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Thursday, May 19, 2011

How I Wrote 18 Years Ago

RAMÓN de Garciasol, reviewing Claudio Rodriguez's first book, Don de la ebriedad, praised the young poet for his rugged Castilian virility: "Claudio Rodríguez puede al verso, le gobierna con mano viril" (7). When I first came upon this quote several years ago, in the course of writing a dissertation on Rodriguez's poetry, I rejected it as an uncomprehending and inappropriate response to a highly complex work of metapoetry, an absurdly gratuitous intrusion of machismo into a context in which the author's gender was simply irrelevant. While rejecting Garciasol's blatant sexism, however, I was making a highly questionable assumption of my own: that Rodriguez's poetry somehow transcended gender. By dismissing out of hand the relevance of the poet's "virility," I was committing the familiar error of equating the masculine with the universal.

It should not be surprising to learn that Claudio Rodriguez writes as a man rather than as an impossibly genderless human subject. No one would claim otherwise; in fact, the point seems too obvious to be of any real significance. In what non-trivial sense, then, does Rodriguez's poetry reflect a particularly "masculine" vision? One approach to this question would be to identify masculinity with misogyny, canvassing the poet's work for sexist attitudes. Rodriguez does occasionally identify feminine figures with negative aspects of reality, especially deceptiveness ("Brujas a mediodía," 127-30). A related avenue of investigation is the poet's relation to his mother, a figure that appears in several poems from Conjuros and Alianza y Condena. A biographically minded critic could interpret these texts in light of the poet's problematical relation to his mother.

"Claudio Rodríguez and the Writing of the Masculine Body"

This is actually a bit better, in some respects, than the article from 2000, somehow livelier. The second paragraph is a little verbose, with "it should not be surprising that..." and "seems to obvious to be of any real significance" and "a related avenue of investigation..." There's the repetition of the word "mother" at the end of this paragraph too. The last two sentences should have really been one. I'll give myself a B here. I start off well, but fade in the second paragraph.

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