[eng] Begoña Ugalde – The relief after the retch. Notes on Angela Neira's “The orthopedics of language”

    Like any work of art that knows how to dialogue with its space and context, Angela Neira's third collection of poems, published this time by the Spanish publishing house Sabina, raises more questions than answers. Questions that, at the same time, address the paralyzing questions, what we should write about/what we should not write about, which have always been imposed on women writers, and which have historically served as gags, formulated from the disdain or distrust of the power of our voice. 

    Recognizing that it is not enough to reflect on language, but that it is necessary to unravel it, to observe it at its root, and also as a physical organ that has been conditioned, regulated, denied, the author addresses these questions from the same writing gesture. With the lucidity that comes from experiencing how liberating the decision to write can be, in spite of everything. Silence is no longer a comfortable place for us. We no longer accept its over-understanding us in ellipsis, that is to say, we will no longer remain silent, and if the language does not work, we will create another one (p. 56). Now that everything seems to be changing vertiginously, and the old paradigms are finally falling, this collection of poems is a call to realize that there is a canon of "beautiful" words, just as there is a canon of bodily beauty, which tells us how we should look, how to say, how to approach, how to bond. That is why it is no longer surprising to see in the media the most grotesque representatives of patriarchy appropriating "good" words, such as justice, truth, peace. Words that, when spoken from a podium, with confident intonation, become empty and meaningless. But we know that every monument is linked to a war. And that war, besides being a business, is a language that does not really belong to us. It is therefore necessary to deny even the alphabet, which has been taught to us together with punishment, together with the dictation. We must also question the way in which we have been led to believe that time works, through the Gregorian calendar, and reinvent another sequence to order the days, in tune with our cycles and seasons. 

    From the very constitution of the verses, we are reminded that all dictatorships have tried to prohibit the original, non-hegemonic languages. Because trying to homogenize the use of language, to take away its complexity, subtracts identity, suppressing the particular and unique visions and cosmogonies. And, on the contrary, by questioning ourselves, and distancing ourselves from the old paradigms, new certainties emerge: All questions if they are in the first person I answer (p. 54). Thus, recognizing that the imposition of language has been done by domesticating the body, the search for new ways of saying becomes an organic exercise, turning writing into an act of healing and salvation. The exercise Angela proposes then, through a rhythm and a cadence that seem to be heard when read, is to approach words from their performativity. Because the speaker knows that, no matter how much force is used, it is not really possible to extirpate the subterranean language, the one that pulses other meanings and that which ultimately constitutes the poetic saying. Thus, by opening the body as a channel, the poet recovers a first language. And keeping her mouth open, without articulating a word or a cry, she allows the retch to emerge. A retch that in turn allows the purging of the authoritarian tones. Emptying that is consummated in the collection of poems, in each verse, emphasizing its constitution, conceiving the taste buds as new senses, which allow to perceive other flavors, which in turn allow to rearticulate a previous, original and mutable music. Each poem thus functions as an incantation, which allows us to see the words anew, in their form, in their scratches, in their signifier. In this way it re-appropriates them, it frees them from meanings that do not identify us.

  And through this gesture, she vindicates the autobiographical register, which allows us to recover a common experience. Embracing the child, who recognizes her distance from her father's language and the nostalgia of a silenced mother tongue. Who babbles to recover the speech that is composed of guttural rhythms, emphases linked to hunger, thirst, the need for contact. Where phrases, not always decipherable, are interwoven with fluids. Inviting us to listen to this chaotic pulse, to give it oxygen and space in our daily speech and in our writing. To reconfigure a language that incorporates intonations, lexicons, ways of saying, beyond the logos. To decipher silence, at the same time that we move the language, making it sound in a powerful exercise that demystifies and refutes consecrated figures such as Neruda: that language enters/to be as absent/should not be a classic (p. 46). Thus, this visceral writing frees itself from an orthopedics that has hurt us and left deep marks. Like someone who stops wearing a corset, which stiffens the posture, braces that regulate the bite, or insoles that guide the footprint. Like those who get out of the drawing and color the whole page. Like someone who removes the monument. And writes on the walls of the city in flames, with spray, with light, with rage and without fear: that every concept be eliminated/ that every statue be eliminated/ that we root out the inheritance of the father/ from the root (p. 39).

* Begoña Ugalde. Author of numerous plays. She published the collections of poems El cielo de los animales [Animal heaven] (2010, Calle Passy), La virgen de las Antenas [The virgin of the antennas] (2011 Cuneta), Lunares [Lunar] (2016 Pez Espiral), Poemas sobre mi normalidad [Poems about my normality] (2018 Ril), La Fiesta Vacía [The Empty Party] (Tege) and the collection of short stories Es lo que hay [It is what it is] (2021 Alfaguara).

[1] Translated from the Spanish by Andrea Balart.

        © Angela Neira-Muñoz

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