Adriana Díaz Enciso
Distance and Melancholy in the 21st Century
On first thought, I’d say that melancholy has no place in the 21st Century: it has been replaced by neurosis, anxiety and haste. The notion of distance, in turn, has been all but abolished. Haste and technology have made us believe that the whole world, the universe even, is within hand’s reach.
Like most human constructs, this too is delusion. Never has the distance between mankind and reality—mankind and its soul—been as big as now that our brains have become addicted to immediate gratification, immediate distraction, immediate tedium and perpetual craving.
What does this have to do with poetry? I’d venture to say that poetry is in essence a melancholic act. The poet attempts to give expression to what cannot be said in words. The poet has glimpses of insight and meaning, or is beset by longing, grief, joy even, or beauty too great to bear. The poet wants to find a form for this experience, an expression that is intelligible as it creates its own beauty (it can be violent, fractured beauty too), and in the process she will inevitably have to face the unbridgeable distance between her experience and reality itself.
The poetic word is the crucible of this essential longing. Melancholia is its inherent quality, even at its most joyous—the need to grasp what is evanescent, while attempting to replicate with language its un-fixedness: an impossible task. It measures the distance between consciousness and matter, heart and world. If the distance didn’t exist, there would be no urge, no birth, no need for poetry.
In a century where both the distance and the urge are negated, the poet is by necessity melancholy incarnate. Her word needs be the vehicle of resistance against the obliteration of our capacity to long, rejoice, revere and mourn. It’s for her to keep a steady hold on the golden string to Keats’ ‘wakeful anguish of the soul’.
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Stretch'd on a moulder'd Abbey's broadest wall,
Where ruining ivies propp'd the ruins steep--
Her folded arms wrapping her tatter'd pall,
Had Melancholy mus'd herself to sleep.
The fern was press'd beneath her hair,
The dark green Adder's Tongue was there;
And still as pass'd the flagging sea-gale weak,
The long lank leaf bow'd fluttering o'er her cheek.
That pallid cheek was flush'd: her eager look
Beam'd eloquent in slumber! Inly wrought,
Imperfect sounds her moving lips forsook,
And her bent forehead work'd with troubled thought.
Strange was the dream--
Adriana Díaz Enciso (Mehika/Velika Britanija) –
književna gostja 18. mednarodnega Lirikonfesta Velenje (2019)