A new journey to the poetry of José María Eguren

By: Jim Anchante*

The critical edition of the poems symbolic (El conde plebeyo, 2021) by José María Eguren, made by Renato Guizado Yampi, has several contributions. But first let us mention that it is not the first time that Guizado has carried out a work on the symbolist master. He supported a bachelor’s thesis that he later published in book format: Detail, rhythm and syntax in the poetry of José María Eguren (Peruvian Academy of Language, 2017). To this we must add different articles and essays on the author of The song of the figures. Therefore, we can affirm without hesitation that we are facing one of the main connoisseurs of Egurenian poetry in the present century.

Now let’s go to the contributions. In the first place, we would like to highlight Guizado’s neatness when it comes to collating the editions. He does not stay alone in the careful publications of Ricardo Silva Santisteban on the work of Eguren (1974, 1997 and 2015), but also compares them with the prince edition and even with manuscripts and publications in local magazines and newspapers, these documents kept in the National Library of Peru.

In this sense, it is interesting, for example, to compare the variations in manuscripts or in some poems published before 1911 with the final version in the collection of poems. Thus, he points out that in the handwritten notebook donated by Luis Alayza the poem “Lied II” was titled “Dead”, with which a reading line is already established. A similar case is the subtitle “La Muerte” in the poem “La Tarda”, which is found in a manuscript, but not in the 1911 edition. In other cases the comparison is only orthographic, such as the change in writing of “ Sighna”, which changes to “Syhna” at the publication of the book. These data are essential for those who want to study Eguren’s poetry rigorously.

The second contribution is on the side of style. Guizado has studied the grammatical, lexical and figurative aspects of Eguren in his 2017 book and in this edition said analysis is manifested in the notes. Thus, an outstanding resource in Eguren’s “syntax” is undoubtedly the hyperbaton, which Guizado associates with the particular rhythm of his poetry. On the figures, emphasis is placed on the metaphors, antitheses and metonymies that run through the collection of poems in their search to create a particularly mysterious universe.

And about the lexicon, there is no doubt that it is one of the key aspects to understand the Egurenian aesthetic. Archaisms, neologisms and foreign words follow one another in a verbal flow guided by the fine music of the poet in pursuit of creating a spell effect in his verse. The lexicon in Eguren is so relevant that several of its scholars have touched on the subject at different times. Guizado seeks to synthesize these contributions in this edition.

The third contribution is interpretive. Guizado is not alone in the exegesis that Eguren’s poems have been made for more than a century, but he is encouraged to clarify them and, in some cases, refute them from his own reading experience. Thus, in the notes of the poems there are mentions of scholars of the symbolist master, from the earliest (Zulen, Carrillo), through the classics (Núñez, Silva Santisteban, Debarbieri) and reaching the most recent (Areta, Chueca, Fernández ). The set of notes that accompanies each poem, although it does not exhaust the polysemy of the Egurenian symbol, undoubtedly serves as a detailed reading guide, especially for the non-specialized reader.

A fourth and last contribution that we want to highlight in this edition is the set of data that Guizado establishes to build the cultural context of Egurenian poetry. We know that in his poems there are mentions of mythological characters, musicians, musical compositions, among others. The editor traces these references, thereby laying the foundations, not only to build Eguren’s “library” (the readings that defined him and that are manifested explicitly or implicitly in the poems), but also to weave that intercultural network of an author who was also a painter and photographer, as well as a profuse connoisseur of music.

We would not like to end without highlighting a quote from the scholar on the nature of Egurenian poetry: “José María Eguren understands that art is an instrument for externalize beauty, felt in the delicate and perfect of Nature, and in the intensity of feelings, but only partially known, since it is a notion that transcends physical stimulation and logical explanation, that is, it is indefinable” (p. 25). It is in these terms that Guizado seeks to base the symbolism of Eguren, which differs markedly from the writers of his time.

We wanted to highlight some contributions of this edition. No doubt there are others that more attentive readers will also be able to point out. To conclude, it should be clear that a critical edition does not exhaust the reading possibilities of an author. And in the case of Eguren much less. However, the care in the handling of the versions and the depth of the research make this book an essential reading for this daring and at the same time pleasant journey through Eguren’s poetry.

Peruvian writer, Doctor in Ibero-American Studies, researcher and teacher