Academic journal article Liminalities

"Vos Y Yo Estamos Acá": Lyric/Non-Lyric and Public Space in the Poetry of Andi Nachon

Academic journal article Liminalities

"Vos Y Yo Estamos Acá": Lyric/Non-Lyric and Public Space in the Poetry of Andi Nachon

Article excerpt

The published works of Andi Nachon1 (Buenos Aires, 1970) comprise more than half a dozen single-authored collections of poetry, inclusion in several recent anthologies, and her own anthology of Argentine women poets. Nachon's poetry occupies, in form and technique, a space between the dominant trends of 1980s and 90s Argentine poetry-broadly speaking, the neobarroco and objetivismo2-while her themes take in contemporary pop culture, political memory and resistance, and what might be termed the psychogeography of the city. Ambiguity-of subject or narrative position; of syntax; of geographical or physical position; and of gender-characterizes much of her work.

One of the most notable features of the current poetic moment in Argentina, and particularly in Buenos Aires, is the presence of poetry in public spaces. There are regular poetry reading events, both at dedicated venues (some are local government supported, such as La casa de la poesía or La casa de la lectura; others are independent ventures, such as Belleza y felicidad or Estación alógena) and in bars and cafés. This is not, however, the world of "slam" poetry as popularized in Anglophone countries, although some poets, such as Sagrado Sebakis (Sebastián Kishner), organise and participate in such events.3 Nachon's own declamatory style is disconcerting. Although she is significantly above average height, she tends to read sitting down. Furthermore, her readings are relatively inexpressive, her voice quiet, and her demeanour almost apologetic at times, not least when confronted with applause.4 This is one of the means by which she simultaneously intervenes in public space while obliging readers and audiences to rethink the bases of such an intervention, questioning the presence of the lyric "I."

This is especially relevant in late 1990s and early 2000s Buenos Aires. Susana Draper has written on what she calls the "spatial transformations" of the countries of the Southern Cone under dictatorship and during the so-called transitions to democracy. She focuses in particular on the emergence of new malls, often converted from former civic buildings and, in one infamous case in Uruguay, from a former prison; a similarly striking example would be the Galerías Pacífico in downtown Buenos Aires.5 Ricardo Piglia's now famous comment on the change of bus stop signs in 1977 to "Zona de detención" [detention zone] (115), a sort of grotesque joke about the dangers of being out in the city under military occupation, highlights the particular relevance of such transformations for Nachon's poetry. If the "proceso" dictatorship of the 1970s had sought to create a panoptic sense of surveillance and paranoia, and to close down the street as place of movement, exchange, and protest,6 then the postdictatorship era saw the continuation of a series of measures that privatised public space: property booms, neighbourhood private security guards, and "clean ups" of areas such as the former transvestite "cruising" zone in Palermo. New forms of re-urbanisation saw the renovation of cheaper areas of the city in the shape of so-called torres jardín. A model of development known as "palermización" (the SoHo-style early-adopter-led property boom) became widespread and widely promoted across the city, not least in the wake of the economic crash and political debacle of 2001-2. Outside the city, there emerged new private gated residential estates, the so-called country, often surrounded by areas of extreme poverty. All of this contributed to the reduction of shared public space in the city. Yet at the same time, the 2000s and 2010s have been marked by a re-emergence of public protest, both for and against the government of the day.

Against such a background, this essay sets out to examine a number of aspects of Nachon's poetry in relation to questions of poetry and public space: the context from which her earliest work emerges; its development of novel forms of address, in relation to comparable near-contemporary poets; explorations of space, including a form of psychogeography, in both her early collections and her volume Taiga (2000); and the subtle political engagements found in her poetry, including a later collection, Plaza real (2004). …

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