A gathering of mostly latino poets filled the Palace Theater in downtown Bryan, Texas a couple weeks ago. Among them was a small, widely applauded, white haired and bent little woman who effortlessly commanded the space. Her name was Ida Vitale. After she read her poem in Spanish a young man who had been sitting next to her rose and read a translation.
And then it was clear she was a poet among poets. Royalty. I found a collection translated into English and bought it. This is not the poem she read then. This is the poem I’m showing you now.
I thank my homeland for its errors
those committed, those to come,
active, blind to its white mourning.
I thank the contrary gale,
the semi-forgetfulness, the spiny border of sophistry,
the fallacious denial of a dark gesture.
Yes, thank you, than you very much
for having taken me to wander
so the hemlock has its effect
and it no longer hurts when
the metaphysical animal of absence
–Ida Vitale, badass exiled Uruguayan poet living in Austin, 90 years old.
The italics refer to a quote from German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk.
The great ones do move among us.