Silence Studded with Words – Joseph Mulligan

Last week I had the pleasure of posting “Retórica” by Spanish poet & critic, Roberto García de Mesa. Since then, those short prose poems have refused to leave me alone, prodding me at every chance to consider their tantalizing argument. In tune with his other explorations in Oblivion, García de Mesa, developing the language of “una forma de porvenir”, writes about the necessity to forget: “because he who looks without closing his eyes has failed from the outset. & this is the descriptive instant, where nothing gets translated. At this moment the breathing of an unwritten space can be heard.”

In this, the last section of that poem, García de Mesa describes a peculiar element of poetic intuition — not unlike what we see in Tree of Diana by Alejandra Pizarnik. García de Mesa’s writing enters the paradox of an instant that is described not by words, but by silence. Words only reveal themselves as inadequate, imprecise & vague lexical matter or they don’t reveal themselves at all. Thus, it is in the absence of words that the breath of the poema en potencia can be heard.

My curiosity crawls. Is it true that someone “who observes the movement of the world discovers that words, when they fall silent, announce their only true moment”…? After unsuccessful & repeated attempts to flesh out in language vague or abstract sentiments & ideas that I have experienced, I too have heard an eloquent silence. I have been convinced hasta el tuétano that silence, rather than language itself, is the only medium capable of accurately expressing certain centripetal perceptions of existence’s slippery proximity & of the psyche’s turbulent atmosphere.

In “Retórica” García de Mesa raises the question of poetry & with it, the question of translation, since, in the silence that he describes, “nothing gets translated”. Nothing gets translated. Why does nothing get translated? After several minutes of silent contemplation & self-reflection, I realize that I am repeating this question aloud.

At first, I want to say that ‘nothing gets translated’ because there is no need to translate anything. Heme aquí un silencio universal, like some pre-Babelian linguistic harmony brought back to this world in its negative form. It is not the now intelligible rambling of a Nimrod dantesco, but the intrinsic meaning of Nimrod that emanates from his being without his needing to say anything at all. In this silence, in this ‘descriptive instant’, nothing gets translated because there are no languages to translate into or out of.

But now, I wonder if, when García de Mesa writes that ‘nothing gets translated’, he may not be referring to that moment when nothing is translatable, when nothing can be & therefore is not translated. Perhaps this breathing silence is what we hear when untranslatablity invades the poetic intuition with the implacable feeling of impossibility & imminent failure?

Perhaps it is that huffing, panting or even gasping silence that runs through our fingers like sand when we search for a translation & only find words that don’t lend themselves to or that even obstruct their traslado from one language to another? If the silence of “Retórica” & the feeling of untranslatability were one & the same, then it would mean that we are talking about poetry deprived of the this-sidedness of language & a poetic intuition that has no integral & practical application.

I doubt that the latter is the case; however, I am not convinced of the former either — & this is what keeps sending me back to “Retórica”, back to García de Mesa’s silence, back to the question of poetry & the feeling of untranslatability… Perhaps someone else, the poet or any other curioso, can shed light on this & help bring this ‘forma de porvenir’ into focus & into the present.

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