words by Marilyn Bobes
“Who are the insane, the ones in or the ones out?” asks Jesus Lara Sotelo in his book Grand Prix, which along with Ojo sencillo, from 2006, are together in one volume of his vast and notable poetic work that includes more than twenty titles already.
And the thing is that the contemporary man’s alienation, which found in this book one of its most recurrent underground trends, is the leitmotif for several paradoxes to create the writings. Logic is disrupted to the point of being confused with the absurd. But it is not always like this since there is a “simple eye” with which the speaker contemplates a more beautiful daily life with the presence of love, even when this one does not come through threats and, even the harassment of the outside world unscathed.
I think the best love poems Jesus Lara Sotelo has ever written can be found in this book. Among them I must highlight Idea fija with the fine and exquisite expression of the migratory process; Tour por la fragancia, Hasta mi and El punto G y todo lo demas, just to mention four in which the author shows himself to us like a sharp taxidermist of the least exploited and visited details in the dynamics of a couple’s life.
The multiplicity and even the fleetingness of those relationships are expressed through the changing names that appear in the texts dedicated to love, as well as the different locations in which the events—almost narrated—take place.
(By the way, I believe this is the book where the author gets closer to the mini-story despite the repeated divisions in verse, less used in other books which, paradoxically, are closer to the genre of poetry).
Like in almost everything he writes, Lara Sotelo forces his language to the point of turning it into a very personal instrument in order to go deeper into the contrasts of a world that is dominated by conceit, and another one, where there is no other chance than to turn to verbal violence as testimony of his rebelliousness and discomfort. Hence his sharp remarks.
The poet starts announcing that he does not want to remember anything. In this statement there is some sort of rejection to connect to a memory that yet appears involuntarily when he recreates in his own way the 1960s or other events that mean absolutely nothing to him anymore.
The present time then becomes that no-man’s-land that he inhabits now and where he stops to “drink in a narrow tavern, with no ideals/and full of drunkards with no ideals too”. That is the reality of the contemporary hommo, alienated from his expectations by the force of the circumstances.
However, an auction at Christie’s where a red ship is offered to the highest bidder takes him back to an unknown past where he pays tribute to his “suffocated ancestors in foul warehouses…/sitting on their own shit / chained one to the other with the eyes empty of light”.
That’s why the “grand prix” cannot be anything else but the present, where “life, beauty or silliness in life” prevents us from the fact that “there are no more walls in Berlin but there are still skinheads”.
In Lara Sotelo—and this applies not only to this book but also to his entire work—there is a peculiar civic commitment. He is not the cranky person who is satisfied with the prevailing logic.
He turns the world upside down and rebuild it through an alienation that makes him challenge psychiatrists, “people addicts” without knowing, and they behave like human beings incapable of controlling their own instincts while they wait for the next patient, possible more lucid than themselves.
“What is the logic of poets?” asks this character that Lara has set at the reader’s disposal. A complete structure of what could look like mental disorder is suddenly transformed through its atypical rationality into a sanity of open doors which are more of a prison than those of the prison themselves.
In Grand Prix and Ojo sencillo there is a cautious optimism, an intelligent sense of humor that pursues a more empathic communication with the receiver, which in order to get it, the poet must appeal to shortcuts or onerous concessions.
As always, the brevity increases the intensity of each of his verses which are intertwined in this book more than in any other, as I said it, with a sort of narration only altered by the emotive nature of a speech that does not offer opportunity to prosaicism despite the carefree introduction with rude words, restored as natural components of the Spanish language.
The imperfection of the world brings about the irony of an optimism that does not succeed in convincing as the culmination of so much foolishness. But the smart reader will guess, despite the otherness with which the lyrical subject defies his surroundings, a transforming vocation that will finally prevent (self) destruction.
Grand Prix and Ojo sencillo is a book of isolations, estimates for the search, if not of a solution, then at least of an inclusion. A book that will reject “the normal people” Roberto Fernandez Retamar mentioned, those who did not have a crazy mother or a drunk father. But above all, it is a call to the opening of those who compose symphonies which like Jackson Pollock—according to Lara—are constantly spilled on a fleeting canvas.
Lara seems to say to them, quoting once again Retamar: “Let them have their place in hell and that’s enough”.
June 2, 2016.