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Here’s to the poem: unpublished prologue to a future book for Red Networks [Redes Escarlata] (film script)

- Chus Pato

Translated by William Rowe


Good evening to everyone.

My intervention is in two parts, in the first I’ll present some of the protagonists of the second part and then I’ll read the second part, which is the main text.

I am going to speak to you, a little, about my country [nación] (as a theoretical framework etc) and I’ll begin by telling you the plot of Return to Tagen Ata, a short novel by XLMF:

In those days what existed was:
The Broad Land (the metropolis, the state)
Tagen Ata (the colony, the oppressed land)
Anati (a country of emigrants from Tagen Ata)
The Great Forest (a wood, a refuge [maquis] a place of resistance)
Rotbaf Luden, the protagonist, was born and educated in Anati; her parents were cultured, educated and defenders of the independence of Tagen Ata; when she reached 20 she decided to return to Tagen Ata and get into contact with the resistance. She meets Ulm Roan, an attractive middle-aged man who is the leader of the movement and she realises he is a collaborator who has liquidated the resistance in the name of what, to say it quickly, I will call ‘social-democratic possibilism’; our protagonist – in dreams or reality, we can’t be sure – shoots Ulm Roan and possibly kills him; she escapes to the Great Forest to join the true struggle, which has not surrendered to the treachery of the collaborationists.

This is a situation that comes from a long way back, so as not to get lost in time, I’ll tell you it was around 1840, only 10 years after the independence of what years ago used to be called the Spanish colonies in America. It was then that there began to appear the first manifestations of that political thought and action in which the defence of Galicia and its way of being as well as the critique of political centralism began to be manifest.

The discovery of Galicia as independent from other countries was the result of the work of the generation of 1846, a group of young men and women among whom Antoíño Faraldo stands out, and whose writings identified the principal differentiating characteristics of Galicia and the problems it suffered from. The denunciation of these problems was accompanied by a clearly romantic, democratic and liberal type of political thought that saw in self-government the possibility of finding solutions.

The Declaration of 1846 is the consequence of these ideas. Led by Miguel Solís against the moderate government of Narváez, it created in the city of Santiago de Compostela a Government of Galicia [Junta Superior del Gobierno de Galicia] which denounced the exploitation of the Galician people and called for the regeneration of its wealth and prestige. The declaration failed and Solís and his companions were arrested and shot in Carral (a few kilometres from La Coruña.)

Faraldo and other members were obliged to go into exile in Portugal. He died in Granada, at the early age of 30.

Parallel to what happens in Catalunya or the Basque Country, around 1880, a regionalist movement appears in our country, seeking, justifying and defending the use in Galicia of our own language as consequence of the right to political and administrative autonomy. This defence was formulated from two different ideological positions: a liberal and democratic one led by Manuel Murguía, husband of Rosalía de Castro and another, conservative, traditionalist and catholic one represented by Alfredo Brañas.

And with this that I have told you there ends the presentation of the actors of the text that I will now read. Its title is Here’s to the poem: film script and it’s an unpublished prologue to a future book of the Red Network, a militant politico-cultural group that operates currently in our territory.

*****

Long shot of the field of the festival of Vilar de Lebres. The camera approaches Rotbaf Luden, who under the shade of an oak and eternally young is striking the keys of an Olivetti lettera. The lens focuses on the letters on the paper; the protagonist is writing and a manifesto can take no other form.

This is what we came here today to declare:

That a poet is a being who cannot say it of herself, that in order to be a poet it is not enough to write the best poems, or that these be published, and are a success in the market, and that criticism and the literary system give her recognition.

A poet has to be proclaimed by those who perceive sovereignty over the language in which she writes, a sovereignty of that kind resides solely in the people to whom belong the poems that the poet signs with her name.

Yes, sovereign is the one who can decree a state of exception, in other words, the suspension of the law. When we relate sovereignty to the theme that concerns us, we sustain that only the nation can decree the linguistic exception that the birth of a poet (the publication of her texts) presupposes, an exception that suspends the language of consensus and common use, which the poet takes to its extreme limits, to what it cannot say. Since poems are a construction of language, they never signify silence or the ineffable but precisely that which can be said and which the language of consensus cannot in any way name.

We know of extreme cases: among ourselves I will remind you of the post-war years of dictatorship when it was difficult for people to know what their poets wrote. Even so, among the exiles, and circulating secretly, we did come to hear about the long night of stone that fell upon us. We did get news of Vietnam song, We demand  liberty for our people. And I’ll remind you of the long centuries when we knew nothing of our medieval lyrics . . . , and then something extraordinary [inaudito] happened and a people of today reads the lyrics and their reading is on behalf of all those generations for whom that poetry had remained in darkness. Or else, works that have been kept asleep in some kind of enchantment until someone or something kisses their lips – and once again or for the first time and in their full rights they enter into the present – I am speaking about María Mariño, the dynamiter of speech. And there are cases, indeed, in which a poet writes for a dead people – they formed among themselves a Babel of languages that does not coincide with the language in which the poet writes, which is the case of Paul Celan and the black milk of daybreak – in that case another collectivity, a living people, proclaims the poetry of this poet who wrote for that collectivity of dead people, six million, who come into the letters, and into our voice, alive again. And that too is the force of poets.

This is the reason why poets are loved by the people [los pueblos], because they write what nations cannot say and need to say: the words of a poem / free, literally constructed of desire.

We’re often told that today poetry has lost its capacity to intervene, to transform reality, and often too, as always, as it has always been, that poetry and politics don’t make a good couple.

Since the beginning of what we understand by the West, politics and Literature came together, not only because Aristotle writes about poetry in his Politics, not only because Plato is concerned with Literature in the Republic, not only because each single one of the writings of the Old and New Testament are political, not only that, but we are getting there.

Among ourselves and from the beginning . . . , please allow me a pair of quotations:

Antoíño Faraldo

‘The isolation of the population, this is the cause of all the evils of Galicia and the unyielding obstacle to all attempts at progress, to all formulae of improvement ( . . . ) nullity and misery [desgracia] will weigh eternally upon Galicia so long as this isolation continues ( . . . ) Vastly scattered, without means of communication, lacking roads and canals, without industry, without literary action, these small rural settlements that cover the whole land of Galicia seem to exist irremediably outside the influence of civilisation.’

Manuel Murguía

‘In a word, Galicia stands for complete decentralisation, in all aspects and in all orders, moral, intellectual, political and material.

Among ourselves and from the beginning (without conceiving origin as something that happened at the beginning of time but as a category that cuts across the diachrony of successive times) we are Enlightenment and Romanticism, taking the latter as the Springtime of Peoples, we are Occident and consequently literary, intellectual and political action. Anyone who comes into proximity with the texts of poets, will realise without difficulty that it’s not poetry that has lost the force to change reality, but rather, we hold that the political forces that govern us are the ones that are incapable of such transformation, of the literal construction of the desire of the nation.


(the camera withdraws, hesitates, the image is lost)

Voice off:
We’ve lost the connection, we can still hear the sound of the anthem, drowned by the sounds of artillery.

The camera, in close-up, still registers the last phrases that Rotbaf Luden types: ‘because as everyone knows, when a people appears, the tanks also appear, and the rest, as the poet wrote, is Literature.’

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