The secrets of Karmelo C. Iribarren

We were sitting in a bar. It was the death of August and the clouds were engulfing Saint Sebastian. To bites. Like almost every day, I imagine. Karmelo, between the first and second coffee, was watching. He pretended to watch, but I knew he was writing. I got nervous. I looked too. I wanted to find out where the poem was, but I couldn’t. A few seconds later, we both returned to the conversation. Me empty handed; him, with a few verses. I think that’s why he wouldn’t let me pay the bill.

I’ve been reading to Carmelo C. Iribarren. Like you, I imagine. And even if I can’t tell you about her great secret -the one of those poems that contain the little great things-, I can reveal her emotional mapping, the places where he writes, the connection between his texts and those experiences that build them.

Because after the fact everything is simple: Karmelo’s poems seem to be written for each one of us. Is the call “Mirror effect”. A pistol shot, a boomerang: “But this is just what happens to me!” But, oh, my friend, the difficult thing is to see him, like him in that cafe.

I have no idea if the date is a coincidence or not, but the new Karmelo, “The stage” (Visor, 2021) has arrived with the fall. Like his lyrics, who live all year round on that path that goes from autumn to winter.

He said that, that afternoon, we were in a bar. In the square of Good Shepherd, on the terrace. “The stage”, one could say too. The bars – he made a lifetime, and his first poems, behind one’s bar – remain intact in this book: “To celebrate life, or to forget about it if it shows you its fangs, there is nothing better than a Pub”. There are so many things that would not be the same without bars! “Love, friendship, oblivion.”

Karmelo likes the Café Vienna, the tables of the Hotel London, that place, on the banks of the cathedral, where we were sitting … When we were going to leave, without negotiating too much, we went for a walk. I was there then – I don’t think he noticed! Or was crazy …- imagining an article like this. He was going to unravel the secrets of “The Stage” before its publication. But it had to be done that way, as poems are written, without planning it. That “a day with” has long become a genre dedicated to politicians.

Before meeting me, I find out now that I read the book, he had come to see the sea first thing in the morning: “As I usually do almost every day.” He had come across “black clouds that were pouncing on Igueldo like stampeding buffalo ”. The soundtrack, “the infantry of the waves”.

I don’t know how to walk slowly. And perhaps that is, and not so much reading, what you have to do to write better poetry. Karmelo, every so often, would stop and tell me an anecdote. His hands were clasped behind his back, as if he were a prisoner of the story he was going to tell.

But we have caught him, look at the poem: “It is increasingly difficult / to see people walking through the streets / with their hands behind their back / It is a gesture that has fallen into disuse / Today / judging by some looks / those who we remain / faithful to him / we compose a suspicious image / The reality, however, is very different / Thanks to our parsimony / the speed towards disaster / it seems a little slower ”.

It took us almost a quarter of an hour to go to the Lagun and Fnac bookstore to see the latest poetry news! We talk about Miguel d’Ors, of some poems that we like. He also recommended poets that seem banned today, such as Leopoldo Panero dad. Then he told me about his son, the other Leopoldo, that they used to walk, like us that afternoon, and that just out of the madhouse the poet wrote poems on the napkins in the bars. And what did he do with them? “He would break them into a thousand pieces and throw them on the ground. Although some of them must have picked up because I saw them later in their books ”.

We approach the sea, although we do not reach the Zurriola Bridge, where “the river reaches the city troubled and cloudy”, where “the air smells like fresh foam”. That poem is curious. It happens as with Karmelo’s poetry: the dark, “cloudy” water goes down, but the final sensation is that “happy clamor of the seagulls”.

We tried to sit in another bar, but it was overwhelmed. The entire street overflowed. We looked, always looking, and we left. I think Karmelo, with that look, also listens. His voice has been that of a city. He is generous in his latest book because he himself explains the secret of his words: “They neither propose enigmas nor solve mysteries, they are just those words that people use to talk about life issues when they are on the street. Old words, worn with use, that rarely take flight, words of the weekdays, of bar conversation. Hopefully, one day they manage to catch a gesture, that afternoon light, that look that will never be the same ”.

We passed through a garden where he played as a child. When he was lucky, they let him rent a bicycle. Today, that garden whose name I cannot remember seems to be taken from Budapest. It is shrouded in decay. “I understand that the modernists fell in love with melancholic gardens. The same thing happens to me, who is not even modern ”.

We passed through the door of a school. We are talking about the universities. In “The Stage”, he refers with irony to the so-called “great poetry”, which does not have to correspond to the best. Many years ago, he was tempted to open that door: “There was nothing in there for me. I haven’t done badly without repeating it ”.

Karmelo says of Luis Alberto of Cuenca who wears a jacket and jeans because the same thing speaks to you of the poetry of the moment as of the Greek classics. The same could be written about him: because Karmelo, almost without realizing it, thinks the same about the alignment of the Real as of the hendecasyllables of such a classic poet. I don’t know where or when, but his uncle read it all to him.

Oh, the Real! There the disbelief and melancholy that nurture so many poems by Karmelo falter. Can’t resist. He dreams every weekend of a victory. “Realistic poetry”, the uncle laughed when we passed, back home, by the skirts of Anoeta.

“These euphoric times of proclamations and slogans will also end up being part, along with old loves, wars and other lost causes, of any bar conversation. The short journey is usually always the same: from hope to melancholy ”. With that poem, although I had not read it yet, we returned to an August that was dying cloudy; We were happy soldiers again in defeat.

He said goodbye next to a building that he likes because it seems to be taken from Chicago. I think he said something about his daughter. A ray of sunlight struck the clouds in that instant. What a list chance is! Oh, the joy … “Where I like to see it the most is in my daughter’s eyes.”

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