Review of "Songs for Oblivion"
Poetry by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Cover Artwork by Hosho McCreesh
Published by Propaganda Press, Palo Alto, CA
(All quotes taken from poems in Songs for Oblivion)
The writing of poetry is considered by some to be self-indulgent. Luckily, the reading of poetry is, too. The writer’s self-indulgent act offers points of recognition to enable the road-ragged reader’s indulgence of self-centered angst. It feels good to find there are others who share this experience. Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal’s most recent book of poems, Songs for Oblivion, published by Propaganda Press, is one such indulgence; wonderful for all who seek comfort and identification in the random encounters of life’s journey.
In the title poem, Luis tells us two things; he enjoys his daydreams and he sings songs. Songs for Oblivion is his songbook, each poem an eccentric melody derived from his personal, uniquely focused point of view; life is an illusion.
I walked along the shore like
a sole survivor of a
shipwreck. It was a lie. But
please let me have my daydreams.
- Songs for Oblivion
This songbook is full of belief, but is not a declaration of faith. Luis is not a prophet or a priest, but a practitioner of life with a poet’s need to record what he sees and feels.
from the songbook of life, an
- The Songbook of Life
He does not even consider his words original to him, but rather the recounting of stories he has heard in the trees, from the birds and on the waters of restless seas.
My poems are
the lost and found
letters of madmen.
He is an observer, struggling for self-determination in a world with no determined need for interaction with him. He builds faith through the arrangement of words. Without words, no meaning can be derived from his encounters.
I will myself to write at least
one poem, which will save my life. I do
not lie to myself because I know it won’t.
There is no glamour in being a poet.
There is nothing sacred in being a poet.
People fool themselves about such things.
Their eyes see without looking. Still words
have their importance in this world.
- Waiting for Something to Happen
This collection of random encounters with nature, humanity and self are no more random than life. No traveler can predict which turn will be taken or why. Luis sees a stone on the sidewalk and suppresses his urge to kick it only to return hours later to find that someone else did not suppress theirs, the stone is gone. He offers no rational explanations for strange and surreal perceptions. His perceptions are reality; any need for rational explanation is irrelevant. He reacts to coexist with all that life’s journey presents to him. Some occurrences elicit the occasional emphatic response; not rational, but visceral. These responses satisfy the need for absolutes, make the vague and uncertain less threatening.
I come from everyone
talks to themselves.
It doesn’t mean
one is crazy.
- Lost in Los Angles
I try to save
the children of the world.
- Save the Children
These are Luis’s absolutes; these enable him to endure the irrational and unexplainable, likewise the reader.
Throughout Songs for Oblivion, bushes scream while trees are silent, birds write cryptic messages in the sky to be consumed by the sun. Luis talks to himself and to the wind, his dialogue is one-sided. His songs, recorded on these blank pages, require no response; they resound alone to provide comfort and courage. We read and are compelled to sing along. Luis’s humanity is not validated by the accomplishments of the workplace, not by paper clips or copy machines; not revealed on computer screens or displayed on cubicle walls. His validation comes through conversations with crows and the blue sky. He reveals his identification with all souls who seek affirmation of existence.
The great river in the sky,
where the smiling fish swim,
is heavy with souls
who give themselves away
for the beat of a heart heard
far and wide, long and loud
enough to shatter
the souls as they catch fire.
- The Great River in the Sky
While Songs for Oblivion is a record of one person’s journey, it is not an atlas. While Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal is a chronicler of his journey, he is not a cartographer. He writes to satisfy his poet’s compulsion to make sense of a journey without destination or direction; with no map or compass, the poet must define his own. Each day presents new encounters, new spectacles and new requirements to find meaning; the only measurable progress is a sense of movement. Direction is not important, only perception matters.
In conclusion, while these verses will not prescribe direction or destination for any other journey, they will provide comfort and points of identification for all aimless wanderers. Full of madness and illusion, life’s journey is our shared experience. One traveler’s trail marker becomes another’s treasure; proof that the way is not unknown and untraveled; a faint trace of song in the distance to encourage and inspire continuation of the journey.
Songs for Oblivion is such a treasure, a personal recount of a private life, recorded for no other purpose than the preservation of songs; songs to be hummed by all. Whistle while you walk!
Mad Swirl, September 2012