Argentine magazine XUL began publishing, with Jorge Santiago Perednik
as editor, in the beginning of the 1980s, at the height of the mad military
dictatorship that killed thousands of individuals. As editor of the The
XUL Reader (a collection of writings from the journal) Ernesto Livron
Grossman writes, the poetry of its contributors was, in part, a reaction
to the regime; but unlike the guerilla movements of the political left
with whom many contributors shared sympathies the resistance
took language itself as its method and subject. Like the American "Language"
poets, the XUL writers sought in the purposeful complexity and density
of words a way to resist the failed language of seemingly "transparent"
statements of both sides, of both the victims and the victimizers
which as the editor points out, were interdependent for their existence.
Like their American counterparts, these Argentine poets sought models
in the avant-garde of the past, most particularly in the vernacularly-based
poetry of the gaucho (or cowboy) poems, and in avant-gardists such as
Oliverio Girondo, Xul Solar (one of the sources of the magazine's name),
Osvaldo Lamborghini, and more recent authors such as Jorge Luis Borges
and the Brazilian concretist, August De Campos.
in their fourth issue, a collective of XUL poets argued that their goal
was to "translate." "To translate is to work in one language
from another. Translating is the linguistic exercise that most privileges
the breach between two texts because it is actually a previous reading
that produces a new text in which writing claims to make a former text
legible even as it disrupts and obfuscates one text by subtracting from
it a legibility that it confers on another
. Translation only acquires
significance, as far as XUL is concerned, when it affirms itself as a
writing process that voluntarily exhibits its relation to other texts."
A little further in this statement the XUL writers proclaim what might
have as easily appeared in the pages of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine (edited
by Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein): "XUL's commitment to reality
is actually a commitment to language: to again make legible that which
has been used for coercion and deception. Language belongs to everyone."
revelatory anthology begins with a few examples of the historical influences
upon the XUL writers, themselves (particularly Girondo and Xul Solar)
worthy of further exploration, and then presents work selected from the
ten issues of the journal. Each reader will find his or her own favorites,
but given the context of the few pages devoted to each poet, I was most
impressed by the work of Laura Klein, Néstor Perlongher, Susana
Cerdá, Ernesto Livon Grosman, and the XUL editor Jorge Santiago
Perednik. I was less taken with the concretist influenced work as in the
poetry of Arturo Carrera, Gustavo Röessler, and Jorge Lépore
but that may be just my own aesthetic at work or a product of the
anthologization. The important thing is that this is a truly brilliant
collection of writing that cannot be ignored by anyone interested in contemporary,
Although the poems are presented bi-lingually, I do wish the Spanish had appeared enface instead of in small type at the bottom of each page; and I am desperate for biographical material and source information for the poets included. But these are small quibbles with a book of such significance.
Los Angeles, 1997
Reprinted from Mr. Knife, Miss Fork, Number 1 (1998), 178-179. ©1998 by Douglas Messerli.