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Pedro Carmona-Alvarez
(Chile, 1972)   
Pedro Carmona-Alvarez

‘Memory’, ‘history’, ‘nostalgia’, ‘love’ and ‘childhood’ are concepts which Pedro Carmona-Alvarez circles around in all three of his collections of poetry, and it is reasonable to interpret many of the poems as having emerged from his own experience of being in exile. To tie this poet solely to a contemporary Nordic context would be wrong, since his geographical and cultural starting-point is Chile, which his parents fled after the military coup in 1973.

The author was eleven years old when he began to grow acquainted with Norway and the Norwegian language. What this may have meant for his entry into literature one can only speculate, but it is fairly clear that such a geographic and linguistic displacement must have been decisive for the way in which his poetic style has evolved. The vitality in his poetic project may evoke associations with Spanish-language poets like Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo, especially the hymn-like vein in his language, a vein rooted not in melancholy, as is often the case in the legacy of German Romanticism, but rather one that seems transparent, serene and somehow life-affirming. This linguistic and life-related attitude is reflected in his sensational debut collection Helter (Heroes, 1997), where he writes about "carefully licking stamps, sending out my confessions and later / forgetting it all comfortably like a bad father." The notion of the poem as a letter to the world often recurs in the tradition of romantic poetry. In the quoted passage the dialogic and truly directed nature of his project is also underlined.

While Helter consists of a series of concentrated epic poems in which the poet's "I" theatralizes itself as Marlon Brando and devoted first lover, Clown Town (2002) and Prinsens gate (Prince's Street, 2004) are like two long continuous poetic texts. There is a rapturous and life-affirming quality to Carmona-Alvarez's poetry which in some ways breaks with the Nordic classical-modernist tradition. This may also be connected with the anti-elitist, or anti-literary, attitude he displays in many of the texts. There is no distinction between high and low culture, either in the poems' aesthetic form or in their orientation towards the phenomena of the world. He is inclusive in relation to science and facts, religion and mythology, film and popular culture. Personal, diary-like fragments interact with reflections on history and political reality.

In Carmona-Alvarez's texts the poet's "I" wears different masks, but frequently what manifests itself is the solitary flâneur walking through the streets and recounting former adventures and defeats, an aestheticized male figure preoccupied with its own disguises and transformations in the encounter with the world.

"I hide myself in songs," writes the author of one of the poems in the selection. But how we hide ourselves is sometimes almost more revealing than how we appear to the gaze of others. However this may be, the song that Pedro Carmona-Alvarez writes out in his poems contains a powerful hope of transformation and constant renewal of desire and vitality.

© Steinar Opstad (Translated by David McDuff)


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