There is, however, an essential difference between thenCubist painters and the poetry of Pound and Eliot: althoughnthe technique is similar, a painting nevertheless presents anreality while a poem tells a story. Or said another way: anpainting is static whereas a poem elapses. Regardless of this,nthe true origin of this simultaneous manner of representingnreality was still Cubist painting. Its first expressions in poetrynwere the compositions of ApoUinaire and Cendrars.nReverdy followed them, but more radical than his predecessors,nhe suppressed almost all elements of narrative. Poundnand Eliot conserved narrative, that is, movement andntemporality. Pound declared time and again that this “methodnof presentation,” as he called it, came from the ideogramsnof Chinese poetry. Whatever the reasons were fornthat strange declaration — oversight, vanity. Orientalistnobsession? — it’s clear that the French poets were theninitiators and that their example, ApoUinaire and his famousnpoem Zone in particular, were decisive for Pound. I knownthis opinion isn’t shared much by English-speaking critics,nbut it is consoling to remember that the poet KennethnRexroth thought the same as I do.nI said before that the novelty of The Waste Land explainsnthe fascination it held for me; let me clarify now that whennits initial literary and stylistic newness wore off, a novelty of andifferent nature appeared. A timeless novelty, as it were,nbecause it is a part of the human condition and at the samentime is profoundly contemporary.nThe innovation of The Waste Land isn’t in its form asnmuch as it is in the apparition of human history as substancenof the poem. Poetry returns to epic. As in all epic, the poemntells a story transfigured by myth. Furthermore, it’s an epicnthat includes the present age, which is why it is also a film, annews report, a chronicle. In ancient epic the poet vanishes:nHomer is not Achilles, nor is Vergil Aeneas; the centralncharacter of The Waste Land, masked and covert, is the verynpoet Eliot. (The same thing happens but in a morenpronounced way in The Cantos.) As in Dante’s DivinenComedy, the hero of The Waste Land is an allegory of thenhuman soul, lost in the purgatory of earthly history. Thenhero of Zone isn’t unlike Baudelaire’s: a poet lost in the city;nThe Waste Land’s hero embodies Western History and itsnFall. A fall that is also a psychological depression, a nervousnillness, and a mortal sin.nThe fusion of the subjective I and the historic we, that is,nthe intersection between social and individual destinies, wasnand is the great novelty of The Waste Land and ThenCantos. The adaptation of a poetic form initiated in Francenand in which — thanks to the juxtaposition of verbal blocksn(presentation and narration are combined) — allowed thentwo poets to recover the central tradition of the great poetrynof the West and, at the same time, give us an image ofncontemporary reality. Symbolism had expelled history fromnthe poem; with The Waste Land the poem returns tonhistoric and concrete time. Time: man as the incarnation ofntime and the conscience of history.nMy fascination with The Waste Land didn’t blind me asnto the incompatibility between my convictions and the ideasnand hopes which nourish that poem. All visions of history,nincluding those that positivism has elaborated, contain anmetahistory. The one that animates The Waste Land wasnand is in open opposition to my ideas and beliefs, both thennand now. Not only did I not feel nostalgia for the medievalnChristian order nor did I see in the return to Rome a way tonsalvation (although I should observe in passing that Eliotnstayed halfway back, in the Anglican Church); instead I hadnbroken with my twofold Hispanic American past: thenCatholic and liberal traditions. I believed in a universalnrevolution that would transform society and change man.nBoth geometries of the future and the wilderness of thenbeginnings of history seduced me. Nothing farther fromnEliot, nothing more foreign and opposed to his thinkingnthan Rousseau and Fourier, the cave of the savage and thenvoluptuous gardens of the phalanstery. But the fascinationnpersisted. What drove me to The Waste Land? The horrornof the modern world. Before the disasters of modernity, thenconservative and the rebel share the same anxiety:nBetween the ideanAnd the realitynBetween the motionnAnd the actnFalls the ShadownMany years have passed, and my ideas and feelings havenchanged as our world has. The great victim of the wars andnrevolutions of the 20th century has been the future. Now atnthe crossroads of history, no one knows what awaits us:ndestruction, the night of barbarism, or rebirth. There arensigns in the sky of history, but they are blurry; few among usnknow how to read them, and no one listens to them. Eliotnbelieved in fidelity to tradition and authority; others of usnbelieved in subversion and change. Today we know thatnspiritual and political health lives in different words, lessncolored by absolute ideas: the words that founded thenModern Age such as liberty, tolerance, recognition of thenother and of others. In short: democracy. I know thatnmodern democracies have been indifferent—and oftennstupid and cruel — in regard to the art of poetry. SincenRomanticism, poetry has been condemned to live in thenoutskirts of society and even underground. But I also knownthat such severe and rigorous condemnations as appear innsome poems of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Yeats, Pound, andnother great poets could only have been written under andemocracy.nAs the century ends, the marginality of poetry grows.nToday it is either a ceremony in the catacombs, a ritual innthe urban desert, a fiesta in the basement, or a revelation innthe supermarket. It’s true that poets are still persecuted inntotalitarian countries and in old-fashioned military tyrannies;nin democratic nations they are allowed to live and are evennprotected—except that they are locked within four wallsnnot of stone but of silence. In the affluent societies of thenWest, dedicated to business and entertainment—or tonpassing the time, as the indicative phrase says — there is nontime for poetry. Nevertheless, the poetic tradition has notnbeen broken, nor will it be. If it were interrupted, the wordsnwould wither on our lips and our discourses would oncenagain be the howling of monkeys. The continuity of poetrynis the continuity of the human word, the continuity ofncivilization. Which is why the other name for poetry, inntimes like ours, is perseverance. And perseverance is thenpromise of resurrection.nnnAPRIL 1988/ 11n