Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Sequeira, Horses Drawn with Blue Chalk (42 pages; Ugly Duckling Presse) is Bolivian poet Rocío Ágreda Piérola’s first English publication, a bilingual presentation of poems from her 2017 chapbook, Detritus, and prose fragments from her working manuscript Quetiapine 400mg. In her introduction, Sequeira aligns the collection with the work of Argentine poets such as Hugo Mujica and Héctor Viel Temperley, situating Horses Drawn with Blue Chalk at the interstice of “carnality, communion and the word.”
The opening excerpts from Ágreda Piérola’s manuscript make a bid for fragmentation as a means of “reconstructing and vanquishing [time],” setting the tone for the collection’s halting exploration of what Sequeira describes as the written word’s “poetic abyss.” “Somehow I must make even language arrive,” the poet writes. The prose segments and proceeding ten poems in Horses Drawn with Blue Chalk address this imperative. In Ágreda Piérola’s words: “I go yellow/I confront no answer.”
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Sequeira accurately describes Ágreda Piérola’s poetic project as an “unworking” of language, an “un-inhabiting” made manifest in different forms of lyrical absences (“empty spaces, temples, deserts and wastelands, somewhere between ruins and new worlds”). The work appears to emerge from the negative space “between an event and the way it’s narrated,” a sense bolstered by Ágreda Piérola’s greater refusal of language as an instrument of order or sense-making (“a wasteland of symbols”).
I’ve seen despotic worlds
putting out fires
I’ve seen silences
ghosts of dentures
an unknown music
As she plainly states, “To see what I want it’s necessary/to not look to leave things boiling jumbled as possibility.” The absences afforded in fragmentation seem to allow for this sort of jumbling, making space for what Ágreda Piérola calls the “expansive flocks of being.”
silence is a minefield with mute children running
as an imprecise heart beats
Horses Drawn with Blue Chalk imagines language as an “unlimited spectrum of micro-visions,” one whose fragments or possibilities belong to infinite terms—possibilities sustained, too, in the collection’s bifurcated form (you turn the book upside down to read the other language). This ambiguation of language lends well to the “un-inhabiting” she’s after: “I disorder my habits,” she writes, “I twist my tongue out of tune.”