation and misery that emanate not from the concrete, but exude from the words:

He smells the abandoned dog, the rags in the dark,
breathes an air that others have breathed already,
gets sick of the slow rain,
the distant noises, the eyes that lurk,
smells a heap of shavings,
the nude that no longer asks,
breathes blind matter, without a place in the Table,
sleeps on his side or sitting up
with one eye open and the other
turned inward, his hard immobile lava,
gets sick of nothing, the void.

© Guillermo Pilía 2004

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