However, a specific analysis of homosexual desire in Bonet’s poetry has never been undertaken
Bonet is usually presented as a homosexual author, but the way his poetry articulates same-sex desire is far from straightforward. Critics have highlighted the sensuality and eroticism of his poetry, as well as the importance of mysticism and Catholic imagery. Through a psychoanalytically-oriented reading of various poems by Bonet, this essay traces the movement and the effect of anxiety in a textual corpus characterised by a tension between a body mortified by pain, illness, and guilt, and an ecstatic body that seeks satisfaction in the social underworld, in voyeurism and fantasy, and in textual play. Blai Bonet’s literary project promotes a textual revolution through the dissolution of genres and the proliferation of voices: he defines himself as “a poet without intimacy” whose work performs a radical dispersal of the subject, yet paradoxically his own name is constantly enunciated in the poems, while his body remains silent, concealed behind ellipses or in elusive references to (gay) sex. This article argues that following the trace of anxiety in Bonet’s poetry allows us to move towards the locus where he confronts the complexities of his desire: through an act of sublimation that restates the sexual in creative life, Bonet turns anxiety into comedy, guilt into a sense of humour, and textual experimentation into a form of ascesis.
Majorcan writer Blai Bonet (1926–1997) is one the most important Catalan authors of the twentieth century; his narrative (especially El mar), his vast poetry production, and his journals have attained the status of modern classics. Yet he is also one of the most complex and problematic figures in modern Catalan literature. Bonet is usually presented as a homosexual author, but the way his poetry articulates same-sex desire is far from straightforward. Critics have highlighted the sensuality and the erotic charge of Bonet’s poetry, as well as the importance of mysticism and Catholic imagery and themes (Alberti, 1981; Alzamora, 2000; Mesquida, 2000; Pons, 1998, 2014; Susanna, 1989). However, a specific analysis of homosexual desire in Bonet’s poetry has not been undertaken so far.
This article examines the interplay between homosexual desire and anxiety in the poetry of Blai Bonet, one of the most important, complex, and problematic figures in modern Catalan literature
Like the rest of his oeuvre, Blai Bonet’s poetry seems to be traversed by a number of tensions. On the one hand, we find a body mortified by pain and how to hookup in Melbourne illness (Susanna, 1989, 15–16), but also by a very deep-seated sense of guilt, contrasting with an ecstatic body of pleasure which rarely appears, and which seems to give rise to an interest in the social underworld (Barcelona’s Raval or slums such as el Somorrostro; the world of male prostitution), to a release through voyeurism and fantasy, and to pleasure in textual play. On the other hand, we encounter a theological discourse about sin, guilt, and redemption (Pons, 1998, 501–520), which contrasts with a biopolitical discourse on the law, the medicalisation of desire, and power (Alberti, 1981; Pons, 1998, 2014; Susanna, 1989). Bonet’s poetry seems to attempt to resolve these tensions through a synthesis between the sacred (a discourse focusing on “l’Home”, “la Vida”, and transcendence understood as embodiment) (Susanna, 1989), and an emphasis on the figures of the Adolescent and the Youth, as well as on the Greek roots of Mediterranean culture (Pons, 1998, 451–454, 495–511). Finally, however, we find the tension between an authorial persona who, unlike many of his contemporaries (Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Thom Gunn, Frank O’Hara, Jaime Gil de Bieldma, Juan Goytisolo, Dominique Fernandez…) is seemingly unaffected by the emerging sexual revolution, and a literary project that develops a radical form of textual revolution through the dissolution of genres and the proliferation of voices. Bonet defines himself as “un home sense intimitat” (Bonet, 2014, 493; Pons, 1995) whose textual production performs a radical dispersal of the subject, yet paradoxically his own name is constantly enunciated in the poems (Pons, 2014, 12; Alzamora, 2000, 179; Mesquida, 2000, 226–231); at the same time his body appears to remain silent, concealed behind ellipses or in very elusive references to (gay) sex. Thus Blai Bonet’s poetry undertakes a subversion of the subject whose limits remain to be explored.