words of Alberto Marrero Fernández
I did not personally know Jesus Lara Sotelo until some minutes ago. I did know about his pictorial work from some expert friends’ opinions. It is nice when some friends know so much and they help sometimes to fill in the blanks, pools of ignorance, the fruit of indolence or the happy time that is never enough, the ultimate pretext of mediocre people. I remember adjectives such as courageous, stranger, different, illusionist, transgressive, landscaping of the reverse, of what is behind just like Whitman used to say. I don’t know if they were right. I could not assure what others claim after receiving the direct spell coming from his canvass, ceramics, and installations. From his published books I had news, good news. Then someone might wonder what I am doing presenting the book of an artist I barely know. A fair question. The only answer would be that I do it because I like challenges, the challenge to read until early morning a poet that provoked me from the very first verse of the book, as no one has ever provoked me in a long time. That’s why I am here. That’s why I will try to convince you, not of my reasons, better much, of my obsessions, but of this weird specimen of poet, painter, ceramist, sculptor, photographer, illustrator, typical from the renaissance era, I would say, which was slipped in here by who knows what kind of dark oscillations, and through the consecutive mutations, probably taking advantage of the cracks of time.
Reading the prologue by critic and essayist Rufo Caballero, I totally agree with him on his opinion about Lara’s poetry. Rufo states: “the author writes as someone who is not aware that he is creating a language, as someone who is opening a world to reproduce it”. Later on, he continues: “one feels the weight of the word, the sound of the syllable, the architecture of construction, the sinuosity of syntaxes”. That was the first thing that impressed me. Then some images came to torment me, now distressed, now of a labyrinth nature that takes you to ask question with no apparent answers. The constant interrogation is the sign of this book: Who are you? Nothing new, someone skeptical might say. And he is probably right, only that Jesus manages quite well to deliver new edges of the dilemma, other tones that are not the same and under which these incognitos have always been formulated. This is a singularity the poet assumes starting from the well assimilated lambs, as said Paul Valery.
And speaking about lambs, in order to continue in line with the great French poet, I see in Jesus’ poems the magnetization proclaimed by our Lezama. Adding to the reverences that Rufo will state in his right prologue, I would add the very same Lezama, Vallejo, the poets of the so called Spanish Golden Century, whose Baroque style is breathing in this book at such early illuminations. Written when he was barely 20 years old, Jesus revealed an ability to say and feel which are not so common at that age. There are many poems that impressed me for their greatness and even more due to that rare mix of thought and emotion they are built on. The one titled Devenir is an example when he writes:
The adjacent tragedies
The diligent investigations.
Later on in this same poem:
For the next scheme of these unknown dramas,
Inventing terrible arguments,
Perhaps unaffected by love
That ignores the caustic future
And do not recognize the anger that grows from fear.
I have always believed that poets must delve into unknown dramas and to make up some terrible arguments. What is adjacent many times escape from the common eye. The trivial look does not see creatures in the fog of days. On the other hand, the poet, the true artist captures essences, imperceptible smells, hidden tones, gestures covered by the mess of daily life. Elias Canetti said that our rage can be extended to many things. Jesus Lara says that rage comes from fear. It is true. Not a long time ago we saw a documentary where Palestinian children, terrified from the crib by the Israeli bombs, turned to anger, to hatred towards an enemy that has never ever allowed them to simply be children. It is an example of the infinite example that sustains Jesus’ verse.
The breathing of Jose Marti’s verse goes through the entire poems book with a golden thread. That is something Rufo deduces and I support it. From Marti, because of certain difficult sounds, certain sculptural verse. From Marti, because the verses are not written with ink from the academy, but with blood. From Marti, because he had wanted to be loyal and if he ever sinned he does not regret so, as the Maestro wrote in the introduction of his Simple verses.
The poet knows how to play with contradictions, existential antinomies, uncertainties, eventual certainties, caprices, random. He mixes quite well the ideas and he cleverly drains through the meanders of the enigma. He suggests the known and the unknown under an enchanting veil. He takes the intangible area to words. He knows that when he states, he really denies, and when he denies, he really states. He is not afraid of the magnificence or simplicity of a phrase. He proclaims that he has lived in a torrent of a hidden modernism in times of postmodernity. He is not connected to trends or gangs of hysteric poets. He seems to say, along with Valery: “I contradict myself because I am a man.” Poets of absolute saying are petulant, because it is well known the relativity of truth. So it is no weird that he writes:
All seems to be in the invisible,
Where evolution starts rejecting its supporting.
The book also deals with other topics; it plays with the edges, screams; it seduces and registers a stage in the poet’s life and the lives of many Cubans who live haunted by the tremendous consequences that some faraway collapses and treasons caused in the country. A transcendental question, once again by Elias Canetti, comes to my mind now: “But, where we are truly ourselves?” We are so in our strength and the hardness with which we see and register things. There is no doubt this collection of poems tries to do so. And I say try because nothing is accomplished until the very end, there are always things left to say or things we just could not express. We are not gods and the author knows it. Our mortality sets us boundaries to all we may ambition.
Lastly, I would like to call the attention about the painter-poetry relation. I think that Jesus writes while painting and he paints while writing. This looks like nonsense, or a tongue-twister, or a children riddle, a truism perhaps. Whatever they want. But I suspect that painter and poet are united by a same flux, swimming in the same current, looking in the same direction. No one should be amazed, sometimes it happens quite the contrary when in one creator converges many types of artistic expressions.
I started saying that I did not know Jesus Lara in person until a few moments ago. I lied. I started to know him when I entered his poetic labyrinth, in his Nobles intenciones, in his proscribe ode, in his Aureos brebajes, in his Redención and also in his Paroxismo and his Postreras confesiones, titles or verses of this intense and extraordinary collection of poems that I recommend as a food or an adventure of the soul.