Judah Rubin

This portfolio brings together writing by Peruvian poet Roger Santiváñez’s beginning in the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, or from his book Homenaje para iniciados to his 1991 book Symbol. Santiváñez is one of the founders of Movimiento Kloaka, which began in Lima in the early 1980s, and this work specifically is key to tracing a history of underground punk poetics (or, Limeño subte), neobaroque aesthetics, and multilinguistic and polyvalent compositional modalities, as well as contributing to discussions of the shifting poetic and artistic responses to the internal war in Peru. Santiváñez’s work of this period is colored by a complex referentiality while oscillating between poetic narcosis and violent textual embodiment. In introducing Santiváñez’s poetics, it is important to note that this embodied violence is not limited to textual presentation but to a world that is colored by a fraught, and often, to this reader, difficult and frankly problematic presentations of masculinity and sexuality more broadly. While as an editor and translator I want to be forthright and honest in the reality of the historical milieu from which these poems emerged, this does not make them any less troubling — in the many senses of that term. There has been an ongoing reckoning in Peru of late with the violence of the ’80s and ’90s, and, likewise, with depictions of sexuality both generally and in the literature of the time. Though there is an ambiguous relationship to the speaker in Santiváñez’s poems, the “Kloaka” that they emerge from means that the poems do retain the trappings of that source material, and while we may contextualize it, we should be clear that it is not a valorization of their ground.

In Santiváñez’s poetry of this period, we witness a hypostasized poetic subject (for example in the poem “3” from El chico que se declaraba con la mirada), which is characterized, in the later work, by a distended, an anarchic musicality. This musicality is highlighted in the critical writing presented alongside Santiváñez’s poems here. For Germán Labrador Mendez, the ghostly temporalities in Symbol are linked to Santiváñez’s connections to the punk underground in Lima and the collapse of the utopian horizon during the 1980s. Likewise, in Luis Fernando Chueca’s essay on Santiváñez’s earlier work we get an ambivalent allegorical reading of Santiváñez’s poem “La guerra con Chile” from Homenaje para inciados. This poem works in a transtemporal register blurring the periods of the War of the Pacific in the nineteenth century with the ongoing internal war in Peru at the time of the poem’s publication. Chueca makes clear that the incommensurability of writing with a stable present reinscribes Santiváñez’s poetic historiography on the surface of erotic dislocation. Dislocation, however, is as much a part of the present absence of language itself. In her essay “The leftover letter is the missing one,” Silvia Goldman makes the case for the destabilization and destandardization of Spanish as it is outlined by Santiváñez in Symbol. For Goldman, orthographic mutability and compounding as well as the use of sound effects in Symbol join with a panoply of language forms and sources not only to announce the fragmentation of the event but, instead, to recast the poem itself as magic pad. 

These writers have all contributed to a growing body of literature on Movimiento Kloaka and on Santiváñez’s writing in Spanish, though there remains a paucity of this work in translation. However, for the interested reader, a more recent bilingual volume of Sántivañez’s work may be found in Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos, translated by Elsa Costa.