|Roberto Bolaño [Mouth London]|
from Robert Bolaño’s Woes of the True Policeman, tr. Natasha Wimmer:
Notes from a Class in Contemporary Literature: The Role of the Poet
Happiest: García Lorca.
Most tormented: Celan. Or Trakl, according to others, though there are some who claim that the honors go to the Latin American poets killed in the insurrections of the ‘60s and ‘70s. And there are those who say: Hart Crane.
Most handsome: Crevel and Félix de Azúa.
Fattest: Neruda and Lezame Lima (though I remembered — and with grateful resolve chose not to mention — the whale-like bulk of a Panamanian poet by the name of Roberto Fernández, keen reader and best of friends).
Banker of the soul: T. S. Eliot.
Whitest, the alabaster banker: Wallace Stevens.
Rich kid in hell: Cernuda and Gilberto Owen.
Strangest wrinkles: Auden.
Worst temper: Salvador Díaz Mirón. Or Gabriela Mistral, according to others.
Biggest cock: Frank O’Hara.
Secretary to the alabaster banker: Francis Ponge.
Best houseguest: Amado Nervo.
Worst houseguest: various and conflicting opinions: Allen Ginsberg, Octavio Paz, e. e. cummings, Adrian Henri, Seamus Heaney, Gregory Corso, Michel Bulteau, the Hermanitos Campos, Alejandra Pizarnik, Leopoldo María Panero and his older brother, Jaime Sabines, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Mario Benedetti.
Best deathbed companion: Ernesto Cardenal.
Best movie companion: Elizabeth Bishop, Berrigan, Ted Hughes, José Emilio Pacheco.
Best in the kitchen: Coronel Urtecho (but Amaltifano reminded them of Pablo de Rokha and read him and there was no argument).
Most fun: Borges and Nicanor Parra. Others: Richard Brautigan, Gary Snyder.
Most clearsighted: Martín Adán.
Least desirable as a literature professor: Charles Olson.
Most desirable as a literature professor, though only in short bursts: Ezra Pound.
Most desirable as a literature professor for all eternity: Borges.
Greatest sufferer: Vallejo, Pavese.
Best deathbed companion after Ernesto Cardenal: William Carlos Williams.
Most full of life: Violeta Parra, Alfonsina Storni (although Amalfitano pointed out that both had killed themselves), Dario Belleza.
Most rational way of life: Emily Dickinson and Cavafy (though Amalfitano pointed out that — according to conventional wisdom — both were failures).
Most elegant: Tablada.
Best Hollywood gangster: Antonin Artaud.
Best New York gangster: Kenneth Patchen.
Best Medellín gangster: Álvaro Mutis.
Best Hong Kong gangster: Robert Lowell (applause), Pere Gimferrer.
Best Miami gangster: Vicente Huidobro.
Best Mexican gangster: Renato Leduc.
Laziest: Daniel Biga. Or, according to some, Oquendo de Amat.
Best masked man: Salvador Novo.
Biggest nervous wreck: Roque Dalton. Also: Diane Di Prima, Pasolini, Enrique Lihn.
Best drinking buddy: several names were mentioned, among them Cintio Vitier, Oliverio Girondo, Nicolas Born, Jacques Prévert, and Mark Strand, who was said to be an expert in martial arts.
Worst drinking buddy: Mayakovsky and Orlando Guillén.
Most fearless dancer with American death: Macedonio Fernández.
Most homegrown, most Mexican: Ramón López Velarde and Efrain Huerta. Other opinions: Maples Arce, Enrique González Martínez, Alfonso Reyes, Carlos Pellicer, fair-haired Villaurrutia, Octavio Paz, of course, and the female author of Rincones románticos (1992), whose name no one could remember.
Question: Why would you want Amado Nervo as a houseguest?
Answer: Because he was a good man, industrious and resourceful, the kind of person who helps set the table and wash the dishes. I’m sure he wouldn’t even hesitate to sweep the floor, though I wouldn’t let him. He would watch TV shows with me and discuss them afterward, he would listen to my troubles, he would never let things get blown out of proportion: he would always have the right thing to say, the appropriate levelheaded response to any problem. If there were some disaster — an earthquake, a civil war, a nuclear accident — he wouldn’t flee like a rat or collapse in hysterics, he would help me pack the bags, he would keep an eye on the children so that they didn’t run off in fear or for fun or get lost, he would always be calm, his head firmly on his shoulders, but most of all he would always be true to his word, to the decisive gesture expected of him.
Poems by Amado Nervo (Los jardines interiores; En voz baja; Elevación; Perlas negras; Serenidad; La amada inmóvil). Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey (Colección Austral, Espasa Calpe). Matsuo Basho, Narrow Road to the Interior (Hiperión).