words of Virgilio López Lemus
Foto: Nancy Reyes
Odas en azul prusia para Alicia Alonso. Jesus Lara Sotelo jumped to words from labyrinths and spheres, from his bright green and his pictorial lands. Alicia Alonso’s image dancing in front of him created what Jose Lezama Lima called the hipertelic look, the oblique vision that does not allow seeing the hidden side and, art upon art like stone over stone, this painter-poet wanted to reveal us an Alicia of his own, whose essential revelation cannot be reached without poetry.
Lara says Alicia Alonso is the cosmos. In one of his poems he interrogates her. Why not? The cosmos should know all, especially about itself. One cannot think about her without opening to the sense of dance, that’s why the book Alicia y las Odas prusianas is drawn in verses as a tribute, but also as a suite where the star appears, disappears and reappears in poems of diverse intensities.
The good friend and poet Luis Marre opens this collection of poems with an emotive nature and includes one of his poems from his youth dedicated to Alicia. The text offers a special profit to Lara Sotelo’s collection of poems, since it seems quite nice to present poetry by another person through a poem of our own. But the book continues with a Prologue by editor and narrator Alberto Marrero, who reveals Lezama’s prints on this lyrical group and discovers that “Alicia appears in the poems sometimes as a referential axis of dance and culture in general, and some others as an allegory of redemption, will and sacrifice”.
From the poet Marre to revealing Marrero it can be found the key to better understand the intense interest of Jesus Lara Sotelo to excel Alicia Alonso as a hierophany, that is, as a woman that offers the teaching of what’s sacred, revealing in her gnostic space, which is not other but the smart scenario where the lady of dance develops his terateia, his wonderful poetic essence, what is seen and what is sensed amidst a dance production, another peculiar way to express poetry, this time outside the word, in the rhythmic movement and the silence of calmness.
If we were to continue with our terminological paraphernalia of Jose Lezama Lima’s poetic system, we must say that Lara has achieved with Alicia y las Odas prusianas a concurrent chance, the spark that goes from the dance star to the printed letters as an expression of creative coincidence and virtues.
This happens because Lara goes beyond the homage woman in order to talk to the myth. Alive Alicia is a magical referent, so, as Ernesto Sierra so acutely says in his introduction, Alicia Alonso is seen as eternal as a muse, but I must add, not with the brilliant indifference of appearance that arises the poem, but as a diva-muse, the one that forces to find references, proximity, confluence among all arts, because in order to be so, all come from the deep root of poetry. There is no art without poetry. Lara knows how to combine the written word with the pictorial image, and that’s why his poems can include performatic pieces of coincidences. The color of the images, the corporeal consistency of the evocation and the cultural aspects of the images show a synergy of several arts in his poems.
It is clear that Alicia y las Odas prusianas is not a tribute to the use nor it is a pretext to create a collection of poems from the diva-muse, but the entire book results into a creative state, questions and answers, loose thoughts in aphorisms, not in verses, or the very free verses seeking for contemporary musicality, that is like flowing from the rhythm of life.
When Lara Sotelo moves further from the diva-muse referent, when is Lezama Lima the one we feel behind the poem, like in Ondulaciones, aspas egipcias, from the very Lezamian title, then the movement recalls the dancer and feel some rolling arms “as Egyptian blades” flowing in the Nile in the Death of Narcissus. And the word, the name of Narcissus is a revelation, since due to him we found one of the contact points between the greatest Cuban poet of the 20th century and the woman most internationally known in the national history. Lezama’s Narcissus seems to melt with the dancing swan of Alicia Alonso and converge in the gnostic space of Lara Sotelo, which is his entire book. It is not idle to recall that Alicia even choreographed this Narcissus, while Lezama wrote pages of great joy in front of the art of the prodigious woman.
By coincident chance in this book by Lara are joined some Cuban scenarios and the waters of the Egyptian Nile, bookworms and wheat fields, Jesus the Redeemer and Pedro Simon, Tchaikovsky and Sacha, and Selena, and Tamara with Prokofiev and Lezama himself, plus dogwoods and insteps, God de Magod and Lara Sotelo, the poet himself. All that numerous mixture weaves something more than a fantasy, because the surrealist background of chaotic list has convergences with Lara’s pictorial personal work, full of spheres and labyrinths, inside a surreal baroque that includes surprise and nice contradictions, as the one that can exist between a greener landscape and a not confusing figurative one, typical of an ochre and painful abstractionism or another one full of colors like a party.
We cannot forget the author of Alicia y las Odas prusianas is a painter, a sculptor, someone that works with his hands other materials that are poetic too. Without that knowledge, Lara would not be well defined within his spontaneous poetry, if we were trying to define him. It would not be explained his eagerness to catch almost solemn aphorisms in phrases that cannot reach their best definition, not even with the brush or the charcoal. I don’t say that Lara is a poet that writes, but an artist that knows how to move in several expressive codes, because he manages to find the synthesis present in poetry. In the poem Metáfora al vuelo he says so himself: “I must draw with words/the try of the rising ear, / the main idea that rises things”. The great of Spain, Leon Felipe, said in a verse that the universe rests on a song. That is the main idea Jesus Lara Sotelo looks with his poetry and his painting, the hidden central concept that can be expressed just for the faith of art.
That’s why, he uses illumination techniques. It could be said he learned it from the revelation of the complex poetic of the great French adolescent Arturo Rimbaud, and also the monster from the hipertelic associations is behind these poems. But let’s take a closer look in the detail of the diva-muse illuminated on the stage. She herself is an illumination; Lara sees her as a generator of light, but at the same time moves followed by the reflector, the gnostic space of the dancer that gives birth to the rising act of art, which is his way of expressing the cosmic nature of poetry. Rimbaud’s illumination is identified with the unexpected Lezama and with the “weird instant of emotion” as said Jose Marti, in a way that the poet, can coincide in the Nile with German Nietzsche, like Lezama—confessed follower of Rimbaud and Marti—could relate the Egyptian river-myth with the Greek Danae, to leave us amazed in front of the image of the young girl knitting the waters as if they were golden threats, as in a fairy tale.
The diva-muse stops being in Lara Sotelo’s poetry only the dancer that he himself draws in the cover of the prince edition of his poems. And at the same time she does not stop being so, she remains being the great ballerina but in the image that dances; the productive imago of art spurs from the contemplation of Narcissus over the poetic waters and offers the poet the imago mundi. Alicia, as a diva, becomes the subject of contemplation. As a muse, she opens out and inspires. The double vision of the diva-muse arises from the ephemeral act of dance to set a weird instant of emotion with the golden pin of the lyrical word, because like every poet, he wants to turn ephemeral into eternal.
I am sitting right here applauding Alicia y las Odas prusianas, by Lara Sotelo, as I might as well offer a personal standing ovation to the real Alicia, of whom we have had the grace to be contemporary with. Lara’s book touches young springs in me, from when I first went to see Alicia dance in the theater named after her, which turns me, book in between, into a close memory. This private experience is also a concurrent chance. Now I think the Cuban identity did not only needed Alicia Alonso to perpetrate the rhythmic and dance sector in our national soul, but that identity became flesh and blood bustling in this exceptional woman. To be the greatest woman Cuba has offered to world culture is not little honor, honor from Cuba, to her and for all Cubans. Jesus Lara Sotelo has more than discovered this, guessed it with his keen sensitivity as an artist. He has understood that Alicia Alonso needs a poetic body of surreal book, full of interconnections, revelations and illuminations, but not to set it at the feet of the diva-muse, but to crown her.
Let’s recall the great Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda accepting the crown that Luisa Perez de Zambrana placed on her head, in the same stage where Alicia has danced. Luisa and Avellaneda are among us, and we felt them very close to the figures of Dulce Maria Loynaz and Fina Garcia Marruz. All of the sudden, I have read bits of it here and there in Lara Sotelo’s book towards the image involved in the poetry of four great Cuban female voices. This is also a coincident chance, not a fanciful random, but a happy chance of names of lyrical glory. In this room they vibrate in the performatic illumination of Alicia Alonso, the diva-muse Alicia in Lara Sotelo’s book, incarnation of the dance and poetic identities of the Cuban nature. Then, Alicia y las Odas prusianas means not so little, even outside these pages.
Thanks to Jesus Lara Sotelo for this book, without which I wouldn’t have realized many of the things I have stated here. You, painter, poet and thinker of aphorisms, shows Alicia Alonso with less ephemeral lights than the ones coming from reflector and you place her in a bigger stage than a theater. You have showed us that any question can be asked to the diva, muse and myth lady without any doubt of false vanity. But who has mentioned vanity!, as if Alicia were not real, as if she were not the cosmos.
Havana, February 2011.