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The Relational Self in Almudena Guzman's Dialogic Poetry Anita M. Hart University of North Carolina at Charlotte One of the most recent voices in contemporary Spanish poetry, Almudena Guzman writes of personal issues and changing relationships . Frequently narrative in style, Guzman's poetry offers the reader a look at a woman's mental and emotional concerns as she observes herself connecting with others and disconnecting from them. Born in Navacerrada in 1964, Guzman has published four collections of poems: Poemas de Lida Sal (1981), La playa del olvido (1984), Usted (1986), and El Libro de Tamar (1989).1 Her work reflects some of the developments in Spanish poetry ofthe 1980s, analyzed recently by Andrew Debicki: "the 1980s mark a certain return to immediacy, to explicit referents in poetry—which involves the presence of personal and emotive concerns in some works, and of satirical and critical visions in others" (51). Guzman's poetry, exhibiting the "personal and emotive concerns" that Debicki points out, shares two of the characteristics of contemporary works noted by Elena de Jongh Rössel in her anthology, Florilegium: Poesía última española (1982)—"una recuperación de la anécdota" and renewed importance of "los temas 'eternos'—Amor, Vida, Tiempo, Soledad, Muerte" (25). In this study of Guzman's two latest works, Usted and El Libro de Tamar, I incorporate observations from recent theory on women's psychological development and the significance of relationship to women. In Guzman's poetry, personal matters are often revealed through the speaker's verbal interaction with an "other." Emphasizing that "women develop in a context of connections with others," psychologist Jean Baker Miller explains that "women's sense of self becomes very much organized around being able to make and then to maintain affiliations and relationships" (83). Similarly, Janet L. Surrey, working with Baker and other scholars on a theory of women's development , writes: "Our conception of the self-in-relation involves the recognition that for women, the primary experience of self is relational , that is, the self is organized and developed in the context of important relationships" (54). Guzman's poems, showing the self as linked to others, feature dialogue, or at least one side of a dialogic 143 144Rocky Mountain Review exchange. The reader listens or even eavesdrops on the speaker's part of a conversation, as well as her inner dialogue with herself. In this interchange, the reader often observes the speaker in a disadvantageous situation, expressing discomfort and embarrassment. Such vulnerability, though seemingly connoting weakness, may, in light of Miller's theories, be viewed as a strength. A close look at Almudena Guzman's Usted and El Libro de Tamar reveals an attempt to capture in words a woman's changing connections with others, demonstrating her capacity to tolerate vulnerability and move toward strength. Conversational, ironic, and at times humorous, the collection Usted narrates from the perspective of the first-person speaker the process of an amorous relationship from the beginning to the end.2 The speaker addresses the formal "you"—"usted"—in 38 of the 47 poems or acknowledges this "other" in third-person singular and first-person plural verbs and adjectives. The epigraph, "A usted, en obediencia," immediately raises questions for the reader. What kind of relationship is this? Why would one express the connection in this way, with the word "obediencia"? Is this phrasing serious or tonguein -cheek? Usted is divided into five sections where, as John Wilcox has observed , "se despliega la trayectoria amorosa en toda su amplitud: desde la primera mirada inocente hasta la absoluta soledad del fracaso " (111). Biruté Ciplijauskaité emphasizes the "enfoque autoir ónico" with which the collection presents "la historia del desencanto amoroso paso a paso" (121). The third poem in Usted tells the story of the meeting of the speaker and "usted" and introduces the subject of vulnerability: Justo el día en que llevo gafas y un jersey horroroso usted descubre mi arrinconada existencia. Le hablo con la sorpresa de no sorprenderme al tocar una ardilla. Y contengo como puedo este alud de labios para no abalanzarme sobre su nuca mientras guarda, de espaldas a mi sombra creciente, unos papeles en la carpeta. (13...


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