Mausoleum

Mausoleo y áreas colindante (a chapbook of poems by Eduardo Padilla)
Reviewed by Gary Gautier

As a second-language reader of Spanish, this chapbook of poems by Mexican poet, Eduardo Padilla, was more difficult for me than his narrative verse chapbook, Hotel Hastings. If you are upper intermediate in Spanish, I’d recommend Hotel Hastings, where you can follow the throughline even if you miss some of the language. If you are native or advanced, try Mausoleo. Both collections are admirably weird, as Padilla always is, but Mausoleo is less narrative, more purely poetic, a sculpted universe with a lot more pressure on the language itself. Both are available at https://poesiamexa.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/eduardo-padilla/.

The content in Mausoleo ranges from sweeping and cosmic (“todos los objetos imaginables por todas las civilizaciones de la galaxia” [75]) to elemental* to archetypal (“Saturno devoró a sus hijos” [25]) to “escuálido” [33] (urine and flies buzzing a dirty street). There are no rules in Padilla. No, I take that back. There is one rule. Repetition to keep us grounded. Consecutive stanzas might start with the same phrase, or might each start with a phrase picked up from the previous stanza, or might just follow an easy pattern (“A mi primera esposa … A mi segunda esposa … A mi tercera esposa …” [49-50]). The form swings from long, Whitmanesque lines to a kind of choppy folk meter:

*El sol quema,
el agua fluye,
el viento corre,
la Tierra gira. Ninguno …
(p. 13)

And then this verse enjambs into more open free verse swings. But you get the idea. Padilla can orient us with simplicity as well as disorient us with complexity. And that’s just with the form.

The overall structure too captivates – the organization into spaces reminiscent of Gaston Bachelard’s fascinating philosophical opus, The Poetics of Space. In the case of Padilla’s chapbook, the universe is carved into spaces that are domestic but not quite domestic, semi-public but in a brooding and intimate way. Sections of the chapbook have titles like Pórtico, Dormitorio, Comedor, Salón Heráldico, Capilla, Ático, and of course Mausoleo (Portico, Dorm, Dining Room, Heraldic Hall, Chapel, Attic, Mausoleum) – domestic but layered with social and existential significance, spaces in the liminal zone between public and private, as perhaps a cloistered monastery might be for the devotees who live within it. Maybe that’s where Padilla wants us to feel ourselves. Or maybe not. But either way, it’s a space charged with meaning and emotion.

Throw in a few captivating images – “mujeres como picaduras de abeja” [33], “en cada escena del crimen una catedral azul” [69] – and you have a nice neat package of a poetic chapbook. Well, not exactly neat. Luckily for us, it’s something more interesting than neat.

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(Click covers for links)

BookCoverImage     year-bfly-cover         mgg cov clipped 2019-11-23