Sampaolesi, Mario

Mario Sampaolesi - Two Poems — Malvinas & Points of Collapse


Mario Sampaolesi - Two Poems — Malvinas & Points of Collapse

Paperback, 132pp, 8.5x5.5ins

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Translated from Spanish by Ian Taylor


The tensions present within the works of Mario Sampaolesi stem from the conflicted relationship with reality that powers poetry itself, an electrical charge created by a constant flitting between engagement, detachment and total abstraction. The 'real' is represented by a mountain or an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean; it appears in the snow and animals that are present within the mountain landscape, the geology and sea life of the Malvinas present and the war of Falklands past. But mostly it appears refracted through the distorting consciousnesses of the two men who wander through these terrains, two men so outside of the 'real' that their presence is never more than that of ghosts or destructive trespassers.

The abstraction to which these men reduce the real is at its most extreme in the non-narrative passages that make up half of 'Points of Collapse', passages in which the reader struggles for a foothold amidst words and concepts dragged from their point of origin and pushed towards the titular collapse before plummeting into an abyss, a black hole in which even time offers no foothold — how can the reader know if they are in the past, present or future when constantly faced with doubled auxiliaries like "was will be"?

There is also scant emotional foothold to be found within the mental life of the two men. The mountain-climbing first-person narrator of 'Points of Collapse' is as cold and devoid of human emotion as his surroundings, a detached non-being whose lack of engagement with his fellow creatures reaches an extreme through his deliberate causation of an avalanche that decimates the flora and fauna that, unlike him, are truly part of those surroundings. In contrast, the former soldier returning to the Malvinas is a mass of unresolved emotions, a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder beset with guilt at having been forced to take human life. Or is he? What has happened in this character's past, who this character is, is ambiguous — he may have instead been the Argentinian who dies during the course of the narrative and now haunts the site of his death like a soul in limbo, or may be a veteran so tortured by survivor guilt that the only peace he finds is in imagining his own death during the conflict; he may even be a British soldier racked with guilt over the Argentinians he killed during the war. As with 'Points of Collapse', the narrative shares space with more abstract passages, though the chaos within these stems more from the heart than from cold intellect.

But can this abstraction really be called the abyss? When the real is given over to a war that ended many human lives and a predatory human greed that destroys whole ecosystems, the sense of timeless otherworldliness that infuses both 'Points of Collapses' and 'Malvinas' is more that of an inner paradise.


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