MEABE, Miren Agur
To talk about my poems is to talk about myself. And I would go so far as to say that to talk about myself is to talk about the reader too.
Poetry for me is like a net, something that goes beyond the poem and captures the realities that affect us. Poets look at life (at nature and society, at events and characters, at the realms of logic and magic) and then, after the internalising process, find within themselves the words that will shed light on the thin fabric of what we call 'life'.
This is why for me feeling takes precedence in the process of observing life. It is unlikely that poetry will ever change anything: history, the present or humanity.
I write to put my internal shelving in order, to place and date my memories, to rationalise my fears, to scrutinise the traces of my parallel life... I write so I won't forget who I really am. To that extent, poetry is an escape, a necessity imposed by the need to abate my panic and my thirst. I manage to survive the mundane by satiating my thirst and sidestepping my panic.
In other words: what I produce are kaleidoscopic X-rays. For this reason my creative and my poetic I are one. And it is essential for me to revert to oneirism to recuperate the erotic dimension of memory, to put it at the service of the poem.
As a general result, I would be glad if in giving my message I were able to strike a balance between clarity, ease and elegance.
Thus, I don't seek perfection, but beauty; I don't seek truth, but authenticity; I don't seek transcendence, but intensity.
Miren Agur Meabe was born in Lekeitio in 1962. She qualified as a teacher, specialising in sociology, and later gained a degree in Basque philology. She taught at a Basque school (ikastola) in Bilbao for some years, and since 1990 she has been an editor at the Giltza-Edebé publishing house - where she is senior editor today. In 1986 she published Uneka... Gaba (Momentarily... Night), a short story collection, and four years later she was awarded first prize in the Lasarte-Oria poetry competition for the collection Oi, ondarrezko emakaitz! (Oh, Wild Woman of Sand!), which was published in 1999 in the magazine Idatz & Mintz. In 1997 she received the Imagine Euskadi prize for the volume Ohar Orokorrak (General Notes). Meabe revisited poems from those two collections in her most important work to date: Azalaren Kodea (The Code of the Skin - Susa, 2000).
The critic Iratxe Gutierrez has written that the poetic protagonist of The Code of the Skin is:
...a female I who speaks through a first-person narrative. [...] The protagonist wants to free herself from her language-dependence, because this dependence conditions the relationships she has with others, making communication impossible. More to the point, it is inextricably linked to memory, and to her inability to ward off the pain of reminiscence. This is why an alternative sign system that frees her from this dependence is so necessary for her. She needs an alternative system of communication, and she chooses the skin. And in the process of revealing her feelings and worries, she chooses the immediacy, the naturalness of the skin over the exteriorization of what is inside her: she occupies herself with the encasing of her body in a new code (Idatz & Mintz, Dec 2001).
Another critic, Iñaki Aldekoa, writes:
As in the work of André Breton, here the poetic embrace is a lustful embrace, and while it lasts, it keeps us from succumbing to the misery of the world. Poetry is knowledge and ignorance at the same time, the exploration of the mystery of the attraction between two bodies: it is the desperate effort to appropriate their secret (Historia de la literatura vasca, Erein, Donostia, 2004).
In the author's own words:
There is an insistence throughout the book on the importance of expressing oneself, but... absolute communication is impossible. Words themselves often do not help us become freer - though they might help us feel we are - and they are more destructive than constructive. [...] When words are futile, when there are too many or too few of them, when they are too shiny or too dull, how do we find common ground with the other? What else is there left? Ourselves is all there is, just us: only skin, a limited resource. And to say skin is to say body, and to say body is to say to be (in Poetikak & Poemak, Erein, Donostia, 2005).
While we are on the subject of being, we should establish that The Code of the Skin is a deeply personal work. Meabe has said that she likes to offer kaleidoscopic x-rays of herself to her readers. She explains the concept as follows:
I say it's an x-ray because it reveals my internal world, and kaleidoscopic because it shows little pieces of my persona, the moveable parts, the changeable completeness that is crystallised in unique, priceless moments of being. My experiences travel up and down the kaleidoscope's viewfinder. Because they are experiences they are not made solely of provable objective facts. Memory, existential desire, fantasy, the physical sensation that a specific look might leave us with, and so on, are also experiences, whether they take place in the realm of reality or not (ibid.).
Those experiences include not only the traces from the past found in the present, but also dreams, because eroticism plays a big role in them. Maebe believes that "the voice that reveals the eroticism of its body takes enormous pleasure in the erotic dimension of memories that are recuperated through oneirism and placed at the service of the poem" (ibid.). The revealing of female sexual desire links Meabe's work to Hélène Cixous's Le rise de la Méduse, in which the French author postulated a form of writing that explored the female subconscious and libido.
In 2001 Meabe received the Critic's Prize for The Code of the Skin.
In 2002 she received the Euskadi Prize for children's literature for her Itxaslabarreko etxea (The Cliff House - Aizkorri, 2001). Since then, she has published several books for children and young people: Bisita (The Visit - Gara, 2001), Joanes eta Bioletaren bihotza (Joanes and Bioleta's Heart - Elkar, 2002), Etxe bitan bizi naiz (I Live in Two Houses - Elkar, 2003), Nola zuzendu andereño gaizto bat (How to Mend the Ways of an Evil Teacher - Giltza, 2003), Amal (Gara, 2003).
More information about the author:
- To see the author's works in translation, go to the list of books translated from Basque section in this website.
- Visit the Basque Authors' Association website: EIE.
- Visit Armiarma's Basque literature map.
© Estibalitz Ezkerra
English translation © Amaia Gabantxo
Photograph © Zaldi Ero