The 17 poets gathered in this anthology did not know each other. Some, it’s true, had met, said hello, perhaps attended some classes together, or worked in the same office; might have even, perhaps, exchanged poems. But no, they did not know each other this way.
Neither did we, and this anthology was begun by sinking into that ignorance: we started feeling out spaces, creating lists, sending messages. We knew what was being written in Spanish in New York, but it was more the experience of personal readings, isolated writings and somehow similar to the lifestyle of the city, disjointed texts, roads which, even when they do, never really meet.
The 17 poets in this anthology didn’t know each other as a unity, as a potentiality of resistance. Again, we admit it, neither did we. And yet, this book was built in that way from the beginning, as if that call to resist had been, without anyone knowing, it’s sole driving force.
Perhaps the selection criteria that we followed determined its spirit. Tired of chronological anthologies, correct, moth-eaten, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and to make a book for texts that have no place: an anthology of unanthologible texts. The authors that appear here had a single directive: they were to send us texts they believed an anthologist would never choose. So this anthology is, at the outset, an act of disobedience against anthologies. First sign of resistance.
But there are others. We functioned without any kind of quota, whether it be of nationality, of gender or of style. All we wanted was that the authors be relatively young (and for that we adhered to the criteria of Bogotá 39) and that they’d been living in New York for at least two years. Actually, we didn’t follow that criterion to the letter either: among them are poets who lived in the city and left and are just now returning and others who leave and come back continually. It is perhaps that that most defines the Newyorkness of their poems, that they resist having one place, to moor themselves, to stand still.
Everything here seems out of our grasp; that is to say, everything here defies classification. The physical place, we’ve said already, is in some way a relationship to New York, a being and not being, which sometimes translates into writing about this city, but many times into taking the poems elsewhere, to previous or parallel places, the place of origin –the one that appears in the biographies, between name and year of birth. That place of origin appears for several of these authors, but it does so without nostalgia, as if being away allowed them to finally draw near to it, to understand that space that some call ours. Before it others of these poets deterritorialize their texts, the locus remains on the margins of poems that exist in symbolic space, which needs not be named.
In this anthology geography disappears or is revisited or is strengthened or serves merely as an excuse for an encounter with someone who, like them, is from some Other place. The only thing that joins them is that the space is a place in motion, that it is inconceivable to speak of hometowns. This anthology has no Colombian authors, nor Venezuelan, nor Chilean: there are authors born in a particular place, but who are away, who write from an outside that never becomes enclosed space. There are no hometowns, but neither are there, let us not give into the temptation, what some call fatherlands. True, all 17 authors write in Spanish. But at the same it isn’t true. And it isn’t simply a matter of dialect variants, of each country’s or each town’s Spanish. Nor is it just about Spanglish, which of course is there. It’s that language is also an undefined space, a constant lending from other languages or other speech. Each authors’ language is also a witness to resistance, as much to being outside as to being inside.
If poetry is a moving target, the hand that pulls the trigger is also in motion. Impossible to find a common poetics; impossible to find a tradition that they can enter into dialogue with. Being in constant flux, finding the trends they commune with has shown itself to be useless. Visual experimentation, for example. Many of these poets distribute their texts in space –this time, space is the page– in ways that remind us of some Contemporary poetry from the United States, and it would certainly be fair to think so, since these authors are constantly exposed to U.S. literature. But perhaps the anthology’s poets’ visual experimentation owes more to visual art or the Avant-garde poetry of the early part of the last century. Although most likely it is a product of all these traditions. Something similar occurs with other aspects of the poetry: some authors are reminiscent of the Spanish generación del 50, but who knows if these echoes don’t come straight from W.H. Auden, having never touched Spain. Other authors seem to have drunk from the Latin-American coloquialismo of the 60s and 70s, but perhaps owe more to Spoken Word and other contemporary oral trends. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. The same happens with each common characteristic that we have tried to find in these poems. Which resists an univocal identification, a precise and enclosed origin.
Resistant as they are to be defined by a lone tradition, resistant to classification by nation or state, resistant to a single and inalterable language, resistant to being sifted… We wouldn’t have spoken of resistance without there being something more. In the following pages there are love poems and poems of city watching, poems that are shouts and poems that are song, metaphysical poems, quotidian poems, poems that taunt. Each poem, each individual work closes in on itself and can be read and redefined again and again. What this anthology aspires to do, in fact, is to draw them from that uniqueness, place them in dialogue, introduce them to one another, make them know and find each other. As a unit. Above the isolation of the big city, the prevailing individualism, the every-man-for-himself, this anthology hopes to gather voices, which, in some way, might perhaps never have met. To open a gap before those that would keep us apart to better make us submit; to resist in its strongest sense, we dare say, in its political sense.
Isabel Cadenas Cañón y Javier Molea, July 2011