the eye is valued by the distance / it covers outside it / and the light it’s capable of taking in
– Homero Aridjis, extract from ‘Eyes to See Otherwise‘
On Thursday 24 May, we were extremely pleased to welcome famed poet-diplomat Homero Aridjis to Swedenborg Hall. An award-winning poet and pioneering environmentalist, Aridjis is also President Emeritus of PEN International and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. Like many writers before him, Aridjis is an enthusiastic reader of Swedenborg, and in fact visited the Swedenborg Society on a trip to London in 2011. Nicknamed ‘the Sun Poet’ in Mexico, he stopped by our shop on Bloomsbury Way to look up references to the sun in Swedenborg’s writing. Aridjis returned a few months later with his daughter, the writer Chloe Aridjis, and we were extremely happy to arrange this event with him.
As a poet on the world stage, Aridjis became friends with the legendary Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), whose work should be familiar to the Society’s readership. Both writers’ works are influenced by their reading of Swedenborg, and describe hidden worlds and possible truths, existing in the liminal spaces between dreams and waking life, prised open by the poetic imagination. Like Swedenborg, Aridjis wrote a record of his dreams; these descriptions became poems, which he eventually published as an anthology under the title Diario de Suenos (Journal of Dreams) (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011) in Spanish. Eyes to See Otherwise (Carcanet, 2001) was Aridjis’ first extensive anthology published in bilingual translation and met international acclaim, prompting Kenneth Rexroth to call Aridjis ‘a visionary poet of lyrical bliss, crystalline constellations and infinite spaces.’ Aridjis’ latest book of poems, about to be launched as a deluxe bilingual edition, continues this visionary path; A Time of Angels (City Lights, 2012) seeks out the silent ‘angels’ in our midst and their intangible influence among ‘the ruins of our daily life’.
These ‘ruins’ may refer to the environmental disasters visited upon Aridjis’ homeland, to which he has been a fierce opponent. A leading environmental activist in Latin America, many of Aridjis’ visionary poems explore transcendent relationships between human beings and the natural world, thus echoing Swedenborg’s mystical Theory of Correspondences. Aridjis explains, ‘The task of poets, and of holy men, is to tell the planet’s stories – and to articulate an ecological cosmology that does not separate nature from humanity.’
We enjoyed a wonderful evening on the 24th May. The novelist Ali Smith read the English translations of Aridjis’ poems with grace and the readings inspired a number of interesting questions from the audience. Aridjis’ answers to these exhibited his brilliance and sense of humour, but most strikingly his total love for poetry and for the world which inspires it. The readings and the Q&A have been recorded for posterity and we hope to make these available in some form in the near future… In the meantime we still have a few copies left of A TIME OF ANGELS (City Lights, 2012), signed by the author (pictured, left). This book is not officially released until November – you can’t even buy it on Amazon! We are therefore very lucky to have 15 copies for sale, at £16.00 each (20% off the RRP.) If you would like to purchase a copy please visit our bookshop, onsite or online.