Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century
In late twentieth-century Spain, myriad factors in political, educational, and literary spheres converged to encourage a certain kind of writing: a traditional, academic, and at times even sterile poetic mode consistent with the post-Francoist political establishment. Textbooks published with public funds, presses aligned with corporations or government institutions, and awards judged by major publishing houses and universities reinforced national and generational identifications, which, in turn, stifled growth and experimentation. In the words of critic Daniel Aguirre-Oteiza, the will to change or evolve artistically was, for many, reduced to “revisiting and reinforcing a well-established national tradition.”
The aftereffects of this tendency are still occasionally visible, with critics seeking in contemporary writers those traits that are emblematic of the country’s literary conventions. It’s a practice that discounts intellectually and geographically boundless work for the sake of fitting it within the circumference of “Spanish” poetics; that is, it results in the emphasis of commonalities over singularities and obscures innovation in service of national identity. The twenty-first century, however, has seen an exploratory surge in Spanish poetics, a sea change of sorts. In his anthology, Panic Cure, Forrest Gander points to this phenomenon: “After stepping clear of a long dictatorship, after elections and new freedoms in Spain, every person and certainly every artist faces the question of what comes next. There is the panic of the blank page, the twenty-first century, a transformed and transforming world. And there is the cure, the curandero-poet, the vivifying impulse.”
Pilar Fraile Amador, one of the most innovative of the generation of poets to come of age post-Franco, enters here. A voice beyond the constraints of self-isolating, institutionalized poetics, Fraile Amador may bring relief to poets who seek to open new writerly itineraries. Her work—unflinchingly non-linear, multi-vocal, disjunctive—affords an alternative view of Spanish poetry and invites departure from literary norms. Her adventurous style is a form of ethics: the openness of her syntax, for example, affords a larger sense of interconnection and a multiplicity of potential meanings, not only at the sentence level but at the epistemological one. In Larva & Hedge, Fraile Amador invites the reader to enter into imaginative coexistence, to step into a world at once surreal and imbued with a sense of déja vu. These poems deal in dualities, juxtaposing the intimate and the collective, the strong and the weak, the human and the animal—yoking them together to call their differences into question. Within this unearthly province, poems become self-reflexive, multi-vocal linguistic acts, stages in a continuous meditation. Poet and reader alike must consider what draws a collective together, what shapes and defines a community.