words of Rufo Caballero
The publication of the collection of poems entitled ¿Quién eres tú, God de Magod?, by Jesus Lara should be first seen as a proof of intellectual honesty. Jesus wrote this collection when he was in his twenties, a dangerous age it can be said. Those are the years of greater violence in the interior life of a man: you feel you discredit the world, or the world consumes you. It is even more in Lara’s case, who by that time was in a sort of lustful abysm, as the scarce and only way to evade the withdrawal of sensibility he could not find among his own. We have heard this story a thousand times before: the artist, forced by the distance and the need of the world, gives himself to alcohol or women, to drugs or men. The bohemian life in the Parisian cafes of the early 20th century wouldn’t have been able to ting his grace without that gesture of retreat and abstention, of lucid collapse. But rarely, the descent happens in early ages like 19 or 20. More likely, the man lives accommodating sadness, and during his thirties, or the whole forties will be the years that direct him to the deception of knowing that there is no way out: life happens, life happened, youth is gone and peace never actually came. Then appear the unreserved aspects, the help of ghosts, the Alcoholic Anonymous, the therapies: the first aids to the evidence that there is no going back. Why does the edition of ¿Quién eres tú… represent a peculiar event? Lara had the courage of not forgetting what we all usually do forget. Oblivion is more important than memory: if memory guarantees History, then oblivion guarantees life. How would life be without oblivion?
Oblivion is the possibility of being comfortable, of an alibi, a license. Oblivion is the option for survival. We live because we forget, because we choose, because we learn from our mistakes, because we do not persevere in doubts—or because some others appear, with a different calmness. Anyway, we all write scathing and terrifying poems when we were 20 years old. But in order to move on, we forget them, criticize ourselves, and we entrust them to the learning process along the way. Not Lara. Lara has the courage to take them out to the world and tell us: “I can still look at myself without any shame”. Lara is bold. He fears nothing, not even himself, or the world, or censorship. He offers the world the poems from when he was 20 years old, and keeps finding in them a terrifying peace.
He is right though. ¿Quién eres tú… has the rapture of a beauty that has learned no molds or tattoos for expression. There is a brute force, as a torrent of amazed feelings facing the world.
This collection of poem was written when there were no preventions, no contentions and no ties. It was written like a torrent, as a flow of unfinished experiences, whose incomplete, abrupt character is now presented without consideration or distrust. No guilt. That’s why this volume means, before everything, a gesture of enormous courage coming from someone who has the audacity and taste of looking back to his past as this terrorist, anxious and sensitive young man who had in his mind and body every life experience. The collection of poems does not hide its series of reverences: Marti, Rimbaud, Bukowski. These verses smelled like modern poetry; it is possibly the early tribute of someone to whom modernist poets was something sacred. The author writes as if he were aware of the fact the he creates a new language, that he opens a world instead of reproducing it. The topics struggle intensely for the texture of the phrase: the figure of the captivating seducer; the insatiable nature of desire, whether it is in that one who desires, or in the object of passion; the gag and the sharp dialogue with loneliness; the liberating idea of suicide, seen as a jump; the debate about the poetics of writings; the eschatological aspect as the drawer of a strange lyrical force; the irony in the inebriation of culture. But the weight of style over topics is total.
You can feel the weight of the word, the sound of the syllables, the architecture of construction, the sinuosity of syntax: “because I am the wisdom of my arts: now go”, almost even more than the sense of perseverance. It is a poetry aroused by the determination of language, by the tenderness of discovering the cultural world, by the possibilities of the word when it tries to tell about the world. Even when all the poems come from a deep experience, the author does not achieve nor want to hide the production of words, the touch of literature. Being, as they are, visceral poems, the emotion depends more on the literary artifact itself. That is the reason why it is a dense, self-sufficient poetry, almost autonomous it can be said. On the other hand, as figurative as it is, evoking events and concrete conditions, it is abstract while being the protagonist of feelings, perceptions and sensations. It is a baroque poetry, as if it were written in a trance, under the uncontrollable report of delirium or psychic automatism. Its lasting coruscating nature that searches for limit states of the body and conscience, experience and imagination, reminds us for moments of the counter cultural production of US young men that wrote or sang under the effects of LSD. If there is something missing in this poetry it is peace, serenity. It lives—as its author—in a permanent state of anxiety; it never rests. And it cannot be otherwise: twenty years are indeed twenty years.
The book goes from the joy of living, the comfort of seduction and the energy of a full life to the death rattles of an existence. The verses become full with blackness, deception, as a sort of altarpiece: “the suffering will come to a climax, it is the Sinister”, “the creepy putrefaction”, “I have devoured a magnificent piece of carrion”, “taking the head under the arm with style”, “the end of the end has arrived”. Possibly, the centered poem of the entire collection is Nobles intenciones (Noble intentions), where on September 13—his birthday—the young poet flees the clinic to give himself the best illusion: the end of the end. He tells us “…life is over/it is time, the Saint’s day/of the burning typhoon, it is time, I fly”. There is no other celebration than this one. The great documentary value of this collection of poems includes the disorientation and grief of young Cubans in the early 1990s, just when the country entered a devastating period. Lara’s poems anticipate a regression—in a personal level—that years later would also meet electrifying testimonies in cinema, plastic arts and music.
The existential register of the book condenses, at a psychic level, the social failures that started to appear back then. Not even the most ethereal or changeable poem can be a free gesture, a fact absolutely dissociated from a collective evolution. In this sense, Lara’s withdrawal can be understood also as a piece of information, as a sign.
The wonderful thing is that, fifteen years later and with some composure after so many heaps and leaks, Lara has no qualms to taste, along with his readers, this poetry of growth, this look that by denouncing all its contaminations, it also evidences his untainted and pure being. It happens that with time, the poet has seen it all before; he almost learns that it is best to take refuge in the small pleasures—the only hideout—before keeping on saying nonsense about a world that never corrects itself. From another perspective, when editing ¿Quién eres tú…, its author tells us that we should not lose the ability to be amazed under any circumstance, not even in adulthood when some good sense comes at the price of controlling any madness. From this madness, Lara revises his days of torment and finds and shares with us the beauty of the scare. He learned that had he stayed on the edge forever, he would not be alive today, but now that he is, he misses those days when there was not a single minute of capitulation, and the battle with the world—from the poem and from the body—wouldn’t give it a rest. Lara begins to understand today that other eroticism that has nothing to do with the impertinent mount in pursuit of an orgasm, but with the discovery of the one thousand ironies of the mind expressed in the body. But it then appears the paradoxes of life: for a poet, there is never end or definite peace. Those days appear to him now like an enviable kingdom, which is necessary to treasure.
After many years, the poet was wise when he knew there was no turning back to that sealed world, since it is essential to keep it in our memories for it does not escape all. That is why ¿Quién eres tú… is published today with valor and trust. We were all Rimbaud, but unlike those who have lost innocence forever and the irreverence of youth, Lara somehow still is Rimbaud. Rimbaud lives in Lara still. While the rest of us forget, Lara rebuilds the memory with his verses. Maybe for this reason he is the best of us, the less vulnerable, and the one who has not been defeated by time.