For reasons I don’t know, poetry has always been complicated. I know a lot of good readers who resist reading poetry. Reasons are similar: “I don’t understand it”; “Poetry is boring”.
But the point is we don’t have to ‘understand’ poetry. When we read poetry we don’t have to look for action nor time nor a story.
Poetry is silence. It’s a return to that point where we look without looking; it’s to return us to the useless place of childhood when we picked up stones or save tree leaves into a notebook pages.
María José Ferrada’s book, illustrated by Jorge Quien, calls us to observe a minute, an hour, a life of silence, for children’s lost lives. Today we know these children’s names because they didn’t have to die but they did and that’s why their names were written in a Truth Report. I omit the word reconciliation because last two pages of this book make me wonder if that long-awaited reconciliation will be possible ever. Because the last two pages of this book contain thirty-three executed children names by Chilean military dictatorship.
María José’s poetry allows us to forget the horror for a few seconds. For a few seconds we shyly smile because Macarena asks as a birthday’s wish “to find the star that sleeps in the middle of the apples”. Or because Claudia “has been observed clouds shapes and has seen two elephants, three birds and one salamander.”
But after those few seconds of look without looking, we come back to the book, we come back to its title; we come back to the last two pages.
Niños is a poetry book that we don’t have to understand. It’s a beautiful but hurting book. It’s a book that should have never been written, but it was. It’s a book that yells us in the face, yells us in our memory: never again.