January 23, 2021

Spectral Flesh – The Province



Rarely will the reader have come across a book of such laborious digestion, starting with its appearance, let’s say, visual. His extensive poems are made up of very long verses that have forced the editor to widen the text box and use a smaller font than usual, and the repeated use of the isolated script and the arrow as signs to separate ideas or propel the speech, respectively, generates a strangeness that makes reading this dense collection of poems an at times exhausting experience.

By hand, more than poems, it seems that we are reading dumps of preparatory notes to write poems; an emergency writing in accordance with some of the issues that the American poet deals with: the toxic overdose of information that we suffer (and even more so this 2020), presided over by the speed and voracity of the exchange; the vertigo of feeling that one is constantly missing something important; the progressive impoverishment of the most sensitive environment in favor of the virtual contact environment; the predation that depletes the planet … And all this, developed extensively, in long lists that function as charge sheets or inquisitive examinations that give the impression of having been transcribed directly from a logorheic brain.

However, once you have gained your position within this emergency discourse, it is easy to locate a powerful emotional current that flows from the margins to configure a nerve center of concerns. The translators, Rubén Martín and Antonio F. Rodríguez, identify two main areas of interest in their enlightening prologue: the personal or micro, taken over by “the author’s oncological process and the gradual mental and physical disintegration of her parents”, and the collective or macro, in which he expresses, in addition to the issues mentioned in the previous paragraph, his discouragement at the replacement of the “dream of an interconnected humanity” (the gift of the internet) by “an intricate network of simulations, mined by new forms of alienation, surveillance and confusion ”.

“They are immeasurable facts,” Graham acknowledges in an interview quoted by the translators. “They cannot be thought at the same time. And yet, that is how it should be done ”.

But “at the same time” does not mean in the same poem; not even, always, in the same section of the book; only in the same book, since Graham has reserved for the second and fourth parts the poems in which he evokes the death of his parents, those referring to the cancer that he was diagnosed with for the third, and has entirely dedicated the first to mapping the present of the species. A distribution that is sometimes violent to make room for intrusions from the macro scale to the micro scale, and vice versa: “Handcuffed to a whirlwind. I asked the plants to give me my little identity. No, to the planets ”. It is the verse with which the poem Ashes begins and the whole book begins, and can be seen as a kind of panoramic view of the world after the disaster, an après delúge that exchanges the flood for the digital apocalypse, confirmed in the following poem, Honeycomb, when the poetic voice dialogues with a bot and asks uselessly: “Find the meat closest to my meat.”

The loss of physical contact due to the prevalence of the virtual environment, and the insistence with which the author suffers from its consequences, is the point where all the registers in which she turns her concerns converge, from the most intimate to the most admonitory. But the duel goes further, and its own “entry into oncoexistence, as the poet Anne Blonstein called it,” the translators point out, becomes a “collective forecast.” This is reflected in poems such as From the Inside of the MRI and the shocking Entreabriendo, in which, starting from the description of the fears of an oncology patient (undoubtedly herself), she implacably radiographs the attitude towards technology, to a fearful and fascinated time, of the humans of this time.

And he takes it even further in Criónica (a poem in which he addresses the same issue that Don DeLillo touches in Cero K, a novel published while Graham was writing Deprisa) by concluding that technological advances, in addition to supplanting life, incite us to fantasize with prolonging it ignoring the terms granted by nature, even at the price of reaching a transhuman and cyborg existence. A devastating book.

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