Chus Pato’s multiplying hordes

Chus Pato. Hordes of Writing, translated by Erin Moure (Shearsman Books & BuschekBooks 2011).

Erin Moure’s little Introduction to her keen translation of Hordes of Writing, ‘Animality and Language,’ is just one sign of why she is the translator of Pato’s work into English. As an innovative & highly political poet herself, she can get inside a writing that ‘wriggles out of any know form of the poem, and out of the confines of the book.’ The rest of what she says here will prove useful to any reader about to plunge into the dark gnomic waters of Pato’s highly sophisticated, theoretical, & embodied writing in this, the third of five books in her projected pentalogy, Method.

Hordes of Writing (& ‘hordes’ is a key term throughout) is divided into 3 parts, all constructed of deliberately fragmented arguments, narratives, & richly described possibilities. Nearing the end of Part 3 & the book, there’s this:

it’s difficult but you can figure it out

it’s not that the I constitutes itself in the poem, but that the poem is an animation, so women seem crazy, what happens to us is existence

my political heart, well obviously I’d rather not wake up with so much resentment

destruction in Galicia doesn’t involve the inorganic, so we can’t say we had ruins; destruction in Galicia relates to disarticulation of the social fabric and of moral parameters, thus we cant lay claim to ruins (linguistic ruins, the ruins of productive mental units can’t be assessed). In other countries, destruction also involves the inorganic (bombings). We can’t claim that a heart attack is a ruin of the heart, a ruined heart

a heart’s not an inorganic muscle

and the devices of writing collapse into a scribble and the flimsy and hypothetical themes of future thinking

it doesn’t seem that clouds navigate a hostile medium

if it isn’t a war, who’s shooting, who’s killing you, who’s the enemy?

Not a summing up, but this certainly bears the burden of all that’s gone before. There are the fragmented tale(s) of ‘Hrg’ (‘Mariana’), whose dreams ‘are short, not very restorative, and superficial. An eloquent voice tries to interest her in its story: it talks to a dead woman, to a stone.’ There are all the ‘I’s, this deliberate, an attack on the lyric lIe of integral selfhood that Pato has carried out in all her work (as has Moure), an I that multiplies as both writer(s) & reader(s), & can speak in so many different ways, but often in a considered confrontation with death:

I believe – she continued – that my sole interlocutor is death: somehow I write so that death, whatever its circumstances, can’t be debased. As such, I write in common words, identical to those anyone uses

(with you, inorganic
with all the dispersed salts
you were there, logos from the start)

The 3 parts, ‘Thermidor (first episode),’ ‘Thebes (continuation),’ & the lengthy ‘We Wish We Were Birds and We Don’t Like Binoculars,’ the very title of which reveals the dark humour of Pato’s writing, as did that long passage I first quoted., argue a dispersion of the I, ‘On the other side, where we’re alone with time and I is an innumerable that multiplies and decentres itself.’ These ‘I’s & all they inscribe are the very hordes of writing Pato hoards in this dense text, where writer segues into reader & back again, where ‘you’ is only another possibility of & in the text. And here is one way the politics of this work emerge, tied, as always with Pato, to her Galician roots: the writing will be a horde, a dangerous other mob in action, so that no I can rule or dictate as once happened with the coming of fascism ‘and for this reason no one wrote a novel like Berlin Alexanderplatz or Manhattan Transfer in my language and don’t come back to me saying that in my language there’s no city like Dublin’.

The difficulty with writing about a book like Hordes of Writing is that you could quote it all, or try to comment on what is happening on every page. As these quotations show, it manifests an extraordinary range of allusions, to music, art, literature, history – yet all exist as experiences of the body, no more or less than those moments of sensual awareness, or the visceral descriptions of visiting various places made ‘sacred’ (or its depraved opposite) by what happened there. They’re all part of those fragmented narratives emerging like momentary whitecaps in the ocean of story that Hordes of Writing acknowledges even as it denies its usual turns & terms.

Hordes of Writing offers a complex & what some might feel as off-putting experience, for it refuses to make that experience easy, refuses to offer any of the usual lyric invitations; but those readers willing to give themselves to this text will be provoked to a thinking as well as feeling experience of writing as an action deeply embedded in the body, inscribed.

(see my reviews of the first two Pato books translated by Moure:

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