Lo propio acaso del poeta / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Appropriate for A Poet Maybe

Puts his shoulder so the dead weight of the dream won’t crack and bring down the bulky and rambling cosmic ship —uncertain between fuller and emptier— reality so light and sweet because unmendable.


Lo propio acaso del poeta

Pone el hombro para que el peso muerto del sueño no agriete y traiga abajo abultada y divagante nave cósmica —incierta entre más lleno y más hueco— realidad ligera y tierna por irremendable.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Whale Songs in NY: El Techo de la Ballena at MoMA / María Gabriela Fernández B.

Bones, flesh, viscera, waste. Words of struggle, of life and death. Ideals of agitation. Guerrilla art. The convulsion of the sixties in Venezuela, situated on a global stage leaning left after the recent flames of the Cuban Revolution, was the detonator for transformative movements promoted by intellectuals and artists who took up the direct struggle in Venezuela against formalism and figuration, in aesthetic terms; and against the social conventions that for many people ruled the upper spheres of Venezuelan society.

Carlos Contramaestre, Juan Calzadilla, Caupolicán Ovalles, Rodolfo Izaguirre, Carlos González, Edmundo Aray, Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, and Francisco Pérez Perdomo made up, along with at least 60 other visual artists and writers, the avant-garde group El Techo de la Ballena [The Roof of the Whale], which emerged from the dispersal of the group Sardio, and from where they promoted a rupture toward informality and rebellion in art with manifestos and insurgent exhibitions.

A warehouse near the corner of El Conde, in downtown Caracas, a garage on Avenida Abraham Lincoln (today Sabana Grande), and other small galleries with no ties to the art market, housed some of the most irreverent creations of Venezuela’s 20th century. Some of these works, destined to disappear in many cases because of their ephemeral nature (such as the exhibit Homage to Necrophilia), have survived along with a few other vestiges. Challenging documentary registers of a time that took a chance on the creative possibilities of chaos.

An exhibition of what might be the most complete documentary archive of creations linked to this group is on display through February 28th. The exhibition, entitled “The Roof of the Whale”: El Techo de la Ballena and the Venezuelan Avant-Garde, 1961–1969, is at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York where the largest collection of the whale’s rebellion is housed, made up of 266 objects.

Traces of the Collection

Unconcerned with commercial interests and, even more so, anxious for their work to be disseminated for free outside formal salons, some of the members of El Techo de la Ballena paid little attention to keeping track of the fate of their creations, which were soon spread out among their workshops, books, magazines, posters and pamphlets or barely captured in photographs. That’s how the poet and visual artist Juan Calzadilla remembers it, declaring that “El Techo appeared as a marginal movement, without a legal figure, with the participation of an audience that was also linked to resistance groups, and who believed in a free, spontaneous, fresh literature. With no economic interests or concern for authors’ rights.”

While museums (like the National Gallery of Art in Caracas) were concerned with acquiring some of the works by representatives of El Techo de la Ballena, without grouping them together, the collectors Valentina and Ignacio Oberto built an archive where they gathered elements (such as photographs, post cards or bibliographical material) that reflected the movement’s activities and spirit.

Part of that private collection was loaned for a show celebrated at the National Gallery of Art at the end of 2002, according to the curator Féliz Suazo, but it was later donated in its entirety to MoMA in 2012, according to the museum’s registry.

Pillage or Dissemination

The Venezuelan Luis Pérez-Oramas, curator of Latin American art at the MoMA, points out that since 1929 this museum has housed “the largest collection of modern Latin American art in the world,” and he catalogs the donation as a “generous gesture” on the part of the collectors “who know that in this way they can guarantee its preservation and the international projection of this historical group of artists and poets.”

In contrast, during the presentation in July of 2015 of the book Nueva Antología del Techo de la Ballena, edited by Edmundo Aray, the professor of the Techo de la Ballena Free Seminar in Venezuela, Juan Carlos Omaña, qualified MoMa’s action as an example of “cultural pillage” and he warned about the museum’s ties to “the Rockefeller family, that is, the CIA.”

In 2015 in Venezuela, some of the literary expressions of the group were digitalized and republished, for which the Ministry of Culture and the publishing house El Perro y la Rana received “donations of more than 20 original works,” according to the information provided last year by the ex-Minister of Culture Reinaldo Iturriza.

However, Suazo warns that no State collection of El Techo de la Ballena exists in the country (and would be quite difficult to organize) to match the magnitude of the one owned by MoMA. Regardless, he insists the contemporary idea of patrimony “suggests we can’t talk about a robbery when it comes to something that will be fully exhibited so that everyone can enjoy it. The aspiration today is for patrimonies to be made available not just for the citizens of one country but for all human beings.”

The photographer and member of El Techo de la Ballena Daniel González assures that he’d be in agreement with an action by the State to “recuperate” the patrimony of El Techo de la Ballena, but he laments that “culture hasn’t sparked that interest, nor any of the necessary funds.”

The surviving members of El Techo de la Ballena weren’t invited by the MoMA to collaborate with the assembly, which is why Calzadilla mentions that “it will be the interpretation established by the museum,” about whose research methods he has no doubts.

Perán Erminy celebrates the dissemination of the works, and declares: “If the MoMA or anyone else is interested in spreading the contributions of this movement, as it should be, that will be something positive.”

The writer and member of El Techo de la Ballena Rodolfo Izaguirre also calls attention to the interpretations that could be made of this movement in Venezuela, and he laments that “some people are trying to raise the old virulence of El Techo transformed into tame admiration for the current regime.”

Consulted about how curious it is for the work of a rebellious group to end up being exhibited in one of the world’s most important museums, Suazo concludes: “It’s truly a paradox, but it’s the paradox of all avant-gardes. Irony is part of the legacy of El Techo de la Ballena.”

{ María Gabriela Fernández B., El Universal, 17 January 2016 }


Sobresalto y deslumbramiento / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Fright and Astonishment

Unlikely radiant face —as close as the one glimpsed in acts or daydreams of love— suddenly appears amid the whirlwind and throng of people in streets and plazas —more beautiful than the crest of a wave absorbing all space around it. (Nothing —you know this— just a thousand years of punishment with no pardon for whoever loses such a jewel in the vortex.)


Sobresalto y deslumbramiento

Inverosímil rostro radiante —vecino tanto como aquel adivinado en actos o ensueños de amor— surge de pronto del torbellino y agolpamiento de gente por calles y plazas —más bello que cresta de ola absorbiendo todo espacio al redor. (Nada —lo sabes— solo mil años de castigo sin perdón a quien pierda semejante joya en la vorágine.)

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Sentencia de vida / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Life Sentence

Exposed for the fifth or thousandth time to the corrosive recourse of a shimmering glance transferring body and shade to a placid region where the big and small rivers gather without recognizing each other and the scream of a single bird expands in astral music and silence. Yes —placed for the fifth or thousandth time in oblivion from life— distracted from death.


Sentencia de vida

Expuesto por quinta o milésima vez a recurso corrosivo de mirada lampo trasladando cuerpo y sombra a región plácida donde los ríos pequeños y grandes se juntan sin reconocerse y el grito de un ave sola se expande en música y silencio astrales. Sí —puesto por quinta o milésima vez en olvido de la vida— en descuido de la muerte.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Aviso demorado / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Delayed Notice

Collectors are hereby alerted it is suitable to orient yourself toward the late era when pocket Apocalypses abound in good condition. Careless peddlers mistakenly sell them throughout sunny markets in Andean and trans-Alps foothills or arriving unexpectedly at houses on the peripheries behind the most abrupt mountains on the planet. Small though effective the Apocalypses are all different no matter how interchangeable they might seem. Hurry —discount prices!


Aviso demorado

Se advierte a los coleccionistas que conviene orientarse hacia la época tardía en que abundan Apocalipsis de bolsillo en buen estado. Los malvenden mercachifles incautos rondando mercados soleados en estribaciones andinas y transalpinas o arribando de improviso a quintas periféricas tras los montes más abruptos del planeta. Pequeños aunque eficaces los Apocalipsis son todos distintos por más que intercambiables. ¡Apresurarse —precios de ganga!

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Derrota / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen


Foolish writings of a lost and indecisive walker passing through a desert or mangrove or other region within or outside upon which not even a single shade or artifice of revelation falls.



Escritos necios de caminante extraviado e indeciso por desierto o manglar u otra comarca de dentro o de fuera sobre la cual no cae ni por acaso sombra o artificio de revelación ninguna.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Quieren cambiar todo, menos ellos / Rafael Cadenas

They want to change everything, except themselves

Donations crack boulders, especially if these are porous.


Revolutionaries hate capitalism, but so many of them really love capital.


National sovereignty, without the measure imposed by civilization, fits dictators like a glove: that’s how they can subjugate their peoples more easily.


Calling his discourse empty is an insult to emptiness.


Doña Bárbara defeated Rómulo Gallegos and remains in power still.


Utopia bleeds.


They want to change everything, except themselves.


Justice can’t be revolutionary or reactionary. It lacks an adjective. It stands alone.


Forcing a way of thinking impedes thought.


We can engage in combat without hate, which enslaves the hater.


When the state becomes a giant, the citizens become underaged once more.


The main component of all authoritarianisms is the inflation of the ego.

Totalitarianism warns you: if you dissent, you’re an enemy, in other words, something to be exterminated. Democracy tells you: think however you’d like.


Nationalism is the enemy of humanity.


Democracy and communism are antonyms.


Now we know: revolutionaries, with honorable exceptions, I figure, deep down just really wanted to live like the bourgeoisie, and they’ve achieved it. They’ve become what they thought they hated. Their enemy ended up winning when they came into power.

They make up the new class that Milovan Dilas wrote about.

This conversion by now seems to be a law of history.


He’s a friend to all the dictators and autocrats of the world and many intellectuals support him. They should explain that to the country. I’m curious to see how they’d do it.


Since they see themselves as redeemers, they should at least talk with courtesy, like Saint Teresa recommended.


As for vulgarity, some so-called revolutionaries are insuperable, but that trait was seen by Trotsky as counterrevolutionary.


Nothing solid can be built without cordial coexistence.


Detach yourself from hate and pick up off the ground the poor fraternity you tossed away, hallucinating from an ideology extenuated from so much failure.

From Otros dichos, by Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 1930). Curated by Josefina Núñez.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Prodavinci, 5 January 2016 }


Fin de pieza / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

End of the Piece

To fall, with or without weight, into a soft bed or Mme Récamier sofa, now or a century ago, legs stretched and with an awareness of the journey’s end, well disposed to the imminent enjoyment of any inferno or paradise.


Fin de pieza

Caer, con peso o sin peso, en lecho mullido o sofá Mme Récamier, ahora o hace un siglo, las piernas estiradas y con la conciencia del periplo terminado, bien dispuestos al disfrute inminente de un infierno o paraíso cualquiera.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Poema ersatz / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Ersatz Poem

Metamorphosis of a subterranean voice, arrived from beneath the dream, in a tremor or an earthquake of multicolored bouquets, maybe the closest thing to a simulacrum of an apotheosis.


Poema ersatz

Metamorfosis de voz subterránea, llegada de debajo del sueño, en temblor o terremoto de ramilletes multicolores, lo más cercano quizás de un simulacro de apoteosis.

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Error de cálculo / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Calculation Error

The sea has slid through the poem as if it were its natural cave and refuge without keeping in mind the different proportions. When the seams burst under the weight, where will all the accumulated turquoise drain?


Error de cálculo

El mar se ha deslizado en el poema como su cueva y refugio natural sin tener en cuenta la diferencia de proporciones. Cuando cedan las costuras bajo el peso, ¿adónde irá a desaguar todo el azulverde acumulado?

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


La crítica sin odio (I) / Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

Criticism Without Hate (I)

                     [Photo: Vasco Szinetar]

I’d like to think these notes are part of a bad dream

                                                                                    to Rafael Cadenas


Silences, small contritions?


They say it’s always outside

but some days it shoots closer each time

exile —now— is here


In order to understand the functioning of Evil and its resorts.

“A system that can only function in a state of emergency must maintain that emergency at any cost.” (Giorgio Agamben)



The country to come: plural, lay, austere.


What’s the animal of transitions?

The monkey and its sunset clouds through the branches.



exile isn’t a promised land

only this voice speaking of peace with a war tongue

the razor with the owner’s name

while the jugulars are threatened


there is nothing more

save this instant

the desire to be alive

even when there’s no place


The induced misery of these years: the broken streets, the food lines, the fanaticism, the cult of power and its irrational penetration, the murky operations, the aversions, the corruption, the misery, the waste, the insults, the slander, everything bitter, the elusions, the erosions, the accusations, so many mouths dedicated to confusion.


The government won’t try to resolve the crisis, nor the food lines, nor the shortages, nor any of the evils it might be attributed with. On the contrary: it will systematize and refine its procedures. It will be not only State policy but a method of social control and just another form of the burden trying to attenuate the already galloping and unstoppable discomfort.


There are no saviors, ideologies are a cage.


Avoid becoming what you critique.


Thinking in transit: from the hero to the despot, from the despot to the martyr, from the martyr crowned to his image duplicated by official printers, a long and tedious echo.


The terrible merit of turning democracy into a rhetorical figure.


Evil maneuvers to twist the past.


Simone Weil, Essential Ideas for a New Constitution.

“It doesn’t matter how the government leader is chosen but rather how his power is limited, how his exercise of power is controlled, how he is punished, if that were to be the case.”


Sycophants in their labyrinth.


Compassion —and moderation— in exile.



“Victory is ours


victory is ours

while the Empire


the theories

that will justify

our ruins!”


Does compassion have an ideology?


Chronology of the Abyss (1999-?).

The revolution is yet to come

the revolution is yet to com

the r volution is yet to co

the r olution is yet to c

the r lution is yet to

the r lution is yet t

the r ion t

the r n

the r n

the r




Where did I hear it?

“Maybe we need the basement”

“The sun makes us too happy”


Months ago.

At the Bicentenario supermarket in Plaza Venezuela I saw a huge line of people (it reached the Zona Rental metro stop and extended even further, almost to the hotel district). In order to enter the supermarket you had to pass through a very narrow fence, almost a corral. Meanwhile, soldiers were checking IDs. A legacy of humiliation.


A true “current” for change can’t be founded on hate.


Fragments of country that stab the body.

Splinters, pulverized glass.

Long, painful uncertainty.

What’s coming?


To think of these years through the fable of Midas in reverse.


The tribe without a chief, nor a fable, its stubborn prayers to the void.


For so many years, he said: I, I, I, I am you, I am all of you, I am us, you and I, the great one and its shut down echo, stubborn ashes that don’t say goodbye.


Cadenas, Anotaciones:

“A people without awareness of language end up repeating the swindlers’ slogans; in other words, they die as a people.”


Francisco Andrade, quickly:

“It’s not class struggle. It’s society vs. the State.”


Freedom, Sancho!

“The democrat, after all, is he who admits that his adversary might be right, who, therefore, lets him express himself and who is prepared to reflect upon his arguments. When parties or men are persuaded enough by their own reasons to shut their opponents’ mouths with violence, democracy ceases to exist.” (Camus, Combat, February 1947)


Abyss project: a state of tutelage and lowered heads, frightened and meek, repeating and uniformed. Here, thus, the universities —and freedom itself— play a role that’s anything but minor and by all means inconvenient.


Fine! I won’t say “dictatorship”! No, it’s not! Venezuela suffers, actually, a pathological presidentialism, the deferred repetition —infinite— of Chávez’s Aló, Presidente TV show: marimbas, whistles, threats, insults, scoldings, promises, bad jokes, classes of invented history, geography, baseball, math, cosmology, Marxism, linguistics, sociology, the mise en scène of that Ego.

{ Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 29 November 2015 }


Fantasmas reales y dudosos / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Real and Dubious Ghosts

In the city of ghosts we observe false ghosts to the second power, in other words, ghosts of ghosts. This was recognized before anyone else by the great specialist in these matters, the nonexistent Giorgio de Chirico, who was the most unreal ghost of all the ones who’ve been discovered and catalogued up until now, so a ghost disguised as a ghost, such unlikely
evidence that no one ever dared denounce it.


Fantasmas reales y dudosos

En la ciudad de los fantasmas se observan falsos fantasmas a la segunda potencia, es decir, fantasmas de fantasmas. Esto lo reconoció antes que nadie el gran especialista en la materia, el inexistente Giorgio de Chirico, quien era el fantasma más irreal de todos los hasta ahora descubiertos y catalogados pues fantasma disfrazado de fantasma, evidencia tan inverosímil que nadie se atrevió nunca a denunciarla.

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Alberto Barrera Tyszka: “Hugo Chávez melodramatizó la política” / Javier Lafuente

Alberto Barrera Tyszka: “Hugo Chávez made politics melodramatic”

                                    [Photo: Camilo Rozo]

He was at his house in Caracas, in front of the TV, when he heard the news. Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, that man who would speak from eternity, who had erased time with his speeches, announced that he had cancer. Alberto Barrera Tyszka (Caracas, 1960) was surprised, like the rest of the country. “It was something that wasn’t factored into any of the hypotheses,” recalls the author in a Bogotá café. He’s the winner of the latest Tusquets Prize in Spain for Patria o muerte, a novel born of various texts he was already writing and which were finally brought together by Chávez’s illness. The resulting book is a radiography of Venezuela today and it consecrates the writer, author of the biography Hugo Chavez: The Definitive Biography of Venezuela's Controversial President, perhaps the best biography of the Bolivarian leader, as the greatest exponent of his country’s literature, and in good measure of Latin America’s.

QUESTION. You return to Venezuela with this novel. What moved you to do that?

ANSWER. At first, I had no intention of approaching Chavismo through literature, probably as a reaction to the biography I wrote. But I was interested in the process in which Chávez’s illness appears, because I’m interested in the fragility of human beings, I try to connect with the reader through pain. It seemed to me like an ideal context for trying to inquire about Venezuelans and what we were living.

Q. What did you discover?

A. The novel tries to repeatedly address the topic of charisma. What happened for Venezuelans to become hooked, in favor of or against, on the same figure at the same time. But it isn’t a novel about Chávez, in the end he’s in the background, dying, it’s a novel about the Venezuelans who are living under that spell.

Q. Has that spell continued?

A. Chávez insisted a great deal on constructing himself as a myth, in sacralizing his own figure and, of course, the corporation that remained after that lives. But I thought that myth would last longer in the lives of Venezuelans. It’s not that present, or his heirs have squandered it very quickly. They’ve misspent the inheritance they were given in a quick and vulgar manner.

Q. It’s a novel, but it’s written as if it were non-fiction.

A. It engages in a very strong dialogue with the real, it includes many things I’ve heard. The writer is a type of spy who’s always stealing things he hears, looks at, watches. The stories kept emerging. One was from a novel I was writing before Chávez’s illness. There are people in literature who advance with plans, I’m not like that, I’m not too methodical, I advance blindly.

Q. On December 6th there will be elections for the National Assembly. How do you think change can happen in Venezuela?

A. I like to think that we’ve lived under the threat of a political violence that won’t materialize. I definitely think the opposition can win. But, how will the Government administer that triumph, that’s the problem. They want to present democratic alternation as a crime. Chavismo doesn’t realize that it failed in its attempt to impose its model. The only possible exit for Venezuelans is to accept our complexity, to overcome the mediocrity that polarization represents. There’s no possibility of building a country if we can’t count on each other. Those who think history is an interruptor and that we’ll return to 1998, before Chávez came to power, are mistaken.

Q. What have you felt after writing something so real, but so harsh about your country?

A. I was very scared it would sound like an op-ed novel, that people would think it was written in order to denounce. No, I don’t want to denounce a regime or anything like that, but rather to tell the story of the plurality that exists in the country.

Q. Plurality and polarization.

A. It’s part of Venezuela’s reality, children who don’t talk to their parents, estranged siblings. Chávez made politics melodramatic. A moment arrived when it seemed Venezuelans had been born to attack or support a government.

Q. What type of novel is Venezuela?

A. I think there’ll soon be a lot of books that have to do with the country’s situation. The time is right for writers to begin writing or thinking about what we’re living. People have started to find refuge and seek something in books that they haven’t found in the media, which is reliability. There has been a resurgence of history books, of journalism. The media polarization makes everyone unreliable. Although there’s also the phenomenon of investigative journalists who’ve moved to websites, very serious people with acknowledged prestige have been doing investigative journalism from those pages: Armando.info, Runrunes, Contrapunto...

Q. What do you enjoy the most when it comes to writing?

A. Television is work that feeds me. What I enjoy the most is literature. Even more than the column I write for El Nacional. When I started to write columns 20 years ago it was something more personal. Now if I write about the clouds I get stoned by people. There’s a type of dictatorship of political urgency and society is in submission to it. As if no other vital spaces existed.

Q. What do telenovelas provide you when it comes time to write literature?

A. They’re very different formats. In literature the imagination and ambiguity are fundamental. Television can’t handle that complexity, it’s a kingdom closer to the stereotype. But it’s given me more efficiency for dialogue and a better idea of narrative speed.

Q. A prestigious scriptwriter, you won the Herralde Prize, now the Tusquets. You’re touched by success.

A. No, it’s not true. I wouldn’t even mention it. I’m very disciplined. Prizes give you a sensational push, but it doesn’t mean you’ll write better. You can’t believe that.

{ Javier Lafuente, Babelia, El País, 26 November 2015 }


Rubi Guerra: “Aunque suene mal, soy un convencido de las virtudes formales de la imitación consciente” / María Celina Núñez

Rubi Guerra: “Although it sounds bad, I’m convinced of the formal virtues of conscious imitation”

                    [Photo: Alfredo Padron]

1. Can you enumerate the most emblematic moments of initiation in your life? Tell us about one of them, please.

The majority of my “moments of initiation” are too personal for a list, but I can talk about one of them.

Before I started elementary school, my older sister taught me how to read. First I learned how to trace the letters of my name, and then all the rest. It must have been a process of several weeks that I remember as a single day. I can see her (a tall, skinny girl of sixteen) and myself in the living room of our house in San Tomé; I can see that the door is open and beyond that lies the savannah of the Guanipa Plateau and it’s late afternoon. Two years later this moment finds continuity in the books my sister brings me from Caracas each time she comes home for vacations. By that time we’re living in Cumaná. I suppose everything can be found there.

2. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a writer? How much time passed between that moment and the elaboration of your first book (published or not)? Who did you tell for the first time?

I started to write regularly at age fourteen, and at twenty-five I felt like I wanted to dedicate myself to writing literature as a fundamental activity in my life. I had just read Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, and I suppose I felt a little like Stingo, the novel’s young narrator. I don’t remember telling anyone about that decision, although it’s possible I did. My first book was published when I was twenty-seven. Nine short stories I gathered because the directors of the Casa Ramos Sucre, Ramón Ordaz and José Malavé, asked me for a book to start their publishing project. Up until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could publish.

3. Favorite authors? Have they changed over the years?

My favorite authors have remained incredibly stable for the last thirty years. Some have incorporated themselves into my list but I can’t tell yet if my interest in them will be permanent, and a few of them have disappeared. Among those who are always there I’d mention Juan Carlos Onetti, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, William Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad, Gustavo Díaz Solís, José Balza, Enrique Bernardo Núñez (for his novel Cubagua), Julio Cortázar (for his short stories), Günter Grass. I don’t consider Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick as favorites, and yet I keep going back to them at certain points. Now I’m reading J.M. Coetzee, Ricardo Piglia, Pierre Michon, Roberto Bolaño and Cormac McCarthy with great interest. I’m surely forgetting many.

I mention the poets separately because I’m a very inconstant reader of poetry and I have a barely fragmentary knowledge of the poetic tradition. I read the same ones over and over: T.S. Eliot, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Rafael Cadenas, Eugenio Montejo, Juan Sánchez Peláez, Borges again.

4. Have you ever found yourself unconsciously imitating an author? How has it felt? How do you stop that imitation?

Although it sounds bad, I’m convinced of the formal virtues of conscious imitation. You can learn techniques, procedures, you’re able to try out ways of seeing. Unconscious imitation presents more problems: when we fall into it our writing becomes servile. And yes, it’s happened to me. It turns out to be a bit humiliating, though I don’t give it too much importance. If I detect that imitation in an unpublished text, it’s no big deal, I either rewrite it or throw it out. And If it’s published, there’s nothing I can do about it. Basically, it seems to me it has to do with the idea of originality, which is a notion that should be relativized a great deal. After all, in relation to narrative technique there hasn’t been anything too original in the last seventy years, more or less. Another thing is the vision of the world each writer has, which if it’s personal and honest, will be original (more or less). So that would be one way of stopping unconscious imitation: listening to yourself in order to find out what you have to say.

5. Gregarious or solitary? Have you belonged to any literary groups? Do you believe in literary generations?

I haven’t belonged to literary groups, but I have many writer friends. I don’t consider myself particularly solitary, but I spend a lot of time alone. Sometimes I go for days without leaving my house; it’s not something that weighs on me too much; and yet I don’t avoid people either. Maybe I’m a solitary man who enjoys being with his friends. Determining what a “literary generation” might be and who belongs to it or not is a matter for academics. About twenty years ago, maybe a little longer, people started to talk about the “generation of the nineties,” and they included me in that. I don’t think it was a very rigorous classification from a theoretical standpoint.

6. Do you want to be a very famous writer or a writer known by a select few?

I hadn’t ever thought about it in those terms. Does anyone want to be known by a select few? In other words, to be read and admired by very few people? I can’t imagine anyone would want that as a fate. What I would like is to be able to write what interests me with something I’ll call “aesthetic solvency” because I can’t think of anything better, that I’m able to find editors willing to publish what I write and that they don’t lose money in the process, and that the resulting book find the greatest number possible of attentive readers. Nothing more, and nothing less.

7. Do you publish everything you write? Do you keep personal diaries? Would you write your autobiography?

I wish everything I write deserved to be published, but that’s not the case. Most of it is worthless and it ends up in the trash or in the limbo of cyberspace.

During some periods of my life I’ve taken autobiographical notes with certain regularity, and they too have ended up in the trash. I’ve accepted that diaries, mine or those of others, bore me. Save for a very few exceptions. For that reason I’d never write my autobiography; I don’t think it would interest anyone; not even me. Of course in the fiction I write there are autobiographical elements: the landscapes, certain emotions, a portrait of a character; never the central actions. Relatedly, personal memory isn’t very trustworthy, at least mine isn’t. I prefer to use my scarce memories as nourishment for fiction.

8. What is your opinion of criticism? Is there an undercover critic inside each creative writer?

A critic is, or should be, someone who reads with attention, and writes with rigor and elegance about what they read. They should, moreover, pay attention to the resonances of a particular work within its cultural, historical, ideological contexts... Maybe that’s too much to ask. In any case, criticism is necessary so that the other writers (critics are also writers) can have interlocutors. Many writers have no interest in practicing criticism despite the fact that they are, to a certain degree, professional readers. It’s a matter of inclinations. On the other hand, many authors, poets and fiction writers, dedicate themselves on a regular basis, and in no way undercover, to criticism. For example, among the contemporaries, Coetzee, and a few decades ago, Eliot. Guillermo Sucre, José Balza, Luis Barrera Linares, among the Venezuelans. Really, it seems to me like something natural that emerges from the fact that authors live and work among books, they reflect on what they read, they love and distance themselves from certain books. Some limit themselves to oral criticism; others are more organized and put their reading experiences in writing.

9. How do you endure the weight of the world?

Badly, like nearly everyone on the planet.

{ María Celina Núñez, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 27 November 2015 }


Ídolo / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen


The words suddenly came together to form a compact and indissoluble block that gave us no choice but to submit.



Se arremolinaron de repente las palabras para formar un bloque compacto e indisoluble al cual no quedaba sino someterse.

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


El sueño / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

The Dream

     The poetic seeds of the dream turned out to be, unlike the poor professors, the miserable realist critics tried to make us believe, a new unattainable paradise, a mirage, but instead noxious and active seeds, useful reagents to corrode despicable reality. The dream is not a refuge, it’s a weapon.
     Liberty’s bad instincts dance their diabolical rounds. No more conformity, resignation, mediocrity! May the scoundrels, the exploiters, those who take advantage of others’ misery, and the cursed clergy, and the abominable religious spirit, and the Christian ghosts, and the myths of capital, and the bourgeois family, and the degrading homeland all drown in their black spittle.
     Mankind’s liberty, in other words, the dream minted in reality, poetry speaking through everyone’s mouth and fulfilling itself, concrete and palpable, in the acts of everyone.


El sueño

     Los gérmenes poéticos del sueño resultaron ser, no como los pobres profesores, los mezquinos críticos realistas trataron de hacernos creer, un nuevo paraíso inalcanzable, un espejismo, sino los gérmenes nocivos y actuantes, los útiles reactivos para corroer la infame realidad. El sueño no es un refugio sino un arma.
     Los malos instintos de libertad danzan su ronda diabólica. ¡Fuera la conformidad, la resignación, la medianía! En su esputo negro ahóguense los bellacos, los explotadores, los que aprovechan la miseria de los más, y la maldita clerigalla, y el abominable espíritu religioso, y los fantasmas cristianos, y los mitos del capital, y la familia burguesa, y la patria infamante.
     La libertad del hombre, es decir, el sueño acuñado en la realidad, la poesía hablando por la boca de todos y realizándose, concreta y palpable, en los actos de todos.

Cuál es la risa (1989)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Yolanda Pantin o la poesía ciega / Antonio López Ortega

Yolanda Pantin or Blind Poetry

Last October 27th the Venezuelan poet Yolanda Pantin (1954) received in Mexico the highest award in her extensive and very singular oeuvre to date: The 2015 “Poets of the Latin World” Prize. This prize created in 2007, which is traditionally awarded to a Mexican poet and to one from the Latin American literary world, was also given to Antonio Deltoro, a coincidence that surprised Pantin herself, since Deltoro’s work is always on her radar as she follows Mexican literature. The fact is, with only eight years of existence, Pantin and Deltoro are added to the names Juan Manuel Roca, Rubén Bonifaz Nuño, Antonio Cisneros, Ledo Ivo, Juan Gelman, Alí Chumacero, José Emilio Pacheco, Nuno Júdice and Piedad Bonnett, some of the poets who have won the prize in recent years.

The distinction for Yolanda Pantin, however, reveals an excellent move on the part of the jury, because researching the literary reality of Venezuela today, with books that don’t circulate, with prizes that no longer exist, with magazines no one remembers, is always a frustrating exercise, if not an impossible one. Today’s poets and fiction writers have grown accustomed to this cultural desert, creating their own mechanisms for survival. Names like Rafael Cadenas or Eugenio Montejo, both authors born in the 1930s, already belong to the canon of Ibero-American literature, but it’s harder to identify the subsequent generations from other horizons. To that end, Venezuelan poetry of the last four decades, to say the least, is completely unknown.

Giving a prize to the work of Yolanda Pantin, however, means recognizing lines that are invisible for many readers. For example, it’s a recognition of the obstinate vocation of foundational poets such as Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva (1886-1962), María Calcaño (1906-1956) or Luz Machado (1916-1999), precursor voices who continuously opened the century to that alterity a thousand times buried or erased. It’s also a recognition of a prodigious generation, that of the 1980s, to which Pantin belongs with Igor Barreto, Armando Rojas Guardia, Harry Almela, Santos López or Edda Armas, to name just the poets with an extensive oeuvre. And lastly, it’s a prize for the persistence of a referent of Venezuelan poetry that’s not always dominant, and is associated with metaphysics or with self doubt regarding the essence and value of poetry.

While Pantin has admitted that early on the driving force of her poetry was mourning, or by transposition, the Vallejian idea that one must search deep within to find it, today she admits poetry is an imposition, a mandate, a dictation that’s received and transcribed. “Poetry doesn’t obey any voice, only its own. It’s blind: it doesn’t depend on anything for its existence.” This notion of blindness, which remains fascinating, doesn’t quite lead to a lack of vision but rather to a depersonalization. Because if Pantin’s poetry has played with anything, it’s been the idea of the death of the subject. Her books turn out to be a continuous exercise of voices, a type of counterpoint where discourse matters instead of roles. Poetry is made despite the speakers, who for the effects of the verses are accidents or pretexts.

The recent publication of her collected poems, País (1981-2011), with the Spanish publishing house Pretextos, might aid in the necessary dissemination of an oeuvre that’s now being read in Mexico. The originality of Pantin’s verse is based on the childhood memories of Casa o Lobo, the feminine voice of Los bajos sentimientos, the dialogue of lovers in El cielo de París, or the irony of Poemas del escritor, books that seem like ascending exercises to reach a deeper level of reflection where poetry is subject and object, an excessive and autonomous creature that must be contained in the indelible sense of loss experimented when one reads and rereads pages that are also abysses.

{ Antonio López Ortega, El Nacional, 19 November 2015 }


Se mece suavemente el viento / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

The wind rocks softly

The wind rocks softly
The woman who has sprouted naked and white
At the top of the cypress
With a little crown of gold on her head
And on the crown a green stone eye
The stares fixedly.


Se mece suavemente el viento

Se mece suavemente el viento
La mujer que ha brotado blanca y desnuda
En la copa del ciprés
Con una pequeña corona de oro sobre la cabeza
Y encima de la corona un ojo de piedra verde
Que mira fijamente.

Cuál es la risa (1989)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Uno muere varias veces / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

You die several times

You die several times in life (it’s a common experience) —the first at birth— the others —sooner or later.

Aside from that —with yearning and without illusions— let’s sing the Canticle of Love and Glory ad vitam aeternam —though that always is a doubtful premonition— at most a term to underline the unknowable and the unlivable (in this life or another —we’ll conclude for now).


Uno muere varias veces

Uno muere varias veces en la vida (es la experiencia común) —la primera al nacer— las otras —tarde o temprano.

Por lo demás —con ansia y sin ilusiones— entonemos el Cántico de Amor y Gloria ad vitam aeternam —aunque se presienta dudoso ese siempre— a lo más un término para subrayar lo inconocible y lo invivible (en esta vida o en otra —concluiremos por ahora).

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Era el río detenido / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

It was the stopped river

It was the stopped river
Trapped in the embrace
It was the conjugated force
Of good and evil
It was the bird escaping
The trap of its flight
It was the sea diverted
In each glance
It was the delirium of death
Forgetting itself in life.


Era el río detenido

Era el río detenido
Atrapado en el abrazo
Era la fuerza conjugada
Del bien y del mal
Era el ave escapando
A la trampa de su vuelo
Era la mar trasvasada
En cada mirada
Era el delirio de la muerte
Olvidándose en la vida.

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


¿Qué es más grande...? / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

What is bigger...?

What is bigger —the sea or the word we use to name it?

We say the sea and various seas emerge —the ones we’ve glimpsed experimented enjoyed suffered— and likewise the ones we’ve barely suspected (perhaps the most exalting) —small or enormous— placid or destroying themselves in irrepressible rage.

Meanwhile we glance at the sea —and it’s the same one as ever— unrecognizable and disconcerting —a phantasmagoria of reality— but just like the one that intervened in our destiny for the first time.


¿Qué es más grande...?

¿Qué es más grande —el mar o la palabra con que lo nombramos?

Decimos el mar y surgen diversos mares —los vistos experimentados gozados sufridos— e igualmente los apenas barruntados (acaso los más exaltantes) —pequeños o descomunales— plácidos o destrozándose a sí mismos en iras irreprimibles.

Vemos en cambio el mar —y es el de siempre— irreconocible y desconcertante —una fantasmagoría de la realidad— pero igual al que por primera vez se interpuso en nuestro destino.

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


En las playas cálidas / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

On the warm beaches

On the warm beaches
Murmuring with sun
Facing the newborn sea.


En las playas cálidas

En las playas cálidas
Rumorosas de sol
Frente al mar recién nacido.

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Colmarse con lo no esperado / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

To fill yourself with the unexpected

Satisfied with the unexpected —mirages of
fortune and dusk clouds within reach of your hand.


Colmarse con lo no esperado

Colmarse con lo no esperado —espejismos de
buenaventura y celajes al alcance de la mano.

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


La búsqueda / Rafael Cadenas

The Quest

We never found the Grail.
The stories weren’t true.
Only the fatigue of the roads accompanied
those who ventured,
but expected tales.
What would our living be
without them?

Nothing was resolved,
we could have just stayed home.
But we’re so restless.
And yet, once the journey was over
we felt that within us
—no longer hostages
to hope—
another mettle
had been born.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


Musa / Rafael Cadenas


Grant the poet,
if humility has abandoned him,
the right words
for his task: not saying what’s expected
but rather
being a spokesman
for the most occult necessity.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


El diálogo según un dictador / Rafael Cadenas

Dialogue According to a Dictator

Original Version: When I engage in a dialogue I don't want to be interrupted.

Second version: I'll engage in a dialogue, but I warn you I won't give up my position.

Third Version: In a dialogue, those who contradict me should recognize their mistake ahead of time.

Fourth Version: Having thought about it, I humbly opine that dialogue is unnecessary.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Letras Libres (México, D.F.), July 2011 }


Estar / Rafael Cadenas

Being There

I try to be
Is it necessary?

I’m not asking
for anything.
I go along

I have plenty
of what I don’t have.
I can even give it to you.

I’ll become whatever you want
like an actor.
Any mask
goes well with an unoccupied face.

I’ll oblige you
with losing
the path.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


El que está siempre / Rafael Cadenas

The one who’s always

The one who’s always
remaking himself doesn’t have a language,
contains himself, babbles, takes notes.
This is how he tries to love himself.
Wears a costume over the storm
with his errands,
the coming and going between gathered
words, as if they could
ever be a floor.
Maybe an honest
concurrence would protect him
from its cold.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


Two Venezuelan Writers Among the Great Hopes of the Frankfurt Book Fair

                  [Venezuelan novelist Alberto Barrera Tyszka. Photo: El Universal]

For five days, the main publishing houses and agencies of the world gathered at the Frankfurt Book Fair, perhaps the biggest event in the world dedicated to the commercialization of rights for projects in the literary world.

Around 140,000 professionals and 7 thousand exponents from approximately one hundred countries gathered at this event where two Venezuelan writers were catalogued as great literary hopes after reaching agreements with foreign publishing houses for the translation and publication of their novels.

The Caracas-born writers Alberto Barrera Tyszka, who was recently awarded the 2015 Tusquets Prize in Spain, and Rodrigo Blanco Calderón were highly valued for their novels Patria o muerte and The Night, respectively.

International media have mentioned that the material by Barrera Tyszka was particularly successful and will be read in France, Holland, Portugal, Sweden, Germany and the United States thanks to the agreements. The novel makes reference to the Venezuelan crisis and narrates episodes tied to the final days of the ex-president Hugo Chávez.

Blanco Calderón mentions that his work was negotiated with the French publishing house Gallimard, and he expects it will be released at the beginning of 2016, close to its publication date with Alfaguara in Spain. Moreover, he doesn’t rule out the possibility that publishing houses from other countries might become interested in the translation of his book. “This week I’ll speak with my agent and will know further details, but I’m aware that other negotiations were taking place,” he declared.

According to Blanco Calderón, “book fairs of this magnitude allow a writer to reach certain areas of reading, commentary and dissemination that an author from any country wouldn’t be able to attain on his own. That’s the value of this possibility, because it allows us to open up slightly the barrier between Venezuelan literature and the world.”

Among other Latin American revelations, highlights also included the recently-deceased Canek Guevara, grandson of Che Guevara, who will publish 33 revoluciones with Alfaguara in Spain, in which he critiques Fidel Castro’s regime; and the Colombian Héctor Abad Faciolince, with his book La Oculta, to be published by Gallimard.

{ El Universal, 20 October 2015 }


Caminas entre escombros / Rafael Cadenas

You walk amidst the rubble

You walk amidst the rubble
of yesterdays.

A looking after
reestablishes you.

This is how you honor
your surroundings.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


Rafael Cadenas: la meditación por delante / Antonio López Ortega

Rafael Cadenas: Meditation In Mind

                  [The poet Rafael Cadenas at his home in Caracas, October 15, 2015.
                  Photo: Miguel Gutiérrez]

At age 85 and in full health, the Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, 1930) leads a relatively ascetic life. A resident of La Boyera, a neighborhood in southeastern Caracas, he lives among his readings, his verses and his translations. He rarely gets on the phone, except to honor the friendship of those he’s close to, and his speech is so deliberate, so much the result of a permanent meditation, that it’s always preferable to speak with him (or actually, to see him speak), than to listen to him over the phone. A variant of that routine continues to grow over the years: his evening appearances at the El Buscón bookstore, in the nearby Las Mercedes neighborhood, where Katyna Henríquez, a veteran bookseller, sets up an easy chair for the master. There he sits, reads, talks with visitors and is even capable of signing a copy of one of his books for some distracted reader. That presence extends to the presentations of books by young and not so young poets, as if some sense of duty moved him. In these times when the public apparatus has been completely divorced from artistic creation, artists close ranks and create a common front. Cadenas presents himself in those spaces with his habitual appearance: silent, uncombed, wearing a vest with small pockets and a bag he carries on his shoulder for putting in or taking out books.

It’s curious that a great living poet of the Spanish language, immersed in classics of Asian philosophy, Pre-Socratic authors and English Romantic poets, occupies his hours in thinking about the meaning of the public, so degraded in Venezuela today. But one can’t forget that, towards the end of the 1950s, in Tabla Redonda, the literary group of his younger years, along with the great historian Manuel Caballero and the unjustly forgotten novelist Salvador Garmendia, both now deceased, a great deal was said about the public, and also about the political. Those were the years of the fall of the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez and of the recuperation of democracy, and all artistic efforts were magnetized by renovation and hope. In summary, and going against what his poetry represents, Cadenas is an author with a solid political formation, who is skilled at unmasking demagogues, populists or aspiring dictators. If his poetry continues to explore the unfathomable mystery of existence, the public man, who speaks very little, who listens a great deal, practices with his mere presence, maybe unknowingly, a majesty, an auctoritas, that covers every space where he is present like a mantle.

Can we think of a political reading of Cadenas’s poetry? Undoubtedly not beyond what the circumstance of living in the polis might mean, since not even his poem “Defeat,” whose wide circulation has eclipsed his best work, was carrying out doctrinaire motivations: rather, it was speaking of an individual deception in the face of collectivist causes. In summary, always keeping in mind skepticism or criticism, as an alarm against fixed or unmovable ideas. The statements, contestations (as he calls them) or haikus that have characterized his most recent books, could certainly present us with the soliloquies of the powerful, the proclamations of solitary men or blind speeches, but always as if we were immersed in a chorus of lamentations or nonsense. Slightly in the line of Shakespeare, human madness, or purposeless violence, are incarnated in empty speakers who let loose the most delirious speech. Whoever might think this isn’t meditation as well, beyond how inexplicable beauty can be or how miraculous consciousness can be, will be mistaken.

A Cadenas country that has continued to be created during these ill-fated years, and it’s the one that goes beyond his presence at presentations or his very occasional interviews. It has to do with his spirit, with his word, with his example, with his public acts. It’s something closer to honorableness, to honesty, to civic responsibility. Sixty years of poetic creation speak for themselves; they reflect a summit that all the young people want to scale, even if it’s just to catch a glimpse and see the panorama from the heights. Most definitely, everything has been a meditation, entering into the depths, knowing that the time of being isn’t the time of our life, intuiting that immortality belongs to humanity and death is merely an individual experience. In those edges is where this poetry of debris moves, one that’s always moving closer to a hole that no one can unveil, that always essays an approximation, because poetry is finally tentative, an essay, a feint against the void. The legitimacy granted by all true proposals, every proof of life, is motive enough to feel that in this work there’s also a country, with characters, adventures, destinies and encounters. And this country is sometimes more solid than the other one, the one that should be a reference but is now a quilt of remnants. That’s why the young poets want to walk in the country of Cadenas, along with the not so young poets, as well as readers of all types. In order to find some certainty, to understand that it’s better to meditate than to lie, to verify that the immortal time of poetry is not the present time and its death toll.

Andrés López Ortega, Venezuelan writer and editor, is the author of La sombra inmóvil (Pretextos).

{ Antonio López Ortega, El País, 17 October 2015 }


La mañana luminosa / Rafael Cadenas

The luminous morning

The luminous morning
authorizes me
to look.

The leaves on the trees
for whoever sees them.

Amidst the clouds
pours a light
that deifies.
It’s the one we see every day,
in other words, new.

is covered with names.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Sobre abierto, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2012 }


Venezuelan Rafael Cadenas Wins the Federico García Lorca Poetry Prize

                  [Rafael Cadenas, Madrid 2014. Photo by Alberto Di Lolli]

Agencia EFE — The Venezuelan poet and essayist Rafael Cadenas (Barqusimeto, 1930) has been awarded the Federico García Lorca-City of Granada International Poetry Prize in its twelfth edition, according to the decision of the judges that was announced today.

The judges highlighted the always lucid, deliberately marginal and very quiet work of one of the great poets of the Spanish language in the last sixty years.

This is what Carlos Pardo, poet and representative of the Federico García Lorca foundation, pointed out, speaking for the all the judges.

The work of Cadenas, awarded the National Literature Prize of Venezuela (1985) and the FIL Prize in Romance Languages of Guadalajara (Mexico) in 1999, “takes risks and is uncomfortable with any totalitarian manifestation of power,” according to Pardo.

Considered one of the most influential authors among young poets today in Spain and Latin America, Cadenas published his first poetry collection in a local printing shop in Barquisimeto in 1946.

From a young age he combined a passion for literature with political activism in Venezuela, which led to his being jailed and exiled during the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

He took refuge in the island of Trinidad until 1957, and it was in Caracas that he wrote and published Una isla (1958) and Los cuadernos del destierro (1960), years in which he formed part of the group for political and literary debate Tabla Redonda, alongside Manuel Caballero, Jesús Sanoja Hernández and Jacobo Borges, among others.

Gifted with a refined sensibility, Cadenas, also a retired university professor, stands out for a dense oeuvre closely tied to a philosophical perspective that, according to the judges, seems to fuse the paths of the reflective posture with pure inspiration.

His most famous poem, “Defeat,” which was passed along copy by copy throughout Spain and all of Latin America during the 1960s —transcending as the poetic hallmark of the sixties generation— led to work like Falsas maniobras (1966), Memorial (1977) or Amante (1983).

In all these books there is a poetry that is “essential, very demanding with language, very colloquial, almost minimalist but direct, that can be understood and yet remains very demanding,” according to Pardo.

Latin American and Spanish poetry of the last sixty years “can’t be understood” without the work of Cadenas, summarizes Pardo, who thinks the world of literature is indebted to the Venezuelan for “some of the most important moments of antipoetry from the fifties onwards.”

The prize, which currently includes an award of 30,000 euros, was established as the highest paying in its genre, and this year 43 authors of 18 nationalities were under consideration.

The prize, which for the first time has been announced at the Federico García Lorca Center in Granada, Spain, also includes a commemorative graphic artwork, a literary act and academic sessions dedicated to the study of the prizewinning work with the presence of the author, as well as an edition of an anthology of poems.

On previous occasions the prize has been awarded to Rafael Guillén (2014); Eduardo Lizalde (2013); Pablo García Baena (2012); Fina García Marruz (2011); María Victoria Atencia (2010); José Manuel Caballero Bonald (2009); Tomás Segovia (2008); Francisco Brines (2007); Blanca Varela (2006); José Emilio Pacheco (2005) and Ángel González (2004).

{ El Nacional, 13 October 2015 }