Poetry of knowledge and being: the parallel paths of Alberto Girri and Rafael Cadenas
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The purpose of this dissertation is to trace the philosophical inquiries of poets Alberto Girri (Argentina, 1919–1991) and Rafael Cadenas (Venezuela, 1930). For both authors, poetry offers a space for examining the relationship of modern subjectivity with the world by tracing new paths of understanding and consciousness. Neither poet proposes a closed philosophical system nor adheres to any set of pre-formulated postulates. Instead, they traverse various modalities of thought toward what Martin Heidegger has called the “limits of Western metaphysics,” and turn to an eclectic Oriental tradition as a response. In the first chapter, I propose a tripartite theoretical framework of investigation, considering three conceptions of “Man” in relation to the world and language. I begin by reviewing Michel Foucault’s description of the modern episteme as a diagnositic and descriptive tool for comprehending the basis of modern subjectiviy. I continue with an exploration of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of how the question of “what is Being (Sein)” has been unattended, and “Man” (Dasein) has been overvalued as the knowing subject. I then review intersections in Heidegger’s work with Taoist and Zen principles. Following vi Heidegger, Girri and Cadenas turn to a poetics of present-presence, exploring alternative means of conceiving the subject and discovering possible answers in Oriental texts. In the second chapter, I examine Alberto Girri’s first poetic production as a denunciation of Man’s existential solitude, radical ignorance, and his failure to achieve through love, innocence, memory and art a means to overcome his contingency and state of orphanhood. The second half of his works is then studied as the reduction of the knowing subject, focusing increasing attention on the ethics of approaching the world through poetry. Rooted in the here and now, in the negation of the “I,” Girri draws on principles adopted from J. Krishnamurti and Taoist and Zen authors which elude the crisis of the subject —at the crux of Western metaphysics— and redefine the human being in relationship to reality. Rafael Cadenas’s literary trajectory is examined in a parallel fashion in the third chapter. His early poetry seeks to recover a lost idyllic state of being and belonging to a “you” or “other,” which can be identified as a utopian state or origin. Declaring his failure, the subject undergoes a painful examination in which Man’s vital positions in regards to his own being and the world are deemed “false maneuvers.” A corrective poetry is adopted to free the self of a subjectivity that adjudicates “that which is,” thereby creating a therapeutic space for the abandonment of erroneous notions of self, the quieting of thought, and the opening of a receptive emptiness to “the other.” Understanding language as “that which speaks” and as the “house of Being,” Cadenas’s most recent works, as similarly evidenced in Girri’s latter books, suggest new routes for recovering an ethical lucidity of consciousness.