Eros and the Sacred: The Sakra Boccata of José Antonio Mazzotti

José Antonio Mazzotti

José Antonio Mazzotti’s Sakra Boccata is a book that in its brief sequence of twenty-eight poems — the number in a lunar cycle — displays one of the most revelatory poetries in contemporary Latin America. These poems enter into a dialogue with the grand saga of the literature of passion and with the multiple topoi and crossroads displayed by the theme of love in its affirmations and negations since the Song of Songs, on the one hand, and Sappho’s fragments, on the other, over twenty-five hundred years of writing.

As part of this vast cycle, Mazzotti’s poems create a sort of polyphony that touches on the most direct and varied forms of erotic love. They explore the nuances, subtleties, edges and folds of a real language, spoken and practiced in one region, a language that will be charged, after the inevitable separation of lovers, to reunite them via the exorcism of writing. Thus the title of the book, Sakra Boccata, alludes in part to the realm of the sacred in the era of a dissident orthography typical of end-of the-century and new-millenium Peruvian poetry (because of Sakra). At the same time because of Boccatta which in Italian means “mouthful” (Mazzotti comes from an ancient Milanese family), it seeks to secure the immediacy of oral language in writing. The language of Mazzotti’s poems identifies a specific speech at one moment in the evolution of Spanish, in particular Peruvian Spanish. For this reason, since it is an erotic speech as well, it concretizes a vision that seems to come from the depths of the language of the flesh and its desire to devour and to be devoured by the other in an extreme realization of a merger with the beloved.

José Antonio Mazzotti has expanded the notions that we as readers might have concerning eroticism, love, and the immemorial yearning to merge with what we love, which is ultimately the longing of all poetry.

Thus this poetry refers to oral ingestion and expulsion as a symbol of knowledge, confronting and at the same time affirming the famous disintegration of the lover and of lovers in Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, in which the author compares the consumption of food and drink that are incorporated into our being with the impossibility of such in the case of lovers. What the mouth swallows is what the body ends up assimilating and thereby incorporating as part of its own essence. In contrast with Lucretius (and with all literature of isolation), but like the Song of Songs and all the mystic poetry derived from the Song, the lover in Sakra Boccata affirms his desire to devour, to ingest the beloved body in order to merge with it entirely.

Beyond any recent psychoanalytical interpretation, these poems display a carnal, erotic version of the never exhausted Neo-Platonic theme of perfect love achieved by two beings to erase all the physical and mental distance between them. The myth of the androgyne, of the better half, of the middle and lost Paradise are reactivated in this poetry that magisterially combines multiple rhythms, some rapid and panting (as is proper to passion), and some with a slow and reflective pulse (as times of rest and uncertainty). Mazzotti’s poetry achieves the extraordinary materialization of this theme through the display of a language that never becomes abstract but instead always names real scenes, presenting us with a merger not only of bodies searching for each other but of language itself with the words that constitute it, as if the poems would like to devour themselves in a grand sexual act in which culture, eroticism and nature would once and for all erase their borders:

Vusco volver Vallejo vibra yo también pero saliendo de un
laberinto de hielo
Vusco tu rosca hosca y colorada tus pantuflas invisibles el reflejo
de un árbol sobre el lago

I vie to revert Vallejo vibrates I too but leaving an ice labyrinth
I vie with your sullen and ruddy bun your invisible slippers
a tree’s reflection in the lake

This destructive dimension of desire also merges with the memory of or yearning for purity that confers on Mazzotti’s poems a multidimensionality seldom to be found in poetry focused on the theme of love. On one hand, Mazzotti’s is a poetry of language, where the Spanish turns over on itself to sound in a new way, unheard of before. On the other hand, it is a situated poetry, Peruvian, a poetry that cannot stop being Peruvian in as much as Peruvian poetry makes up one of the most powerful currents in writings from the diverse regions of the Spanish language.

José Antonio Mazzotti has expanded the notions that we as readers might have concerning eroticism, love, and the immemorial yearning to merge with what we love, which is ultimately the longing of all poetry. This brief sequence of poems makes that yearning immediately visible in the rich and difficult range of erotic and mystical writing in the “lengua casta-i-llana” (“tongue chaste-and-plain”), as the dedication of this book states. But such a tongue concerns the concrete lives, sufferings and dreams that have been searching in it for the love, peace and simplicity they have not found for over five hundred years. Sakra Boccata is an advance on that potential encounter and on that impetuous merger with the world that we seek and adore. The irruption of these twenty-eight poems and their dream in our awake world is a triumph for poetry, but beyond anything that can be said it is a triumph for our bodies. For our South American bodies so often devoured by everything and anyone, except by love.

Santiago de Chile, July, 2006.

Printed from Cerise Press:

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