The Multiple Poetic Cartographies of Carlota Caulfield

Movimientos metálicos para juguetes abandonados (Metallic Movements for Abandoned Toys)
BY Carlota Caulfield
(Ed. Gobierno de Canarias / Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deportes, 2003)

The Other Poetry of Barcelona

The Other Poetry of Barcelona: Spanish and Spanish-American Women Poets
EDITED BY Carlota Caulfield
AND Jaime D. Parra
(Corner, 2004)

A Mapmaker's Diary

A Mapmaker's Diary
BY Carlota Caulfield
BY Mary G. Berg
(White Pine Press, 2007)

In many poems you celebrate the city. You present yourself as a stroller, a flanêuse, someone who rambles through a city. In some of your poems from Movimientos metálicos para juguetes abandonados (Metallic Movements for Abandoned Toys) later included in A Mapmaker’s Diary: Selected Poems, you mingle urban images of ancient cities with contemporary references to cities like London, Barcelona, Rome and Paris, for example. Could you talk about your taste for the ancient past and ruins, as well as for the modern metropolis?

Yes, you are right. Images of the city are a constant in my poetry. I am a very urban person, but I have many fantasies about remote and peaceful spaces. I am a persona inquieta / a restless person. A poet in transit. Pascal said that many of our major problems spring from our inability to sit still in a room. Somehow, I agree with him. My soul is a wanderer and probably will never find a place to rest. My life is particularly linked to Havana, Dublin, Zürich, Barcelona, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and London. As for the presence of ancient cities, in particular Greek and Roman ones, yes, they are definitely important presences in many of my poems.

The city of Rome is fundamental in two poems from my book, Quincunce/Quincux. Rome has many poetic and symbolic-personal references for me. Martial is one of the poetic ones. The book begins with a quote from his Book 10, Epigram 58, in which the poet says:

but now the immensity of Rome wears us down
When can I ever call a day my own? We are tossed about by
the tides of the city, our lives consumed by petty tasks…
such affliction is daunting to a poet.

The Rome of Martial is for me a symbol of the post-modern city, of the existential restlessness in which I live. The poet is the observer and participant in a world, both odd and fascinating. The Rome of Martial is a city already contaminated by chaos, a chaos similar to our own.

In my poetry collection Movimientos metálicos para juguetes abandonados the city of Rome appears represented by “an old Roman home” as a way to compare it to the city where I was born, Havana, majestic even in its tatters, in its ruin. Perhaps “Les cages sont toujours imaginaires,” which is the title of the poem as well as a painting by Max Ernst, is the “central patio” of the whole book.

Not so long ago
I was the daughter of a strange country,
I inhabited walls of scars
while I learned that I would never
have a true language.


They are cities whose sounds
enter the internal ear and
destroy it, produce a beginner’s
madness that, closely considered,
is very much like the central patio
of an old Roman house.


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