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Review: Still Life with Loops, by Eli Tolaretxipi

Amongst recent volumes of translation, one particular pleasure has been Still Life with Loops, no.21 in Arc's admirable series of 'Visible Poets'. [...] The poems - with the original printed opposite the translation, as is the practise in this series - are not the easiest of reads, but their weight of sensuous particulars so vividly evoked ensures that the reader is constantly rewarded, enticed to do some of the work necessary to feel more certain of the underlying connections and the dominant sense of direction both within individual poems and across the collection. There is a fluidity to Tolaretxipi's writing which makes it both elusive and inviting; she records a response to the world, the fruits of her constant alertness and curiosity, in ways which are far from merely passive:

The afternoon arouses me and I note
the silver incursion of the light
between the watering can and the chicken,
without feathers, white, porous.
The vegetal light goes out in the background,
I grasp the fork.
I note its barbarity and the sunken flesh.
The contoured jaw that will not eat again.
The skin,
Hanging from the bone,
Is not the real story
Of the flesh
And of things.

In its fascination with the appearance of solids and its simultaneous dissolving of those solids into self-reflective unease about the very act of perception, Tolaretxipi's work seems quintessentially Spanish, related to much in the Spanish visual arts in particular. In its constant reiteration of particular images and memories, her poetry reminds one of a painter or composer creating a whole series of variations on the same object or theme. Dreams are important in the work, but more important still is that the poems make no clear or absolute distinction between waking worlds and dreaming worlds. This is another of the fluid boundaries which characterise Tolaretxipi's work. This is a fascinating and thoroughly individual volume.