Philip W. Silver

In 1969, the North-American critic Philip W. Silver publishes and article in the journal Ínsula about what he refers to as the “Rodríguez-Brines Generation” in which he expresses his interest in the Zamoran poet. Later, in his introductory study to Selected Poems (Alianza, 1988)  “La mirada sin dueño” (“The Gaze without Owner”), Philip Silver lends close attention to this poetry from a new perspective that does not elude the persistent presence of surrealist components. Silver insists on this trait to such an extent that, in his own words, “the true originality of Claudio Rodríguez’s poetry will remain unnoticed until his Rimbaudian-surrealist affinities are unfolded.”

Following this starting point, Silver not only accepts psychic automatism as the common resemblance factor between Claudio Rodríguez’s first book and Rimbaud’s poetry (beyond substantial differences regarding topics and meter), a fact already acknowledged by Bousoño. He also explains how the metaphorical process in Claudio Rodríguez derives from the “sustained metaphor” of irrational nature that the surrealists used. According to this, the key issue in the association of words was not meaning, but “stereotyped” and phonetic associations emerging from the poet’s inner world. In the case of Claudio Rodríguez, the statement agrees with the fact that the referent in his poems is not exactly reality but “an ideal, ineffable moment that precedes its creation”, what allows us to understand that the word universe of the poet does abide by the vision rather than the reason. Such move serves the purposes of a revelation difficult to formulate, save through pre-logical language within the threshold of a ma non troppo surrealist process, in Silver’s own words.

Of high interest is also the part in which Philip Silver points out the relevance of silence as a symptom of the ineffable. An “essential muteness” that allows us to see the allegorical nuance of this poetry ultimately as an allegory of the colossal distance between the word and the object; of the impossibility for a fusion of both, an attempt always destined to the failure in the poetic expression –silence included–. Such failure equally provokes the progressive discouragement of discourse, whose quest for the Self is annulled by strange factors that conceal the possibility of an unveiling, whether these be religion, progress, habit or politics, according to Silver: “Anything, except agape and eros, among what could provide a raison d'être, is considered a trick”.

This search for the unveiling of the Self in the poetry of Claudio Rodríguez is complemented by the certainty that only life, in all its manifestations, is fulfilled among any other possibilities. This perspective confers the measure of moral responsibility that allows for a view of Claudio’s work as “deep ontological poetry”, quoting Silver, while also rooted in an ideal of human solidarity “whose thumbnail image is the family”, an ideal “whose fulfillment is almost impossible in this world. That is the real leit motiv throughout the book Alliance and Condemnation”.

Later approaches by the North-American critic to the poetry of Claudio Rodríguez have followed this initial step, perhaps without such an explicit emphasis upon its surrealist values. In a 1991 review on Almost a Legend in which, despite its conciseness, the critic comments on the initial poem “Street without a Name”, he highlights the quest for the Self, who “is not properly distributed, there is too much up there and too little down here, while the playing poet (mystic) hops to see if he can reach that Self (…) parousia, which surrounds and holds everything, is invisible-ineffable and whose (all)presence can only be intuited by the poet.”

This way, Philip W. Silver has continued grasping the poetic corpus of Claudio Rodríguez as an ontological exercise of high coherence and full of interrelations that give its complete sense to those early verses of 1953: “Clarity always comes from the sky”.