Friday, September 23, 2011

A fragment on José Martí: indirect reflections on action

In the hierarchy of José Martí’s values, action comes first.  In his notebook he writes: “Before assembling a collection of my poems I would like to assemble a collection of my actions.”[1]  Movement is a favorite term for him; “movement” he claims “is contagious”[2] If much of the action of his life is occupied with revolutionary agitation, political organization, and in the end, armed struggle to achieve a democratic Cuba, little of this action is directly reflected in his verse.  In fact, Roberto González Echevarría notes the near absence of politics and love in his poetry[3].  This is an odd claim, however.  Stanzas drawn randomly for any Martí volume are in fact fully flavored with love and politics and violence. “Yesterday, at the art show,/I saw her, and yesterday/My heart from me flew/After that woman to follow.”[4]  Though the section then takes a darker turn [“On the grim earth for the weary/Grow neither violet nor thorn”] it is clear nevertheless that Martí, the somewhat notorious lover, is writing as himself, not in the name of someone else.  The poems have a visionary tone; the stanza that follows on the one just quoted is the one in which he predicts his death. (“Don’t in darkness let me lie/With traitors to come undone:/I am good and as the good die/I will die face to the sun.”[5])  Marti is a man of movement, and in his verse the movement is crystallized, and in that crystal the action is reflected upon.

[1]  Allen, Esther, ed. Jose Marti: Selected Writings. New York: Penguin, 2002, Notebook 5 73
[2] Ibid., Notebook 5 73
[3]  Ibid.,  pxxiv
[4]  Marti, Vesos Sencillos Translated by Manuel A Tellechea [1997] XXI, 71
[5] Ibid.

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