Saturday, April 12, 2008

Alejandra Pizarnik

I really loved the poems of Alejandra Pizarnik. They were absolutely beautiful. I wish that I knew Spanish so that I could read them in their original language, not just translations. One of the poems that struck me the most was the following:

"like a poem buried in
the silence of things
you speak to ignore me"

I felt this poem could be applied to many different situations. Relationships, where one person is always talking over the other person, where whoever has the power to talk first and longest has more power overall. It also reminded me of the power that the United States exerts over the rest of the world. How the military spouts off the doctrine of aiding and assisting Iraqi citizens, in particular when they talk about helping women get out of abusive situations while quieting down the stories of American soldiers raping Iraqi women. Of the f School of the Americas, now WHINSEC, where the US military trains guerilla soldiers from Latin American countries in tactics and torture, then send them back to their countries where they rape, murder and upset the rightful governments and install puppet dictatorships. The US military denies all of the wrongful actions the graduates of this school have done, and have refused to acknowledge all of the death and carnage they have perpetuated by training these soldiers.

I'm sure I could go on and think of situations where one party that has power uses language, uses the power of speaking over another to silence those around them. The question that comes to mind for me is then how do you speak up when you don't have as much power? I think as with most other goals of activism, it's a question of critical mass. You need to build up enough people, enough collective power to make yourself heard.

One aspect of the poetry reading that I didn't enjoy as much were the poems of Susan Bassnett. I found her actual poetry to be clunky and heavy-handed, especially in contrast to Pizarnik's poetry.. The metaphors and the topics of the poems were kind of boring. I also found it problematic that Bassnett claimed this close connection to a woman who lived in a very different situation. Not because of their different experiences, but because they never actually meet and the level of closeness that Bassnett described was presumptuous. It seemed too much like western white feminists saying they know what the best way to advocate for women's rights in all other countries and contexts.

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