I’m a fan of small books — novellas, chapbooks, anything that can be read in one sitting. Lazarillo de Tormes and El Buscón are two of my favorites and not just because they’re short. They’re also funny.
In El Buscón the title character falls in with a loquacious sexton who fancies himself a poet. As they enter town together, the poet will not be quiet. Afraid of being embarassed, el buscón makes up a story about a proclamation against poets:
I begged him to stop, trying to make him see that if the chidren smelled a poet, every cabbage stump in the town would fly around our heads. Poets had been declared mad in a proclamation issued by a man who had been one before and decided to live a better life. He was very concerned and asked me to read it if I had it on me. I promised I would do so at the inn.
At the inn, el buscón sees an opportunity to turn the lie into a practical joke. He invents a proclamation against poets and reads it out loud to the boarders. The sacristan gets increasingly agitated upon hearing it. The rest of the inn finds it hilarious. I agree with them. It’s quite funny. Here’s an excerpt:
‘Article one : Considering the heatwaves caused by the torrid and eternally sunny verses of the poets of the sun, who are shrivelled up like raisins because of the suns and stars they use to construct their works, we impose perpetual silence on them regarding the sky and establish close seasons for the Muses, just as for hunting and fishing, so that they may not exhaust their energies.
If that makes you laugh, there’s more, and it’s definitely worth a read.
Poets and Ego
I love poetry, but sometimes poets take themselves too seriously. The art, the work — that’s important to me. What I don’t need is to be identified as a ‘poet.’
I love the takedown in El Buscón because it’s a reminder that writing poetry is often a thankless task. It’s considered silly and unimportant by most people, a curiosity at best, source of embarassment at worst. But you do it anyway, not so you’ll be lavished with praise. You do it because it’s a way of connecting to the world you live in. Not the only way, but an enduring, reliable way that’s always within reach.