TRANSITION AND DISILLUSION:

Women’s Poetry in 1990’s Chile. The Cases of Alejandra del Río and Marina Arrate

Bárbara Fernández Melleda
b.fernandez@sms.ed.ac.uk
(The University of Edinburgh)

.. .. .. .. ..

Resumen:
La poesía chilena de los ‘90 se caracteriza por la crítica —explícita e implícita— a la transición democrática posterior a la dictadura (1973-1990). La poesía de esta época reconoce que el retorno a la democracia es solo aparente y que las políticas dictatoriales se mantienen intactas. En este marco, la poesía de mujeres se articula desde el espacio residual al que es relegada por el lenguaje y las convenciones sociales y genérico-sexuales. Desde allí, las poetas denuncian la ilusión y el simulacro de la democracia recobrada. Para ello, existe un tono de desilusión latente, expresado a través de una lamentación en la poesía de Escrito en Braille (1999) de Alejandra del Río, quien critica el rol de los medios, la importancia del mercado y el legado de una cultura entrañada en la falta de referentes. Por otra parte, el uso del brillo y el exceso en una atmósfera carnavalesca en el poemario Uranio (1999) de Marina Arrate, va en contrapunto a la construcción de un mundo fantasmal, cuando la realidad de la transición no cumple con las expectativas de quienes se opusieron a Pinochet. El propósito de este análisis es proveer evidencia contundente desde los poemas, a fin de demostrar que el discurso poético femenino se hace cargo de denunciar y/o contestar al modelo económico impuesto desde la dictadura, lo que deviene en una poesía cargada de desilusión.

Palabras clave: poesía chilena, poesia femenina, Alejandra del Río, Marina Arrate

Resumo:
A poesía chilena dos anos noventa vén caracterizada pola crítica —explícita e implícita— á transición democrática posterior á ditadura (1973-1990). A poesía desta época recoñece que o retorno á democracia é soamente aparente e que as políticas ditatoriais se manteñen intactas. Neste marco, a poesía de mulleres articúlase desde o espazo residual ao que é relegada pola linguaxe e as convencións sociais xenético-sexuais. Desde alí, as poetas denuncian a ilusión e o simulacro da democracia recobrada. Para iso, existe un ton de desilusión latente, expresado a través da lamentación na poesía de Escrito en Braille (1999) de Alejandra del Río, quen critica o rol dos medios, a importancia do mercado e o legado dunha cultura entrañada na falta de referentes. Por outra parte, o uso do brillo e o exceso nunha atmosfera carnavalesca no poemario Uranio (1999) de Marina Arrate, vai en contrapunto á construción dun mundo fantasmal, cando a realidade da transición non cumpre coas expectativas de quen se opuxo a Pinochet. O propósito desta análise é prover evidencia contundente desde os poemas co fin de demostrar que o discurso poético feminino se fai cargo de denunciar e contestar ao modelo económico imposto desde a ditadura, o que devén nunha poesía cargada de desilusión.

Palabras chave: poesía chilena, poesía femenina, Alejandra del Río, Marina Arrate.

Abstract:
Chilean poetry in the 1990s is characterised by the implicit or explicit criticism to the democratic transition that followed the end of the dictatorship (1973-1990). The poetry written in these times acknolwdges that the return to democracy is anything but a façade and that the policies fostered by the dictatorship remain intact. In this context, women’s poetry is articulated from the residual space to which they are relegated through language, social and gendered conventions. It is from there that poets denounce the illusion and the simulacrum of the recovered democracy. For this purpose, there is a latent tone of disappointment in the shape of a lamentation as in the poetry of Escrito en Braille (1999) by Alejandra del Río, who criticises the role of the media, the importance of the market and the legacy of a culture rooted in a lack of referents. On the other hand, the use of gloss and the excess in a carnivalesque atmosphere in Uranio (1999) by Marina Arrate is contrasted with the construction of a phantom world, in a moment when the reality of the transition does not fullfil the expectations of those who opposed Pinochet. The purpose of this analysis is to provide evidence from both poems, in order to demonstrate that women’s poetic discourse takes the task to denounce and/or question the economic model imposed during the dictatorship, which is expressed in a poetry filled with disillusion.

Keywords: chilean poetry, femenine poetry, Alejandra del Río, Marina Arrate

* * *

The Chilean transition can be understood as a process because it involved the dynamics of having to accept the dictatorship as part of the past and present of the history of the country. The regime made sure they set the rules of what Chile was going to be in the future, considering that the 1980 Constitution and many other reforms had already been established and implemented.

The process of transition had been engineered by the regime, and in such a way that it led to the failure of an ever more moderate left in Chile. The democracy that Chileans got back in 1988, ratifed in the election of Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin as president a year later, was an exercise in windowdressing, a façade of freedom that ultimately did not undo what conservatives and the military had accomplished during the dictatorship. Walescka Pino-Ojeda recognises this problem and asserts that it is necessary to: “Reconocer que la ‘Transición’ representa un proceso ideológico-político en el que coexiste el desmantelamiento del régimen saliente y la instauración de uno nuevo, el que no obstante depende de modo sustancial del que ahora se busca reemplazar.” (Pino-Ojeda, 2011, p.35) Hence, the will for change was blocked by structures and institutions which continued to exist and operate as they had done under the regime. What is more, General Pinochet remained an important figure in the political scene of transitional times. Democracy was handed back to the people of Chile, but with certain conditions, “los militares chilenos no dejaron de contar con el apoyo incondicional de la burguesía… por lo mismo la transición chilena no podía ser sino pactada.” (Pino-Ojeda, 2011, p.37)

Pinochet’s lingering presence during the 1990s cannot be overlooked when Chilean artists and activists were trying to re-install culture in a democratic context. For Nelly Richard “la tonalidad afectiva del clima postdictatorial y las dificultades para elaborar lenguajes que [pudiesen] re-significar la cita histórica de la violencia” (Richard, 1998, p.15) were factors that determined the obstacles culture faced in order to be freed, and the presence of the former dictator symbolically restricted the development of alternatives to a castrated or mutilated cultural environment. In spite of this, Richard expressed her hope that: “no hay normatividad del orden cuya malla de vigilancia no presente ciertas zonas de mayor relajo o distracción por donde liberar la expresividad nómada.” (Richard, 1998, p. 21) Surely the 1990s were diferent from the previous decade, however, the main challenge for artists then is to go beyond what they could achieve in the 80s. In spite of being in a democratic country once more, they found themselves in a position in the margins of what was discarded, in a residual position, especially women.

The present study seeks to demonstrate that the aforementioned aspects have an echo in the poetry of the 1990s, especially in the works of Alejandra Del Río and Marina Arrate. Both authors show a clear disappointment with the Chilean transition, and express the dificulties to overcome the regime, represented in a gloomy and disheartening way. Both books, Escrito en Braille (Del Río, 1999) and Uranio (Arrate, 1999) reveal the struggle for space and the articulation of a female discourse in between masks, ghosts, and the lack of recognition of the familiar—the city. This latter uncanniness (Freud) can be related to the newly unfamiliar familiarity of the return to democracy, with the patriarchal ascribed to the figure of the dictator, whose apparently everlasting presence challenges attempts to re-signify the symbolic. In between a witnessing of an imagined destroyed city (Del Río), and the carnival of the dead (Arrate), it seems that women’s poetry in the 1990s in Chile is not fighting against an imposed superstructure (in the Marxist sense), but rather has assumed its existence and power. However, this perspective can be contested from both poems. This writing continues bringing about a literature from the periphery, approaching the traditional centre by decentralising it, and proposing a questioning of patriarchal forms. It seems to follow what Nelly Richard developed as the residual.

For the purpose of the present analysis, I will develop two main arguments to discuss each text. In the case of Del Río’s poem, the utter disappointment that reigns her Escrito en Braille follows the tone of the lamentation, which will be explained with more detail in this paper. Also, the criticism of the transition is also related to memory, therefore, the concept of the “impossible witness” by Giorgio Agamben is a good theoretical tool to approach the text. Secondly, in Arrate’s Uranio, the analysis will delve into the first section of her poem, entitled: “La ciudad muerta” in which there will be a neobaroque reading together with a brief commentary on the text’s biblical resonance. Disappointment, in Arrate, is also vastly expressed in this section. Interestingly, both poems develop themselves in an urban imaginary, being this, most likely, Santiago de Chile[1].

Escrito en Braille by Alejandra del Río: A Lamentation Witnessing the Impossible[2]

This brief analysis of Braille follows the discussion started by Javier Bello, who coined the term “Náufragos” to refer to the poetry written by young poets in the 1990s, “para ello tomó en cuenta el motivo del viaje que caracteriza los textos de este grupo” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 82). What is more, his taxonomy relies on the fact that these artists experienced the dictatorship as young children or adolescents. So did Alejandra del Río, born in 1972.

What the poet seems to express in such a hermetic manner in Braille, is an utter disappointment with what is left of the imaginary city that sets her poem. This would be an example of transitional literature in which the city “ya no existe, son territorios perdidos” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 86); therefore, the idea of being a castaway wandering and foating about with the hope of finding a place to be that never appears lies at the centre of this poem. Chilean scholar Magda Sepúlveda insists that “los textos escritos por Los Náufragos afirman que la Transición no ha terminado hasta la primera década del 2000” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 90) which emphasises the tension that characterises transitional times in Chile.

In terms of the poem’s tone, Braille is consistently pessimistic. Together with an atmosphere of hopelessness and a representation of the cry for the dead, Del Río’s writing seems to be developing a lamentation, if certain elements are considered. Clearly, a cry for the destroyed city brings a biblical image, as in The Book of Lamentations by the prophet Jeremiah. However, Jeremiah’s text is not the first one to refer to as a Lamentation, as Sumerian ones from 2,000 BC are also known within ancient historians. “Sumerian literary catalogues… contain the titles of numerous lamentations over the destruction of Sumerian citystates, including… Nippur and Ur” (McDaniel, 1968, p. 198). What is more, “there is little doubt that it was the Sumerian poets who originated and developed the «lamentation» genre” (Kramer, 1959, p. 201). Therefore, the lamentation as a poetic form has been accompanying human expressions of grief since its earliest written records.

The dialogue between Braille and the lamentation as a poetic genre is to be established in terms of three categories. The first one is that all lamentations should express that a city has been destroyed. Be it Ur or Jerusalem, or any other, a settlement has been sieged and the lamentation would also depict its aftermath. Braille does mention a destroyed city, even though it is not named, it is understood in the context of a post-dictatorship Chile, and there is an urban air to it. Secondly, lamentations always express mourning. Death is a key element in this sort of poetry. In Jeremiah’s Lamentatios, the voice describes the destruction of the city and the people inhabiting it, including women and children (2:21). In Del Río’s poem it is possible to grasp the questioning about the dead thrown into the sea and that some of those that were killed during Pinochet’s regime would never return. Lines such as the following ones bring back the question of those who disappeared:

pero sigue tributando el Hombre a las rocas de su Itaca…
Dónde quedó la memoria y su traje de cenizas
del náufrago desnudo en ese mar sin orilla…
en esta noche, en este vasto mar de ceniza ajena.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Del Río, 1999, p. 43

Finally, a very outstanding element is that a lamentation would show a cry caused by a tremendously traumatic situation. This trauma is identifable in Del Río’s writing. The broken city reveals the trauma of the past, but also the trauma that means thinking ahead without much expectation of the future to come. The traumatic cause of the lamentation in Braille can be understood in its references to the past as in the dictatorship but also what the regime did in terms of its policy and how this is projected to the present. In this sense, the neoliberalisation of the country can also be considered a cause for trauma.

Regarding a connection between Braille and The Book of Lamentations, there are a couple of elements to mention. For this, I will refer to an introductory chapter to Jeremiah’s book. “Lamentations” by Francis Landy (1990) ofers a detailed literary study of Jeremiah’s writing, and some of his remarks on the book resemble my own reading of Braille. What does echo my reading of the latter is that for him, in Jeremiah’s text “The sorrow is silhouetted by the quiet of the night and the destroyed city” (Landy, 1990, p. 330). Interestingly, in Braille it is possible to observe this phenomenon quite closely, as in “ciudades estacionadas con enloquecidas niñas desatadas por las calles” (Del Río, 1999: 17). The lack of movement in the gloomy and ashy city that settles the poem, together with the irrationality and random hysteria that follows its destruction depict a reaction to the tragedy. What is more, Landy delves into the function of the poetic voice by arguing that “The alienation, temporal and social, of the prophets suddenly becomes a collective experience . . . The voice simply bears witness to its failure, turns over broken images and hopes” (Landy, 1990, p. 329). The alienation expressed in the Del Río’s poem, although being expressed in a single poetic speaker, resembles a singular or plural (collective) phenomenon. It can be interpreted as the isolation of the castaway poets, or the impossibility to surpass the recent past, which is both an individual and shared experience. The fact that Landy interprets Jeremiah’s poetic personae[3] as witness can also relate to Del Río’s poetic proposal as an example of the “impossible witness”. This connection implies that both types of lamentations, Jeremiah and Del Río’s deal with experiencing something from a witnessing position, and both of them acknowledge the failure of attempting to word the unspeakable. Therefore, the broken city and the images of torture are wordings that signpost meanings beyond themselves.

The witnessing that Braille develops and expresses can be considered as an example of the “impossible witness”, a concept presented in Giorgio Agamben’s book Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (1999). In spite of the diferences between the circumstances and the sort of atrocities committed during the Holocaust and the Chilean dictatorship and their diferent epochs during the XX century, in principle, there are some aspects regarding the theorisation of testimony that can be transplanted to the Chilean case.

From the perspective of Chilean academia, Magda Sepúlveda considered a link between Agamben’s theory and the poetry written during the frst post-dictatorship decade. In her words: “uso la idea de testigo imposible para referirme al que vio todo y que, por tanto, la experiencia acabó con su vida. La voz de ese testigo solo es posible dentro del carácter ficcional de estos poemas” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p.84). This view presupposes a possibility within a historical impossibility, which is also related to the poets’ age by the time the coup took place. In the case of Del Río, she did not witness the first decade of the regime in the same way as an adult, but “those who were children at the beginning of the coup have clear memories of life under the dictatorship” (Ros, 2012, p. 107). What is expressed by the poetic speaker in Braille is a phenomenon of a posteriori writing, as it combines both, perspectives on dictatorship and post-dictatorship times.

The poem does deal with this phenomenon in the following lines: “La maldición del escriba / dice la vida bailando sobre las ruinas” (Del Río, 1999, p.14). The first element that any reader would focus on is the word “ruinas”, as the poem delves into what remains from a place that was torn to pieces, as if at war. Those ruins symbolically imply that there is a loss of “las ciudades, de la vida pública y de la historia” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 90). As the poem seems to be foating in a complex reality, the voice expresses that writing is a curse, as it is always late to express anything. This also signals that the voice in this poem is an impossible witness. Sepúlveda insists that “la fabricación del testigo imposible en la poesía chilena de la Transición nos habla de las dificultades que hemos tenido como país para asumir los temas de memoria” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 90). In my view, it is both, having witnessed the turmoil of the dictatorship at a very early age combined with a transition that is deemed as a failure.

From Agamben’s book, it is important to emphasise that “the witness usually testifes in the name of justice and truth and as such his or her speech draws consistency and fullness. Yet here the value of testimony lies essentially in what it lacks; at its centre it contains something that cannot be borne witness to” (Agamben, 1999, p.34). Therefore, poetic writing opens up spaces to attempt to express some sort of truth that is impossible to observe nor deal with. “Este testigo habla sobre un hecho imposible de decir, de ahí lo figurativo de su lenguaje” (Sepúlveda, 2010, p. 85) and this is key to the present analysis, as this language is at the centre of the poem’s testimonial character and the way in which the truth—as conceived by the poet—is communicated.

Agamben’s conceptualisation of the impossible witness is useful in Del Río’s case, because “whoever assumes the charge of bearing witness… knows that he or she must bear witness in the name of the impossibility of bearing witness. But this alters the value of testimony in a definite way; it makes it necessary to look for its meaning in an unexpected area” (Agamben, 1999, p. 34). This means that the impossible witness here, the voice that enunciates the poem, is aware of this, yet that does not deter the voice from attempting to shed light on what lies behind all the violence exerted during the dictatorship: the imposition of an ideological and economic model, neoliberalism. That would be the unexpected area when exploring Del Ríos writing in Braille. It would normally be expected that her poem deals with symbolic and concrete body pain, for instance, or that the recent past was too violent. It is true that she develops these points, however, her critique of neoliberalism is there. The poem enunciates: “No edifiques cementerios y confíate duradero pues en tu país / la vida hace pagar caro todo instante recuperado de la muerte” (Del Río, 1998, p. 44). Del Río’s poem denounces the commodification of social life, as everything is to be paid for, especially “en tu país”, which would address a Chilean readership in the use of “tu” as a deictic/anaphoric possessive adjective. In consequence, both the pessimistic tone of the poem and the witnessing of the disaster after the regime allow the reader to dig deeper into the text to find that it is, in the end, a lamentation for the dead and for the living, being permanently enslaved under neoliberalism. This truth is also one that is impossible to be borne, as there seems to be no way out of it.

A Neobaroque Reading of Uranio by Marina Arrate[4]

The present analysis of Marina Arrate’s fifth poetry book, Uranio, will consider the text as an example of the neobaroque, which depicts art forms which are eminently Latin American. In literature, “para Carpentier y Lezama, el barroco es el arte auténticamente hispanoamericano” (Galindo, 2005, p. 88). The prefix ‘neo’ separates the Latin American baroque from its European counterpart. What is more, it can be understood as a formulation of resistance, “un arte de la contraconquista” (Galindo, 2005, p.88). This means that a neobaroque analysis considers a Latin American epistemological ground. This is rather centred in its own vision of itself and understanding Europe—mostly Spain—as a foreign entity that imposed its culture and beliefs to change the social and natural landscapes of a whole continent. The result of such imposition has fed the idea that Latin America is a heterogeneous region that needs to understand itself and, from there, project its conceptualisations of reality to the rest of the world. For Severo Sarduy, “el neobarroco refeja estructuralmente la inarmonía, la ruptura de la homogeneidad, del logos en tanto que absoluto, la carencia que constituye nuestro fundamento epistémico” (Sarduy, 1979, p.183). From this, it can be understood that the neobaroque text would seek to provoke tensions and breaks in meaning, especially if considered from a non-Latin American perspective.

A neobaroque reading of Uranio seems in place, as “la ciudad se descentra… la literatura renuncia a su nivel denotativo, a su enunciado lineal; desaparece el centro único en el trayecto” (Sarduy, 1979, p. 168). The first section of this book, entitled, “La ciudad muerta” indeed shows a decentering and that there has been a reversal in the order of its microcosm. Arrate celebrates death there in a carnivalesque manner. After several numbered blank pages, the poem begins with the image of a mirror, a reflection of the city. The silence that preceeded the verses somehow speaks for itself: it is what happened before the carnage the readers are about to witness. The poem opens:

Este es el ruin espejo de una ciudad
vacilante entre el rumor aciago
de aguas pudibundas y el esplendor
carmesí de los yertos edificios
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Arrate, 1999, p. 13

The use of “ruin” can address both evilness and the idea of the city in ruins. Interestingly, the refection presented by the poem does not allow readers to perceive the city in itself, as it would be an image too hard to bear. In this poem, Arrate “[indaga sobre] los fantasmas espectrales de una ciudad que ha perdido lugar en el espacio nacional… El paisaje que ofrece la ciudad tercermundista es apocalíptico y final” (Brito, 2009, pp. 93-94). This means that the imaginary is a sort of purgatory or hell that reveals the city of Santiago.

The poem guides the reading from the start, the landmark of the Virgin and the hill is a clear reference to Cerro San Cristóbal, a point in which most of Santiago city can be seen:

Ah, Vírgen, continua compañera.
Con ella bajé al paraje absurdo
. . . . . . . . . . . Arrate, 1999, p.13

This localization allows readers to decode Arrate’s criticism of the Chilean transition. The absurd place is the postdictatorship capital, and its absurdity lies on what was inherited from the regime: the question of the dead and its economic reforms. On the one hand, the dead symbolise those who were killed and disappeared by the regime. On the other, they can be the citizens of the newly democratic Chile, dead in life by the ruling of consumerism and the domination of neoliberalism. As a neobaroque text is subversive, its reading has to consider that it resists certain types of domination. In Arrate’s case it is not hard to find a criticism of postdictatorship times, as this is a characteristic of her work.

Arrate’s previous books, such as Este lujo de ser (1990) and Tatuaje (1996), for instance, show that “el trabajo poético de Marina Arrate es suntuoso… manteniendo un camino político de escritura, tanto en los temas como en las formas” (Brito, 2009, p. 93). Therefore, the neobaroque aesthetic is one that favours the reading of this text, as it seeks for a critique of Latin America from within itself, here with special focus on Chile post-Pinochet. It is clear that Arrate’s political stance goes towards the criticism of the social abandomment caused by neoliberalism. She achieves this in the first section of Uranio by developing a carnival:

Alhajas tintineantes portaban las tráqueas paupérrimas
V costillas de nácar y plata y pulseras de amatista y anillos
de luz lazer y fémures violetas, ambiguos, indancescentes
y bamboleantes coronas de oro sobre las albas calaveras.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Arrate, 1999, p.16

For Severo Sarduy, in his groundbreaking essay “El barroco y el neobarroco”, the excess and the parody of oppulence generate “el carnaval, espectáculo simbólico y sincrético en que reina lo ‘anormal’, en que se multiplican las confusiones y profanaciones, la excentricidad y la ambivalencia, y cuya acción dentral es una coronación paródica, es decir, una apoteosis que esconde una irrisión” (Sarduy, 1979, p. 175). In consequence, what Arrate expresses is the anti-carnival, with all its gloss, neon lights and colours. All those dismembered bodies do not make up one complete subject. Behind all that simulation, there is the void. This void is filled by the nothingness that represents the lack of understanding of postdictatorship Chile, the lack of information about Pinochet’s victims, and the lack of humanity of neoliberalism, after the privatisation of all public services. The abundance of body parts and precious stones generate an imaginary of horror, a celebration of the abject, the dead. The dismembering of society and the elevation of materialism, are expressed repeatedly in “La ciudad muerta”, emphasising that “el reino de la muerte es lujoso… como si esos decorados fueran la única manifestación posible ante la nada” (Brito, 2009, p. 94) which is the void I had previously mentioned. For Eugenia Brito, the context surrounding Uranio is a clear one: “Chile en la sociedad post-Pinochet” (Brito, 2009, p. 94), therefore, the understanding of this poem goes hand in hand with Arrate’s expression of disappointment with the new democracy.

Arrate’s speaker takes up the word and orders the bodies to move, to raise, as if her voice was a sacred one that would fill those bodies with the life they no longer possess:

Cadáveres somnolientos, álcense de sus tumbas, álcense derrotados
lázaros. Yergan sus hesitantes calaveras, respondan
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Arrate, 1999, p. 20

Here the poem begins to dialogue with biblical texts, be it the Gospels, as when Jesus resurrected Lazarus, or as in the book of Revelations where it is promised that the dead will come to life in the second coming of Christ. The poem rewrites the Christian texts and resignifes these narratives, in a subversive gesture against religion, but also against the forces of nature, positioning the poetic voice as one who, through the word, can give life. This gesture is clearly neobaroque, as it takes a non-Latin American perspective, understood as one that was imposed by the colonisers, and turns it into a poetic appropriation.

The poem moves on to express that there is an ultimate death, in the use of repetition:

Muerte de muertos, dije yo.
Esas sombras que yacen bajo esas armaduras
qué son, qué fueron
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Arrate, 1999, p.23

The voice assumes a position and an existence by stating her ‘I’, as little by little “es un lugar que se va conquistando” (Brito, 2009, p.93) which clearly hints the positioning of the woman subject, historically ostracised from society. Now it is the woman, summoning the dead, asking them to rise, describing the broken city. What is more, it seems as Arratian writing paves the way for its own positioning, for its own location in a symbolic imaginary. She takes up the pronoun I, she gives orders, that is a woman that seeks to “instalar la sexualidad femenina, próxima al terror y la dominación . . . forzada a administrar un guión distinto al de [esta], que la llevará a otros universos” (Brito, 2009, p.96). This means that after the political and economic criticism, Arrate’s writing develops an eminently feminine imaginary that looks for ways to generate a parenthesis, a space to express gendered dissidence. This is further explored in the other sections of Uranio, after the voice has expressed its utter disappointment with the dead city, as stated above.

Preliminary Conclusions

Both poems studied approach disappointment with the Chilean transition. However, they develop it in diferent ways. Whilst Del Río’s Braille laments the dead and locates her verses in an unidentifed Santiago, Arrate’s Uranio describes the dead as dismembered bodies that show ornaments and the dead city, clearly Santiago, seems to be in a permanent deadly and phantom parade.

Braille witnesses a destruction that is imaginary, that is why it is possible to acknowledge it, even though the text unravels in a complex manner, given its hermetic nature. The possibility to express the impossible seems to be achieved by Del Río’s poetic endeavour here, as her testimony gives hints of the explicit and the implicit, when it comes to understanding Chile post-Pinochet. Firstly, her poem wonders about the dead, laments about the destroyed city, and seeks to warn its readers of the commodification of life in this place, Santiago, or the whole of the country. More implicitly, the poem questions the role of those who were involved in the regime: “De otro modo cuentas la historia / pero en tu boca ninguna puerta se abrió” (Del Río, 1999, p. 30) and their lack of commitment to confessing the truth. Del Río’s poem is also a cry for information, and to honour memory.

In Uranio the city is not only in ruins, but is also dead. Even inanimate objects seem to have succumbed to whatever preceeded the silence that opens the book. That silence would reveal the complete devastation of the city, Santiago. The lack of answers about the dead and what has happened after the return of democracy are two aspects that arise within the deadly imaginary of the Arratian city. What is more, the excess, the gloss, the jewels that shine on the body parts depicted in the poem are a parody of a carnival. A reader might wonder what is being celebrated, why the dead are in pieces, why that inferno does not seem to go away. It is Arrate’s neobaroque world, one that reminds its readership of the tensions of the Latin American subject, especially from a woman’s perspective, as her voice can exist after complete silence, after no one else is trying to guide her words. The woman’s voice is no longer in the periphery in Arrate’s world, she is the sole protagonist. She is the one guiding us through the postdictatorship Chilean inferno.

To sum up, both poems express utter disappointment with their contexts, and both, in diferent ways, seem to address neoliberalism as part of the problem. This means that the legacy of Pinochet’s regime is not only the quest for truth and the bodies of those who were disappeared. It rather entails a deeper task, to generate awareness that neoliberalism can be overcome if it is understood in its damaging nature. In this sense, it is important to remember that both poems were published by 1999, and refect a deep consideration of the first decade after Chile regained its democracy.

* * *

Notas

[1] Both poems make reference to an urban imaginary and, especially in Arrate’s poem there are some landmarks that are easily linked to the Chilean capital.
[2] I have developed a more extensive analysis of this book in my doctoral thesis.
[3] Understood as poetic speakers, as there are a few in Lamentatios, being the city and a soldier a couple of them.
[4] This analysis comprises the commentary of the first section of Uranio. The rest of the poem is being analysed in the fourth chapter of my PhD thesis.

* * *

Bibliografía

– Agamben, G. (1999). Remnants of Auschwiz: The Witness and the Archive. New York: Zone Books.
– Arrate, M. (1999). Uranio. Santiago: LOM.
– Bello, J. (1998). Los Náufragos. Poetas chilenos de los noventa: Estudio y antología. Tesis de licenciatura.
– Brito, E. (2009). Disfraces y reversos en la poesía chilena contemporánea (el imaginario poético de Marina Arrate. INTI, 69/70, pp. 87-96.
– Del Río, A. (1998). Escrito en Braille. Santiago: LOM Ediciones.
– Galindo, O. (2005). Neomanierismo, minimalismo y neobarroco en la poesía chilena contemporánea. Estudios Filológicos 40, pp. 79-94.
– Kramer, N. (1959). Sumerian Literature and the Bible. Studia Biblica et Orientalia, Vol III, pp. 185-204.
– Landy, Francis. (1990). Lamentations. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Boston: Harvard University Press. pp. 329-334.
– MacDaniel, T. (1968). The Alleged Sumerian Infuence upon Lamentatios. Vetus Testamentum, 18 (2) pp. 198- 209.
– Pino-Ojeda, W. (2011). Noche y Niebla: Neoliberalismo, memoria y trauma en el Chile postautoritario. Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio.
– Richard, N. (1998). Residuos y metáforas: Ensayos de crítica cultural sobre el Chile de la transición. Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio.
– Ros, A. (2012). The Postdictatorship Generation in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
– Sarduy, S. (1979). El barroco y neobarroco. América Latina en su literatura. Ed. César Fernández Moreno. México D.F: Siglo Veintiuno Editores.
– Sepúlveda, M. (2010). El territorio y el testigo en la poesía chilena de la transición. Estudios Filológicos, 45, pp. 79-92.


 

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *