With America in perpetual lockdown and most of the world continuing in a depressive state under the shadow of the previous (and perhaps returning) regime, it is good to be shaken up and reminded that the world moved on with other people locked in their own conflicts. I have Jamie Diaz Martinez and Luis Lázaro Tijerina to thank for this with their collaboration Camera Symphonica.
Martinez’ work was incredibly valuable to Oddball in the early years of the pandemic, sharing his accounts of the masked-up world outside his Paris home. It was France’s Yellow Vest protests, which continued despite COVID-19, that eventually inspired him and Tijerina–poet and activist and fellow protest participant–to pool their efforts with Tijerina lending words to Martinez’s recordings of both civil unrest and the almost omnipresent unease spawned by the pandemic.
Some locations like Arc de Triomphe are very fertile ground for multiple poems. Anyone who went out to a Black Lives Matter protest or even voted in person can appreciate lines like those found in “Gas Canister Tubes at the Arc de Triomphe:”
Discarded gas canister tubes on the streets,
the hub of our brief existence,
Where soldiers, generals, and victory names,
Once etched the slab stone of memory.
The shorter poems paired with protest photos (the lens of Martinez. often facing down faceless armed police) count among the most effective. That said, the longer works impress with their ambition. In “A Symphony,” Tijerina tries to outdo T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (a quote from which helps to start the poem off). It’s an impressive account of both individual and populace fighting a three pronged battle. In addition to the class war, there is the new challenge in the formless guise of COVIDm, “the unseen enemy near us and far away…”
One could draw a similarity between COVID and the ruling class. Both grow in power if working people turn on themselves. Lazaro keeps sight of what side he’s on, culminating with what appears to be a wink of appreciation to collaborator Martinez:
I have seen the photographer walking alone
among the paris streets,
We know that he thinks much like us,
And that his glance, that musical score
of shutter speed and light that is a universe,
of whom we were in this time…
I commend Martinez and Tijerina for playing off each other’s strengths to present this time capsule of our world in multiple crisis that are not only ongoing but ever escalating. Canera Symphonica reminds us to remember these moments more than ever as the world threatens to change daily at any single moment, without warning.
Canera Symphonica is available now from Amazon.
Chad Parenteau is Associate Editor of Oddball Magazine.