Friday, June 16, 2017

Lit Preview: Larva & Hedge by Pilar Fraile Amador

Entry into the surreal world(s) of this two-book masterpiece may be a bit daunting, but an important clue is left for us, by the poet, in the grass.

Nocturnal trees fell over you
pleas of my grandmother weeping esparto
in a house made of silence.

Like the esparto that marks our first tastes of larval life, the poet’s language sprouts up on two sides of the same sea. And like the esparto grass, it is polymorphic, woven into a variety of movements and functions that determine the reader’s position. Moreover, it grounds us in context. Esparto is particularly important in Spain (where the poet is from), especially in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. It is a grass endemic to the western Mediterranean that grows on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula and across the strait of Gibraltar in northern Africa—a transcontinental species. There is, I suspect, a subcutaneous political awareness in these books (especially Hedge), but let’s begin at the beginning.

Larva starts with whispers of small things. Close, impressionistic fragments of language trace circles around the “hidden places” of the body. A dissolution of canny logic gives way to feral reason stretching backward for lost enlightenment. An effort to escape the looming presence of death itself. This book ends where it began, having circled back to the inescapable need of all living things. Larva lays a temporal foundation for what follows.

The loose lineations of the first book bleed into the tight, post-apocalyptic blocks of Hedge. There is a perspectival ambiguity here, following a narrative We neither man nor woman, hunter nor domestic, but perhaps young, fragrant, post-human, salvatory. Otherworldly creatures are kept to be slaughtered. And all seems hedged in by some invisible force, some wet protective (re)membran(c)e through which “bones go on falling from the sky”. On the other side of the hedge, the world seems to go up in smoke and flame. Here I know and understand the hedge as a border, marked by groans of global nationalism, war and fascism, exodus, and xenophobia. These alien figures, on both sides of the hedge, are an uncanny reflection of our nomadic present.

along the border of the hedge. the men have climbed
up with harsh liquids. they’ve made wounds in the
trunks. they’ve poured flammable rocks inside.

The men here embody violence and the women, passive measure. But it’s the We, the young and unindoctrinated, that the reader follows on their journey to traverse the Hedge.

Larva & Hedge, marvelously translated by Lizzie Davis, is an explosion of the microscopic and a journey into the post-apocalyptic. Its strange music having built up to blazing crescendo—surreal portrait of a world on fire—concludes with a whimper of an epilogue, dancing over and around the hedge, leaving the reader with an acrid taste. Recognition, perhaps, that the hedge itself transforms both subject and object into the abject. 

Excerpts from Lizzie's translation of Pilar's poetry can be found in TBSR no. 6. Also here and here

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