Theory of Colors by Mercedes Roffe, Trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Carson
(Belladonna Books, Brooklyn, 2005)
Color, when articulated, is subjective. It’s based on preconceptions and biases as much as its pure nature.
Or, the point simply is color is not pure. Color is colored, as it were, by the viewer.
In that sense, this project is an ars poetica project, highlighting the integral role of reader-response as part of identifying a poem’s significance. Such is hinted by the poem “Encounter,” even as its effectiveness stems from how it clearly relates to other matters than color theory:
If you wait
I’ll tell you
who you are
Let me in
I am not completely
I am you
Even the chap’s epigraph by Marcel Duchamp—“The title is one more color”—affirms the role of subjectivity, how “red” could be “blood,” “rose,” “passion,” “anger,” et al to different people, or just variations of the color red—from fuschia to magenta to burgundy (or cabernet) and so on.
Anyway, a meditation on color theory is okay. But this would be a one-note project if that were all that Theory of Color is. What uplifts this collection beyond the world of the color wheel is how its evocative language—including spaces between words—invites “encounters.” There are gems sprinkled throughout the chap’s pages, such as this couplet from “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” that gives a new perspective on such notions as “first draft, last draft” to the Greek myth of Venus springing forth from Zeus’ forehead (or to a related Filipino creation myth of the first man and woman, Malakas and Maganda, stepping out fully formed from split bamboo):
a nest on my head forces
And lovely imagery, such as the scene that closes this excerpt from “Allegorie”:
ivy (or laurel)
an arc and a
on one side, in the corner
an angel astonished
a crystal ball (as in disbelief)
And later in that same poem, an example of a witty leap:
reading a gate
as if reading an altar
These are deft poems entrancingly manifesting “a play / of light” (poem title).
How apt. A play of light—such, too, is as perfect an articulation of a theory of colors as it is about a revealed poetics clearly concerned about lucidity.
Eileen Tabios does not allow her books to be reviewed in Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to Anny Ballardini’s review of her I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved in JACKET, as well as Allen Gaborro’s review of her The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes in the Philippine News.