Academic journal article Chicago Review

Introduction: Gravity and Weightlessness

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Introduction: Gravity and Weightlessness

Article excerpt

Juan Carlos Flores (Cuba, 1962-2016) dedicated his mature works to "resurrection." He explicitly applied this concept as a vision for his community of Alamar, located on the eastern outskirts of Havana. Flores also turned to poetry to explore uplift of a more personal nature. He created his work under difficult circumstances. This dossier explores the many turns and contradictions of his poetry, which soars even as it is crashing to the earth.

For the first time, we're publishing a rare document delineating his thought about poetics. Mayra Lopez had the idea to write down one of his occasional speeches about the nature of poetry sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. Lopez was Flores's childhood sweetheart. Later she lived with him as his partner from December 1999 to August 2012, in an apartment in Alamar. This particular discourse came about through a verbal game they played together.

Lopez calls it "El soliloquio de Juan Carlos Flores" ("The Soliloquy of Juan Carlos Flores"). She had intended to continue recording more of Flores's remarks on poetry in order to create a series, but his health soon declined precipitously. Less than two years after his death, we are not aware of other surviving documentation of this kind. Lopez offers the text with a set of contextual remarks, which are similarly unique, recording her intimate knowledge of the writer's relationship to words.

"The original idea behind poetry is performative," Flores asserts in the soliloquy. "In that performance all arts were contained, in embryonic form." His mature poetry accommodates physical as well as textual performance: it circles and spirals, animated by his precise handling of repetition. Flores argues that poetry's revolutions originate in planetary rotation, the source of all human artistic force. Drawn into motion by celestial bodies, we launch our own rotations of bodies and signs.

So, maybe this dossier is about the pulls on our existence, about states of circulation and rest, equilibrium and disturbance--and one writer's creative passages through these phases of being.

Maybe it's about the repetitive simplicity of a human struggle to bring two states of intensity, hallucination and lucidity, into line.

And about the complexity of managing this struggle.

As Marta Hernandez Salvan writes in her contribution, maybe it's about reconceptualizing the meaning of "revolutions," following a more ancient understanding of the term.

To introduce our dossier, I would prefer not to dwell on the fact or manner of Flores's recent death. However, these subjects will arise around discussions of his work for years to come. Even if our contributors tried to establish strict limitations focused on what might be most "appropriate" and "literary," Flores is understood to be a poet with a strong relationship to his local community. His struggles with illness over the years, and particularly in his final years, were quite visible there--and his suicide was public. So the fact of his death is unavoidable, and the manner of his death is brutal but must be acknowledged, a difficulty that pervades the dossier.

Gravity dragged Flores to his end. He will now appear in the island's literature not only as a poet, but as an image composed by others. In that role, Flores already echoes the hanged man in the Cafe Bonaparte, a figure in a famous poem by Fayad Jamis (1930-1988) called up by Reina Maria Rodriguez in her contribution to this dossier, an elegy that took her a long time to write.

Other contributors who knew Flores also confided that they were having difficulty in composing these pieces. The writing process forces confrontation with grief. Some told me they put a lot of effort into trying to negotiate boundaries, recognizing his death but attempting to keep it from overshadowing his life. They sensed that there were wrong ways to go about this. Some left a lot between the lines. It was hard to collect the contributions for this dossier on a schedule, and I am grateful to the writers for pushing through. …

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