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Rogue poets of the megalopolis March 18, 2009

Posted by Jenny in literature, poetry.
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megalopolisI have been reading The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano.  (The “n” in Bolano should have a squiggle over it—pretend it’s there.)  Much of it takes place in Mexico City.  Bands of poets roam through the—I was going to say labyrinth, but that’s a cliche in Latin American literature, the sort of cliche despised by Bolano—they roam through the monstrous alphabet of the city.

Like gangs of thugs, they have leaders and allegiances and feuds.  The young Juan Garcia Madero is invited to join the visceral realists, and he joyously accepts, although he is not sure what “visceral realist” actually means.  He and his friends stay out in cafes and talk about poetry hour after hour, or they meet with an aging literary type who knew some of their avant garde heroes, and they drink “Los Suicidos” mezcal with him as they argue the merits of various writers.  They constantly steal books.  They have multiple and complicated sexual relationships.  They smoke pot.  They recite Rimbaud on the dance floor of a seedy club at 3:00 in the morning.

This is a world that barely exists in North America.  We have a severe shortage of fierce and roguish poets.  The ones that do exist languish like wild animals in a zoo.  It’s in the poverty-ridden, dangerous parts of the world that people find it absolutely essential to make that connection between ideals and everyday life.  I’ve learned about that from my Colombian friends.

Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano

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