Today I would like to tell you about Rita Kelly, an Irish poet I discovered in one of my Research Seminars at my university. I must confess that it was the first time I had heard her name, since my knowledge of Irish writers (and not women writers) is limited to James Joyce, Bram Stoker and William Butler Yeats (and as you can see, none of them are from this century). So it was good to hear Kelly speak, but more importantly, it was interesting to hear how each of her works was conceived, what was going on in her life at the time she wrote them, what her childhood was like, and so on and so forth. All this made me realize one thing: we are all made of stories, regardless of whether we are writers or not. Each person has lived moments (and will live them) worthy of the composition of a poem, where the feelings and the inner world of that person will be able to dance on the verses. As Kelly said during the seminar: if we don’t turn everything we imagine into something, it will become a ghost. It is quite true that the world is full of these little ghosts, spirits of works of art alive in our hearts but aborted in inaction. It is sad that a museum burns when it has not yet given birth to all that the world must see.
Kelly’s talk made me rethink many things as a writer (at least I try to, since I only write poems for myself): how many verses have I choked in my throat for not being “too good”? A lot, I would say. I myself have censored myself countless times for considering myself mediocre, I have even stopped writing because of the demon of that feeling. But this is what Kelly was also talking about: the whole concept of validation. We all want to feel validated, to feel the recognition of others for our creation and that our name is not lost among others. However, I reflected on it and realized that I have to seek validation in myself first, my biggest critic. I am still working on it, it is a difficult task.
Poetry will always be part of being human (even if not everyone believes it) and it will always be part of my breath. Kelly took me on a journey through my poems and the poems of other authors who have marked me, among them Gloria Gervitz. I also met her by chance, in a class at the Complutense University of Madrid, where I studied my degree. I thought of Gervitz because of two simple details: the first is because they both write in two languages, although their cases are different, since Kelly produces in both English and Irish, while Gervitz mixes Spanish and English in the same poem, because, as she explained in an interview, there are things that can only be said in one language. Maybe Kelly feels that way too. I’d like to leave you with an example here: “flayed words/ like ash on the skin of a sadhu/silt words/unspoken/ estoy en tu silencio/ en ese tu olvido-que es el mío-/ como un sol el cuerpo se arrodilla/ y se hunde” (Gervitz, 2004: 122). It is a pleasure to get to know new names in the world of literature, because each one of them is a treasure and, sometimes, those names can remind us of others and thus build a chain of brothers and sisters writers. I recommend that each of you do some research on Rita Kelly and, if you feel like it, on Gloria Gervitz. I hope it will make you question things and see that in each of us there is a temple to be built.
Gervitz, Gloria. Migraciones. Mexico City, Junction Press San Diego, 2004