Gioconda Belli, the Naked Voice at the Cutting Edge of Poetry

Gioconda Belli, the Naked Voice at the Cutting Edge of Poetry

Gioconda Belli, La voz desnuda a la orilla de la poesía

Benito Pastoriza Iyodo

Readers do not always have the opportunity to know a writer whose poetic work possesses such intensity for life, where the parameters of esthetic experience become fixed by the profoundness of personal occurrences. When we expose ourselves to the verses of Gioconda Belli, we move closer to the cutting lyric edge intensified by real, profoundly human emotions without masks or verbal games that attempt to impress the unwary reader with existential falsehoods. Once Pablo Neruda said, “I confess that I have lived” and precisely this act of human solidarity and her experiences, resolved in the speed of the action, are what we witness in the naked work of the Nicaraguan writer who has left us books of poetry so extraordinary such as Sobre la grama (On the Grass), Línea de fuego (Line of Fire), Truenos y arco iris (Thunder and Rainbow), Amor insurrecto (Insurgent Love), De la costilla de Eva (From Eve´s rib), Apogeo (Apogee) and now her new book Mi íntima multitud (My Intimate Multitude).

Without a doubt, with the publication of El ojo de la mujer (Eye of the Woman) by the prestigious Colección Visor de Poesía, Gioconda Belli has been placed as one of the most important voices in the present Hispanic poetry. But the honor has not arrived gratuitously, since Belli´s previous works were destined for laurels such as the Poetry Prize from the National University of Nicaragua, the Casa de las Américas Prize from Cuba and the well-known Ana Seghers prize awarded by Germany. Belli began her career as a writer in the seventies, thus creating a vast literary production covering the genres of novel, short story and essay. Her memoirs, El país bajo mi piel (The Country Beneath my Skin), translated into various languages, gathers all the personal experiences of a woman writer and revolutionary in the context of a developing, turbulent Latin America. This magnificent work was preceded, of course, by an incredible body of poetry that we present in the current essay.

It is important to note, first of all, that Gioconda Belli comes from a great literary tradition. Among her compatriots, are the distinguished writers: Rubén Darío, Alfonso Cortés, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, and possibly the best known among them, Ernesto Cardenal. Nicaraguan poetry has always been characterized as being very innovative, liberating the genre in question from the traditional precepts that had not permitted it the broad development that we later see throughout the twentieth century. In this way, this rich Nicaraguan tradition initiates Hispanic poetry in a process of naturalization and liberation of the verse, which will see its most exquisite voices manifested in the lyric production of the Spanish language. Literary Nicaragua, the Nicaragua of great verse, will not only liberate poetry, but also the language. Of this tradition is born the new voice of Gioconda Belli, a voice that continues, in great measure, a tradition of innovation and continuity within Hispanic letters.

When one reads the work of Gioconda Belli, the first thing that stands out is the permanent freshness with which she presents herself. The freshness is born, thanks to the fact that it is established within a constant universal renovation where there is no room for literary mirages and only the naturalness is the instigating ingredient and the living force of the poetry. What surprises and pleases us about Belli is that she does not enter into futility, and the suggestive experience sustains itself in an existential profoundness without abandoning clarity; it is natural and, why not say it, beautiful. Because the temptation may be present. So much contemporary verse sustains itself with linguistic summersaults and verbosity that lead to labyrinths that do not liberate the spirit. It does not elevate the spirit at all, and it leaves it hanging, suffering from “unstomachable poetry” that no one understands. Compositions that attack the reader with a series of verbal assaults that leave him lost in a fog of nonsensical terms that are even worse when read aloud.

The great contribution of this writer consists in that, in her literature, we see the birth of poetry truly created by women. Not feminist speech created by poetesses, but a genuine political, social and cultural voice of women poets. It is not a work created and buried in the poetic tradition of men, who for centuries have determined and predetermined what will be poetic and what will be poetry. It is an expressive form that invents and has reinvented itself ever since the creation of the new and authentic woman’s voice. Things are not said as men want to hear them, rather as they genuinely come out. Belli and the women poets of her generation break with the tradition of the past where the woman writer was relegated to a minor role of being a poetess not a poet. Hence Gioconda Belli represents the beginning, the start, the shoreline of poetry created by women. And as with every shoreline, the sand is stirred up, cleans itself, and returns to the great repository of the sea, where the true creation of humanity resides.

And we must not forget that, after all, the creative process is the exploration, the discovery and precisely Gioconda will do this in her verses, reveal herself, searching for herself until she encounters the unknown character that defines being. For this reason, the poet explores the marvel, the intimacy, the sexuality, the enamored indifference, discovering herself as woman and as an infinitely human being without fears or secrets. Great valor and courage were needed to produce these verses. And all this she does anew, without recurring to tricks, grammatical deception, masked verbs, and all a naked voice that presents itself to create an original voice, an original poetry. Because her poetry is intrinsically her, desperately her, without converting itself into egocentric escapism, her well-centered being permits her to define herself clearly in the liberated image, a constant and strong energy that nurtures the exact definition of the word. It is, in brief, the true exploratory process of lyric creation.

There is much of cinematography in her art because everything is reflected in the flow of images sustained by personal experiences. Her work is a poetic movie born of clear pictorial verses, which only requires one to breathe to understand it. Gioconda does not recur to traditional versification to engrain the poetic experience. Her poetry must be read with the natural and spontaneous breath of air that the poet proposes. Each verse has been designed for the instinctive pauses and the feeling of each reader. The literature that at first glance seems to be the versification of Gioconda Belli, by an act of magic becomes the poetry of the person who reads it. A profound exchange occurs in the mind of the reader where the maritime waves of this literary genre take over the simple act of reading a few verses. Suddenly the reader is trapped, but only to realize that he has really entered into the true act of liberation, which is creation itself. The liberating creation that Gioconda Belli has given to us.

Translated by Bradley Warren Davis

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