Venepoetics: A Postscript

I started writing Venepoetics when I was living in Boston, in September of 2003, after a summer of reading many poetry blogs from the U.S. and Venezuela. I first heard about them via The Poetry Project Newsletter, which had a feature on blogs. Two decades feels like a good number to end a translation space that had been very active in the 2000s, serving me as a workshop and archive to pursue my Venezuelan-American interest in Venezuelan and Latin American literature. I'm especially grateful for the friends and colleagues I met through writing Venepoetics.

The years of this blog coincided with the destruction of Venezuela by a military caudillo and his band of thieves, who demolished the nation's infrastructure and forced over 7 million Venezuelans into exile, as of 2023. Because of that crisis, many of the translations I posted here in the 2000s came from columnists and writers I followed in Caracas newspapers such as Tal Cual and El Nacional, all of them trying to make sense of Venezuela's complex crisis.

But literature was always the main focus of Venepoetics. Between 2006-2012 I lived in Durham, NC. It was there I was most active with this blog, focusing on the work of the poet José Antonio Ramos Sucre (Cumaná, Venezuela, 1890 - Geneva, Switzerland, 1930). That's him sometime in the 1920s in Caracas, in the photo above, taken by Manrique & Co. 

In the years 2009-2012, I published dozens of first draft translations of Ramos Sucre here at the blog. Some of these were eventually included in my English translation of his poems, aphorisms and letters: Selected Works: Expanded Edition (Noemi Press, 2016). Having this blog gave me an outlet for the research on Ramos Sucre's work and life I was conducting in the U.S. and Venezuela. That research and translation of Ramos Sucre's work continues.

As a postscript, I've gathered a very personal list of links to various posts in Venepoetics relating to 26 Venezuelan, Latin American & Spanish writers (in no particular order) that I translated and wrote about. Although there's no index for the blog at the moment, individual authors translated here can be found through their labels at the bottom of each post.

Armando Rojas Guardia (1949-2020)

My translation of the poem "Patria" (2008) and the essay "¿Qué es vivir poéticamente?" (2013). Rojas Guardia was a member of the Caracas literary group Guaire in the 1980s.

Miyó Vestrini (1938-1991)

A poem by Miyó Vestrini, "Un día de la semana I" (1994). Vestrini was a member of the Maracaibo literary group Apocalipsis in the 1960s. Later she was an influential journalist in Caracas and a member of the literary movement La República del Este.

Renato Rodríguez (1927-2011)

Novelist and nomad, author of my favorite novel in Venezuelan literature, El bonche (1976). Back in 2008 I translated a 2006 interview with Renato Rodríguez by Albinson Linares for the newspaper El Nacional.

José Antonio Ramos Sucre (1890-1930)

The first poem by Ramos Sucre  I ever translated was "El extravío" (1929), back in the summer of 2008 after getting back from a trip to Caracas. There was something in that poem that drew me into his work completely. Among items related to Ramos Sucre, I also translated an essay by Eugenio Montejo (1938-2008) "Nueva aproximación a Ramos Sucre" (1981).

Finally, my English version of his essay on Alexander von Humboldt, "Sobre las huellas de Humboldt" (1923).

Manón Kübler (1961)

A poem from Manón Kúbler's first and only book of poems, Olympia (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1992), "XVI."

Antonia Palacios (1904-2001)

In the 1970s and early 1980s, at her home in Caracas, named Calicanto, the novelist and poet Antonia Palacios held an influential workshop where poets and fiction writers of several generations interacted. Her novel Ana Isabel, una niña decente (1949) is a great book that portrays a young artist's childhood in a rapidly-changing city. She is one of my favorite poets in any language.

Among the work of hers I have translated for the blog is a poem from her book Textos del desalojo (1973).

Oswaldo Barreto (1934-2017)

I translated many of Barreto's two columns in the Caracas newspaper Tal Cual: Pórtico and Balanza de Palabra. Before he wrote for Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper, which always opposed Chavismo from the left, Barreto had an unusual life in politics, with connections to literature through his close friendship with figures like the poet Juan Sánchez Peláez and the novelist Adriano González León. 

Barreto's astonishing and complex life as an underground guerrilla fighter in Venezuela, Latin America and the world in the 1960s is semi-fictionally recounted in the novel by English writer Lisa St. Aubin de Teran, Swallowing Stones (2006), which was based on interviews with him.

My translation of his column from November 3, 2009 ("Resurrección de El Techo de la Ballena") recounts his attendance at a book presentation in Caracas by some of the remaining members of the 1960s collective El Techo de la Ballena, where Barreto critiqued their support for Chavismo. Barreto was close friends with the Salvadoran poet & revolutionary Roque Dalton (El Salvador, 1935-1975), who wrote a poem in honor of Oswaldo Barreto, "Primavera en Jevani," in his book Taberna y otros lugares (1969).

Teodoro Petkoff (1932-2018)

In 2007, I attended a book presentation for Teodoro Petkoff's Socialismo irreal, which is a reissue of two of his books from the 1970s. Petkoff was a legendary guerrilla commander in the 1960s who, like Barreto, transitioned into civilian life during the 1970s.

The book presentation was held in a bookstore in the Chacaito shopping center in Caracas, I went that night with my dad and wrote about the event in a post after getting back to the U.S. a couple weeks later.

Petkoff's small but influential newspaper Tal Cual had excellent opinion and culture sections during the 2000s, and I frequently translated articles into English from there for my blog, in the interest of raising awareness about the crisis in Venezuela.

Two Peruvian Surrealists

Between the years 2007-2010 I spent time researching the poetry of Juan Sánchez Peláez (1922-2003) in Caracas, at times consulting with his widow, my friend Malena Coelho de Sánchez Peláez (1937-2022). My translations of his work are available in Air on the Air: Selected Poems of Juan Sánchez Peláez (Black Square Editions, 2016).

Among the poets I encountered through researching Sánchez Peláez were the Peruvians César Moro (1903-1956) and Emilio Adolfo Westphalen (1911-2001). Moro was the only Latin American writer associated with the Surrealists in Paris (he was kicked out by Breton), and in the 1930s he and Westphalen met and collaborated in Lima.

César Moro, "The Scandalous Life of César Moro"

Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, "Viniste a posarte sobre una hoja de mi cuerpo"

Miguel James (1953)

Probably the most popular translation I've published, this short poem by Trinidad-born poet Miguel James,  "Contra la policía" (2003).

Fernando Paz Castillo (1893-1981)

The poet Fernando Paz Castillo used to accompany his friend José Antonio Ramos Sucre on some of his nighttime insomniac walks through Caracas in the 1920s. Paz Castillo was also one of the first critics to recognize his friend's unusual poetic gifts.

My translation of an essay by Rafael Arráiz Lucca (1959), "Fernando Paz Castillo: Nuestro poeta metafísico" (2015).

My translation of Paz Castillo's, "Poema" (1975).

Víctor Valera Mora (1935-1984)

My translation of this revolutionary poet's iconic 1968 poem "Masseratti 3 litros."

Victoria de Stefano (1940-2023)

One of Venezuela's most important and fascinating novelists. My translation of a 2014 interview with de Stefano

An appreciation from 2019 of Victoria de Stefano by her friend the novelist Ednodio Quintero.

Ednodio Quintero (1947)

Ednodio Quintero is one of Venezuela's most dynamic Venezuelan novelists writing today. I translated this short text by his friend Enrique Vila-Matas (Spain, 1948), from 2017, "Ednodio Quintero, Venezuela." Thank you to Vila-Matas for including a link to this translation on his website.

Ana Teresa Torres (1945)

Ana Teresa Torres is an incredible novelist and essayist, whose work has often reflected on the crisis that has engulfed Venezuela in the 21st century. This is my translation of her 2006 essay, "La voz intelectual se escucha en la escena pública."

Elizabeth Schön (1921-2007)

In 2018, I translated a series of prose poems from Schön's 1972 book, "Casi un país." In the book, she writes about a young woman from a small town discovering the universe of Caracas.

Adriano González León (1931-2008)

Adriano González León was a member of the writers and artists collective El Techo de la Ballena in Caracas during the 1960s. In 1968 he published the novel País portátil, a classic of the Latin American Boom. In the final years of his life he published a column in El Nacional newspaper. 

My translation of his column from 2006 about Caracas, "Una ciudad enloquecida."

Guillermo Sucre (1933-2021)

Sucre is known for his book of essays on Latin American poetry, La máscara, la transparencia: Ensayos sobre poesía hispanonoamericana (1975/2016). He was one of the scholars responsible for the rediscovery of the poetry of José Antonio Ramos Sucre that happened in the 1970s and 1980s in Venezuela.

An essay by Antonio López Ortega (1957) on Sucre's selected poems, "Guillermo Sucre o el país imborrable" (2021).

My English version of Sucre's poem "Toda la mañana ha llovido" (1982).

Rafael Cadenas (1930)

During my research trips to Venezuela between 2007-2011, I was lucky to see Rafael Cadenas at various readings and book presentations in Caracas. His legendary silence and poetry are essential to Venezuelan literature today.

Rafael Arráiz Lucca wrote about Cadenas for El Nacional in 2001, "Rafael Cadenas y la otra voz."

My translation of his 1963 poem "Derrota."

Roberto Bolaño (Chile, 1953-2003)

In 2003, I discovered Bolaño thanks to a friend who told me I had to read Los detectives salvajes (1998) immediately. Bolaño's early critique of Chavismo helped me understand the dangers facing Venezuela today.

My translation of a public statement Roberto Bolaño published in Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper Tal Cual in 2001, in relation to the Rómulo Gallegos Prize:

"I don't have much patience for Neo-Stalinists (or pseudo gangsters or corrupt functionaries)."


Canoabo en la noche / Vicente Gerbasi

Canoabo in the Night

The night invaded me and I was sad

like a shut door. 


Other doors organized

the story of the night

into flower stars

of a new age

of resplendent trees.


I saw faces amidst pure leaves.

I was detained by wonder,

there at the beginning

of other houses with shut doors. 



Canoabo en la noche


Me invadió la noche y estuve triste

como una puerta cerrada.


Otras puertas organizaban

la historia de la noche

en astros de flores

de una edad nueva

con árboles de resplandor.


Vi rostros en medio de hojas puras.

Me detuvo el asombro,

allí donde empiezan

otras casas con puertas cerradas.


Retumba como un sótano del cielo (1977)


{ Vicente Gerbasi, Iniciación en la intemperie: Poesía reunida 1937-1994, Querétaro, México: Calygramma, 2015 }

Translator’s Note:


More of my Gerbasi translations can be read at The Portable Gerbasi: Selected Early and Late Poems of Vicente Gerbasi, New York: Black Square Editions, 2022.


This blog began in the summer of 2003 in Boston, MA, and it closes now in the spring of 2023 in Clearwater, FL.


La noche / Eugenio Montejo

 The Night

The night slowly gathers

in my tree-like body.

I am insomniac, immobile,

as the cold stars of the fog

fall into my hands

with a light that no longer has a homeland.

The silence of these leaves imbues me

with its greenest blood.

Not a single breeze moves a word,

not a single rooster wakes.

I can barely hear the flapping of my thought

there in the shade of its warm nests

every now and then.


La noche

La noche despacio se reúne

en mi cuerpo de árbol.

Estoy insomne, inmóvil,

mientras las frías estrellas de la niebla

caen en mis manos

con una luz que ya no tiene patria.

El silencio de estas hojas me recorre

con su sangre más verde.

Ninguna brisa llega a mover una palabra,

ningún gallo despierta.

Apenas oigo aletear mi pensamiento

allá en la sombra de sus cálidos nidos

de tanto en tanto.

Trópico absoluto (1982)

{ Eugenio Montejo, Obra completa: I Poesía, Valencia, España: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2021 }


Toda la noche / Guillermo Sucre

 All Night

All night the wind has been sounding
through the trees
all night I've loved you
laborious fire I spark the instant
give time a course
you are this moment of your life
burning amidst everyone and belonging to me
change the sun of the season
change your glance
blind gust you shine too
in this dark world sound
in this silent lamp
blinking between your body and my shadow


Toda la noche

Toda la noche ha sonado el viento
entre los árboles
toda la noche te he amado
fuego laborioso prendo el instante
doy curso al tiempo
eres este momento de tu vida
que entre todos arde y me pertenece
cambia el sol de la estación
cambia tu mirada
ráfaga ciega también brillas
en este oscuro sonido del mundo
en esta silenciosa lámpara
que parpadea entre tu cuerpo y mi sombra

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, La segunda versión (Poesía reunida), Madrid: Editorial Pre-Textos, 2019 }


Guillermo Sucre o el país imborrable / Antonio López Ortega

 Guillermo Sucre or the Indelible Country

    (Photo: Roberto Matta)

In today's Venezuela, writers and intellectuals die without receiving any official recognition, even when they've worked as state functionaries. The pain, the sorrow, the exercise of remembering their works, is reserved for their followers, their students, their readers. Waves emerge suddenly, from within an atomized society, to fill the void of lost forms, basic protocols: it is the disconsolate students who lament the loss of a great teacher. We've once again lived through these scenes since last Thursday, July 22, the day of his death. This time it corresponds to Guillermo Sucre, Venezuelan poet, essayist and critic born in 1933, one of the essential figures of what's known as the Generation of 58, that legion of novelists, poets, playwrights and essayists that emerged alongside the recuperation of democracy after the fall of the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

If any career fit Sucre's temperament, being an educator suited him best: teaching, in the context of leaving a legacy, was for him a civic vocation, a tool that guarantees the continuity of the republic. That impulse, moreover, avoided provincialism, and clearly aimed at a universal vision: his word always opted for recognizing in the literatures written in Spanish a great system of exchanges and confluences, that is, a single map on which one reveals peaks, plains and overflowing rivers. The professor, yes, his most public aspect, because as a poet, the most intimate sphere, he said very little, despite being one of our giants of the 20th century. He was so extreme with himself, with his own voice, that he hid his books in peripheral editions (the more austere, the better), under a sort of impulse where the draft was more valuable than the expression itself. Which might explain why it was easier for him to talk about others, the great Latin American poets, rather than himself. The plot he made his own like few did (the choral verb of a continent) was his mirror: always seeing himself through others (the other voices) to erase his own semblance.

A unanimous judgment tends to recognize La máscara, la transparencia (1975) as a unique book, ahead of its time: in its pages the author brandishes, maybe for the first time, the integrated map of 20th century Latin American poetry, as no one had ever seen or conceived it before. I recall during my first reading of the book as an adolescent, I underlined a phrase that more or less said: "It's no longer a matter of making an inventory of being, but rather inventing it." It was a license to throw aside the Adamic vision that follows us, ever since the chroniclers of the West Indies: naming the world according to its flora and fauna. In more recent words, Sucre has spoken about being a subject of history, if not an object. And this is why the gains of subjectivity, above all in poetry, are no small feat: an exercise in emancipation, where verbal freedom becomes all-encompassing. That saying, used by the teacher Sucre to incite new poets, might explain why Venezuelan poetry reaches a peak in generations following his own, because if we're speaking about decisive genres, I doubt there's a better one than what's being written today thanks to Cadenas, Montejo and Sucre, teachers who have left us an indelible legacy.

Antonio López Ortega, Venezuelan writer, has gathered the collected poems of Guillermo Sucre in La segunda versión (Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2019).

{ Antonio López Ortega, El País, 26 July 2021 }


Diarios 2015-2017 (fragmento) / Armando Rojas Guardia

Sitting on the steps by the door to the building where I live, I'm suddenly overwhelmed by a gust of solar light that nearly makes the street levitate: the trees —the mango, the acacia and the palm—, whose branches lean over the faded wall I glance at from here, become miraculously vibrational and translucent, with an aura of majesty, an unusual glory that moves me because it's so sudden and ephemeral: a minute later, the splendor goes back to being the everyday urban landscape. My "attentive perception," as Bergson called it, imposing itself against what he named "habitual or mechanical perception," was able to register, for me and for whoever might read these lines, a sensorial ecstasy wherein cosmic beauty became unforeseeably tangible by the conjunction of benevolence —the ontological kindness of the universe— and chance, "prodigious chance," as Borges defines it. So unexpected and sudden was the grace that unfolded in front of my eyes!

Diaries 2015-2017


Sentado en un pequeño muro que está junto a la puerta del edificio donde vivo, me sobrecoge, de pronto, un golpe de luz solar que casi pone a levitar la calle: los árboles —el mango, la acacia y la palma—, cuyas ramas sobresalen de la pared desteñida que miro desde aquí, se vuelven milagrosamente vibrátiles y translúcidos, aureolados por una majestad, una insólita gloria que me enternece por lo repentina y efímera: un minuto después, el esplendor retorna a ser el paisaje urbano de-todos-los-días. Mi «percepción atenta», como la llamaba Bergson, imponiéndose a lo que él mismo denominaba la «percepción habitual o mecánica» fue capaz de registrar, para mí y para los que lean estas líneas, un éxtasis sensorial dentro del cual la belleza cósmica se me hizo imprevisiblemente tangible por la conjunción del bien —la bondad ontológica del universo— y del azar, el «pródigo azar», como lo adjetiva Borges. ¡Tan inesperada y súbita fue la gracia que se desplegó ante mis ojos!

Diarios 2015-2017

{ Armando Rojas Guardia, El esplendor y la espera: Obra poética 1979-2017, Cuenca, Ecuador: Colección Mundus, 2018 }


Ser / Rafael Cadenas


If you caught a glimpse
why aren't you glowing?
why is your language the same?
why don't your words reach the body?
Ah, it's the old road
stuck to your steps.



Si lo vislumbraste
¿por qué no resplandeces?
¿por qué tu idioma es el mismo?
¿por qué tus palabras no dan en el cuerpo?
Ah, es que el viejo camino
no se desprende de tu paso.

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


La nada vigilante: II / Armando Rojas Guardia



The impossible poem

exhausts me before we even get started.

I spell out its syllables without knowing them,

merely disposed to a diaphanous air

moving in my mouth for no one.

Tentatively reaching myself broken by words,

I let something grow in my ribs

a flowering of muteness

where immobile attention might gleam anew.

The voice is hollow

like a cadavers name

rotting in the center of the page.

But I get used to the panting,

to the scratchy smoothness.

Theres nothing behind thought,

nothing in these metaphors,

just barely the exact vigil

to scan how it flows unreachably

the cactus of the poem.






El poema imposible

me desgasta de antemano.

Deletreo sus sílabas sin saberlas,

dispuesto sólo a un aire diáfano

moviéndose en mi boca para nadie.

Tanteándome roto de palabras,

voy dejando que crezca en mi costado

un florecimiento de mudez

donde rebrille la atención inmóvil.

Está hueca la voz

como un nombre de cádaver

pudriéndose en el centro de la página.

Pero me acostumbro al jadeo,

a la ronca lisura.

Nada hay detrás del pensamiento,

nada en estas metáforas,

apenas la exacta vigilia

para otear cómo brota inalcanzable

el cactus del poema.


{Armando Rojas Guardia, La nada vigilante, Caracas: Fondo Editorial Pequeña Venecia, 1994}


Lluvias / Armando Rojas Guardia (1949-2020)

                           [Armando Rojas Guardia, Caracas, c. 2019. Photo: Marlo Ovalles]


August trembles, porous and tumescent.
The cars splash in the shade.
Each lineal raindrop that gluglugs
is a pinprick on a mythical
zone of the body. The panic returns
of being a virgin like an apamate frond
tempted by the waters. And memory
brings a warm map of perfumes:
my mother, atmospheric, calls me
from the end of my grandparent's hallway
toward the uterus of sleep.
                                           The city,
this immense mirage drawn
by the sonorous window panes in the air
making the neon glow:
                                           on the puddle
of the soul gleaming and burning
an intermittent, red-blue message
like the name of a circus as a child,
where a drenched tightrope walker
forgets how to jump on the cord.



Tiembla agosto, poroso y tumefacto.
Chapotean los autos en la sombra.
Cada gota lineal que gluglutea
es un alfilerazo en una zona
mítica del cuerpo. Vuelve el pánico
a ser virgen como fronda de apamate
tentada por las aguas. Y la memoria
trae un mapa caliente de perfumes:
mi madre, atmosférica, me llama
al fondo del zaguán de los abuelos
hacia el útero del sueño.
                                        La ciudad,
este inmenso espejismo dibujado
por los vidrios sonoros que en el aire
erizan los neones:
                                        sobre el charco
del alma fulge y quema
un anuncio intermitente, rojiazul
como el nombre del circo de la infancia,
donde un empapado equilibrista
ya no sabe saltar sobre la cuerda.

Hacia la noche viva (1989)

{ Armando Rojas Guardia, El esplendor y la espera (Obra poética 1979-2017), Cuenca, Ecuador: Colección Mundus, 2018 }


Textos por fuera / Eleonora Requena

Texts on the Outside

[Eleonora Requena / Esteban Fonseca]

not to wait
increases the speed of the droplets
another farce

each day
facing the screen
one word

without the keys to the door down the hall
from the one walled in by frets and brushwood

I shut up
from you
in the redoubt
as hygienic as
an ache (like a love)
exempt of any drama

“I love tautologies”
“you love what?”

there’s no poetry here, according to them
ideas and desires
run through the house

je sublime
tu sublimes
il sublime

you will never inhabit the place of certainties
you’re outside

as much as they’re aerial and elusive
they are the guide
of a minimal theater

go to the plaza to contemplate the guillotine
they’ve set up on a stage
for the pleasure of the condemned
this afternoon they’ll pass by us
followed by an abominable arrogant

wherever you thought you were safe
it hurts there too

neither clearings nor bellows
determined words
without consent

you should bring your ear closer
to the ear
to the ear

sharpshooters will cut down all messengers

you’ll be safe from the dark swallows here

Conjectural tango:
it’s neither sky nor blue
it’s only writing

Ten Notes on the Margins of a Blank Page

1. Old schemes, new devices
2. It’s about a plot amid two absent people
3. I prefer the periphery to the edges
4. All space abounds here
5. Nothing escapes these four corners
6. Drought is an atmospheric phenomenon
7. ( )
8. Whiskey sips are the alliteration
of what’s unsaid, unwritten, silenced,
previous to a scream?
9. There is no text, nor pretext
10. Yes, none of this makes sense, I know

Eleonora Requena (1968) is a poet. She was recognized with the Premio de la V Bienal Latinoamericana de Poesía José Rafael Pocaterrra (2000). She resides in Argentina. The poems offered here belong to her recently-published book, Textos por fuera (El Taller Blanco Ediciones, Colombia, 2020).



no esperar

es aumentar la velocidad del goteo

otra farsa


cada día

frente a la pantalla

una palabra


sin las llaves de la puerta de al fondo

de aquella tapiada por trastes y brozas


de ti

en el reducto

tan higiénico como

un dolor (como un amor)

exento de drama

– amo las tautologías

– ¿las qué?

– las tautologías

aquí no hay poesía, según han dicho

las ideas y los anhelos

corren por la casa

je sublime

tu sublimes

il sublime

nunca habitarás el lugar de los aciertos

estás fuera

en tanto aéreas y esquivas

son el corifeo

de un teatro mínimo

ve a la plaza a contemplar la guillotina

que a gusto de los condenados

han montado sobre una tarima

esta tarde pasarán a nuestro lado

seguidos de una corte infame


donde te creíste a salvo

también duele

ni escampos ni fuelles

palabras denodadas

sin consentimiento

debes acercar la oreja

a la oreja

a la oreja


francotiradores darán muerte a todos los mensajeros

aquí estarás a salvo de las oscuras golondrinas

Tango conjetural:

ni es cielo ni es azul

sólo es escritura

Diez notas al margen de una página en blanco

1. Viejos ardides, nuevos artilugios
2. Se trata de una trama entre dos ausentes
3. Prefiero la periferia a los bordes
4. Aquí sobra todo el espacio
5. Nada se escapa de estas cuatro esquinas
6. La sequía es un fenómeno atmosférico
7. ( )
8. Los sorbos de whisky son la aliteración
de lo no dicho, no escrito, callado
¿previo a un grito?
9. No hay texto, ni pretexto
10. Sí, no se entiende nada, ya sé

Eleonora Requena (1968) es poeta. Fue reconocida con el Premio de la V Bienal Latinoamericana de Poesía José Rafael Pocaterrra (200). Reside en Argentina. Los poemas aquí ofrecidos pertenecen a su libro recién publicado Textos por fuera (El Taller Blanco Ediciones, Colombia, 2020).

{ Eleonora Requena, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 24 May 2020 }


La pandemia / Armando Rojas Guardia

The Pandemic

The pandemic brings us back, even without our voluntarily intention, to the cosmic sense of existence. The same one I learned how to notice and savor, at age seventeen, while reading Teilhard de Chardin: the vital consciousness of belonging to “that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but that no man has looked upon— the unimaginable universe,” as Borges defines it in “The Aleph,” confessing how he “felt dizzy and wept.” A minuscule microbe, a diminutive virus, present in the air we all breathe and which provokes in us the imminence of contagion, illness and even death, has given us a glimpse of the fear, and also at times the enjoyment, of knowing we are integrated to magnitudes that exist beyond our individual parcels, the private confinement where our mental life develops. In the contemporary West everything revolves around the hypertrophying of individual consciousness. Neither Oedipus, Electra, Orestes or Medea are self-aware characters in the manner that Hamlet is, for example. This is why Hamlet is, along with Quixote, Don Juan and Faust, one of the four great myths of the contemporary West. It’s the hypertrophying of self-awareness that vetoes and impedes direct, spontaneous and elemental contact with the materiality of the universe, that is now shattered by the work and grace of the virus.

Suddenly our self-aware sufficiency trembles in the face of the unexpected, physical graze of a natural order that overwhelms, ignores and threatens us.

The occasion is also propitious for a return to “amor fati,” practiced and lived by the Stoics, in particular Marcus Aurelius. “The love for the city of the universe, native soil, beloved homeland of all souls, beloved for its beauty, in the total integrity of order and need that constitutes its substance, with all the events produced within it.” (Simone Weil) The love for the organic Everything of which we are a part, within which absolutely everything that exists is interlaced in any area or level we might conceive, and including the direction of the events emanating from it: that factual, teleological configuration called “fate”: the set of what happens and what cannot happen: “fate” as the real itself: not just another cause, but the set of them all. This, precisely, is “amor fati,” by which we commune nuptially with cosmic orientation, even when it might lacerate us at times: the Greek dramatists teach us how tragic stature is achieved by making liberty and fate enter into communion, within the very density of our psyche. This vast and palpitating universal All, governed by the mechanics of Necessity, is the object of the explicit enamoring of God. God is enamored of the universe He created, as seen in the testimony of the Book of Job, which is, for G.K. Chesterton, “a sort of psalm or rhapsody of the sense of wonder. The maker of all things is astonished at the things he has Himself made.” The sudden fact that a pandemic, globalized among us like never before, connects us with metaphysical awe constitutes an unforgettable moral lesson from now on and forever.


La pandemia

La pandemia nos devuelve, aun sin nosotros voluntariamente pretenderlo, al sentido cósmico de la existencia. El mismo que aprendí a captar y paladear, a mis diecisiete años de edad, leyendo a Teilhard de Chardin: la conciencia vital de pertenecer a "ese objeto secreto y conjetural, cuyo nombre usurpan los hombres, pero que ningún hombre ha mirado: el inconcebible universo", según lo define, confesando que lo hace "con vértigo y llanto", Jorge Luis Borges en "El Aleph". Un minúsculo microbio, un virus diminuto, presente en el aire que todos respiramos y que provoca en nosotros la inminencia del contagio, la enfermedad e incluso la muerte, nos ha hecho vislumbrar el espanto, y también por momentos el gozo, de sabernos integrados a magnitudes que existen más allá de nuestro parcelamiento individual, del confinamiento privado donde se desarrollaba nuestra vida mental. En el Occidente moderno todo gira en torno a la hipertrofia de la conciencia individual. Ni Edipo, ni Electra, ni Orestes, ni Medea son personajes autoconscientes en la media en que lo es, por ejemplo, Hamlet. Por eso mismo Hamlet es, con el Quijote, Don Juan y Fausto, uno de los cuatro grandes mitos del Occidente moderno. Es esa hipertrofia de la autoconciencia, que nos veta e impide el contacto directo, espontáneo y elemental con la materialidad del universo, lo que ahora salta en pedazos por obra y gracia del virus.

De pronto nuestra suficiencia autoconsciente tiembla ante el roce físico, inesperado, de un orden natural que nos sobrepasa, nos ignora y nos amenaza.

La ocasión es propicia para devolvernos también al "amor fati", practicado y vivido por los estoicos, en especial Marco Aurelio. "El amor por la ciudad del universo, tierra natal, patria bienamada de toda alma, querida por su belleza, en la total integridad del orden y la necesidad que constituyen su sustancia, con todos los acontecimientos que en ella se producen" (Simone Weil). El amor hacia el Todo orgánico del que formamos parte, dentro del cual absolutamente cuanto existe está entrelazado en cualquier área o nivel que podamos concebir, y que incluye la dirección de los sucesos emanados de él: esa configuración fáctica, teleologica, denominada "destino": el conjunto de lo que sucede y que no puede no suceder: el "destino" como lo real mismo: no una causa más, sino el conjunto de todas. Este es precisamente el "amor fati", a través del cual comulgamos nupcialmente con la orientación cósmica, aun cuando ella por instantes nos lacere: los dramaturgos griegos nos enseñan cómo se alcanza la estatura trágica haciendo que entren en comunión, en el espesor mismo de nuestro psiquismo, la libertad y el destino. Este vasto y palpitante Todo universal, gobernado por la mecánica de la Necesidad, es el objeto del enamoramiento explícito de Dios. Dios está enamorado del universo que creó, como lo testimonia el Libro de Job, el cual, para G. K. Chesterton, es "una especie de salmo o rapsodia del sentido del asombro. El hacedor de todas las cosas se muestra sorprendido ante las cosas que él mismo hizo". El hecho súbito de que una pandemia, globalizada en medio de nosotros como nunca antes, nos conecte con ese asombro metafísico constituye una lección moral desde ahora y para siempre inolvidable.

[Translator’s note: I have used the Norman Thomas Di Giovanni translation of Borges.]

{ Armando Rojas Guardia, Facebook, 18 March 2020 }


Ovidio en Cabimbú / Ednodio Quintero

Ovid in Cabimbú

In a distant, ruined and today nearly forgotten country where people said there’d once been a paradise, the poet laureate, famous for his Elegy on the Death of the Last Horse, refused to prostrate himself at the feet of the tyrant, and as expected of the despicable charmer, the distinguished bard was exiled to a gloomy plateau in the western mountain ranges. At first, defeated, he thought he’d never endure such solitude and the intense cold that soaked into his bones. And yet, sooner than later he adapted to the difficulties and penuries of that type of life. Twenty years later, when the tyrant was assassinated in an uprising by one of his henchmen and dragged through the streets like a dog, a committee from the new regime presented itself at the poet’s premises with the purpose of offering him a return home, to the prerogatives of which he had been stripped and all the honors he deserved. The poet refused to receive them because there in that remote place among the rocky peaks, goats and fog he had found, at last, some peace and calm.


Ovidio en Cabimbú

En un lejano, destartalado y hoy casi olvidado país donde se decía que antaño había estado el paraíso, el poeta laureado, famoso por su Elegía a la muerte del último caballo, se negó a prosternarse a los pies del tirano, y como era de esperar del infame marrullero, el insigne vate fue desterrado a un páramo lóbrego en la cordillera occidental. Al principio, abatido, pensaba que no podría soportar semejante soledad y el intenso frío que calaba los huesos. Sin embargo, más temprano que tarde se adaptó a las incomodidades y penurias de aquella forma de vida. Veinte años después, cuando el tirano fue asesinado en una revuelta por uno de sus espalderos y arrastrado por las calles al igual que un perro, una comitiva del nuevo régimen se presentó en los predios del poeta con el propósito de ofrecerle la vuelta a casa, las prerrogativas de las que había sido despojado y todos los honores que se merecía. El poeta se negó a recibirlos pues en aquel apartado lugar entre farallones, cabras y nieblas había encontrado, al fin, sosiego y paz.

{ Ednodio Quintero, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 23 February 2020 }


Confesiones de un papelero estrafalario / Víctor Valera Mora

Confessions of an Eccentric Stationer

                                                  to old Caupo, to Elí and Aquiles

I confess my already famous stubbornness
will allow me to one day
lead the motherland of papers through the desert

I confess my discredit has no limits
that I am disdainful in how I dress
what you might call a fashion disaster

I confess I enjoy spending time
with old indictments and my friends
and songs that soothe the soul
and drinks and matters of the heart
and not hanging onto a tie rack weeping

I confess the novel walks faster than poetry
but doesn’t reach as far
that in my first million years
of posterity I’ll be called
the impeccable gentleman of darkness


Confesiones de un papelero estrafalario

                                                  al viejo Caupo, a Elí y Aquiles

Confieso que mi ya famosa terquedad
ha de permitirme un día
conducir la patria de papeles por un desierto

Confieso que me desprestigio no tiene límites
que soy desdeñoso en el vestir
lo que se dice un desastre de la moda

Confieso que me gusta estar
entre mis viejos alegatos y los amigos
y las canciones que dan en el alma
y los tragos y los asuntos del corazón
y no colgar deshecho en llanto de una viga de corbatas

Confieso que la novela camina más rápido que la poesía
pero no llega tan lejos
que en mi primer millón de años
de posteridad seré llamado
el impecable caballero de las tinieblas

70 poemas stalinistas (1979)

{ Víctor Valera Mora, Obras completas, Caracas: Fondo Editorial Fundarte, 1994 }


Roma /10/1/73 / Víctor Valera Mora

Rome /1/10/73

This cigarette butt
This little bit of ground coffee
This cherry yogurt
These few grains of salt
This fistful
These chamomile flowers
These grains of rice
This ration of semolina pasta
These two fingers of olive oil
This piece of old bread
This chunk of parmesan cheese
That rose in the waters of the Aniene
This bronchial roar
This cold that digs in
This anger that infected me last night
because of the Roman girl’s treachery
These knives


Roma /10/1/73

Esta colilla de cigarrillo
Este poquito de café en polvo
Este yogurt de cerezas
Estos contados granos de sal
Este puñado
Estas flores de manzanilla
Estos granos de arroz
Esta ración de pasta de sémola
Estos dos dedos de aceite de oliva
Este pedazo de pan viejo
Este trocito de queso parmesano
Esa rosa en las aguas del Aniene
Este rugido bronquial
Este frío que cala hondo
Esta arrechera cogida anoche
por culpa de la malinche romana
Estas navajas

70 poemas stalinistas (1979)

{ Víctor Valera Mora, Obras completas, Caracas: Fondo Editorial Fundarte, 1994 }


Navegaciones / Eugenio Montejo


Returning at night
when the trees stand watch
turning off the lamps one by one
and declining shutters darken,
men and their footsteps are clearer,
their reflections more vivid.

Each man is a star, a lived-in cosmos
fixed on the wheel of the fog.
Each one comes back at night
from high navigations
with a dog or a diary.
His greatest distance made of words,
what he says to himself, what’s left
floating in his echoes.

Some in their orbits gather
and shine for an instant
with a denser glow.
Some are visible still
at the end of the street,
but then they disappear.



De regreso en la noche,
cuando los árboles en vela
apagan una a una las lámparas
y declinantes postigos se oscurecen,
son más claros los hombres y sus pasos,
más vivo su reflejo.

Cada hombre es un astro, un cosmos habitado
fijo en la rueda de la niebla.
Cada uno en la noche retorna
de altas navegaciones
con un perro o un diario.
Su mayor lejanía es de palabras,
lo que a solas se dice, lo que queda
flotando entre sus ecos.

Algunos en sus órbitas se juntan
y brillan un instante
con un fulgor más denso.
Algunos son visibles todavía
al final de la calle,
pero después desaparecen.

Algunas palabras (1976)

{ Eugenio Montejo, Antología, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1996 }


Noche natal / Eugenio Montejo

Native Night

Caracas was further away
than anything I’d ever dreamed of in my nothingness,
that’s why it was night when I arrived
and the streets were deserted,
not a single person;
it was so late the floating dispersed
stones never saw me
being born at the foot of the mountain.
The tallest houses seemed,
to my thirst for space,
so much bigger than my mother.
The moon moved slowly
with a candle in its hands.
The trees were talking to themselves
about the war in Spain.
I was cold,
I was tired from the trip...
And as soon as I arrived I fell asleep
so deeply
I’m still not sure I’ve woken up from that night,
because in the distance
I keep hearing its roosters.


Noche natal

Caracas quedaba más lejos
que cuanto yo soñé desde la nada,
por eso al llegar era noche
y las calles estaban desiertas,
sin nadie;
era tan tarde que las piedras
flotando disueltas no me vieron
nacer al pie de la montaña.
Las casas más altas parecían,
para mi sed de espacio,
mucho más grandes que mi madre.
A paso lento iba la luna
con una vela entre las manos.
Los árboles hablaban a solas
de la guerra de España.
Yo tenía frío,
estaba cansado del viaje...
Y apenas llegado me dormí
tan hondamente
que aún no sé si despierto de esa noche,
porque a lo lejos
sigo oyendo sus gallos.

Terredad (1978)

{ Eugenio Montejo, Antología, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1996 }


Si vuelvo alguna vez / Eugenio Montejo

If I Ever Return

If I ever return
it’ll be for the birdsong.
Not for the trees that will depart with me
or eventually visit me in autumn,
nor by the rivers that, underground,
continue to speak to us with their sharpest voices.
If I finally return corporeal or disembodied,
levitating within myself,
though I won’t hear anything from my absence,
I know my voice will be found beside their choruses
and I’ll return, if I’m meant to return, for them;
what was life within me won’t stop being celebrated,
I will inhabit the most innocent of their cantos.


Si vuelvo alguna vez

Si vuelvo alguna vez
será por el canto de los pájaros.
No por los árboles que han de partir conmigo
o irán después a visitarme en el otoño,
ni por los ríos que, bajo tierra,
siguen hablándonos con sus voces más nítidas.
Si al fin regreso corpóreo o incorpóreo,
levitando en mí mismo,
aunque ya nada logre oír desde la ausencia,
sé que mi voz se hallará al lado de sus coros
y volveré, si he de volver, por ellos;
lo que fue vida en mí no cesará de celebrarse,
habitaré el más inocente de sus cantos.

Trópico absoluto (1982)

{ Eugenio Montejo, Antología, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1996 }


Práctica del mundo / Eugenio Montejo

Practice of the World

Write clearly, God doesn’t wear eyeglasses.
Don’t translate your deep music
into numbers and codes.
Words are born through touch.
The sea you watch runs ahead of its waves,
why would you want to reach it?
Listen to it in the chorus of the palms.
What’s visible in the flower, in woman,
rests on the invisible,
what turns in the stars wants to stop.
Prefer your silence and let yourself roll,
the theory of the stone is most practical.
Recount the dream of your life
with the clouds’ slow vowels
that come and go drawing the world
without adding a single line of shade
to its natural mystery.


Práctica del mundo

Escribe claro, Dios no tiene anteojos.
No traduzcas tu música profunda
a números y claves,
las palabras nacen por el tacto.
El mar que ves corre delante de sus olas,
¿para qué has de alcanzarlo?
Escúchalo en el coro de las palmas.
Lo que es visible en la flor, en la mujer,
reposa en lo invisible,
lo que gira en los astros quiere detenerse.
Prefiere tu silencio y déjate rodar,
la teoría de la piedra es más práctica.
Relata el sueño de tu vida
con las lentas vocales de las nubes
que van y vienen dibujando el mundo
sin añadir ni una línea más de sombra
a su misterio natural.

Trópico absoluto (1982)

{ Eugenio Montejo, Antología, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1996 }


A Victoria de Stefano / Ednodio Quintero

To Victoria de Stefano

                                   [Photo: Vasco Szinetar]

Reading Victoria de Stefano is a privilege, an aesthetic experience, a delight for the senses. Ever since I discovered her opera magna, Historias de la marcha a pie (1997), I haven’t stopped frequenting the pages of our writer like a swimmer who heads into deeper waters. And if I had to find a couple adjectives to define Victoria’s writing, density and intensity would work. Her prose, referring to just one aspect of the qualities of a unique, original work that flies high, possesses a frenetic rhythm and an astonishing conceptual wealth, possesses allure, fluidity, linguistic complexities and allows itself to be read with the joy we tend to feel when revisiting classics.

Victoria de Stefano is born in 1940 in Rimini, Italy, and her mother tongue is obviously Italian. Thrown into exile at the end of the war, she lands in Caracas at age six and according to her own testimony she “forgets” her first tongue and acquires the sweet and melodic speech of caraqueños. Ever since she was a girl she writes in Spanish, a “borrowed” language.

In Idea of Prose, Giorgio Agamben, citing Paul Celan when he affirms, “Truth can only be spoken in the mother tongue,” proposes a fascinating topic regarding the acquisition and use of language, particularly in cases of bilingualism. Following Celan, my hypothesis is that Victoria conserves in some place of her memory the sonority and enchantment of her mother tongue, and this in turn flowers joyously for our delight in her writing’s splendor.


A Victoria de Stefano

Leer a Victoria de Stefano es un privilegio, una experiencia estética, un goce de los sentidos. Desde que descubrí su opera magna, Historias de la marcha a pie (1997), no he dejado de frecuentar las páginas de nuestra escritora como un nadador que se adentra en aguas profundas. Pues si hubiera que buscar un adjetivo, o dos, para definir la escritura de Victoria, nos bastaría con densidad e intensidad. Su prosa, para referirnos apenas a un aspecto de las cualidades de una escritura única, original y de alto vuelo, posee un ritmo trepidante y una asombrosa riqueza conceptual, posee hechizo, fluidez, complejidades lingüísticas y se deja leer con la alegría con que solemos revisitar a los clásicos.

Victoria de Stefano nace en 1940 en Rímini, Italia, y su lengua materna es obviamente el italiano. Aventada al exilio luego del final de la guerra, a los seis años recala en Caracas y según su propio testimonio “olvida” su lengua originaria y adquiere el dulce y melodioso hablar de los caraqueños. Desde niña escribe en español, un idioma “prestado”.

En Idea de la prosa, Giorgio Agamben, citando a Paul Celan cuando afirma “Solo en la lengua materna puede decirse la verdad”, plantea un tema fascinante acerca de la adquisición y uso del lenguaje, en particular en los casos de bilingüismo. Siguiendo a Celan, mi hipótesis es que Victoria conserva en algún lugar de su memoria la sonoridad y el encanto de su lengua materna, y esta para nuestro deleite aflora gozosa en el esplendor de su escritura.

{ Ednodio Quintero, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 1 September 2019 }


Venezuela en verso / Javier Rodríguez Marcos

Venezuela in Verse

Venezuela has become a powerhouse of the poetry in Spanish that is relatively well-represented in Spain from a publishing point of view. Joining anthologies such as La poesía del siglo XX en Venezuela (Visor, 2005), selected by Rafael Arráiz Lucca, and Conversación con la intemperie (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2008), under the care of Gustavo Guerrero, we now have Rasgos comunes, a monumental volume that extends from Francisco Lazo Martí, born in 1869 and died in 1909, to Luis Enrique Belmonte, born in 1971. Antonio López Ortega, Miguel Gomes and Gina Saraceni have completed their selection with figures such as Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Vicente Gerbasi, Juan Sánchez Peláez —­honored in the book’s title—, Rafael Cadenas, Guillermo Sucre, Eugenio Montejo, Igor Barreto, Ana Nuño or Alejandro Oliveros. Between the amorous (and dolorous) intimacy of Arvelo Larriva and the Anglo-Saxon tinged narrativity of Oliveros there’s an entire century of poetry with all its seasons: surrealist, metaphysical, popular...

If I had to choose one living name, it would be Yolanda Pantin (Caracas, 1954), who dominates the art of conjugating mystery and realism, irony and emotion, and the author of at least one masterpiece: the book Correo del corazón. Her poetry is collected in País (Pre-Textos, 2014).

{ Javier Rodríguez Marcos, El País, Babelia, 19 July 2019 }


Caracas ha muerto / Alonso Moleiro

Caracas Has Died

Caracas loses its hemodynamics. Its fury decomposes. Its vital signs are flattened. It’s losing its vitamins. Its defenses were extinguished. Its streets are emptying. Its animal and vegetal environment becomes more notorious. It was kidnapped by silence. It’s not as chaotic anymore. Caracas no longer speaks. It’s gone into a coma.

A bitter placidness, with a taste of paradox, dominates the spirit of the streets and avenues of Caracas at this moment. Many weekdays seem like Saturdays. Many businesses have closed their doors. Bands of happy parrots furrow its sky in the afternoons, like an ironic counterpoint. Like its only novelty. Six o’clock traffic has been liquified. You hardly ever hear music. People don’t enjoy themselves. The night is an enigma few want to decipher.

Caracas is past. It reminds us of moments. In its neighborhoods and residential areas, in its bakeries, plazas, clubs, parks and boulevards you can hear, above all, the echo of those who are no longer with us. Of those who left the country and those who left this world. This city became a postcard.

Caracas has died. At night, its inhabitants keep holding a vigil for it.


Caracas ha muerto

Caracas pierde su hemodinamia. Se desconfigura su furia. Se achatan sus signos vitales. Se le van las vitaminas. Se extinguieron sus defensas. Sus calles se vacían. Se hace más notorio su entorno animal y vegetal. La secuestró el silencio. Ya no es tan caótica. Caracas ya no habla. Ha entrado en coma.

Una amarga placidez, con sabor a paradoja, domina en estos momentos, el ánimo de las calles y avenidas de Caracas. Muchos días laborales parecen sábados. Muchos negocios han cerrado sus puertas. Bandadas de loros felices surcan su cielo en tardes, como irónico contrapunto. Como única novedad. El tráfico de las seis de la tarde ha quedado licuado. Es infrecuente escuchar música. Los domingos nacen muertos. La gente no se divierte. La noche es un enigma que pocos quieren descifrar.

Caracas es pasado. Nos recuerda momentos. En sus urbanizaciones, en sus zonas residenciales, en sus panaderías, plazas, clubes, parques y bulevares se escucha, sobre todo, el eco de los que ya no están con nosotros. De los que se fueron del país y de los que se fueron de este mundo. Esta ciudad se volvió una postal.

Caracas ha muerto. De noche, sus habitantes la siguen velando.

{ Alonso Moleiro, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 16 June 2019 }


En la oscurana / Ednodio Quintero

In the Gloom

By candlelight, as if we were devotees of Saint Gaston Bachelard, my beloved Rosbelis and I sit down to share our cold frugal dinner: chopped potatoes, onions and tomatoes, canned sardines and picante sauce from Trujillo (we have no electricity or gas, and we still resist the idea of making a bonfire out of the library panels on the balcony terrace). While we savor our exquisite meal, out there in the immediate shadows that settle over the city, you can hear something like the roar of tin pan drums followed by shouts of cheering and rage that bring to mind so-and-so’s mother. Later on, at the edge of midnight, we read aloud to each other under the covers. I read a few pages from Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob, and Rosbelis reads “The Storyteller” from the book Illuminations by Walter Benjamin. We end up falling asleep knowing the sun will rise tomorrow, and nothing and no one will ever take the light that comes from high up in the sky away from us.


En la oscurana

A la llama de una vela, como si fuéramos devotos de san Gaston Bachelard, mi amada Rosbelis y yo nos sentamos a compartir nuestra frugal cena fría: papas, cebollas y tomates picados, sardina en lata y picante trujillano (carecemos de electricidad y gas, y todavía nos resistimos a la idea de hacer una fogata con las tablas de la biblioteca en la terraza del balcón). Mientras saboreamos nuestro exquisito manjar, allá afuera, en la tiniebla inmediata que se cierne sobre la ciudad, se escucha el resonar como de tambores de hojalata seguido de gritos de júbilo y rabia que le recuerdan la mamá a un fulano de tal. Más tarde, al filo de la medianoche, metidos entre las cobijas intercambiamos lecturas en voz alta. Yo leo unas páginas de Biografías imaginarias de Marcel Schowb, y Rosbelis lee “El narrador” del libro Iluminaciones de Walter Benjamin. Al fin nos quedamos dormidos sabiendo que mañana saldrá el sol, y esa luz que viene del alto cielo nada ni nadie nos la arrebatará.

{ Ednodio Quintero, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 9 June 2019 }


Casi un país (16) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (16)

     Juan has arrived punctually. I like his suit, it’s the color of medlar. He doesn’t say a word to me; but it doesn’t matter.
     We stroll through Plaza Altamira. A green grass, with yellow tones, surrounds the plaza. There are bushes, round pines, benches. The obelisk is a mast, an immense needle. Beyond the avenues, many buildings lift themselves up, with balconies, doors and ferns the breeze moves.
     We sit down on a bench. The pond, placed in the center of the plaza, is wide, long; the sun penetrates there and transforms itself, beneath the water, into a white shell. A small boat, with a yellow chimney, sails slowly, its dark anchors and the metallic rigging. It stumbles into the shore and stays still; around it: water, space, sky too high above, with the stars hidden amid the clouds.
     Juan stands up. He runs to the corner. He chooses a fallen branch and begins to touch it.
     Then he puts something warm into my hands, somewhat scratchy, it’s a nest full of newborn pigeons! I imagine the sun must have been like this when it was born and they placed it above the earth.


Casi un país (16)

     Juan ha llegado puntualmente. Me agrada su traje, tiene el color del níspero. No me dirige la palabra, pero no importa.
     Paseamos por la Plaza de Altamira. Una grama verde, con tonos amarillos, rodea la plaza. Hay arbustos, pinos redondos, bancos. El obelisco es un mástil, una aguja inmensa. Más allá de las avenidas, se encumbran muchos edificios, con balcones, puertas y helechos que la brisa mueve.
     Nos sentamos en un banco. El estanque, colocado en el centro de la plaza, es ancho, largo; el sol penetra allí y se transforma, debajo del agua, en una cáscara blanca. Un barco pequeño, con una chimenea amarilla, navega lentamente, sus anclas oscuras y las jarcias metálicas. Tropieza con la orilla y queda fijo; a su alrededor: agua, espacio, cielo demasiado arriba, con las estrellas ocultas entre las nubes.
     Juan se pone de pie. Corre hacia la esquina. Escoge una rama caída y comienza a tocarla.
     Después coloca en mis manos algo tibio, un tanto carrasposo, ¡es un nido lleno de pichones recién nacidos! Me imagino que así debió ser el sol cuando nació y lo pusieron sobre la tierra.


Translator’s note: The English version this poem was originally published in Typo, issue 18 (2013).

{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }


Casi un país (15) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (15)

     In a doorway a boy is playing with a perinola, its cord is bending with such agility, growing, curving, while the boy is immobile, doesn’t laugh, doesn’t speak, remains alert to the thread that stretches, shrinks, forms a circumference transfused by clarity and untouched by the wind.


Casi un país (15)

     En un portón un niño juega con una perinola, su hilo ágilmente se dobla, se alarga, se curva, mientras el niño inmóvil, no ríe, no habla, permanece alerta al hilo que se estira, se encoge, forma una circunferencia que la claridad traspasa y que el viento no destroza.


{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }


Casi un país (14) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (14)

     Maybe pushed by the wind, by the crowds, I have arrived at 23 de enero.
     23 de enero is one of the most populated places in Caracas, as populated as the bottom of the sea, like the universe with all its stars, asteroids and galaxies.
     Its buildings are immense transatlantic ships that, having anchored at high sea, now wait for their passengers to exit and climb aboard.


Casi un país (14)

     Tal vez empujada por el viento, la multitud, he llegado al 23 de enero.
     El 23 de enero es uno de los lugares más poblados de Caracas, tan poblado como el fondo del mar, como el universo con todos sus astros, asteroides y galaxias.
     Sus edificios son trasatlánticos inmensos que, anclados en alta mar, aguardan la salida y el abordaje de sus pasajeros.


{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }


Casi un país (13) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (13)

     Could I be a descendant of Humboldt, the man who discovered rivers, jungles, mountains, caves?


Casi un país (13)

     ¿Seré descendiente de Humboldt, ese hombre que descubrió ríos, selvas, montañas, cuevas?


{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }


Casi un país (12) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (12)

     A bicycle is a huge seahorse, descending the tunnel. The air has the solidity of a feather. I want to touch that post over there, I run, I feel it. I go on, I’m so happy to feel myself move towards that corner and then the other one and the one I can’t even see! I have no impediments. Impediments disturb, they block any enjoyment of the fresh clean day, so full of sun and breeze.
     I bump into an empanada & snack cart. Several workers are busy on the construction site for a building. Others are delineating the edges of the sidewalk and another group paints the lines marking the curve or the avenue lanes.
     I’m standing in front of the Museo de Bellas Artes, white: a cloud, a seed of the whitest fruit.
     I enter. Its corridors smell like a prairie full of wild grass, the water in its pond has the flavor of refuge. The wind unspools, someone in search of a shelter that will always protect them.


Casi un país (12)

     Una bicicleta es un hipocampo inmenso, que baja por el túnel. El aire tiene la solidez de la pluma. Quiero tocar aquel poste, corro, lo palpo. Sigo, ¡cómo me alegra sentir que voy hacia la esquina y hacia la otra esquina y aun hacia la que no atisbo! No tengo impedimentos. Los impedimentos estorban, impiden que se disfrute del día fresco, limpio, pleno de sol y brisa.
     Tropiezo con un latón de dulces y empanadas. Varios obreros trabajan en la construcción de un edificio. Otros delinean los bordes de las aceras y otros marcan las rayas que indican la curva o el margen libre de las avenidas.
     Estoy frente al Museo de Bellas Artes, blanco: nube, semilla del fruto más blanco.
     Entro. Sus corredores huelen a prado cubierto de hierba, el agua de su estanque tiene el sabor del remanso. El viento se desliza, es alguien en busca del albergue que para siempre lo protegerá.


{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }


Casi un país (11) / Elizabeth Schön

Almost A Country (11)

     I step onto Urdaneta Avenue. The crowd crosses it avidly, promptly, as if wanting to find out where it ends. The blocks are wide. Such tall buildings jut out from both sides, others are short, squares that look like the boxes where they display apples. Some of them possess the slenderness of an ear of corn, all of them have as many holes as fishing nets do.
     I discern spacious plots, with no construction yet. The tower of the Santa Capilla church is sharp, fine, an immense splinter that doesn’t scratch, that doesn’t injure; a guard that never abandons his post. There’s the Central Post Office building, not very tall, robust… a well-fed lamb sleeping peacefully. Everywhere I look I discover different dimensions, but where does my notion of immensity, of largeness, of narrowness, of lowness come from?


Casi un país (11)

     Entro en la avenida Urdaneta. La muchedumbre la recorre con avidez, con prontitud, como queriendo conocer dónde concluye. Las cuadras son anchas. En ambos lados sobresalen edificios muy altos, otros son bajos, cuadrados parecidos a los cajones donde exhiben las manzanas. Algunos poseen la esbeltez de la espiga del maíz, todos tienen tantísimas ventanas como agujeros hay en las redes de pescar.
     Diviso terrenos espaciosos, aún sin edificar. La torre de la iglesia de la Santa Capilla es aguda, fina, una astilla inmensa que no roza, que no hiere; un vigilante que nunca abandona su puesto. Está el edificio del Correo Principal, no muy alto, fornido... un cordero que duerme apaciblemente, bien nutrido. Hacia donde miro descubro dimensiones distintas, pero ¿de dónde me nace la noción de los inmenso, de lo grande, de lo angosto, de lo bajo?


{ Elizabeth Schön, Antología poética, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1998 }