Born in Pergamino, Buenos Aires, Argentine, 6 February 1955.
Prize Francisco L?pez Merino.
Prize Foundation Alejandro Gonz?lez Gattone.
Prize Concurso R?gimen de Fomento a la Producci?n Literaria Nacional y Est?mulo a la Industrial Editorial, Fondo Nacional de las Artes.
Prize Bienal de Cr?tica de Arte Jorge Feinsilber.
Prize Tierras Planas.
Prize Fundaci?n Argentina para la Poes?a.
Gran Premio Libertad.
Prize Ra?l Gustavo Aguirre of the Sociedad Argentina de Escritores.
Prize C?sar Tiempo.
Mention Concurso Revista Plural, M?xico.
Third Prize Fundaci?n INCA.
Mention of Honour Leopoldo Marechal y Carlos Alberto D?bole.
Third Prize Enrique Pezzoni of the Centro de Estudiantes de Filosof?a y Letras of the University of Buenos Aires.
Prize Iparraguirre Saria.
Published Poetry Books:
Poes?a quebrada (1984)
Teatro de lirios (1985)
?xodos y trenes (1987)
P?ginas del poeta flaco (1989)
Caballos y otros poemas (1990)
Bestiario de amor (1992)
Viga bajo el agua (1992)
Meninas. Desnudo y la m?scara (1992)
El peso de los d?as (1995)
La luz y alguna cosa (1998)
Desnuda materia (1999)
Puntos de fuga (2002)
La orilla desierta (2003)
Piedra encerrada en piedra (2004)
Figuras de ojo y sombras (2005)
Concerning Desnuda materia
By now for many years I come to affirm that Carlos Barbarito is one of the best poets of the generation which many call 'of 80' and that I prefer to call 'of '78', for reasons that do not concern us here. I do not know whether my judgment has some value or authority, but it is at least unconventional, inasmuch as I myself belong to that generation and inasmuch as it has become common practice to recognize the merits of older or younger poets, but almost never of those who are running in the same race. Be that as it may, Naked matter is a work that could well be taken as a paradigm on which to base that judgment somewhat objectively.
To begin with, the ambiguity of the title is a characteristic that you will easily find in the poetry of Carlos Barbarito. Naked matter is as much the matter that constitutes us, gives sustenance to our existential precariousness, as the naked matter of poetry, the naked word, in the sense of needy and insufficient, but also of devoid of all rhetoric, all artifice that could obscure any raw vision on reality. The word is halfway between nothingness/and dust, sentence that could also apply to man, and the poet does not know whether he will be able to incarnate the diffuse, to block the orifice that bleeds. The ambiguity, that incessant asking 'who?' or 'what?', is not a mere stylistic device, but rather the consequence of a determined view of reality.
Reality - as the ep?graph of Fichte reminds us - is not the chaos that surrounds us, but the frail architecture that the poet creates not to be shipwrecked between dry innocence,/coast on the drift, margin, periphery, between the curtains of mist wherein he is groping. Therefore is bitter the bread whereupon I feed./And trouble the water that I drink./And the voice that I hear, or believe to hear,/seems to arrive from the other side of the world. The poet constructs, but the office that I exert is hardly reflected light,/deceit, it is continuous interrogation: Does there exist a space of calm, a wave on the surface,/ a rock celestial or earthly, fruit of Ed?n, of Matisse/ on this linen canvas extended before the eye of the rain?; 'To dream of snowfall where never was snow/ of a downpour where there always has been desert?' And the answers do not exist: To request/ an answer- outbreak of firework,/ an ingenious hypothesis,/ dust in the face that already is almost mere bones?. There is possibly much irrationalism in the genesis of Barbarito's poetry, dionysiac drunkenness. More than for the logical sense of each poem, however, we should look for an emotional meaning in the entire set, because each one of its books is built like a mosaic, by the accumulation of words and emotionally significant images. For that reason, the poet feels to be in spiritual and atemporal communion with Hieronymus Bosch, who, in his Garden of the Delights and its Musical Hell, perhaps offers not so much a distorted image of the reality, as rather a suspiciously lucid image of it. Therefore, he is the painter whom he asks: is there a way, /a truth, a word, a rainbow, / under the haystack that crushes everything?
Barbarito's poetry, we said, is a poetry of the irrational, of ambiguity, of interrogation. But sometimes, in the middle of the frieze, a figure arises with suggestive corporeality, rational, historical statements that carry the weight of a judgment: the earth is ill of a serious evil,/perhaps incurable, - profane prophecies - you will suffer, you will suffer badly,/strange women will bring ointments/and they will blame love, the lightning; certainties of the irreducibility of memory:
notwithstanding the times passed since
the pains and the works, the seen
and the sensed, the loved and the hated
every night of storm I return to that house,
I am again the boy with the closed eyes.
Perhaps a slow, meditative, but above all empathic reading of Naked matter can explain why Carlos Barbarito is, in my opinion, one of the best poets of the generation of '78. We, who belong to that generation, carry in the thigh an ulcer that does not close, in the flank a wound that does not stop bleeding, but continues to show its black mouth. Far from any anecdotal reference, of any direct allusion, the poetry of Carlos Barbarito does recreate, in the etymological sense of 'to create again', a world of anguish without naming the anguish, of desolation and misery that emanate not from the concrete, but exude from the words:
He smells the abandoned dog, the rags in the dark,
breathes an air that others have breathed already,
gets sick of the slow rain,
the distant noises, the eyes that lurk,
smells a heap of shavings,
the nude that no longer asks,
breathes blind matter, without a place in the Table,
sleeps on his side or sitting up
with one eye open and the other
turned inward, his hard immobile lava,
gets sick of nothing, the void.
CARLOS BARBARITO LA LUZ Y ALGUNA COSA
Carlos Barbarito, La luz y alguna cosa, Buenos Aires, Ediciones ?ltimo Reino, 1998, 78 pp. ISBN: 950-804-062-9
If the novel puts language in tension through confronting it with the world, poetry puts it in tension with the essence of the human. It is poetry's sad destiny to cry out in vain in a cacophonous world devoid of brightness. To write - yes, to write - poetry nowadays comes down to be driven into desperation as a consequence of social silencing. When poetry enters, it walks on tiptoe, utterly ashamed in a world full of neon lights and advertising fanfares. Rather than with the scandal of the facts, which is proper to the novel, poetry occupies itself with the scandal of being and, intimately bound to this, with the scandal of a language that believes in the tear. Because there is no greater scandal than the very fact of existing, and worse still, than the fact of existing consciously, which is the one that poetry gives account of.
Thus, on tiptoe, the work of a great poet, or the great work of a poet enters, which on the scene of language comes down to the same. From Argentina, a bound gift has come to us, a luxury for those capable of being affected by the word. 'La luz y alguna cosa' is veritable poetry. As Walt Whitman said of his work: whoever touches it, touches a man of flesh and blood.
The book is divided in three parts: 'La luz y alguna cosa' (25 poems), Dispersos (9 poems) and 'Bosques del d?a y de la noche' (17 poems). Rather than being a poetry of answers, the poems of Carlos Barbarito are questions asked from the being in agony which is man. Devoid of any solution, man faces up to the endless pain of questioning and wondering.
Two aspects stand out in this set of poems, but specially in his first part. First of them it is the game of distancing that is realised through the opposition of terms of proximity and distance, of a here and a there, of an inside and an outside, of a space in which once is confronted with the other that abandons himself or by whom he has been expelled. In this part, special importance is given to the form in which infancy is perceived - the child is a recurrent element in many of the poems - infancy which equally appears as a distant 'space', as a lost space. Childhood does not appear as much as a moment in man's coming of age, not so much as a phase, but almost like another dimension of being, like a state of essential difference.
If we have not interpreted wrongly, this dimension extends even into the interior of the maternal womb ("warm bag where I have been basked"), threshold of the irrational world full of pain in which the human being is thrown ("...just come out/ of a mysterious mouth, inside/ of which he heard voice and howling,/and from where he asks,/in another language, without finding answer: /what is that foreboding of needles, eyes, ethers?). Expelled, thrown to the world, man is moving in a world in ruins that makes him long for a return, if not an inversion of history, "destiny in reverse" (p. 24), as the poet writes himself.
The other outstanding element of the poetry of Carlos Barbarito is its capacity to generate basic, fundamental spaces. The diversity is led back to the elementary principle of everything: fire, air, water. Tithe following poem may serve as an example:
Of the body not much remains,
some echo, an almost erased track,
a shade, not precisely the most defined,
nothing in it whole and full
to obtain certain grace of the fire,
a hint of absolution of the air,
an afterglow of salvation
whispered through the mouths of the water.
Or that other one:
the wind does not have a language,
the fire does not have a house,
the water does not find a source,
nor a vase.
everything is broken and dispersed,
broken and dispersed.
The earth, the flesh, the mud of life, we understand it is those of the human being, authentic scene of the conflict, that acquires, in view of the economy of means, the dimension of eternal conflict, elevated to a mythic level.
It is not easy to generate poetic a universe of one's own, even less to obtain it when using Barbarito's fundamental schematism. But such reductionism, such economy of the touch, , such absence of bold rhetoric for the sake of the torn line, lends his poetry a great expressive force, an immediate character that takes hold of the reader in its nakedness.
In a time when poetry turns upon itself to the point of becoming "metapoes?a", such absence of poetry as a subject may surprise us. Only one of the poems - why more, why indulge in romantic narcissism? - focuses on the figure of the poet as such. In that poem, a very beautiful poem, the figure of the writer is depersonalized to the point of losing itself in a storm of images of darkness, in the poetic turns of the ineffable:
When I write,
I do not know whether it is male, or female,
or serpent. Or,
which amounts to the same, I say,
she and all we who write
are none and all of these things
at the same time.
And even other ones,
those that reason, or madness
is able to name:
in the dark water, piece of coal,
amulet on the chest of the condemned...
And also that paddle or that oar
that strikes the water up to turning it into foam,
the same foam that persists in the water
or that in the water dilutes.
We have refrained deliberately from playing the game of searching for influences. The poetry of the author is sufficiently personal to sail the sea of poetry in an authentic way, following its own course. Antirethoric, purified, direct, in last instance human, this poetry brings us back to true poetry, to the alchemy of the verb: the capacity to turn the mud, human misery, human fragility ("What of me,/I ask myself, is not fragile/is dot delicate,/brittle, breakable?) into the gold of the language.
But he gives us not the impression that there might be salvation through language in the poetry of the author. No longer is poetry the Promethean fire, the balsam on the wounds. Far more a broken cry, testimony to defeat (How to be born/ if everything pushes us to death?). A poem near the end of the bundle may serve as an illustration of that existential character, thrown into the the absurd, nothingness, the paradox:
We all dig with our hands
toward where a weeping comes.
we know nothing of the sea,
of the waves, of the light of the distant boats,
we know nothing of heaven,
of the clouds and the flocks,
of the slobber of the devil taken by the wind.
We only know to dig,
Of the rest
(the broken nails,
covered with blood,
urgent and anguished monosyllables),
of the rest we know nothing today,
A work that elevates to the rank of a poet, 'La luz y alguna cosa' is a poetic island in a sea of boring calm. In a panorama of creative drought it is always a joy to stumble on pages that bring us back to lost corners of the human soul, that invite us to recover the deepest dimensions of our soul.
c Joaqu?n M? Aguirre Dpto. Filolog?a Espa?ola III -UCM 4/01/99
FOREWORD TO La orilla desierta
There is a strong pessimism in certain poetry today. When it is no longer possible to flirt with ideas of celebration, as it was granted to Walt Whitman or Saint John Perse, the task of the poet, faced with his reality, cannot but become more obscure and more difficult, let alone be coherent. That is the case with Carlos Barbarito, whose work, although it has a peculiar biblical tone, does not precisely grant the consolations of the psalmist.
The eye of Barbarito, fragmented in visions like broken mirrors, is only capable of giving account of what it perceives: a chaos of things without goal in the universe. Sometimes there is beauty, but only as a contrast to the tragic atmosphere that the res extensa of the world happens to be, its foundation and cement. A fatalistic materialism weighs on his verse that expresses the incurable idea of a cosmological deterioration, not as the cruelty of time, but as a stain on our own existence.
Barbarito's poetry is about disillusion, but disillusion treated without solemnity or philosophy. The Argentine poet knows how to let the tone of an entire epoch resound through the commonplace. The simplest elements suffice to work that wonder: "And the air and the water impoverish, lose height and measurement...". A sensorial and painful review ends up in letting the creator embark on a quest without something to hold on to: "I knock and there is no answer,/ hands and hands, stained with moss,/soot and rust". Everywhere, impurity is the visible sign of civilization that obscures and desacralises the world. Guilt pervades everything that is natural and confers it that texture of deep human decay.
In consonance with the poetical tradition according to which man and woman have lost each other, Barbarito is the melancholic singer of how that loss is perceptible in each act and object in our environment. Winds sweeping ashes, worm-eaten fruits, women tinkling fluids of fear, desire without skin, love incarcerated... Life lives a nightmare and everything is a cogwheel in the machinery of a disastrous mistake!
Barbarito's verse is consistent with such utter hopelessness: it does not wallow in pain like Vallejo's verse, but fights against its own perplexity, desperately looking, perhaps, for the same secret clarity emanating from the impotent questions posed to "the error installed in the world".
c Guillermo Fern?ndez, San Jos? de Costa Rica, Ediciones Andr?meda, 2003.