Poems “The Complete Vegil” by Daniuska González: There are many ways to fall

The cover of this book by the poet Daniuska González (Cuba, 1967, has lived in Chile since 2014, is a Cuban-Venezuelan academic, critic and essayist) is a very significant paratext for what will then come in the textuality of the pages of the poem. As we well know, all the scriptural features of a work have meaning.

In this case we are in the presence of a roof where a green chair appears in the foreground and behind it a wall of a similar shade whose paint is cracked. At the top the title and other bibliographic data. The empty chair symbolically indicates someone’s absence, but it can also indicate the place of the person being questioned, i.e. a bench. While the wall shows the degradation and abandonment of a living space.

The title of Daniuska González’s collection of poems focuses on the noun, even if the adjective is placed before it. The core is wakefulness. This concept alludes to the situation of wakefulness in the hours destined for sleep. Vigil is being attentive – as with lighted lamps – while waiting for someone, without forgetting that it has a religious connotation. The vigil, in this case, is complete; that is, the lyric speaker cannot and will not reconcile the non-waking state.

The speaker, seen entering the reading process, becomes eyes that reveal existential situations whose thematic axes are pain, atonement, guilt, remorse, violence, but also hope. The deterioration illustrated on the cover is completed by the color green, or a shade of this color, which metaphorically gives us hope, despite the motifs in the texts indicating the opposite.

The poet Daniuska González, through the lyrical orator, structures her writing on the basis of nine scriptural segments in which the poems are placed, which -as we have indicated- have a semantic load which reflects a state of mind -as has emphasized Pfeiffer – in the space of pain. I believe that the collection of poems is a poetic sampling of this human condition which is assumed not only by the individuality of the one who unfolds himself as a person of the enunciation, but also by those who know how to contemplate other pains, even if they are spaced out over time .

The first three segments are like a story in which the speaker experiences the absence of an (un)wanted child who recurringly appears in the memory as a being that cannot be ignored and where pain is intertwined with a sense of guilt. The omnipresence of the son contrasts with the oblivion of the husband, which manifests itself in the blank page where there are no words. The third segment focuses on the house. This is the primordial living space, the place of habitability, only, in this case, there is nothing left for sustenance.

The fourth segment called “The Wounds” delves into the depths of the lyrical speaker’s hidden experiences. The reader of the collection of poems is getting into an increasingly oppressive atmosphere: “I grew up hearing their breaths run out. / A pain that still howls survives in me”.

Reading grows in this sense, as the fifth nucleus takes us to existential moments where the pain deepens, the wound that turns me hurts too much, confides the rapporteur as she reveals a traumatic experience that reminds us of Frida Kahlo and her wounds, where the scalpel sinks its sharp tip to then leave the traces of its incisions in the skin in the scars that always last and bring back the memory.

“The Falls” -the title of the sixth segment- is remarkable. As the speaker says, there are many ways to fall, such as suicide. The fall has a physical denotation; Indeed, some of them are thematized here, such as the rewriting of a photograph, but the existential falls are more relevant. Like those of a murderer who enjoys dismembering Elizabeth Short. The poem is titled “The Black Dahlia” and the lyrical voice is transferred to the victim: “I only saw the rim of the blade disfigure my skin before / In the flash; to the murderer: Elizabeth Short was her name. / She had a handsome face; and to the coroner: Like others arriving at the morgue, / condemned in advance”.

The seventh segment thematises different spaces such as locations in Japan, Prague, Valparaíso and Naples-Pompeii. After traversing almost Dantesque circles before reaching Seventh Heaven, the speaker stops, catches other appreciative perceptions of the world as in a camera; we are given pause in the face of violence and the peace of Toyokuni Shrine shines through: In this temple the feet are silence, hence their irrevocable nakedness; or the ruined vision of the Hotel Echaurren in Valparaíso, which in its precariousness is a ledge for the harsh wind. An outstanding poem is “The (other) lovers of Pompeii” based on an epigraph in verse by Fabio Morabito: “Go to Pompeii. / Let the ruins consume my memory (…) The lava will soon descend. / It will be how to calm me all the absence”.

“Landscapes in motion” is the title of the eighth segment and contains ten poems centered around a train. The image of the train always indicates the journey, the transit, the passage, in the sense of passage from one space to another. The scriptural segment is also notable and has its own stamp. It is as if we have moved away from the previous circles where violence and pain were rampant. The lyrical speaker describes in these poems the landscape mainly of Japan.

From a poetic point of view, this country undoubtedly has special connotations, as it leads us to peace and tranquility, to peach blossoms and Buddhist meditation, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which have remained the cities martyred by human excess: “The train crosses the rice fields of Nagoya. / Patience takes refuge under little hats / which move like epigrams on my window.”

Finally, the ninth segment takes us back to the beginning. The embodied and institutionalized violence in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the sinister extermination spaces of thousands of people in the Nazi concentration camps. The title of the segment is very successful when the word album is put, as this concept alludes to the photographic. The album is like a book that contains meanings that are shown through the images captured by a camera lens. Looking at an album is like reliving what is in the one who reveals himself to the observer: “The shoe clings to this sterile collection, / it shows that it belongs to a woman who wore it / with flirtatious haste”. The Auschwitz album is undoubtedly an exceptional poetic testimony.

In summary, with this book the poet Daniuska González confirms her lyric work as one of the significant voices in the concert of Chilean and Latin American poetry.

Data sheet:

Daniuska González: The complete vigil. Santiago-Barcelona: RiLeditores-Aérea/ Carmenere. 2022. 96 pages.

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