Juan Luis Martínez: a Small Practical Poetic Cosmogony

Juan Luis Martínez: a Small Practical Poetic Cosmogony

DISTANCE           moves away           FROM US

in order                 to con­tin­ue           being itself.


no cer­raré los ojos, ni los bajaré.

Juan Luis Martínez was an auto­di­dact and rebel­lious poet from Chile. He large­ly fled the aca­d­e­m­i­cal­iza­tion of art and poet­ry to cre­ate a unique vision with­in the avant-garde and beyond. Martínez cre­at­ed works beyond cat­e­go­riza­tion which made it dif­fi­cult to pub­lish. His first expe­ri­ence with a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny end­ed with frus­tra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment. The man­u­script that he had sub­mit­ted, Pequeña Cos­mogonía Prác­ti­ca (Small Prac­ti­cal Cos­mogony), was declined in the review process due to their inabil­i­ty to clas­si­fy it. After­ward her pub­lished it him­self renam­ing it  La Nue­va Nov­e­la (The New Nov­el). His mis­fit demeanor in life, writ­ing and pub­lish­ing was to con­tin­ue until the end of his life. Even then, before his death, he request­ed that his wife burn all of his remain­ing unpub­lished poems and man­u­scripts, every­thing. Although, it is evi­dent she did not go through with his wish as at least two (large­ly unfin­ished) man­u­scripts have been pub­lished after his death.

The lega­cy left behind by Martínez is one that is anti-estab­lish­ment and anti-insti­tu­tion­al. He acts as a guide for rebel poets every­where. Chile, dur­ing his time, was a poet­ic place. It was a coun­try that exist­ed for lit­er­a­ture. His life was exem­plary of a poets and his work urges us to live poet­i­cal­ly. At what­ev­er cost we should live poet­ry and dis­cov­er the mag­ic of our lan­guage. We should do as he requests when he asks us to:

Take a cur­rent word. Make it quite vis­i­ble on a table and describe it from the front, in pro­file, and from a three-quar­ters view.

Repeat a word as many times as may be nec­es­sary to make it dis­ap­pear. Ana­lyze the residue.

Find a sin­gle verb to sig­ni­fy the act that con­sists of drink­ing a glass of white wine with a Bur­gun­di­an friend, in the Los Dos Chi­nos café, at six in the after­noon, on a rainy day, talk­ing about the non­signifi­gance of the world, know­ing that you have just run into your for­mer chem­istry pro­fes­sor, while near you a girl says to her friend: “You know how I made him see the face of God!”

You see. We must live poet­i­cal­ly the uni­verse. This is what Martínez has left for us. A near­ly unread­able, yet trans­par­ent in its sim­plic­i­ty, hap­haz­ard­ly, yet metic­u­lous­ly fash­ioned blue­print of how to live poet­i­cal­ly by at once delv­ing into our lan­guage con­struct­ed world and escap­ing it.

If you have not yet sought out Juan Luis Martínez, or if he has yet to find you. Be sure to begin your inves­ti­ga­tion. His work is slow­ly being trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish if the inter­est remains, and there is plen­ty of him scat­tered across the Inter­net. As a South Amer­i­can writer, he is about as impor­tant as they get. You will not be dis­ap­point­ed with what you dis­cov­er of and in him, I promise.

An under­stand­ing of the uni­verse comes from the small­est cor­ners in the small­est par­ti­cles. I have led you to one such cor­ner. Don’t be shy. Meet me there and we will speak through poet­ry.