Sunday, June 22, 2008

20. Guanajauto Two Times - Michael Hofmann

In Guanajuato Two Times, MH imagines returning to the same places in Guanajuato he’s already been and writing about them, an exercise in nostalgia; also, the dull safety in never doing anything new. He reflects on José José, one of Mexico’s most celebrated singers who battled with an alcohol problem late in his career and who seemed a different person to his younger self.

I could slowly become a ghost, slowly familiar,
slowly invisible, amiable, obtuse…

MH captures the sense of the familiar seeming invisible. Although the subject may recognise himself in revisiting old memories, it’s only a shadow of his present self, which will mean little or nothing to anyone else – hence the next line, “I could say, ‘Remember me?’ to the blank bellhop.”

I love the blank humour of the lines,

I could learn the Spanish for
‘I shall have returned’…

The future perfect tense, ironic in itself, and rarely used.

I wondered whether the ending was a little too self-pitying – there’s the bleakness, but not quite the usual black humour. He hears bells,;

not real bells
but recordings of former bells,
and never for me.

The final line makes the point of his invisibility to the world, even though he is at the centre of his own existence (as we all are), but I think it could be one line too many. I like the poem generally though. It’s the last one in this section from Corona, Corona.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the main problem with the final line is that T.S. Eliot wrote it .. if you know what I mean.