“My feet have extremely high arches and I used to drive my ballet teachers crazy breaking pointe shoe after pointe shoe. Thankfully I’ve since discovered forms of dance—modern, contemporary, etc.—that don’t require shoes!”
Hometown: San Diego, California
Adviser: Craig Epplin
Thesis: El Pulso del Mundo: Primitive and Posthuman Poetics in Vicente Huidobro’s Altazor
What it’s about: I analyze Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro’s avant-garde poetic school, Creacionismo, and its obsessive view of language as the intersection between modernity and prehistory. I look at how Huidobro uses the poetics of machinery, such as conveyor belts, windmills, and cars, in order to create a poetic gesture.
What it’s really about: Chaplin meets Cervantes meets Steve Reich.
Who I was when I got to Reed: I got voted the biggest hippie in my high school, which is kind of embarrassing.
Influential books: Mallarmé’s Divigations, Deleuze’s Dialogues, and, of course, Don Quixote. I’m prone to exaggeration, but I think of my life in terms of before Don Quixote and after.
Favorite spots: The sauna! B.Y.O. lavender bath salts.
Random thoughts: When I first came to visit Reed, I sat in on a hum conference and I had the feeling that this was my place; that I needed to come here. I knew it was expensive. My dad and I found this empty classroom in Eliot and had a talk. I remember telling him, “I know this is the place for me.” And he said, “I really want you to go here, but we need to see about financial aid.” Because of that financial aid, the Edding grants, and the Reed grants, I was able to come here. I can’t stress enough what an incredible gift that is.
Cool Stuff I did: Climbed Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. SEEDS. ESL coordinator. Barista at the Paradox. Dance! RAW director of artist hospitality. Translated poets. Spanish tutor. Studied in Buenos Aires. Lived in Old Dorm Block. Learned how to cuss in French. Read Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation.
How Reed changed me: I learned how to harness the tools of intellectual and creative inquiry. Additionally, I have finely tuned my abilities of balance, having to juggle a full course load with three jobs, a social life, and enough sleep.
What’s next: Summer fellowship with the Nation magazine, then teaching English in Paris. Then grad school in international foreign policy. I want to be a diplomat.
Initiated by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro around 1912, Creacionismo is a literary movement in which the poet creates a highly personal imaginary world rather than describing nature. One thing that Huidobro says in his manifesto is that each poetic act or gesture should be something completely new. So it’s a step away from the mimesis of Plato, where poetry is just sort of copying something. It’s a move forward to the creation of new worlds.
His poem Altazor deconstructs language as it proceeds in the hope that it will create a new language at the end. It’s really out there. The first line in English is something like: “I was born at the age of 33, on the day that Christ died, between the hydrangeas and the airplanes and the heat.” That’s probably the most normal, everyday sort of line that it has. And then he starts making up his own language, starts making up words. So it’s pretty avant garde.
Huidobro is engaged in a sort of creative destruction. That’s an economic principle, as well as a religious principle exemplified by the Hindu god Shiva, who is both a creator and a destroyer. Huidobro does that with his poetry. He’s creating things and creating language, but at the same time he’s deconstructing language as we know it. Some parts are completely unintelligible, really gibberish. The last lines are scrambles of letters and then sounds, or like the letter “e” six hundred times. So it gets pretty gnarly.
There are a lot of avant-garde poems where you can look at the historical context to explain why it’s so weird, for lack of a better word. But, with Altazor, I feel like a lot of the existing scholarship doesn’t arrive at a satisfactory answer—at least for me. So I’m trying to go a little further. —CG