Martín Gambarotta was born in Buenos Aires in 1968. The last Argentinian dictatorship (1976-1983) meant that he spent part of his youth in England. As well as being a poet, he is also political editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald.
Gambarotta debuted in 1996 with his work Punctum, a long narrative poem which has become emblematic for Argentinian poetry of the 1990s. In thirty-nine fragments, the poem maps out the Argentina of President Carlos Menem (1989-1999); years of corruption, hyper-inflation and far-reaching privatisation, but also of a ‘pacification policy’ related to recent history, motivated by (economic) pragmatism, which in practice came down to a politics of impunity and selective historical amnesia.
The poet himself once described Punctum as “situational analysis in verse form” yet his poetry is impossible to see as a versified form of journalistic commentary. On the contrary, a characteristic of the poetics of the Nineties generation is actually the absence of a lyrical subject interpreting the world for the reader. In Gambarotta’s case, this leads to heterogeneous, polyphonic compositions in which frequent use is made of readymades. These are quotes from song lyrics, for example, advertising or political slogans but also, as in the case of Relapso+Angola, absurd lines taken from an automatic translation website. They are all pieces of the social mirror the poet holds up to us.
More generally, one could argue that the political meaning of Gambarotta’s work is not primarily referential in nature (it is not poetry about politics), but rather can be found in the way he uses language, the language of politics and the politics of language. One obvious example is the untitled poem from Seudo (2000) in which the imperative nature of the linking verb ‘is’ is problematized, as is the way language reduces us to our productive capacities:
an electrician is not an electrician
but a man who works as an electrician
This principle is a leitmotif in his work: in every line of verse both the poet and his characters appear to be forced to redefine the relationship between words and things. The exciting thing about Martín Gambarotta’s work is that this means he is also constantly searching for a poetic language with which to reconfigure that relationship.
Punctum, Libros de Tierra Firme, Buenos Aires, 1996
Seudo, Ediciones Vox, Bahía Blanca, 2000
Relapso + Angola, Ediciones Vox, Bahía Blanca, 2004
Refrito, La Calabaza del Diablo, Santiago de Chile, 2009
Punctum, Ediciones Vox / Mansalva, Bahía Blanca / Buenos Aires, 2011
Para un Plan Primavera, Ediciones Vox, Bahía Blanca, 2011
Punctum, Ediciones Liliputienses, Cáceres, 2012
Seudo, Ediciones Liliputienses, Cáceres, 2013
Seudo / Dubitación, Ediciones Vox, Bahía Blanca, 2013