November 25, 2020

“It is an element of resistance”


On March 20, back at her parents’ house to spend confinement, Rocío Acebal Doval (Oviedo, 1997) received an email. He had won the XXXV Hiperión Award with Children of bonanza, his second collection of poems. “It was totally anticlimactic,” he confesses, and laughs when he remembers that he forgot to add the contact information on all copies of the manuscript, so part of the jury “didn’t even have my phone number.”

Four years earlier, Acebal had published Memories of the sea (Valparaíso, 2016), a poetry book with a love theme that he wrote “with great desire but with fear of what they will say,” explains by video call to elDiario.es. Although he continues to see himself represented in his first work, which he always takes with him to recitals, he considers that it was written “under the pressure of not being taken seriously”, which implies “a voice that is not so much his own”.

She felt freer when conceiving Sons of bonanza, a much more political collection of poems that he describes as “a book of doubts, of exposing situations, that opens more questions than answers.” It owes its title to The children of the children of wrath, by Ben Clark, winner of the XXI Hiperión Prize in 2006. “It is an expression that he uses in one of his poems and it seemed appropriate to refer to those of us who grew up in the years before the crisis of 2008.” Sons of bonanza appeals both to Clark’s generation, which combined the economic recession with entry into the labor market, as well as to the subsequent generation that experienced “the end of the pitching years” during adolescence.

Precariousness, feminism and uncertainty

“We are not going to live / better than our parents but at least / we know we can resist”, reads the poem Self-portrait (or x-ray of a brunch with my friends). Little remains of the promises to those who were born in good times, they have been replaced by terms such as precariousness, rootlessness, conformity and uncertainty. “I am very concerned about the uncertainty, the job instability that affects the personal, in forming a life project,” says Acebal. “Furthermore, we know that our production system is out of date, that our way of life is not sustainable.”

In I sign my fourth internship contract, the author criticizes those who from their ergonomic chairs say “you’re lucky” to the intern who works for free. She is aware that she speaks from her “own privilege”, that of young university students who have been able to do an Erasmus and even afford unpaid internships. “It is important to know where you are, that my precariousness is not going to be the same as that of other people, but the fact that others are worse off does not take away the right to claim a collective malaise that continues to be serious,” he says.

Feminism, another of the themes that backbones the three parts into which it is divided Children of bonanza, is treated from irony. “You were for the cause, but now / your conscience forces you to denounce it:« they are all whores »”, writes Acebal in Ally, and even reinterprets Luis Alberto de Cuenca in Night Watch, where her “now you know that they are bored by types full of proper names” she answers with “now you know that your feminist gestures repel them”. “Once you put on the purple glasses there is no going back, although that complicates everything,” he says.

Poetry to resist and dialogue

“There are certain currents of poetry that are daughters of immediacy,” says Acebal about the poems that usually go viral on social networks, such as those of the last Espasa Prize winner, Rafael Cabaliere. “He posts a poem on Instagram every morning, I would be unable to write at that rate.” “The poetry in which I believe is an element of resistance, it requires a slow and enriching dialogue, which puts words to other gaps and nuances of reality,” he explains.

However, he considers it useless “to scandalize ourselves because there are books of poetry best-seller“and” crucify certain authors with repercussions that seem to be enemies of poetry, I don’t think they take away readers. “It opens the possibility of conceiving as” youth poetry “some more viral poets,” whose creations have little complexity and play always with immediacy. “” It can be a good genre in its own codes; like the juvenile narrative, it may function as a gateway to another type of poetry. ”

Acebal defends “an accessible writing, but not chewed up.” “That is why it has cost me so much to write political poetry, there is always the risk of falling into the pamphlet, making a concession to a certain consumer need.” Thinking of “an honest poetry, based on collective truths”, Acebal cites as main influences Angela Figuera Aymerich, Emily Dickinson or Jaime Gil de Biedma, and also poets from his land, Asturias, such as Ángel González and Víctor Botas.

He does not forget to mention other authors of the young scene: Mario Vega, Rosa Berbel, Guillermo Marco Remón, Sara Torres or Juan Gallego Benot, among other voices that can be framed within a constellation of poets that is revitalizing the Spanish horizon. Although it affects the formal diversity and references, Acebal points out the similarity of certain themes, such as “the revision of love poetry in terms of sentimentality and the resurgence of the social question.” “There are new codes of love, we problematize different things and present relationships as a much more egalitarian space,” he points out. “And as a young culture, in general, it is normal that we are concerned about the precariousness and the political situation.”

Acebal wants to stay away from poetry “subjected to the commodification of time and immediacy.” Lately he has not found much space for writing because he has begun to study a master’s degree in law, but he will create again “when my vital conditions allow it”. That moment will come because, as he expresses in one of his poems, “If one day I woke up without words, I would die of hunger or sadness. / I have nothing else: the useless vocation to think and explain what I have thought.”

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