Many times, over the years, I have been asked what poetry is for me, and I have answered in many different ways. However, today, I am left with the simplicity and precision of this answer: "For me, poetry is breathing, it is air, it is a heartbeat".
And simplicity brings with it many clarifications. It is not that I am forgetting the words that poets of different periods have written, prowling the mystery to get closer to the Truth. The different Ars Poeticae (those poems where an author reveals his knowledge of what poetry is) bear witness to the innumerable variations in the meaning of what poetry is for each one. Going through these definitions as if they were a cartography is a very wise path if we bear in mind that poetry is tradition, that it is the word trying to name the world over and over again.
But here I abandon the path of history and I think that the best way to talk about poetry in its living state is to turn to the space of everyday life. In this way, we will not think of poetry as a literary "artefact", but as a possibility of finding territories of air and breath. Or, as the Argentinian writer Laura Devetach points out in her article En estado de poesía, "to enter poetry in the same way as someone dives into the water. And remains there, in an immersion in language".
In this sense, someone reminded me these days that the Argentinean poet Juan L. Ortiz once said in an interview: "Writing poetry is the least important thing. The important thing is to lead a poetic life". And the Mexican Octavio Paz made a similar point when he asked himself: "Wouldn't it be better to transform life into poetry than to make poetry out of life?
With this new dimension of the poetic in mind, I think there is nothing better than to reproduce some of the thoughts of the participants in a Poesía en la Escuela (Poetry at School) workshop that we are coordinating with my friend Marisa Negri. The participants were mostly women, teachers, librarians, poets. We asked them what it meant for them to live "in a state of poetry" and they answered:
"To have our senses awake. If we live with our senses activated, life brings us poetry at every step. I practice this every day when I drive to work and I am amazed by the colours of the sky, a glance from someone waiting for a bus, a waving flag, a song playing on the radio, a child asking at a traffic light, children running at the door of a school... everything moves me and makes me think that life is made up of magical moments", says Betty.
María Belén adds: "I find the idea of 'poetic baggage' interesting, a poetic baggage that we all possess and handle without knowing it. I think that to 'discover' the poetic it is necessary to pause, to stop time to look at the moments, to sharpen one's gaze. Poetry allows one to look at the everyday world with strangeness, to be a stranger in one's own place. In this way, the everyday becomes unfamiliar, the details are brought into focus in order to say and acquire ambiguity and thickness. Observation and poetic writing make it possible to see what is beyond and also what is closest. Everyday life, routine, is discovery and not repetition. Discovery, if one is capable of reading instants as texts".
Laura recounts her own road movie: "I drive along a road. To the left a sunny sunset against a clear sky that turns orange, to the right the storm, black, threatening, imminent. In the centre, above my head, rays of sunlight slip through clouds advancing in a tense battle of beauty. Each opponent struggles to invade the other's territory. The rays fall to the front and to the right, but right there, the field and the trees are broken to pieces, because the sun wins them in patches. The shades of green multiply in the air rarefied by electricity. The instant is eternal and fragile. The camera shoots, desperate and futile. The words explode: to be in poetry".
Paula is categorical when she assures: "I realised that the state of poetry is the state I always want to be in; for some I will pass as distracted, but thanks to Laura (Devetach, the text quoted above) here I have the answer: I am in a state of poetry."
They say that 21 March is Poetry Day. It is the day when spring begins in the northern hemisphere and in the south, where I live and write these lines, autumn begins. Two sides of the same coin, the cycles and the seasons showing us the passing of time. A good occasion to pause in the magic that bursts into the wonder of the everyday. To stop, that is, to take a break in time, to listen to everything that sings around us. Be it that flower that is already opening in the north, or this leaf that falls golden as I look out my window here in the south.
Alejandra Correa, April, 2018.
Alejandra Correa is a poet. Since 2010, together with Marisa Negri, she has been running the Festival de Poesía en la Escuela (Poetry Festival at School), a self-managed, community-based project in Argentina in which more than 50,000 children, young people, poets, artists and teachers have participated. She has written and published several books of poetry. One of them, "Si tuviera que escribirte" (If I had to write to you) was published in 2015 by Malas Compañías.