Today we can hardly say anything. Perhaps remember the advice that warns to beware of dogs and silent waters, baste again every hour of past shipwrecks, write in a tragic tone about the false utility of tragedy or elaborate a heroic song for submerged lands. But better not. There is enough sorrow for all that has been lost and memory still remembers Carlos Pellicer.
Born in Villahermosa, when it was still called San Juan Bautista, on January 16, 1897, his name remains linked to the work of other illustrious Tabasqueños: the pages of Gorostiza, the songs of Esperanza Iris and the lyrics of Joaquín Casasús. In love with the word and its images, Pellicer used to say that he had learned the first letters from his mother and that his land had given him all the inspiration. Travels, navigations that included studies in Mexico City, a long itinerary of political life, literary “evangelization” for those far from the alphabet and a notable participation in the most important cultural groups of the second half of the 20th century, made him disembark in the precise ports, but in the end, either literally or metaphorically, they always took him back to his beloved tropics. Because all his loves – he said, they said of him – had the same address.
A key figure in the history of Mexican literature, Carlos Pellicer, like many writers, dedicated himself to public service, the Academy and the publishing world. He was director of the Department of Fine Arts, in 1953 he entered the Mexican Academy of Language, in 1964 he won the National Prize for Literature and in 1976 he was elected senator of the Republic for his native state. Without stopping writing, he also gave in to another passion: Museology. His is the credit for the existence of the Parque Museo de La Venta, center of the Olmec culture located in Villahermosa, which he inaugurated in 1958; He is also responsible for the Frida Kahlo House-Museum in Coyoacán, which he inaugurated in 1964, and the Anahuacalli Museum, a building and collection donated to the Mexican people by Diego Rivera and which the poet from Tabasco also inaugurated. “When I make a museum – he once said, recapitulating – and I have always made them alone; all mistakes are mine, and if there are successes they are also mine. I am closer to logic and order through touch, moving or moving objects, than handling words. For me, a man confused with the earth, words are too volatile: they slip out of my hands. It is in the organization of museums that I find the fewest obstacles, with the greatest possibility of exercising, of establishing order”.
Considered by Mexican literature books as an outstanding member of the group of “Los Contemporáneos”, he was also, among the poets of his generation, the widest in themes and registers and one of the most constant in his creative work.
“Do you know, Carlos, that the bad thing about you is that you are not one poet, but two? – José Gorostiza wrote to Pellicer one day. The one I like, – he told her, – is the poet of the senses. I wish you were always that poet. In the building of our poetry, you are the window; the large window that overlooks the countryside, hungry, every night, to have a new panorama for breakfast, every day. We, -you know, – are the pieces inside. Xavier (Villaurrutia) the runner. The others, the bedrooms. Even the last one, the one in the back, which is Jaime Torres Bodet, is shrouded in shadows, with a high window overlooking the garden, and inside, in a corner, the lamp in which the oil of all confidences is burned. Salvador New? The rooftop. The rags in the sun. And that restless González Rojo, who never goes to bed in his bed!”
To talk about poets just another poet. And although Gorostiza was specifically referring to his group of close friends, he achieved, in that letter, one of the warmest and most precise definitions of Carlos Pellicer. His words exceed the thousand names that tried to define him: the poet of the tropics, the one with the heart in his eyes, the poet in an airplane, the one with the song of creatures.
He does not say that he was sometimes accused of excess or that civil, epic, loving, descriptive poems coexist in his work, those that were born from contradiction and certainty, those that were accused of blackness or unbearable happiness. Nor that the mere act of reading Carlos Pellicer is to be trapped in his words, blinded by his images, warm with yellow suns, drowned in his nocturnal seas, united with his green laughter and wanting to travel to all his landscapes.
On January 16, 2022, it will be 125 years since his birth and his boat still sails in the deep sea. His last stanzas could be the first and Pellicer is not just two poets. It is still one and the same and here it will stay.