Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Alternative Mappings of Belonging: Non Son De Aquí by María Do Cebreiro and Rasgado by Lila Zemborain

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Alternative Mappings of Belonging: Non Son De Aquí by María Do Cebreiro and Rasgado by Lila Zemborain

Article excerpt

In a brief poem from the book Non son de aquí, by Galician poet María do Cebreiro,1 the poet writes: 'nada temos / sen a conciencia exacta / de que sempre estaremosi / a punto de marchar' (2008: 26). Non son de aqu í is shaped by the physical experience of motion and displacement, as the poetic speaker constantly shifts location inside and outside Galicia, bordering at times on a sense of alienation. This sense of alienation, however, seems liberating, freeing the poetic speaker to experience, in detachment, a new sense of belonging. Rasgado (2006), by Argentinean poet Lila Zemborain, also reveals a preoccupation with belonging and alienation. As a sort of poetic diary written in response to the World Trade Center attack in New York City on 11 September 2001, Zemborain's book tracks the steps of a poetic speaker intent on redefining the terms of her relationship with a city both alien and familiar. This article examines the nomadic experience of the poetic speakers in both poetry collections as the occasion for a rearticulation of the concept of belonging. Reformulating the terms of belonging - to a city, to a nation, to a geographical space - can lead to the creation of new, alternative mappings that expose and question stationary notions of gender, of space, and of gender in space.

Henri Lefebvre's triad - perceived space, conceived space, and lived space - makes it possible to argue that, in the act of wandering and physically responding to space ('perceived space'), the speakers in Rasgado and Non son de aquí experience and negotiate a new 'lived space'. By extension, acquired, internalized modes of conceiving and representing space ('conceived space') are in turn interrogated, unveiling an unfamiliar topography to the walker/speaker (1991: 40). In Rasgado, the urban landscape after 9/11 is almost unrecognizable, making it imperative for the speaker to reappropriate a physical space whose coordinates need to be learned anew. Zemborain herself refers to the experience of writing this book as being prompted by the urge to bear witness, to record her and others' experience of a city buried in dust, 'a forbidden, sacred space', she says, 'a kind of cemetery'.2 It becomes clear from Zemborain's own reflections on the process of writing Rasgado that the personal stakes are higher for her in this book than in the rest of her production. Dedicated to Zemborain's son, who was at school near the World Trade Center twin towers on 9/11, Rasgado constitutes the poet's attempt to show him that art can help one survive and endure trauma. At the same time, the book can also be read as her own effort to come to terms with a post 9/11 New York City, a city she had known closely for sixteen years. Having arrived in 1985 for personal and professional reasons, and probably on account of this, Zembo- rain tends to think of herself mostly as an Argentinean temporarily residing in the United States. Nevertheless, the tragedy of 9/11 undoubtedly confronts her with feelings of nostalgia for a city not necessarily associated with homeland yet bound up inextricably with her sense of belonging.3

The poetic speaker in Rasgado experiences a need for the city to be revived, dug out of the dust and brought back to signify again, yet the meanings attached to it will now inevitably be altogether different. The eerie atmosphere of post 9/11 New York City pervades every corner of the daily routines that compose the speaker's everyday life, her quotidian existence. As will be seen later, several of the poems in the book literally take the subject on the exact same walks and itine- raries she engaged in before the attack, enabling her to leave her footprints on the dusty surface of the city now lying underneath. What used to be immediate and familiar now becomes alien and alienating, prompting a journey of recog- nition 'con las clásicas paradas para apreciar / mejor el panorama que ahora se contiene con vallas / policiales y agentes apostados' (Zemborain 2006: 59). …

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