24 March 2011

Vicente Huidobro

[the essay "Creationism" from Vicente Huidobro's Manifestos, original published in 1925; translation by David M. Guss in The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro, New Directions, 1981]

At the end of 1916 I landed in Paris, into the world of the magazine Sic. I barely knew the language, but soon realized that I was dealing with a very futurist scene and one can't forget that just two years before, in my book Pasando y pasando, I had attacked futurism as being too old-fashioned, at the exact moment the whole world was crying out for the birth of something completely new.

I searched everywhere for this created poetry, without relation to the external world, and, when at times I believed I had found it, I soon realized that it was merely my lack of knowledge of the language which had made me see it where it was totally lacking or simply existed in small fragments, as in my earlier books of 1913 and 1915.

Have you noticed the special power, the near-creative sense that pervades the poetry written in a language you are just beginning to utter?

You find fantastic poems which just a year later make you smile.

Gathered around Apollinaire, who was such an undeniable poet, and yet apart from him, one found several earnest searchers; unfortunately, most of them lacked the holy fire, since nothing could be more false than to believe that inspiration is to be found lying in the street. True poetic inspiration is the rarest thing that exists. And I'm not using the word poet here in the intimate sense it holds for me, but rather in its habitual sense, since, for me, there has never been a single poet in the history of the planet.

Today I affirm completely, as I did ten years ago in the Atheneum in Buenos Aires: "There has never been a single poem written in the world, but only some vague essays on how to write one. Poetry is yet to be born on our globe. And its birth will be an event that will revolutionize mankind like the greatest earthquake." I sometimes wonder if it will not go by unnoticed.

Let's make it clear, then, that each time I speak of "poet" I simply use the term to be understood, like stretching a rubberband to encircle those who are nearest the importance which I assign it.

During the period of the magazine Nord-Sud, of which I was one of the founders, we all had more or less the same orientation in our outlooks, but were far enough from another at the core.

While others were making oval skylights, I was making square horizons. As all skylights are oval, poetry continues to be realist. As horizons are not square, the author offers something created by himself.

When Horizon Carré (Square Horizon) came out, here is how I explained the title in a letter to friend an critic Thomas Chazal:

Square horizon. A new fact, invented by me, created by me, which couldn't exist without me. I want, dear friend, to capture in this title the whole of my aesthetics, which you have been aware of for some time now.

This title explains the basis of my poetic theory. Condensed within it is the essence of my principles.

1. To humanize the object. Everything that passes through the body of the poet must be subjected to the greatest possible amount of his heat. Here something as vast and enormous as the horizon is humanized; it becomes intimate, thanks to the adjective SQUARE. The infinite nests in our heart.

2. The indefinite becomes precise. In shutting the windows of our soul, whatever was able to escape, gasify, and unravel, remains enclosed and is solidified.

3. The abstract becomes concrete and the concrete abstract. This means the perfect balance, since if the abstract leaned toward the more abstract, it would dissolve in your hands or filter through your fingers. And if you made the concrete even more concrete, it would help you drink wine or furnish your home, but it would never furnish your soul.

4. Whatever is too poetic to be created is transformed into something created by changing its common value, so that if horizon was poetic in itself, if horizon was poetry in life, by qualifying it with square, it stops being poetry in art. From dead poetry it becomes living poetry.

The few words explaining my concept of poetry on the first page of the book we are speaking of, tells you what I wanted to accomplish in those poems. It said:

To create a poem by taking the elements of life and transforming them to give them a new and independent life of their own.

Nothing descriptive or anecdotal. Emotion must be born from the creative strength alone.

Make a POEM like nature makes a tree.

In the end, it was my exact concept before arriving in Paris: the act of pure creation which you will find, as a true obsession, in every aspect of my work from 1925 on. And this is still my concept of poetry. The poem created in all its parts, as a new object.

I will repeat here the axiom I gave in my talk at the Atheneum in Madrid in 1921, and finally in Paris, in my speech at the Sorbonne, an axiom which sums up my aesthetic principles: "Art is one thing and Nature another. I love Art very much and Nature very much. And if I accept the representations that a man makes from Nature, it proves I love neither Nature or Art."

In two words and to conclude: the creationists are the first poets who have brought to art a poem invented in all parts by the author.

Here, in these pages about creationism, is my poetic testament. I bequeath it to the poets of tomorrow, to those who will be the first of this new species being, the poet, this new species to be born soon; I can feel it. There are signs in the sky.

The near-poets of today are very interesting, but their interests do not interest me.

The wind points my flute toward the future.

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