We all have a path. We are composed of lines and we travel down them. Somewhere there is a map, and from some vantage point, these maps can be observed. A writer's map is more readily visible, sign posts can be made clearer even if roads can equally be lost or drowned. The path of a writer is scattered with traps and false hopes, chimeras and muses, gods and collective magnets. And yet some poets are singular. They have neither family nor territory. They partake of the earth itself. They are one with silence and the stars. They will not belong to any collectivity for long. They will shirk both responsibility and fortune. Their maps have no centres. Their trails have no destinations. They are nomads in the true sense. The 83-year-old Tomas Segovia is undoubtedly one.
How is such an existence possible? By remaining faithful to a permanent state of exile, an 'original solitude.' Only then can the magnificence of nature open, only then can the signs of silence write, only then can womens' kindness blossom, only then can the poet look at the storm as a storm, observe a star as a star, disappear and awaken in words, words forged from the kiln of night, spoken from the 'sonorous lung.' This is a romantic stance? Yes, Segovia is not ashamed of that. He is not ashamed to script odes to silence. He is not afraid to climb into the agony of absence and write to an escaped loved one. Life is about destiny. You either have one or you don't and it isn't good to mistake your destiny for your brother's. Segovia sensed from early on that he was 'a marginal from the start.' You have to be faithful to that even at the expense of being unfaithful to the rest!
I discovered Segovia in French by accident in one of my favourite bookstores - does anything ever happen by accident? A collection entitled 'Cahier du Nomade' had just been published by Gallimard. Don't expect anything in English because, even if Octavio Paz stressed the importance of Segovia, there is something of the becoming dinosaur in British pub- lishing, a strange will to extinction. Given my own nomadic predisposition, this collection excited my curiosity. Quickly, I discovered a poet in the absolute sense. A destiny with a name. Beauty printed on the page. Thought singing in verse. Non-academic poems revealing humble craftsmanship and improvised sentiment at real life situations.
Segovia has earned enough praise in the Spanish speaking world. There is a library of books by and about him, translations of Shakespeare, translations of Racine. He has won numerous prizes and acknowledgements. Here are some excerpts of his world in English, translated by me.
The man who learnt to model
Words between his hands
So they may express within themselves
A language of traces
Bodily and mobile and free
This man even when he listens
To what he hears said
Looks at what is shown without speaking it
And so in order to think
Of what lives in him and what he is in the shadows
Or in this light where his life
Looks at itself and multiplies
He does not trust the language in his mouth
Preferring to remain silent
And wait for the facts from the abyss
Short Extracts and Maxims
Touch me time
For your fingers I am still naked
This poem never stops
These words I write
They write to never finish
They are perpetual birth
A woman's torso stretches
From one mouth to another.
To travel this path,
Flesh closes its eyes.
Man does not make a promise
But is born from one.
And so who will love me
Will be powerless
If life itself does not love me
I would like to know a little more
Whether I was expecting someone
And whether this is what it was supposed to be
I would like to know a little more
About where my life has been lived
Whether I have been waiting for this moment
Of mutism I never sought for
Or this desolation which is to seek nothing
Or this moment I was waiting for is itself nothing
And I have been waiting for nothing since the beginning
from The Old Poet
Since the beginning my language has said
May your kingdom come
Since the beginning I abandoned my name
I have always been called world
Everywhere I have sought to be vanquished
I have never been the vassal of hateful Victory and her deadly efficiency
I have never been inflexibly victorious
Only when I had to resist
Waiting for the centre to subject everything to
At last everywhere and in all types of rain
I recognise the indelible places
All the beloved defeats of my language
Having been a poet is this
Felling all the barricades within my language
But not to rule over words
Not even to free them
But to sign like an occult tide
the supreme armistice with what they harass ...