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 Even then, before his death, he requested that his wife burn all of his remaining unpublished poems and manuscripts, everything.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.