Aural by David Huerta

Featuring: David Huerta, Jamie McKendrick

David Huerta's poems frequently turn on images that are experiences in themselves. In an eerie piece, he describes a poem by Gottfried Benn:

A flower fell apart in the middle of an autopsy
and the doctor who'd cut open the corpse
saw how those petals landed among the inner organs.

This may only be a poem, but it takes hold of the speaker, removing him from his daily obligations. It is ‘something I must / come to terms with it won't be easy but I have to do it'.

If ‘Poem by Gottfried Benn' recalls the violence of ‘Nine Years Later', it also revisits the earlier poem's cathartic purpose. Huerta turns away from questionable generalizations about history to concentrate on the experience of the individual. But he doesn't stop there; he casts a steady gaze back on the self that is the repository of that experience. This is not confessional poetry and he pokes fun at the autobiographical figure with his ‘imperious solipsistic moustache, / the hirsute landscape of minor characters'. It is an exploration of the various impulses and formulations that make up the conscious and unconscious self. ‘Thirteen Attempts on the Life of Trivial Love' is a candid account of the feminine aspects of a masculine identity. It includes the creative principle of a ‘liquid overflowing from / the breasts I don't possess'; but also, more disturbingly, ‘women, nightmares of mine, dead inside me - discarded like scalps'.

The self in Huerta's poems is hard to grasp. Equally, his dealings with the outside world, and other people, are fleeting. His love poetry captures the poignancy of moments that anchor our existence only briefly. In‘Prayer', he calls for the preservation of a moment ‘here now among us':

it casts its yellow light and swells
like the sun or like flaming lemons
- and tastes of the sea, of loved hands
and smells like a street in Paris
where we were happy.

This elaborate figurative sequence carries the reader on a journey which engages the senses (sight, taste and smell) and startling shifts of imaginative scale (sun to lemons to sea to street). Yet its very expansiveness suggests that the experience has never quite been captured. Indeed, the present moment gives way to ‘a street in Paris', a memory of the past, and a recognition of what is lost as well as preserved.

From 'Three Mexican Poets' by Tom Boll

If you would like to support the Poetry Translation Centre please visit poetrytranslation.org/support-us