From unknown to unknown - Мануел РивасThere are those who will tell you that beauty in poetry is out of fashion. Of course, the notion of beauty is odd in itself, especially for those readers who set out to mistake a certain variety of self-limitation for tact, and to see the weary diffidence of the poet who has nothing very interesting to say as a brand of superior irony. It is also the case that this odd beauty is impossible to define; indeed, it can seem that the only way to talk about it is in the negative – we can say, for example, that beauty is neither prettiness nor mere elegance and that, whatever its relationship to ‘truth’, the claim that ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’, suggestive as it might be, is really nothing more than the statement of a tautology. Of course, talking about it may be the very problem: perhaps all we can do is look at the way in which Marianne Moore, say, or Eugenio Montale rediscover language in their poems, or the way in which Rosalía de Castro or Carlos Drummond de Andrade rediscover the world we take for granted, and leave it at that.
No direct comparisons are intended here, but it does seem to me that this process of discovery is central to Manuel Rivas’ poems. Again and again, as we listen to the account he gives of the world, we come across the beautiful surprise, the breathtaking renewal of some process or way of seeing we normally take for granted:
They would write letters
with honey and biscuit dawns
and postcards would arrive showing red trams,
and an absurdly happy couple on Westminster Bridge.
(Widows of the Living)