What Viggo Could Write
By Lenka Dángel - translated by Ollie and Zoe
19 January 2022
Aviles, Spain - 13 January 2022.
It is a freezing night in Avilés, and in the Niemeyer, at the foot of the ria [From Wiki: "a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley."], the thermometer literally plummets. A frost descends which makes up for everything with a clear sky, one of those that are so rare to see here in Asturias.The influx of people is remarkable. A wave of enthusiasts is approaching the unmistakable building, cultural bastion of the city with a certain galactic touch, ready to face the rigors of January to enjoy seeing and hearing Viggo Mortensen reciting his poems. And Viggo, of course, does not disappoint.
The auditorium is full and after a laudatory presentation by the host (Javier García Rodríguez, writer and professor at the University of Oviedo), Viggo bursts onto the stage stripped of any pretense of being a Hollywood star, as is natural for him. He carries a tote bag full of papers in apparent chaos (a "filoxa", my ancestors would say), he gets tangled up in the face mask, makes jokes, displays his words on the lectern (a mess of sheets of paper, paperclips, adhesive tape, "precision in disorder," he himself would later say). He begins with a classic, an essential one, the poem or "little short story" that doesn't need to be read because he wrote it at six years old when he liked playing alone in the woods, imagining adventures. We fans accompany him, whispering, accomplices. " I shit in the jungle, like the monkeys…" It's clear that Viggo was already a bit of an iconoclast as a child..
The reading continues with the poet sifting, selecting and even amputating his own verses as he goes in an exercise that seems more like a meeting between friends, intimate, without fuss of any kind. Viggo, and those of us who have had the fortune to run into him on several occasions over the years know it well; he does not do posturing. It doesn't matter how much time passes or what the circumstances of his appearance in public are. It could be the preview of Alatriste (actually there were two), his recognition as Adoptive Son of León (because of his genuine love for that land, especially the Curueño area, where he wanted to make Captain Diego native), or that meeting yesterday. Regardless of the frame of the photo, Viggo is always as close and authentic as if he were our next door neighbor, despite the fact that, surely without knowing it, he carries with him a kind of spotlight that illuminates him, causing for the rest of us a Stendhal Syndrome worthy of study. The rhapsodist insists that he doesn't want to be boring and asks several times if he should stop now, while repeatedly apologizing for the length of his poems. "Without showing off," as my ancestors would say again. His humble attitude continues to be surprising, when he is the protagonist of a poetic evening to which we have all come precisely to hear him recite. But there is in Mortensen an effort not to stand out too much, to divert his prominence and share it with the attendees. The chat that follows his reading is as pleasant and relaxed as one would expect. Responding to Javier's interesting questions, Viggo delves into what all of us were able to grasp from listening to his poems - the importance of travel both physical and mental, the feeling of being cut off, of not belonging, a result no doubt of a life trajectory that led him to live in different corners of the world and which, in his case, he doesn't experience as anything traumatic or devastating but rather as a kind of "timeshare" in which not being from anywhere becomes being from everywhere, perceiving each one of those corners as part of himself, knowing how to always find something interesting in each landscape. That's how, I imagine, Viggo learned to fit into his surroundings, incorporating them into his essence. The privilege of being able to feel nostalgia for so many places.
Aviles, Spain - 13 January 2022.
He tells us that, in his case, writing is a process without too much order, in which any idea, phrase captured at random or feeling could be noted on paper, ending up being part of a pile or at the bottom of a drawer, a kind of thread to be pulled out later. Mortensen writes, rewrites, crosses out, recovers, restructures, recycles, always attentive to the stimulus, looking for the exact rhythm, the truth of a message which, despite all that, invariably ends up seeming like a lie to him. There are no exact hours or moments for inspiration. There's no room for the tedium of discipline (except when it's a film script, in which case Viggo is capable of letting himself be carried away by a frenzy of optimism and dedication in which he even forgets to eat.) Poetry as failure which, despite that devastating certainty, should never be abandoned; it can always grow, mutate, explode like a bomb whose fragments reach others, engendering new ideas. Mortensen's stanzas speak of the everyday, of any day, of the color and form of María's hair in that airplane, of the light entering a familiar yet empty house, of the urgency of going to sleep, of the fleeting existence of a dog that was loved. Notes on a life and its moments to which we can return over time, playing at guessing what was cooking then, who Viggo was at ten, fifteen, twenty-three, forty years old. What was beyond the photograph of an instant.
At the end of this conversation, which seems brief to us, the audience poses their questions, and Mortensen responds relaxed, without dropping his friendly tone, making us feel that he's that regular customer with whom we meet almost daily in our favorite café, and whom we consider little less than an old friend. The culmination of the event takes the form of a television contest. Viggo takes command and shoots his own questions at us, giving away to the fastest to respond a signed copy of his book, What Cannot Be Written, a beautiful volume published by his publishing house, Perceval Press, with some of his poems along with beautiful photographs taken by the author Viggo Mortensen, that multifaceted artist: actor, director, screenwriter, musician, painter, poet, photographer, and who knows what else. In Viggo's particular show, the final touch of this memorable meeting, there's room for everything, like in his writing.
Questions about: his idolized soccer club (Cuervos del San Lorenzo de Almagro, a must mention); references to his movies ("Where did Aragorn and Arwen meet?"); and a beautiful detail for this little piece of the world that received him yesterday - a fragment of Milagro de la luz, [Miracle of the Light] by our dear Ángel González (may he rest in peace), which led the person speaking to you to win the last precious trophy of the night. Funny thing impossible to ignore - the lovely image that occupies pages 20 and 21, entitled "Lenka, Jystrup". Of course, it's not me. I have never had the luck to pose for Viggo, nor to visit Jystrup. (I have not even set foot in Denmark, poor me, and the only thing I know about the beautiful region of Zealand is that the boarding school located there was where certain youthful novels took place, ones that I devoured in my childhood, dreaming of being Danish.) But you can't deny that it is a pretty coincidence.
After the applause and farewells, we Viggo lovers hurriedly dispersed into the darkness, panting against the cold. A lucky few of us took home a gift, but undoubtedly we all share the feeling of having lived a magical time, of having learned that "a poem is the flower of the lie of words", and that "we must protect the poetry from the poems. And from the poets, above all." If it is Viggo Mortensen who tells us this lie, then it will be true.
Last edited: 15 April 2022 07:34:45
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