Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic by Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (trans. by Cole Heinowitz and Alexis Graman). Wave Books. $16.00 48pp.
Every generation of poet discovers their voice in the perceived shortcomings of the generation before. We are, after all, building to something aren’t we? But in order for that voice to be fully realized, what was lacking must be pointed out, called to our attention, and rejected. In other words, a manifesto must be written, and a movement must be established.
The Romantics, the Futurists, the Dadaists, the Objectivists, the Beats; all seemingly arrived into the world on the wings of a mighty declaration. “We have been up all night, my friends and I . . . ” “ . . . the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation . . . ” “Dada means nothing . . . ” “Man, wow, there’s so many things to do, so many things to write!”
Mario Santiago Papasquiaro was no stranger to this kind of manifesto, and his announced the coming of the Infrarealists. “The way in to matter,” they proclaim, “is ultimately the way in to adventure: the poem is a journey and the poet is a hero revealing heroes.” And so, in Papasquiaro’s long poem, “Advice From 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic,” we see a manifesto fully realized, a hero doing the work, revealing to us all the heroes, and in the process, redefining what a hero can be, redefining what a poetry can be, redefining, even, what it means to be . . .
Papasquiaro was a wonderer who resided, seemingly, in whatever country would have him, and so it’s suiting that his poem travels so easily to every nook and cranny in the universe. “The world,” he says, “gives you itself in fragments / in splinters,” and there is no piece too big, nor too small. Too cultured, or too back alley. The poem is built like a roadside grotto—crystals, fossils, dinner plates, bottle caps—the materials are secondary to the construction, to the act of constructing, and oh, what a construction this is.
Like the great adventures alluded to in the manifesto, this poem does not hint, ever, at where it is we are going. One could argue for the purposefulness of this path, or for the accidental loveliness, though, I don’t believe it matters. The Infrarealists, and Papasquiaro specifically, aren’t concerned with the end, merely the paths we take on our way there:
what’s the use if there are lives that are cars with no engines
desperately honking their horns
without being able to go
Where so many other movements, at least those throughout the 20th century, held the product as its crux, Infrarealism recognizes that particular idolization as crippling. By focusing so hard on what is made, one forgets the exquisiteness of mystery. One becomes fearful, then, of discovery, and when you reach that point, my friend, you are as good as dead. The adventure is over. But as Papasquiaro rightly points out, in “[p]oetry: we’re still alive.”
We are still alive, and so, we must go on. If this poem had a thesis, that would be it. We are still alive, and we must go. This is an amazing, and amazingly simple, idea. And Papasquiaro has wedged it in as the cornerstone of this poem, and, in a greater sense, his art:
If this isn’t Art I’ll slash my vocal cords
my tenderest testicle / I’ll stop blathering
if this isn’t Art
Yes, it’s melodramatic, but in a sense, what art isn’t? And why shouldn’t it be? Papasquiaro, after all, is dealing with amazements; the moon, the blooming lovers, “the fucking awesome vermilion of the twilight . . . ” Infrarealism, as it plays out in this poem, isn’t a dreamt ideal, it’s a responsibility; one deemed of great consequence, one that does come down to life and death, one that doesn’t devolve into melodrama, but deserves it. Our attention is more than desired, it’s demanded. And this is where we as readers find ourselves most sympathetic to Papasquiaro’s belief that, “poetry and politics [are] inseparable.”
The heroism of this text has finally revealed itself, and we can see why the poem is hailed as the seminal Infrarealist document. There are those who are “infected with the nervousness the anxiety/ of those who act like they breathe,” and then there is this poem, there is Papasquiaro, who isn’t leading us to safety (as is the heroic custom), because safety, we realize now, isn’t life, but death. So what, then, of life?
life is still your poetry workshop
&hopefully you’ll electrify the power of your inner storm
as well as the girl with the agility of I sailboat
whom you’ve chosen as the partner of your next escapades . . .
Trust me, I know how this sounds, with all it’s life affirming testaments, and “beauty is in the journey” malarkey, but this is the effect the poem has on its reader; one is quickly caught up in the inevitability of hope and excitement, of danger, and its revelations of life. One gets lost in existence without becoming existential, and one understands Infrarealism without ever having to read its manifesto:
“When you see in this the instinct of the struggle for existence
that made Rosa Luxemburg euphoric
the living application of the heretic Wilhelm Reich’s favorite theorem:
i body is taught to read & write next to another body
& thus the Unversity of Tenderness is founded”
The poem is called, “Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic,” but it just as could have easily been titled, “Tina Turner was Wrong, Heroes Are All We Need.” And though we needn’t be heroes to be poets, we do find, in the journey of this poem, that we do need to be poets if we ever hope to be heroes.
BJ Love is the author, most recently, of Yes, I’m Sure This Was a Beautiful Place (Strange Cage), a collaboration with the poet, Lucas Pingel. In addition to teaching at Savannah State University, he co-hosts Seersucker Shots, and produces Pretty LIT, a podcast that brings together, finally, the worlds of poetry and club bangers, and can be found at: https://soundcloud.com/b-j-love.
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