Matter, Memory and Pre-Hispanic Myth: The Poetry of Bernardo Ortiz de Montellano
journal contributionposted on 04.09.2013, 10:41 by Sheldon C. Penn
In ‘La poesía indígena de México’ (1935), Ortiz de Montellano argues that the indigenous poetic image survives in translation. He equates the poetic word to the physical body and the image to the soul: the body/written word (in the divine, creative sense) may have perished but the soul (metaphysical essence) remains. This article shows how Montellano’s poetry – mediated through indigenous and classical influences – reflects the essay in its exploration of the relationship between dream, life and death. The poems discussed are ‘Segundo sueño’ (1933), ‘Muerte de cielo azul’ (1937) and, briefly, ‘Primero sueño’ (1931). Building on Flores Esquivel’s study of ‘Segundo sueño’, I contextualise Montellano’s work within contemporary aesthetic and intellectual currents, linking these to the cosmology of the Libro de Chilam Balam de Chumayel and the Popol Vuh. The article argues that Montellano’s appeal to the indigenous soul in his poetry is best understood within the contexts of Henri Bergson’s concept of durée, a philosophy that was influential in the early twentieth century in Mexico.