WHERE IS SPAIN? THE RAPPEL A L'ORDRE AND THE POETRY OF LUCIA SANCHEZ SAORNIL.
Sanchez Saornil's move towards traditional rhyme and meter accords with the changing aesthetic predilections of her poetic peers throughout Europe. This generalized recuperation of traditional poetic models is an important episode in the history of the European avant-garde. Called le rappel a l'ordre following the title of Jean Cocteau's 1923 lecture and 1926 book, the phenomenon was key to the poetics of those who would later become the canonical poets of Spain's "Generation of 1927." For Jose-Carlos Mainer, the interest in tradition in these poets can be traced to a 'double attitude' of "scholar" and "avant-gardist" shared by many, especially the "poetas profesores" of the group (210-15). Gerardo Diego, a member and antholo- gizer of the 1927 group and one of the foremost proponents and practitioners of Hispanic creacionismo, wrote on the imperative to return to the communal poetic memory of traditional verse in his 1927 article, "La vuelta a la estrofa." Here Diego writes that, following the productive destruction of the avant-garde, "renace la calma, y decimos: hay que crear. O lo que es lo mismo, hay que poseer, domenar, tener conciencia." Against the early avant-garde's aesthetics of obliteration, the rappel a l'ordre calls for artists to exercise control over their work and over tradition. A strong masculine bias underlies Diego's remarks as well as Cocteau's comparison of the composition of poetry to building a 'house of cards' with the soul (255). The heroism of dominion, knowledge, and steady-handed control over tradition apparent in Diego's choice of verbs is limited, in Cocteau's metaphoric deck of cards, to the male-dominated space of artistic experimentation, the cafe. Accompanying the widespread return of tradition advocated for by Cocteau and Diego was also the complicated mix of surrealist art's spread in Spain and a growing political consciousness among poets as they witnessed economic crisis and the advent of a new Spanish Republic in 1931 (Cernuda 420-30; Debicki 40-41). (1)
This essay will examine Lucia Sanchez Saornil's poetics in the context of this male-dominated rappel a l'ordre. Sanchez Saornil follows the same trajectory as the avantgarde generally, from giddily modern free-verse compositions to a recuperation of aesthetic memory in traditional forms like sonnets and the romance. Though generalized throughout the avant-garde, the aesthetic shift towards tradition and away from iconoclastic experimentation was not a simple and unambiguous process. An analysis of Sanchez Saornil's ultraista poetry along with her Civil War romances can help us to see how complicated this shift was for a working-class lesbian poet; Sanchez Saornil's speaker takes a much more ambiguous position with regard to tradition than that adopted by many of her male counterparts, whose return to traditional poetic modes reflected a desire to find a lost sense of confidence and sure footing in art.
More wary and more wily in her approach to aesthetic memory than many of these male poets, Sanchez Saornil wrote poems which questioned the ostensibly solid foundations upon which the new poetics of tradition rested. In Sanchez Saornil's shift from avant-garde free verse to politically accented popular rhyming verse, we can see that losing and recuperating aesthetic memory can alter the spaces in which one finds oneself. For Candelas Gala, Sanchez Saornil's poetry ingeniously "deterri- torializes" the poetic past by engaging ironically with tradition. To Gala's discussion I would like to add the consideration of a competing force in Sanchez Saornil's poetics. While it is true that "Sanchez Saornil problematiza su lugar tanto en las viejas como en las nuevas poeticas" (Gala 328), her speakers seem also to pine for a more stable place in poetry and in the cultural milieu of twentieth-century Spain. Poetically, politically, economically, and sexually exiled her entire life, Sanchez Saornil is never able to find that stable place. Her work before the Civil War and during the conflict can be read as the record of a memory of a Spain that, for her, never came to be. (2) Following Michel de Certeau's contention that "memory mediates spatial transformations" (85), we can read the spaces of Sanchez Saornil's poems as interrogations of the collective and personal memories of Spain, ultimately presenting a vision of Spain left unsatisfied at any point in the twentieth century. My goal here will be to understand Sanchez Saornil's move to abandon her earlier avant-garde production in favor of the traditional romance form during the Civil War years in terms of space and memory. This analysis will serve as a corrective to the well-known but incomplete critical narrative currently operating on the rappel a l'ordre in Spain.
In the context of Spain's current democracy and the legacy of the dictatorship and Civil War that preceded it, "memory" usually means "memoria historica," a contentious and cathartic concept predicated on the need to rectify the discourse of history, honor victims, and somberly reflect on Spain's unhappy twentieth century. This meaning of "memory" obtains for much of the literature of Spain, both for works suppressed during Francisco Franco's dictatorship and especially for those written since his death in 1975. While "memory" in current Hispanic studies is usually taken in this reflective sense--a recuperation of forgotten people, texts, and moments, nostalgia for a Republic lost, or a vindication of those who suffered under the Franco--regime thinking of aesthetic memory during the avant-garde and even during the Civil War years can give us another quite different conception of Spain and an individual's place in the nation.
Memory, in Renee Silverman's recent study of the poetry of the first avant-garde in Spain, is "the very foundation of subjectivity and identity" (23). In her perceptive comparison of the Symbolist/modernista lyrics of Antonio Machado with the fragmented poems of Guillermo de Torre, the leader of Madrid's avant-garde movement, Ultraismo, Silverman finds that avant-garde cosmopolitanism was a reaction against overly essentialized conceptions of the nation and national belonging. "Subjectivity" in avant-garde poetry, she writes, "is no longer about the recollection of a collective past," as it had been for poets like Antonio Machado in Campos de Castilla; "it is rather shaped by the unmoored 'I's' perception of an unlimited geography. The perspectival and perceptual organization of Torre's poetic texts," and of the avant-garde generally, "resituates the subject from the national to the international, and from eternal landscapes to the fluid spaces of urban modernity" (101). Lucia Sanchez Saornil's early ultraista poetry certainly inscribes itself, at least on first reading, neatly in this urban cosmopolitan space. Her civil War romances however recuperate the "collective past" of Spain's heroic legends and popular song, the very places of Machado's Campos de Castilla. Like other avant- garde poets, she leaves behind free verse and typographical experimentation to take up traditional forms at the end of the 1920's and into the 1930's. Silverman says that for Gerardo Diego and for other avant-gardists returning to traditional forms, the "rhythmic time" reintroduced with traditional poetry "leads back to the common ancestor of these art forms, the sung lyric, which is at once formal, architectonic, and affective" (186). Silverman continues to say that "[f]or Diego, representation must be an act of heroism and a sign of belief in the possibility of preservation of subjectivity in memory and the modern lyric" (223). This statement is applicable, I would argue, to many other male authors of the period who rehabilitated traditional forms, from Jorge Guillen and his decimas to Miguel Hernandez's sonnets. As Francisco caudet argues, many (male) intellectuals found that the romance, coupled with the extraordinary circumstances of war, opened a new heroic space to them, a space only partially open, in Caudet's estimation, to authors of "el pueblo" (43, 49). When Lucia Sanchez Saornil, a working-class woman, recovers something from the collective poetic past in her romances, we will see her chances of finding heroism thwarted. Certeau's words on memory are particularly apt here: Sanchez Saornil has the knowledge of collective Spanish memories, but she can never 'possess' them (82). The place of art, continues Certeau, is "the implantation of memory in a place that already forms an ensemble" (86), a coherent system, whether political, economic, or cultural. While privileged male authors might have felt a more comfortable identification with a national ethos of heroism embodied in traditional verse and thus might have effected this implantation more blithely and even more seamlessly, (3) Lucia Sanchez Saornil's poetic trajectory, from the fragmentary and cosmopolitan avantgarde to the politically committed romances in the Civil War, will show that the spaces of heroism, whether cosmopolitan or national, never fully materialized for all.
As the only female poet of ultraismo, Madrid's homegrown avant-garde poetic movement, Sanchez Saornil was celebrated by the movement's leader, Guillermo de Torre, in his 1925 Literaturas europeas de vanguardia. Other women were involved in the group, like Sonia Delaunay-Turk and Norah Borges, but as plastic artists rather than writers. Given these facts and Ultraismo's agitated modernity, the masculine pseudonym under which Sanchez Saornil published much of her poetry of the period, Luciano de San Saor, might seem out of place. One motive for its use could be that even in the cosmopolitan, hyper-modern avant-garde, her socio-economic class and her gender, as well as her sexual orientation, may have distanced her from some of her fellow ultraistas. (4) Even Torre, while making a space for her in his retrospective of Ultraism, reduces her contribution to "una poesia muy gratamente femenina [,] toda ternura y sutileza, agudamente sentimental, en el coro tal vez demasiado cerebralizado de los poetas ultraistas" (Literaturas europeas de vanguardia 103). Her social and economic difference from fellow ultraistas was stark as well: Sanchez Saornil worked as a telephone switchboard operator to support herself, her younger sister, and their father, while many of ultraismo's poets were sons of wealthy families and, for the most part, spent their youth as idle cafe intellectuals (Anderson).
To show how the possibilities and pitfalls of memory manifest themselves in space during Sanchez Saornil's ultraista period I will first consider "Panoramas urbanos," published in VLTRA in November of 1921:
Espectaculo La noche ciudadana orquesta su Jazz Band Los autos desenrollan sus cintas sinfonicas por las avenidas atandonos los pies. El bar canta una cancion agua y cristal. Cascabeles mudos cuelgan sobre la pista. Sobre el tapiz voltaico hay un ballet fantastico enlutado como un duelo. Estos funambulos hemos arrinconado el ar[c]o de la luna y el corazon [d]el viejo piruetista anda desorientado. Pero los cerebros como granadas explosivas. Hay un[a] box formidable. Al final todos queremos cabalgar los caballos de bronce de las glorietas. (102) (5)
This poem is typically avant-garde in many respects. Its urban setting presents a kaleidoscopic and simultaneous assemblage of moments and objects. It is resolutely modern in the mentions of jazz, automobiles, and the "tapiz voltaico," that is, the enigmatic movements of shadows cast by voltaic arc lamps in the street. But it ends in very curious fashion. The final lines, "Al final / todos queremos cabalgar / los caballos de bronce de las glorietas," offer an ambiguous metaphor for the speaker's relationship to space and tradition. Do they show a playful desire to dominate and ridicule tradition by turning the equestrian statuary of public roundabouts into a modern poet's carrousel? Perhaps they represent a less contentiously optimistic view about Spain's future in a world where meanings are no longer fixed in place. Or are these lines tinged with nostalgia for an inaccessible heroic past? Do they reflect a wish to be in the center of the city and to control it (a glorieta being an open traffic circle where many streets meet, often with a garden or fountain in the center)? In line with much of the avantgarde project, a reading emphasizing a search for a distinctly modern urban poetic heroism is also possible; poets can supplant the 'varones ilustres' of Spain's backward past by jumping on their horses and mocking their oxidized glory in the glorieta. This reading concords with Silverman's characterization of the first avant-garde as driven by cultural "amnesia and disoriented subjectivity" (24), clearly evident in other lines in Sanchez Saornil's poetry like "erraremos mas y mas en la noche ... en la comarca fabulosa de los Olvidos" (72). But the attraction the speaker feels to these statuary icons of hegemonic culture and their central location in the glorieta might well make us wonder whether forgetting and rootlessness are truly the driving forces of her desire. Meanwhile, the fact that a female poet claims a central space for all ("todos queremos," she writes) lines up well with Sanchez Saornil's later fame as a feminist icon and cofounder of the anarcho-syndicalist group Mujeres Libres. The ambiguity of these lines carries over into the rest of Sanchez Saornil's ultraista production. In another poem published in a 1922 issue of VLTRA we find lines like, "hemos perdido la letra / de las canciones antiguas" (103): Is that a good thing, or should we lament the loss? In yet another poem from August 1919 Sanchez Saornil's speaker wishes she could "hundir las manos en el fondo del tiempo / y traerlas colmadas / de las emociones antiguas" (78).
Less than a year later, in 1920, lines like, "borremos todos los caminos, / arruinemos todos los puentes, / desarraiguemos todos los rosales; / sea todo liso como una laguna / para trazar despues / la ciudad nueva" (88), unequivocally support the aggressive negational aesthetics of the early avant-garde. These iconoclastic projects of destruction in the name of the future are typical of Futurism, Ultraism, Creationism, Dadaism, and other -isms of the period. One problem that arises when these projects are undertaken is that they are meaningless without their targets: what good is a stance against tradition without the tradition itself? How could forgetting the "canciones antiguas" be meaningful if we never acknowledged the existence and attraction of the old songs in the first place? And once everything is brushed away, scrubbed clean of sentimental sap, the old city only a memory, how can the avant-garde poets chart a course for the future amongst the blank emptiness of their modern utopia? Sanchez Saornil seems to recognize this problem in a later poem, "Tarde infinita," from 1929. She writes, "Ruleta de imposibles / los cuatro puntos cardinales / girando en mi cabeza" (111).
It seems in all her ultraista poetry Lucia Sanchez Saornil seeks to reimagine the center of things. Candelas Gala equates this searching aesthetic with a kind of poetic nomadism, noble and brave. Guillermo de Torre had a comparable take on Sanchez Saornil's ultraista poetry in 1920 in Grecia, describing her work in similarly geographical and heroic terms:
Despues de haber logrado una admirable perfeccion tecnica y una cristalizacion tematica en cierta modalidad lirica extinta, abandonar esa ribera, iniciando un transito a otra mas ardua y alboreante, es una decision heroica que revela un temperamento arrostrado y una sed literaria sincera ... Y he aqui la gesta realizada por esta sentimental poetisa ... " (De la aventura al orden 22-3)
Her poetic quest may have seemed like a 'heroic' "gesta" in 1920, but that 'arduous' path has left her reeling to get her bearings. We can read the final lines of "Panoramas urbanos" and conclude that Sanchez Saornil wants to jump on the bronze horses of the glorietas and take the reins of her poetic and perhaps her political destiny. But by the end of the twenties, when the words to all the old songs are forgotten, the four cardinal directions spin in her head like a roulette wheel of impossible choices. This feeling of being lost, geographical as much as poetic and political, comes to a head as the Civil War approaches. In April of 1936, a few months before Spain's Civil War is set into motion by rebel members of the military in July, Sanchez Saornil and others formed Mujeres Libres, an anarcho-syndicalist group for women's liberation. Sanchez Saornil had been a part of the CNT, the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo, but was unsatisfied with women's place in the organization and with the lack of engagement with issues of interest to women in the group's agenda. While the CNT at first supported the progressive efforts of the Republic, tensions with the government were high among anarchists in the months preceding the military uprising. During the war itself, Mujeres Libres advocated for complete feminist and anarchist revolution, not simply for the defense of a Republic which had confined women to traditional roles. Even full allegiance with the CNT was not possible during those tumultuous times, as the anarchist organization itself perpetuated patriarchal structures inherited from long before the Second Republic (Nash, Mujeres Libres 17-19; Casanova 8-12, 137; Graham 103-6, 111).
During these years, Sanchez Saornil's poetic production kicks into high gear hand in hand with her political activism, crucial to her life during the Civil War. She takes up the traditional Hispanic ballad form, the romance, and publishes a Romancero de Mujeres Libres during the conflict. Much like the romances published in the famous Republican periodical El Mono Azul, Sanchez Saornil's romances from the war period support the fight against the nationalists through calls to arms and eulogies to fallen comrades.
My aim here is to pursue the question of why Sanchez Saornil and others take up the romance form at this time and how we can understand the poetics of her answer to the rappel a l'ordre. Why return to the "old songs," which, the speaker of "Panoramas urbanos" tells us, had been all but forgotten in the twenties? It is true that the romance is popular, heroic, easy to memorize and sing; all reasons that the form enjoys great vigor during the Civil War (Caudet; Martin Casamitjana 21). The success of Lorca's 1928 Romancero gitano in recasting the form in the light of innovation also should not be discounted. But I contend that Lucia Sanchez Saornil's use of the romance is not just an exploration of popular verse forms or a reflection of a philological interest in a time in Spain's poetic past; more importantly in the context of the Civil War and the frustrated progressive project of the Second Republic, it is an exploration of space and of memory. Ultimately it is an attempt not only to find but to create a space for a female speaker in the cultural life of Spain, a poetic project Candelas Gala identifies with the entirety of Sanchez Saornil's work (Gala 325).
Sanchez Saornil set much of her ultraista poetry in urban spaces filled with the trappings of cultured cosmopolitan life. With her turn to the romance during the Civil War we see her choose rural settings, especially those connected to the popular imagination of Spain's history. One example is her poem, " Ay, Rinconcito de Asturias!," published in the Romancero de Mujeres Libres in 1937.
Ay, Rinconcito de Asturias, cuna de la Espana madre! --Cada hombre vale por cien, cada "mauser," por cien "mauseres"-- Con el mapa ante los ojos, busco tus rutas de sangre, aun sin conocer tus cielos, ni tus vegas, ni tus valles ... solo esa cosa tan fria --manos de delineante que-- he de encender con la lumbre de mis ojos para hallarte. ... Mapa que me desesperas, laberinto inextricable de lineas rojas y azules y nombres indescifrables, quisiera ver tu papel retorcerse, chamuscarse ... Mi mano esta sobre ti y no te quema? ay, arde! Arde, que yo quiero verlo, mapa de Asturias, cobarde! Tu no retratas la Asturias donde mis hombres se baten en cuatro palmos de tierra hechos corazon gigante. ... Ay, rinconcito de Asturias, cuna de la Espana madre! Mientras en ti aliente un hombre nadie podra esclavizarte! Tengo puesta en ti tal fe, tal firmeza inquebrantable, que va mi vida en apuesta, si alguno tiene coraje. (125-126)
If, as I suggested at the outset of this essay, the poets of the avant-garde responded to the rappel a l'ordre to find more stable poetic territory following the disorienting adventure of the early avant-garde, it is noteworthy how lost and frustrated the speaker in this romance feels. Sanchez Saornil's speaker laments the fact that she has not seen Asturias. She has never been there but she claims to hold an unbreakable faith in the people there and in the honor and reality of the land. She possesses a map, which in its careful and rationalistic representation serves only to exasperate her: the red and blue lines of a map are not valleys and fields; paper and place names will never be the same as presence. The speaker wishes she could go to Asturias, a legendary place where each man is worth a hundred, where Spain, at least in the imaginary of this poem, was born. In the poems of the Romancero de Mujeres Libres Sanchez Saornil returns to places of an imagined heroic past in order to find her version of Spain. The speaker in Sanchez Saornil's poem wants to recuperate the "cuna de Espana," the center of her imagined world. This search is frustrated in " Ay, Rinconcito de Asturias!" by the fact that she has never been to Asturias. A map and her faith are all she has.
Instead of jumping on the bronze statues of the glorietas or tearing down all the bridges, as the speaker in Sanchez Saornil's ultraista poems might have done, the speaker in the romances wants to hold on to a legendary rural center and recuperate the 'words to the old songs.' In the beginning of the twentieth century, however, this center lacks stability. The first stanza of William Butler Yeats's 1920 poem, "The Second Coming," is often taken as a nice summation of the historical situation in Europe:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. (189)
Yeats's poem responds directly to the First World War while Sanchez Saornil's frustrated grasp at stability is a response to the Spanish civil War. Her speakers yearn for a center, either in the urban glorieta or in Asturias, but, as another of her romances states, it is a center "que se desangra" (121). True conviction in the twentieth century, as Yeats reminds us, is hard to come by, since the speaker in "Panoramas urbanos" pines for old rhythms while simultaneously trying to fit into the new space of the jazzfilled city. The speaker of " Ay, Rinconcito de Asturias!" is likewise torn between faith and experience, an imagined heroic past and an alienating present.
The romancero tradition offers plenty of material to juxtapose with Sanchez Saornil's thwarted search for a center since it extends back to the middle ages and is especially important as a repository for the exploits of legendary figures in the Iberian popular imagination. Indeed, as Marisa Galvez shows in her study of the song- book tradition throughout Europe, nineteenth-century philologists and political institutions looked to the romancero as a site to consolidate the image of "an ideologically unified Spain" and presented literature and culture as a "communal project of the people" (Galvez 214). Seeing as late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philological giants Ramon Menendez Pidal and Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo sought to claim the cancionero as the "patrimony" of a unified Spain and an "inviolable communal book," (Galvez 214-15), it seems reasonable to say that the communal literary memory of Spain was fairly full of romances. The romancero thus constitutes a "collective memory" of the society, a repository of cultural products enmeshed with lived personal and communal experience and inextricably linked to the geography of that experience (Olick and Robbins 111-12). Thus, the romancero was for Juan Ramon Jimenez, "el rio de la lengua espanola" (see Sanchez Romer- alo). Here we can recall Torre's metaphor, mentioned above, portraying Sanchez Saornil as an explorer of new poetic 'shores.' Torre's metaphor of the "ribera" along with Juan Ramon's imagining the romance as the river of the language make manifest Certeau's idea about memory mediating spatial transformations. For, if memory is spatially coded (the romance tradition is a river, it has a geography), then spaces will inevitably be understood, at least partially, in terms set forth by memory. Henri Lefebvre, one of Certeau's precursors, makes this clear in the definition he offers for "representational spaces" in his book, The Production of Space:
space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of 'inhabitants' and 'users', but also of some artists and perhaps of those, such as a few writers and philosophers, who describe and aspire to do no more than describe. This is the dominated--and hence passively experienced--space which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects. Thus representational spaces may be said, though again with certain exceptions, to tend towards more or less coherent systems of non-verbal symbols and signs (39).
The elements of Lucia Sanchez Saornil's Asturias correspond to the spaces of the collective memory of her audience. Mauser bolt-action rifles belong to the trenches of the civil War while Asturias, as the homeland of Reconquista hero Pelayo and the setting for the Battle of Covadonga, belongs to a legendary national past. These "symbols and signs" determine how the space of Asturias is understood by those who inherit the collective memory of both the contemporary civil war and the romancero tradition. Thus, the Asturian miners' rebellion of 1934, crushed under Francisco Franco's leadership in the final turbulent years of the Second Republic, is colored by the heroic mythology of Covadonga and in turn colors later representations of Asturias, including this poem. The accumulation of these symbols in various cultural products, and especially through their transmission in the formal metrical structure of the romance, confers on the romance form itself the category of "representational space." No romance could maintain its formal coherence and at the same time eschew completely the discourses of nationalistic and heroic collective memory.
To see what this collective memory consisted of we can look, for example, to an anonymous romance on the famous Jura de Santa Gadea, whose narrative content dates to the thirteenth century, though it purports to relate an event from 1072 (Diaz-Mas 89).
In this episode of the legend of El Cid, the Cid pressures King Alfonso to swear he had nothing to do with the recent death of the king's own brother, Sancho, during the siege of Zamora. The Cid says that if Alfonso were to lie about his involvement in Sancho's murder he would deserve to die a terrible and shameful death. Alfonso is not amused by the Cid's embellished description of this hypothetical death and says the Cid should be a little less graphic and more respectful of his king. Ultimately, Alfonso refuses the oath and the Cid refuses to kiss his hand, earning himself one year of banishment.
--Vete de mis tierras, cid, vete, no m'entres en ellas --Que me place--dijo el Cid-- por ser la primera cosa Tu me destierras por uno, Ya se partia el buen Cid las puertas deja cerradas, las cadenas deja llenas con el lleva sus halcones, con el van cien caballeros, los unos iban a mula Por una ribera arriba acompanandolo iban mal caballero probado; hasta un ano pasado. que me place de buen grado que mandas en tu reinado. yo me destierro por cuatro.-- de Vivar, esos palacios; los alamudes echados, de podencos y de galgos; los pollos y los mudados; todos eran hijos de algo, y los otros a caballo. al Cid van acompanando; mientras el iba cazando. (92-93)
In this version of the oath not taken, dating to the end of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century (Diaz-Mas 90), the Cid finds new freedom in his banishment. The center in this poem, Burgos, is a place the Cid knows all too well. It is a place of feigned friendship, debasement, and duplicity. So he hits the road with a hundred knights in tow, captain of his men and of his future. For the Cid, the distant unknown is an invitation to heroism. He does not hesitate to increase voluntarily his period of exile fourfold, knowing perfectly well how to start a new adventure in life. Unlike the unheeded lord of Yeats's errant falcons cited above ("The falcon cannot hear the falconer"), the Cid is well equipped, with plenty of falcons, both hatchlings and seasoned hunters, as well as noble and capable men. What's more, in the Poema de Mio Cid, the Cid manages to settle his affairs to great personal advantage before leaving Burgos, even tricking Jewish money lenders to accept sumptuously wrapped trunks full of sand as collateral on a six-hundred mark loan (148-55). In another romance the Cid tells Alfonso that he is happy to leave Burgos because his father, Diego Lainez, is lord of much more civilized lands.
irme he de tus tierras brutas irme he yo a las de mi padre irme he de tus tierras brutas, irme he yo a las de mi padre de barbaro y soldado, de duque y de fidalgo; brutas y de malos panos, de sedas y de brocados. (Diaz-Mas 101)
Civilization, honor in battle, and a noble lineage await the Cid beyond the reach of Alfonso's newly acquired political power. In their vast majority, romances tell the tales of men, almost invariably men of stature and influence. Their place in society is conditioned by their lineage and their deeds. (6) If Burgos, as a center of ignobility, displeases the Cid, he will find new centers. Everyone party to the collective memory of the romancero knows that he is successful in this endeavor, as the story of the Cid's conquest of Valencia is retold time and again in Iberian popular culture. His legacy is more firmly set in collective memory and in the space of the physical present by the fact that he is interred in the Burgos Cathedral.
In contrast to the legends of the romancero, distance and the abstraction of the map in Sanchez Saornil's romance make heroism hard to grasp. Accordingly, Candelas Gala has characterized the disjointed and decentered subjectivity of Sanchez Saornil's ultraista poetry as a kind of poetic nomadism. This nomadic poetics was an effective method for engaging with the aesthetic, personal, and political opportunities of the 1920's. Facing the Civil War, however, Sanchez Saornil seems to want nothing to do with nomadism and exile. It seems that following the decentered and fragmentary subjectivity of the avant-garde, Sanchez Saornil returns to the traditional poetry of the romancero to seek a more centered and heroic subjectivity for the trying times of the national conflict, much like her male peers. But the space in which she hopes to locate that heroic subjectivity, Asturias, evades and disappoints her. She has only a map and a tragic, unbreakable faith in the present validity of a historical-heroic ideal.
For Michel de Certeau, memory, in a chess game or a "who-done-it" story, for example, seeks "occasions" or "opportunities" to assert itself and in so doing to modify spaces (83-4). Following Certeau's thoughts here, as well as his assertion that memory, as invisible collective cultural background, "mediates spatial transfor- mations"(85), we can see how the collective memory of heroic statuary in the cityscape or the heroic history and geography of Asturias mediate the way these spaces appear in the poetry and politics of the early twentieth century. Sanchez Saornil writes that in Asturias, "cada hombre vale por cien" (125), echoing the hundred knights who left Burgos with El Cid in the medieval romance. This echo may be faint or only fragmentary, but, as Certeau says, "when it emerges in a shadowy setting, [it] is relative to an ensemble which lacks it. Each memory shines like a metonymy in relation to this whole" (88). In this metonymic operation, the memory of El Cid's one hundred knights illuminates the contemporary men of Asturias during the Civil War; they too become "todos ... hijos de algo" and icons of honor. As symbolically charged features of their landscapes, they inhabit and give meaning to "representational spaces" in Henri Lefebvre's terms, that is, the space in which people live.
The Spain in which Lucia Sanchez Saornil lived and wrote was certainly a representational space in the sense of Lefebvre's definition. It could only be navigated with reference to "images and symbols" like El Cid, legendary Asturias, local and international political categories like "Bolshevik," "anarchist," or "Falangist," or even the specific metrical arrangement which defines the romance. Since the romance form has embodied political and aesthetic ideologies for so long, it embodies a 'memory' in Certeau's terms and is thus capable of mediating changes in the spaces in which it is set. It matters little whether the events of the romancero tradition are materially factual; the historicity of the Poema de Mio Cid is after all, "un problema marginal" (Smith 25). The legend of the "Jura de Santa Gadea," for example, has no historical basis (Diaz-Mas 89), and seems, like so many details of the Cid's legend, to have taken place only in literature. Alfonso's refusal of the oath and the Cid's subsequent banishment nonetheless exist in space and in memory, because the city of Burgos and in fact the entirety of Spanish geography are shaped in collective memory by the legend. This point is important for the poetry of Lucia Sanchez Saornil because it helps us to understand how space and memory do not necessarily align with the material past but can still leave their mark on the material present.
In Sanchez Saornil's poems we have seen how representational spaces can be used to modify historical spaces. This makes sense when we consider how the romance, as the narrative poetic form of shared heroic values, was taken up by both sides in Spain's territorial civil war. Singing one's own romance in the struggle to reclaim land on the front was a method for transforming the newly conquered territory into one's own version of heroic Spain, for the present as well as the cultural and political future. During the Civil War, with front lines inching forward or back and strategic positions continually lost or captured, reclaiming space was a daily imperative. The space of Spain won or lost in encounters between Republicans and Nationalists was not only perceived physical space (forests, hills, streets, etc.) but also held meaning as it related to historic landmarks, popular song, cultural icons, and indeed the personal and collective memories of the fighters (Bertrand de Munoz 16; Caudet 44; Debicki 52-3).
Returning to "Panoramas urbanos," we see that Sanchez Saornil's speaker had earlier tried to claim a space in the city for herself through the "images and symbols" of avant-garde urban modernity. The "Jazz Band," automobiles, "bar," the arc lamps, and the boxing match, not to mention the bellicose simile operating on our "brains," are all cliches of the avant-garde poetry and painting of the period. This poem, however, escapes the cliche by offering a subdued and somewhat melancholy attitude towards this scene of uninhibited modernity. While leaders of avant-garde movements like Guillermo de Torre, Vicente Huidobro, and F.T. Marinetti jubilantly proclaimed a new era of artistic novelty and blasted what they saw as the bloated, sentimental, turgid, and philistine art of the past, Sanchez Saornil's speaker seems less convinced than many of her peers of the absolute superiority of modern cosmopolitan urban life. While an aesthetic nomadism in cosmopolitan living is inevitably part of her poetics (Gala 322), Sanchez Saornil has little to grab onto in this decentered urban scene. By the end of this poem her speaker yearns for a hold in a familiar center. The organizing metaphor of the poem is the Jazz Band, an ensemble of many musicians improvising on a predetermined theme. The cars, bar, and streetlights are, metaphorically, the different musicians. Rather than inspire the speaker and her friends to dance, however, the cars' contributions to the musical ensemble, their "cintas sinfonicas," trip the dancers up, "atandonos los pies." (7) Meanwhile, the bar's song is "agua y cristal," both substances more likely to muffle or block a song than to transmit or amplify it. Finally, the streetlights have the shape of "cascabeles," but rather than jingle like bells they hang mute, "mudos," over the street (the dancefloor). The dance accompanying this ensemble is "enlutado como un duelo."
Considering the speaker's apparent disappointment with this urban jazz band, the final lines are perhaps even more ambiguous than my earlier analysis allows. The speaker and her modern poetic companions have 'pushed the moon's halo into a corner,' and the 'old pirouettist's heart / wanders disoriented.' "Pero," she says, as if to compensate for this sad state of affairs, "los cerebros como granadas explosivas." Even if we have lost the tune of the old songs (and thus the poor pirouettist is lost in this new city) and we have pushed away Symbolist imagery like the lunar halo, Sanchez Saornil's speaker seems to say we enjoy at least the feeling that our minds are capable of explosive creativity. In the end, though, "al final," we all just want to ride the bronze horses in the glorieta. It seems that the space the speaker seeks for herself is not in the modern bar, not on the dance floor with the jazz band, but rather in the center of traditional civic life, linked to the symbols of national authority and heroism. As a woman and a member of the working class, Sanchez Saornil would have been aware of the fact that she was, even while at home, exiled from full integration into that heroic space. Hidden behind a masculine pseudonym and wary of the frenetic modernity celebrated by her Ultraist colleagues, she seems to have been aware of her exile from the joys of a very masculine, even sexist, avant-garde.
As the anarcho-syndicalist group Mujeres Libres claims a bigger space for women in the CNT and in the struggling Republic, (8) it makes sense that Sanchez Saornil also claims the romance as a space for her fight, a space for her imagined Spain. Nearly simultaneous with the outbreak of the civil War, the creation of Mujeres Libres soon gives her a platform, in the form of a political organization with affiliated publications, for articulating this possible Spain. But she is torn. There is an inescapable irony in the opening piece of her Romancero de Mujeres Libres. The poem reads, "Que el pasado se hunda en la nada. / Que nos importa del ayer! / Queremos escribir de nuevo / la palabra mujer" (115). It resolutely calls on Spanish women to defy tradition, "desafiemos la tradicion," but it ends with hackneyed images of heroic resolve:
Puno en alto mujeres del mundo hacia horizontes prenados de luz, por rutas ardientes, adelante, adelante, de cara a la luz.
The hymn, though not composed as a romance, highlights the ambivalence with which Sanchez Saornil takes up the romance form in this book. Since, as Certeau would remind us, memory mediates the spaces that Sanchez Saornil occupies and hopes to occupy, the lingering iconoclasm of the avant-garde inhabits and conditions the space of this more traditional, rhymed poem. Like the rappel a l'ordre generally, the poems in Sanchez Saornil's Romancero de Mujeres Libres mix poetic tradition with avant-garde fervor. Even while presenting a collection of poems in traditional Castilian verse, the hymn explicitly rejects the past, "que el pasado se hunda en la nada," and advocates political cosmopolitanism as it appeals to all the "mujeres del mundo," and not only the women of Spain. But the old heroics are here too: the gesture of the "puno en alto," the image of a heroic journey on "rutas ardientes," and the confident nobility of facing "cara a la luz," are commonplaces of traditional (and masculine) heroics. These elements are so fixed in collective memory that the Falangist anthem attributed to Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, "Cara al sol," makes use of the very same image as Sanchez Saornil's closing line for its title. (9)
The ambivalence and tension in these poems in fact seems to be present in all of Sanchez Saornil's poetic production. In the ultraista poem considered here, "Panoramas urbanos," the speaker laments the loss of a collective rhythm and the banishment of old symbols like the moon to the 'corner' of poetic praxis. Tellingly, upon seeking a more traditional, heroic Spain with the romance form, the legendary space of Asturias is reduced to a small corner, only a "rinconcito." The diminutive suggests that the space is small, but it also signifies tender familiarity, even nostalgia. Though buried in Burgos, El Cid is more memory than matter, and even if he could be resurrected, the continuation of his legend would seem to exclude female poets like Lucia Sanchez Saornil, just as the utopian politics of the CNT excluded women in practice. In both her ultraista poems and her Romancero de Mujeres Libres Lucia Sanchez Saornil seems to seek physical spaces available for a new kind of modern heroism, but as a working-class woman those spaces are unavailable to her. Her speakers continually feel out of place and cut-off from the heroic spaces of both past and present.
Meanwhile, for male poets working during the period of the rappel a l'ordre, Julio Neira's description of the moment is apt: "perdida la capacidad de sorpresa del ultraismo, la poesia espanola va a remansarse en un magnifico equilibrio entre vanguardia y tradicion que la caracterizara durante el resto de la decada" of the 1920's, and even into the 1930's (45). Women poets like Lucia Sanchez Saornil, however, excluded from the heroics of both the avant-garde and traditional collective memory and facing the uncertainties of war, were never able to enjoy a calm 'equilibrium.' And so Sanchez Saornil writes in the romance "El 19 de junio" that "La vida se paro en seco" upon the mutiny of Franco and other Nationalist military leaders. In these first days of turmoil, "la hoz dejo en el surco / una interrogante abierta" (132). The old symbols, in this case the harvester's sickle, are present, but their meaning in traditional Spanish places becomes very ambiguous, reminding us of the shape of a question mark. For a revolutionary-minded woman who sees an open future in these times of political upheaval, the question mark represents a threat as well as an opportunity. While Lorraine Ryan's study of recent Spanish narrative begins with texts from the end of the twentieth century, it is equally true of that the period in her study and the first decades of the twentieth century that
Spanish space has never constituted a totalizing signifier containing the same meanings for everyone; rather, its meanings have evolved from the encounter between individual interpretation and the hegemonic meaning embedded in public space. (Ryan 2)
Even in texts whose primary moral imperative is productive engagement with the moment, public spaces appear tinged with disappointment in Sanchez Saornil's work, especially by virtue of their inaccessibility to women. Whether as an avant-garde poet uncomfortable in the urban and cosmopolitan jazz bar or as a poetic defender of women's liberation, Lucia Sanchez Saornil remediates spaces through collective and poetic memory. Especially during the Civil War, that memory was in flux, and the old heroic spaces available to men seemed just within the reach of women for the first time. But the Nationalist victory in 1939 meant that no physical space of Spain was open to Lucia Sanchez Saornil, who soon found herself exiled in France. During the avantgarde years as well as during the Civil War, Sanchez Saornil engaged Spanish spaces and the collective memory that gave them meaning with keenly felt ambivalence but also with great optimism. Charged with positive associations culled from the invisible memory of Spain's legendary past, they are in the end phantom spaces, inaccessible and unstable; they are the spaces of a Spain that never existed.
Anderson, Andrew. "Lucia Sanchez Saornil, poeta ultraista." Salina, vol. 15, 2001, 195-202.
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Cernuda, Luis. Estudios sobre poesia espanola contemporanea. In Prosa completa. Barral, 1975, 291-483.
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(1) In France and Spain especially, rhyme and traditional meters were reintroduced to avant-garde poetry to great effect. The achievements of poets like Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillen, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Rafael Alberti in this period are significant. At the same time, it is noteworthy that Russian avant-gardists never abandoned rhyme.
(2) Sanchez Saornil returned to Spain from French exile in the early 1940's and probably continued writing until her death in 1970, though she never again published her work. The few late poems included in Rosa Maria Martin Casamitjana's edition, many of them sonnets, are the poems of a woman close to death and are, at least to my eyes, of much less critical interest than her earlier published work.
(3) By "privilege" I mean some of the shared characteristics of the members of the Generation of 1927 group. Jose-Carlos Mainer's description of the group is illustrative of this privilege: "Datos como una evidente holgura economica y una formacion intelectual mas solida se integraron con otros dos igualmente reveladores: en primer lugar, con la conciencia de formar parte de una sociedad literaria deficiente, pero ya madura en la que convivian, en plena madurez, las tareas de tres promociones con rica ejecutoria; en segundo lugar, con el hecho universal de un cierto elitismo juvenil y hasta deportivo que podia ejercerse desde la confortable bohemia menor de la amistad" (211). Andrew Debicki corroborates these statements with regard to the poets of the Generation of 1927, ultraismo, and creacionismo (35).
(4) Considering Lucia's family responsibilities and her lack of disposable time and income, as well as the social barrier restricting women's access to literary tertulias, it should not surprise us that Sanchez Saornil collaborated with ultraismo mostly from a distance (see Martin Casamitjana (10-11), Iturbe (114-15), and Anderson (196). Her true identity, hidden behind the male pseudonym, came as a surprise to the poets whose work appeared alongside hers in ultraista publications (Anderson 196).
(5) A few variants merit mention in this poem. In Martin Casamitjana's edition of the poetry of Sanchez Saornil the boxing match, "box," is a masculine noun and accordingly receives the masculine article, "un." But the original publication in VLTRA reads "una box formidable." Another difference is the missing "c" from "arco de la luna" in the VLTRA publication signed by Luciano de San-Saor. This variant is of little consequence, as both "aro lunar" and "arcoiris lunar" are terms for the lunar halo. Both the original publication and Martin Casamitjana's edition read, "el corazon el viejo piruetista," though I think "el corazon del viejo piruetista" is much more satisfactory. Given the frequency of typographical errors in ultraista publications, it seems the omission of the "d" from "del" is the most likely explanation for this syntax.
(6) We can consider how difficult it is not to think of epic poetry and the romancero when we hear the words "hazana" or "proeza," or Torre's word for Sanchez Saornil's poetic achievement cited above, "gesta."
(7) A similar fate befalls the speaker of Sanchez Saornil's "Poema de la vida" (83-4).
(8) The fascinating history of Mujeres Libres is most completely told by Mary Nash in her book, Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War and in the introduction to the anthology under her editorship, Mujeres Libres: Espana 1936-1939. The general context of the CNT's place in the politics of the 1930's and the lead-up to the Civil War is fully treated by Julian Casanova in Anarchism, the Republic and Civil War in Spain: 1931-1939.
(9) In notably ambiguous fashion, the exact phrase, "cara al sol," describes a dead bird in Sanchez Saornil's poem, "Cuatro Vientos" (74). Also of note is the appearance in both the Falangist "Cara al sol" and the Romancero de Mujeres Libres of nearly the same address to comrades in anticipation of the speaker falling in battle. In "Cara al sol," the Falangists sing, "si te dicen que cai/me fui al puesto que tengo alli" while in Sanchez Saornil's "Romance del 19 de julio" the speaker intones, "Lleva a mi madre/ si yo caigo, esta certeza." The line from "Cara al sol" was also appropriated by Juan Marse for his 1973 novel on the anos del hambre, Si te dicen que cai. We can see in these examples how memory mediates spaces, is reappropriated, reideologized, and reimagined.
Zachary Rockwell Ludington
University of Maine
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