Following the defense of his PhD Thesis at the University of Valencia, Gabriel Torres Chalk had the target to publish it in two related books. The first volume: Robert Lowell: Achilles’ Sight, was published in 2005 in the collection Javier Coy d’Estudis Nord-Americans by the University of Valencia, and was awarded the prestigious Prize Javier Coy for American Studies. His second one and recently published is entitled My Open Coffin: Robert Lowell and the Subversion of the Elegy. This book closes a circle that started about thirteen years ago, analyzing the complete works of Robert Lowell. An ambitious goal that has focused, in this case, on the subversion of the elegy that the poet performs in each of his books. At the same time it is an existential journey of great significance and that the author translates into a path from the port of Achilles to the solitude of the Minotaur, that is to say, from the open horizons to the urban labyrinth together with the desacralization of myths that the poet subverts and assimilates. That is why the author speaks of the body working as memory articulating the absence in tangible ways, a process that contains the Minotaur’s defamiliarisation sipping his coffee at the bar in the corner. The skein is now useless for Theseus, but it is a wisdom for the poet, as embodied in an urban Minotaur, he can rescue himself. It is indeed a great achievement of art and a sublime irony: the subversion of the elegy from the creative word.
Moreover, it is noteworthy that this book contains many drawings and paintings that are accompanying the text, as well as the cover image. The technique used for the realization of these paintings has been Chinese ink on rice paper, which is the artist’s specialty, such as Professor Dr. Paul Derrick has noticed in his Foreword to the book. The fact that such an original book with drawings by the author himself is published in the academic context, is certainly outstanding and therefore we must thank the director of the collection Professor Dr. Carme Manuel, who has spent years developing an immense task in front of the Collection Javier Coy of American Studies at the University of Valencia.
In short, a transgressive book about transgressive poetry, represented powerfully in the triple relationship between the extraordinary mosquito drawing of the cover, the book’s title coming from a line by Robert Lowell, and the analysis developed along the book. A breath of fresh air which is welcome in an increasingly ossified academy in the traps of their traditions.