Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón (trans. Stuart Krimko)
Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings
Key West, Florida
Sand Paper Press
Chris Kraus writes that Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón “understand everything,” and she might just be right. The poetry found in Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings is a dialogue of friends, candid storytelling about being women in love, dialectic on being alive; it is also an exploration of what it means to create and practice art and writing outside the confines of a group of poets who write for other poets primarily (read: academic careers). Fernanda and Cecilia may not write for themselves, as some poets often weakly argue, but they very well may write for each other—and somehow this doesn’t feel exclusive at all. I am thankful to Stuart Krimko for offering the English-speaking world an invitation to this ongoing project of conversation.
Belleza y Felicidad begins with the writings of Fernanda: prose pieces, long lyric poems, shorter poems. Cecilia’s writings comprise the second section of the book: prose pieces, long lyric poems, shorter poems. Each woman’s writing, though tonally different, appears to be a cracked/cubist mirroring of the other (for instance, they each have a poem where they attempt “realism” by saying so). They call out to each other by name in their poems; they are writing about their lives, and they are very much in one another’s life, so it only makes sense. There is an echo in the second section of the first, and vice versa. The sounds they make go back and forth, back and forth in a circular movement that feels like surround sound. They both write about generational, technological, and other contemporaneous issues, and they both write very personal poems without ever hovering near the rabbit hole of confessional poetry.
Fernanda’s world seems a little messier, her everyday language looser than Cecilia’s, whose writing is more critical (in its self-referential tone and diction). Cecilia uses a more varied vocabulary, her pieces a bit more tightly put together. But what is so beautiful is that all of this feels that if it’s not intentional, then at least it is completely recognized and acknowledged within the work. Take, for instance, this passage from Fernanda’s poem “Automatic Reflections,” section I: “I have few words to use, / I wish I could use more/ but they don’t come to me // Ever! // My spontaneity is childish and obvious. / Dumb. / My writing is the automatic writing / of a relaxed mind” (75). Cecilia writes, in “What I Regret …": "… (I didn’t want to think about the blood / that I was containing, / and much less the tears). / However, a little clearing opened / in the elevator, / there was a mirror, / it was I. / “I,” that great plenitude. / “”I:” four hearts, / twenty arms, a hundred manuscripts, / identical to myself, / unmoving” (197). First person singular means something altogether different in quotation marks, and this book plays with the intimacy and distance between language and the self.
The spirit of the book, overall, is light, but this isn’t to say that the darker side of getting through days is not in here. Fernanda writes lines such as: “God give me more ideas / so I can keep writing / and open the doors / to this exciting reality… / Sweet kisses on the beach, / tit licks, ice cream, abacaxí sodas, / guaiaba and vodka.” (35); but poems later shows us that she knows that “Beauty is happiness / when it’s angry” (59). Cecilia writes, ““Yesterday I went to get some ice cream / and while they were scooping it / I thought I hated everyone, / and told myself: / if only I could find the fire / that keeps people alive / everything would work itself out.” (185). This is the sort of metaphorical play found in the book, which seeks to expose the cold things in the world, and with purposeful naïveté and passion, sets out to melt them.
This collection, like the poems that comprise the collection, is reaching for conciliation by admitting disparate and desperate things can and do remain side by side (“…my mother/ with her two platters / one for love and one for pain.” (83)). It is a remarkable reminder that the dirty places may just be ours to uncover and discover; that the disorder that confronts us does so that we may be considerate toward it. The writing here is clever: “I made a rule in my head / to create some balance” (Fernanda, 73).
Fernanda and Cecilia are big on future, but their writings make it beautifully clear that we are not separated from it (see Cecilia’s prose piece “A Post-Marxist Theory of Unhappiness” (149)): We are it. Though each woman creates pieces that speak alone, the “we” is a thread being pulled throughout—it is actually multiple threads, multi-colored, being braided, cut, retied, used to tussle and tassle. Cecilia writes in “The Festival of Tears”: “Seeing fire in the sky and feeling the force / of thousands of centuries pausing for a / single second in a single place. / The place was called “The End” / and it was also called ‘I’ “(215). For where one things ends another is beginning, and what one person cannot bring to fruition, another complementary person brings to flower. Fernanda writes: ““And I am / half mystery / half everything I am not” (127).
What is a mystery to me is why I’ve just recently heard of these two poets from Argentina. Individually, their texts resound. But together, the texts rejoice. Each woman is half everything she isn’t, but it doesn’t matter. Here, in Belleza y Felicidad, is everything they are.
Mullin resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Bill, and her dog, Beatrice (no, not named after Dante’s Beatrice, but the divine French actress Dalle). Mullin is currently a media and communications doctoral candidate at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.