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The new book of the Spanish poet Isaac Caldern, La parbola del arcoris,
gives us the chance according to his author- of meditate upon, in & with
language as a Symbol. The paperback version is available worldwide via

Isaac Caldern, autor de La Parbola del Arcoris. Imagen: archivo personal.

Por Gabriel Petter

Isaac Caldern doesnt fit the mould of the conventional definitions of what an
artist should be. An specialist in digital creation with a long, international career
in creative departments of notable corporations, he holds a Masters Degree in
Audiovisual Communication, he is also a musician and a vocational poet that
has just published his second book, La parbola del arcoris (Los Papeles de
Brighton, 2016), after a long hiatus that followed the (fragmentary) publication of
his first book, Menarquia del ave adolescente (2004).

Currently he resides in colourful Barcelona, after six years living in Qatar. Now
he is writing his third book and translating, together with his wife Irene
Bntemeyer and directly from the original German the poetry of the great Stefan
George (1868-1933). Isaac is cultivated and his quotes, from Goethe to
Kandinsky, are ample. He teaches more than what he dialogs and thus it is no
wonder that he has been invited as a professor by different universities around
the globe.

Although this interview -mostly completed through email- it is structured in an

standard way, the flow of the conversation is as free as the thoughts of this
multidisciplinary artist that is still not well known by the Brasilian audiences. We
fed on his sources to take a bit of his clarividence, that of a sensitive man that
wishes with his poetry to reveal the highest reality, the one that lays behind the
sense world. A world behind of untold beauty and lyricism and we need those
so much in this dark time that we ought to live in.

GP: When I read your book for the first time I was surprised by its title. Does it
lay out the symbolic narrative that keeps on growing in intensity while you get to
know the voices of the characters that populate its pages. Can you try to define
your Parbola?

IC: More so than characters that populate the book I would talk about a book
that serves as habitat of two particular voices and to an indetermined third Id
like it to be a temple, in the way that in Ancient Greece an specific form was
able to contain a god. These two first voices stablish a dialog between
themselves: they are the ones of the I & Consciousness, the Divine and the
Poet, the Eternal and a Man Searching for the Eternal Word. The third voice,
implicit across the entire book, is the one of the person summoned in the first
poem, Lirio (Lily, Lys). It is definitely a femenine presence independently of the
poet being a man or a woman- that forecasts the dawn of the Opus itself and
without which it is impossible the birth, the giving birth of the Word. She blows
where She pleases.

Also, and considering the fact that this is not a fiction book, but a poetry book in
the traditional sense, that is, a book that belongs to that which has been named
philosophia perennis, I do not like to refer to this voices as those of characters,
but as those of Persons.
This is an artistic exercise that is carried on into a solitary land; above it
gravitates, as an enormous sky, the faith in the Imagination that, as Victoria
Cirlot ( mentions in
her marvelous prologue to my book, is Exact & Precise: in other words, the
voices of the book are not fictions in a novelistic or prosaic sense.

Indeed this is symbollic poetry but not symbolist. The symbol differentiates
itself, as it is also clarified in the prologue, from the allegory, that it is forever
dead. The allegory relates to the symbol by means of iconography, but it lacks
the vitality and fertility of it. The symbol is, according to Valentin Tomberg, an
operation that is magical, mind-related, psychical and moral that is able to
awake new notions, ideas, feelings and aspirations, which means that it requires
a deeper activity that that of the mere study or intellectual explanation. Juan-
Eduardo Cirlot ( ), in his
prologue to the first edition of his famous Dictionary of Symbols, mentions the
intuition that, behind metaphor, there is something more that a substitution of
reality, that is to say that behind metaphor lays a higher reality, and that to
create is, behind the veil, a method or discipline of knowledge or, maybe, a
discipline on memory (in the platonic fashion), on remembering this lofty
symbollic reality from which flow, as it if was a fountain, the waters that solidify
in our physical world. Matter is but coagulated symbol, a symbol that has rained
and has become a lake. Goethe: Everything transitory is but a symbol, that
what is not enough to here arrives; that which cannot be told is here fulfilled, the
eternal femenine attracts us.

That what makes this book different is that, here, the symbol is the very same
word, transitory insofar it comes after Babel, everlasting insofar it is (also) the
Word. Human and divine are united in one phenomenon: language. And just in
another one: the human being, the anthropos. By meditating on language, we
reach Language. This is to say that this book, The Parable of the Rainbow,
constitutes above all the possibility for the reader of meditating upon, in, with
language as Symbol.

GP: This is not your first book. When did your interest in poetry started? What
do you seek with or through it?

IC: Youre right. This is my second book. The first one, Menarche of the
Adolescent Bird (Menarquia del Ave Adolescente), was completed in 2004, 13
years ago, no less. What happened with that book is that it was published
fragmentarily: in the old Ciberayllu, directed by Domingo Castilla, from the
University of Missouri. In the literary blog of the poet and translator of Hilda Hilst
John Keene ( ), that translated
my poem Winterreise. In the Lunas Rojas magazine, where Juan Carlos
Mestre (Spains National Poetry Prize Awardee), Enrique Falcn (Adonis,
accsit con La marcha de 1.500.000) and other relevant authors (Jorge
Riechmann, etc.). In the magazine Fsforo, directed by the poet Gonzalo
Esparza. I remember that even one of the poems of that book was included in
one catalogue of a sculpture exhibit by Gonzalo Serrano, if I recall correctly. The
towns major misreading my poem was something I wont easily forget. So, as
you see, Menarquia del Ave Adolescente was indeed published, but in a
fragmentary way. I do not discard to revise, edit and rewrite the book in order to
publish it in a coherent manner.

I am sure that you have noticed the considerable amount of time between both
books, Menarche and this Parable, that I wrote in six febrile months of 2015 in
Doha, Qatar. There is more that a decade in between both works. This is a topoi
that appears transfigurated along the verses of La Parbola del Arcoris, this
decade of silence during which I didnt write any verse. With the due respect to
a grand poet of our noble language, Antonio Gamoneda went through a similar
experience before writing the epoch-making Descripcin de la mentira.

More than remembering an specific moment in which my pursue of poetry

began, I kind of remember the opposite, to be recruited by Her when I barely
knew Her. I was just nine years old when I wrote a few poems without knowing
very well what I was doing and that, even today, they do interpelate me.

And speaking of remembering, let me express my gratitude to Amadeo Trrega,

requiem in pace, my professor back then, who didnt bypass those childhood
verses and for having been faithful, back then, already, faith in my qualities as a

If you ask me whether this latest book has satisfied my aspirations as a poet, as
an artist, let me tell you that of course not! My favourite book now is the one I
am writing, the one I started to write when I move back to Barcelona. My
favourite book is always the one that is being written. It is fresher and close to
the living stream of inspiration. As Ive mentioned before, La Parbola del
Arcoris was written in Doha, Qatar, where I lived for the past six years.

You can find verses of Menarche of an Adolescent Bird (in most cases,
translated into English too) in the form of designs and videopoems in my
Instagram gallery.
GP. Sometimes, when I read the book, I got caught by a melancholic solitude. It
is just like if the characters that talk through the poet were talking to everyone. It
is poetry really a solitary trade? Why does your book seem to contain such an
enormous melancholy?

IC: You have employed two different words, Solitude & Melancholy, that are
related to each other but are not the same. About solitude, yes, there is an
absence of the first magnitude: the absence of the Word. In my opinion we cant
experiment a more intense solitude, due to the fact that we Are just because of
the Word: Kein ding sei wo das wort gebricht / nothing exists where the word is
not (Stefan George).

About Stefan George, he is a key Modern poet and we, my wife and I, are very
sad that there is no satisfactory version in Spanish of his work. I mean, and with
due respect, there is no translation of George that has been done by a Spanish
poet that knows throughly the German language and that is not a mere
translator. I am telling you this, dear Gabriel, because I wanted to announce that
together with my wife, Irene Bntemeyer, I am going to translate Stefan George
and I am eager to harvest the fruits of this enormous but fantastic task.

There are translations that fulfil a divulgative role, but in Georges case, the
existing versions (and I include the most recent ones) available in Spanish are
making him, in our view, a disfavour. We should only accept works translated by
poets, like the excellent Hojas de Hierba (Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman) that
Eduardo Moga composed. You can tell instantly that we are talking about an
author that speaks and writes proper poetic Spanish through Whitman. Not a
mere translator, no matter how erudite. This are complicated matters and should
not be let in the hands of not so competent people.

About melancholy, I would say that some fragments are as you say melancholic,
but they are so in a delayed way, there is some sort of recapitulation of
melancholy, because it does not have a current presence, a recent presence,
but its got to do more with the epoch of silence, that decade that Ive mentioned
I woulndt describe this book as melancholic. It is actually versifying about the
light that dissolves melancholy, that black fluid that seems to be consumed, like
petrol, like the corpse of time, with Fire.

And yes indeed, poetry is always a solitary trade. Freud describes the Artist as
that person who traces a magnificent detour in order to stablish a relationship
with his peers, with society. His figure is, in a sense, analogue to that who
retires to the loneliness of the desert in search of something in this case, in
search of The Word- and returns, later, to share his fruits, his findings or his
Word with his peers. At the end we all write in order to be loved, as Federico
Garca Lorca answered famously to a question regarding his poetic vocation. Of
course, the poets want, like everyone else, to feel loved. To love, above all. And,
if possible, to feel loved.

What occurs is that the adventure of giving someone I love the best I know of
has or has had implicit, for me, the desert, it has had loneliness, not necessarily
a melancholic one. The most beautiful solitude of the desert.

GP: If something called my attention of your book was the appendix, the
Adenda. You mention in there several artistic pieces that point towards the
everlasting duality or dicotomy reason / emotion. Is this a dilemma for a poet
with a scientific vocation, such as yourself?

IC: I did agree with my editor, the director of the publishing house Los Papeles
de Brighton (Palma de Mallorca, Spain) who is also a poet, Juan Luis Calbarro,
to finalise the book not with an explanatory appendix that was to dissect the
poems that are alive and well (thanks God!), but more like a series of emblems
taken from the countless root images that made possible the organic growth of
this poetry book. My idea was to use more contemporary images, such as the
vowel diagrams of Stockhausen (Stimmung), but matters related to intellectual
property and copyright issues prevented me of using this more modern imagery,
and so I searched into Antiquity, in the Medieval Times and in the period that
starts with the beginning of the Modern Era (Renaissance, mid Quattrocento)
until the Modernism itself (Jugendstil): the last image of this Adenda is the Tree
of Life by Gustav Klimt. Those old epochs, anyway, were not unfamiliar to me,
as Ive searched across millenia truths to feed this book and this ancient eras
are, in a sense, also contemporary, because they coexist with me here and now
as I summon them through the words they left.

About the alleged dilemma Reason vs Emotion, I wouldnt consider such an

opposition, but more about the couple Reason (not versus) & Spirit. I do not
believe that in the current times, reading the Zeitgeist, the object of the Arts
should be to seek feeling, or emotion, and less so passion. Id like to
recommendalthough I do not fully agree with it, it is still full of insight- (Spanish
philosopher) Ortega y Gassets celebrated essay on the topic of vanguard art: and above all Concerning the spiritual
on art, by V. Kandinsky, that can be read online:

The true opposition I detect in my Adenda is that of Science vs Art,

Intelectualism vs Aestheticism; in short, the alleged and aged battle between
two modes of knowing: the analitic of the intellect, that breaks reality into pieces,
and the spiritual that is native to every true work of art. I try to show how this
opposition is just apparent and not essential. As Ive said the appendix
complements, but does not explain (it is impossible) the verses that come
before it. To be a poet with scientific training it is not a dilemma, it is a bless. A
science that is spiritual, and a scientific art was the goal of gigantic figures of
our culture such as Goethe.

GP. In times in which reason seems to have become some sort of mantra,
poetry seems condemned to be an hermetic exercise on subjectivity. A friend of
mine, also a poet, told me something that seems to exude a strong feeling of
rejection agains this supremacy of reason. He said to me we need to
reincantate the world. What do you think about that? Did we lose ourselves a
bit into the labyrinths of reason?

IC: I am grateful for this question and for the way you shape it, because you are
describing the mission of the arts: that of re-enchanting the world. If we are
talking about re-enchanting, we are assuming that that which was enchanted it
is not anymore. We assumed a childhood and a paradise lost, and we enter fully
in teleology (telos) with the promise, or aspiration, of re-enchanting the world, of
re-dressing it with its old fire or, as I prefer, with a new glory.

But I dissagree with your friend: I dont think reason is a proble at all in this task
of re-enchanting the world. Even more: it is an ally, a key one, an indispensable
one. I dont believe either that we live in a world ordered according to reason:
you just need to see the rampant irrationalism and the growing brutality, almost
animal-like, of our time. I believe that the criticism of your friend should be
redirected to the supremacy, to the tiranny of technology, not of reason. And
even though, my position would be the same (that of a Waldgnger): if reason is
limiting you, illuminate it with Art. If technology oppresses you and real-time
simultainety devours the space of your interiority, illuminate it with Art.

Links to my Social Media sites:

Stio de Los Papeles de Brighton, con partes del libro: