What you can do with fire

What you can do with fire
What you can do with fire

Rafael Felipe Oteriño was born in the city of La Plata in 1945. In 1966 he published his first book, “High Rains”, and since then he has dedicated his literary work to the exercise of poetry in collections of poems and to reflection on it in his essays. Heir to a poetic climate that privileged emotional overload in verses, Oteriño opted (like some other poets of his generation) for a more distant expression of the emotion that gave rise to them, influenced by TS Eliot’s reflections on the writing of poetry. .

This distance, which reduces the probability of falling into verbal overflows, is also a teaching of the American poet who has become a nationalized Englishman. As one of his translators maintained: “Despite his theory of impersonality and constant use of distancing effects, all of Eliot’s poems have their origin in an emotional current.” The same happens in the work of our poet.

As in Oteriño’s previous books, here the search for knowledge is present (which manifests itself in a continuity of questions born from reflections, memories, associations) and a kind of ethics of its own that, after drawing on the poetry of the masters, He aspires to pass it on with his own voice to the following generations. The poem promotes a semantic space and the verses admit, in their polysemy, several interpretations. But those who continue can well speak of that amalgamation between what is inherited and what, transformed and renewed, is projected into the future:

in the forest hiding places

the recent sprout next to the woody root.

Without prejudice to the aforementioned distancing from the original emotion, it is from his memories that the most moving poems are born, as shown by “With my father, at the end”:

(…) It was neither mercy nor surrender.

They were too short days to sail aimlessly.

The liturgy of two adults who protected each other

the unmoored hour of an old man

and the rope, which was beginning to tighten,

of whom now looks back to tell it.

In one of Oteriño’s previous books, “Every morning” (Ediciones del Copista, 2010), the violence and fragility of life appears in the poem titled “The Swan.” Perhaps as a consequence and as a purpose, in “What you can do with fire” there is a call to enjoy the moment, to choose among all the possibilities the one that rescues and celebrates what is vital to us. The poem “Now” is a 21st century carpe diem:

(…) The present is what this bright morning offers you.

You just have to march towards it.

Today, when I woke up, I saw, next to the moon,

It shone brighter than the other stars,

and when I wanted to keep him he disappeared.

It shone as if to say “it’s now.”

In this dawn high and clear.

Poems like those in this book confirm that poetry is a successful alchemy. It is the transmutation of perceptions, feelings, reflections, images, associations, intuitions, into a coherent whole: that of the words of a poem. There is a mysterious moment in the poet when the need to write is born, and it is necessary to retain that moment as soon as it appears, since his life and his influence are too fleeting and do not allow future recreation. From then on, the poem is born and transmutes into verses that flow towards their destination (writing and corrections through):

(…) Poetry gives rise to these births,

when he calls doves to the ships and roof to the sea.

They are faces of a reconquered country

to the impulses of imagination and joy,

of curiosity and wonder. (…)

In a time in which readers are faced with vertigo, fragmentation and superficiality, the poetry of Rafael Felipe Oteriño offers in response a hospitable place of serenity, continuity and depth that goes against the current and that proposes the balance necessary to not succumb to the tyranny of urgency. In this context, “What you can do with fire” more than justifies the time dedicated to reading and awakens the desire to continue reading its verses.

Poemary by Rafael Felipe Oteriño, published by Editorial Pre-Textos, Valencia (Spain), year 2023.

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