Ya uno sólo tiene derecho a muy pocas cosas / Guillermo Sucre

You barely have any right to anything anymore

You barely have any right to anything anymore
     I know or something lets me know that I can’t speak about happiness

     I abandoned my house and I haven’t gone back
now it’ll be covered in vines and in that patio no fire or hand to light it
one day it’ll be erased by the rains and I won’t be there to pick it up again
     (what makes us leave and how can we leave)

     How could you even mention the word that needs shelter fidelity
to be real
     But I know or think I know that happiness exists right there
where it doesn’t exist
     that keeping the warmth of its absence prepares (if) not its gleam
its limpidness
     This is how I can’t speak about happiness but I can be quiet
in it
     travel its silence the vast memory of not having it

     Happiness I now realize isn’t a topic for a speech
but rather the speech itself
     a speech that always separates itself from its topic or that after
being written discovers
it has to be written again

En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Guillermo Sucre: “El legado de mi generación se llama Rafael Cadenas” / Hugo Prieto

Guillermo Sucre: “My generation’s legacy is named Rafael Cadenas”

                    [Guillermo Sucre, by Roberto Mata]

The living room in Guillermo Sucre’s apartment has a completely living cell. A table, a reading lamp and a small typewriter, on which rests an envelope full of paper. The table is flanked by two bookshelves, full of books. The three-piece sofa against the wall seems like it was left there, temporarily, they day he moved in. One might say everything else is of scarce and fortuitous utility.

It was on that table that Sucre rewrote and expanded his essay about Neruda, at the end of the 90s, which he finally added to La máscara, la transparencia (1976), a book of essays about Latin American poetry that’s been celebrated abroad and is a cult classic in Venezuela, revealing itself for new generations as an accomplishment of brilliant writing.

The scene might be unsettling for an intruder. Not so much because of the solitude that reigns there, but because of what it conceals, the discovery of a writing transformed into spirituality. Sucre has raised his voice when it’s been necessary and unavoidable. Without regards to being condemned to the ostracism or disdain that politics tends to react with when its power diminishes. He’s done so at his own pace and his sense of humor is the best proof he doesn’t regret anything.

Within the postulates of the “Sardio” group, a poetic and intellectual movement whose name came from a magazine, one sees that the commitment of its members was with “intelligence” and not with politics or a particular ideology. What led you to follow that purpose, that quest?
In those days we were, as they say, on the left. I was in the center, of course, a supporter of the Acción Democrática party. Adriano González León, Francisco Pérez Perdomo, Ramón Palomares, who was truly a pure poet, a poet from the Andes, Elisa Lerner, Luis García Morales, Manuel Quintana Castillo. We never thought there could be guerrillas like in Cuba here. The Cuban revolution marked our generation enormously, for good or bad. I was always against it, because I said that “we (the members of Sardio) hadn’t participated in armed resistance against the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Giménez.” All the attempts made by Acción Democrática were ridiculous. I was in prison in Ciudad Bolívar when Pérez Giménez was overthrown on January 23rd, 1958, with Ramón J. Velásquez. So when we left prison, the fundamental thing was democracy. I wrote many of those manifestos, along with Rodolfo Izaguirre, though he was a communist hippie.

The members of Sardio sought “rigor, discipline, lucidity so as to understand the truth of their moment.” Did you really observe those principles?
I wish we’d been more rigorous. But that was more or less how it was. We’d gather in a café that was next to the Municipal Theater, before the Centro Simón Bolívar (the Towers of El Silencio) was built. We had a bookstore that was run by José Meneses that later became Suma (which still exists on Sabana Grande). It was a very important bookstore for us. In the first issue of Sardio I published a very polemical essay about Neruda, who came to Venezuela in 1958, right after the fall of Pérez Jiménez. Neruda was furious. I tell you, he was an odd fellow. For example, he charged a fee for giving a poetry reading in Barquisimeto, and things like that.

You also defended “a collective dimension of art.” That’s unusual, because the artist, when he develops his work, is on his own, completely alone, naked. How’s that?
When the ideological issue doesn’t intrude, but instead a balanced, shall we say, vision of politics, a certain defense of human values appears. It wasn’t called human values, but that’s what it really was. We couldn’t accept how everyone was being arrested. Well, I know there were excesses committed in the second term of Rómulo Betancourt. But it was also in the context of a guerrilla war that fortunately was never able to become very urban. It blew up, right? Remember there was help from Cuba and from the Soviet Union through the Venezuelan communist party.

There was a clear goal of overthrowing Betancourt.
That was the problem. But in 1968, with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the so-called orange revolution of (Alexander) Dubcek, Teodoro Petkoff and Pompeyo Márquez said: “We have to support Czechoslovakia,” while Russia sent tanks and Fidel Castro accepted that, which is where he lost his aura of independence and other things.

The intellectual is seen, indistinctly, as an artist who plays a role “as a guide, a critic or counselor for society.” Politics is avoided, but not completely. Couldn’t we call that a pretty comfortable role?
I don’t agree with that part about counselor, nor guide either.

A critic who doesn’t participate in politics?
For us, there were two important figures in French literature that we began to read in those days, Sartre and Camus. Camus was a critic, democratic, but not Sartre. He believed there could be no historic change without spilling blood. In a certain way, without a certain dictatorship. On one occasion Sartre said they had modified one of his plays in the Soviet Union and yet he said nothing, because he understood that for the Soviet Union that’s how things had to be. But not form him, he belonged to a freer world.

That’s been a characteristic attitude of leftist intellectuals... one has to understand the poet, but in this case, the poet is Stalin or Fidel Castro. But none of those intellectuals ever considered (or would consider) living in Russia or Cuba. What’s that dissociation like?
I met Mario Vargas Llosa in Caracas when he came to receive the Rómulo Gallegos Prize after it was awarded for the first time. That was in 1967. Simón Alberto Consalvi was president of the National Institute for Culture and Fine Arts, we met several times with Vargas Llosa, whose attitude wasn’t very Cuban, although he defended the Cuban revolution. But he also didn’t understand very well why Venezuela didn’t have a similar revolution. And really, at that point the Venezuelan guerrillas were already in decline, of course. Gabriel García Márquez also came on that occasion. Simón Alberto brought Vargas Llosa’s acceptance speech to my house, so I could red it, and I told him: “What’s wrong with this speech?” It’s not like President Raúl Leoni was going to be there, but he said no to that speech. So, García Márquez said to Vargas Llosa: “But why do you have to bring up the Cuban revolution here?” Incredible, right?

Sardio also welcomed the Cuban revolution “as the most vigorous hope for democracy’s rebirth.”
No, I didn’t write that. I got very angry about that text. I told Izaguirre: “Rodolfo, what the hell was that?” That was during the early days of the revolution. That was written by Gonzalo Castellanos, an architect who was a close friend of mine. But when I returned to Venezuela, Gonzalo barely even said hello to me. Same with Cristóbal Palacios. Cristóbal would speak horrors about Betancourt. Salvador Garmendia was also very pro-Cuban, but then Czechoslovakia happened and he saw Teodoro Petkoff’s attitude about it and he began to distance himself as well.

The rupture occurred. Was that influenced by the “Padilla affair,” when the Cuban poet “was put on trial and condemned beforehand by Fidel Castro”?
Of course. That was it. And that was also Sartre’s moment of rupture.

Was it a rupture between you and your friends, with whom you’d been imprisoned? How did you face that in personal terms?
The second time we were jailed, my brother Leopoldo and I, we were nearly in solitary confinement (in 1957). We lived near the Cruz del Sur bookstore (two blocks away from Sabana Grande boulevard), Jesús Sanoja Hernández was in jail with us. He was expelled from the country, wandered around quite a bit, in Paris and many other places. Rafael Cadenas went to Trinidad, which is where he learned English so well and after Marcos Pérez Giménez fell we all saw each other frequently. So there was no rupture.

But Jesús Sanoja Hernández was living clandestine during Betancourt’s government.
Ah! I didn’t see him during those days. Years later, when the first edition of La máscara, la transparencia was published by Monte Ávila Editores, I was never mentioned in El Nacional [because of Guillermo Sucre’s critique of a novel by the newspaper’s founder Miguel Otero Silva], but Jesús took up two pages of the Papel Literario literary supplement to review it, and since he was an old friend of Miguel Otero Silva, well, that was that.

The Venezuelan guerrilla struggle didn’t unleash a schism among poets?
Manuel Caballero, for instance, was against the guerrillas. Of course people drifted apart, there wasn’t the same cordiality and the same capacity to get together. But that wasn’t the case with Rafael Cadenas and Jesús Sanoja Hernández. Remember that during the dictatorship Jesús lived near us, he would always stop by the house and ask about my brothers and about me when I was arrested. The only Christmas card I received in prison was from Rafael. When I returned to Venezuela [in the 1970s], I applied to the Central University. Elías Pino was the Dean of the Humanities Department. Nelson Osorio, whom I had met at the Instituto Pedagógico, taught there. He was tremendously pedantic and, of course, a communist who had a certain amount of influence. Someone told me that in the meeting where my application was discussed, Osorio said: “But Guillermo is the brother of Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, the president of the CVG (Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana).” Oswaldo Barreto became furious and said: “That’s no way to criticize Guillermo, I disagree.” And Michelle Ascencio, who was the director of the School of Letters, supported my candidacy. I had to write Luis Fuenmayor, who was the President. Fuenmayor said: “Of course, Guillermo has every right to enter.” They paid me less than I had earned before, I had been a full professor at Simón Bolívar University and at the Central University I was an associate professor. I earned a miserable salary.

I’d like your opinion about a phrase written by Mariano Picón Salas. This is a direct quotation: “Disillusionment or resignation, or a romantic escape from things. These had been the symptoms of a prolonged defeat during the years of civilian eclipse. That it wasn’t worth struggling to break the hard shell of customs and bad habits, because a mysterious autochtonous inertia ended up prevailing over any impulse toward renovation.”
I remember that perfectly, it’s from a series of seven essays in Páginas de Venezuela.

Isn’t it a very pessimistic vision of the country?
It’s basically referring to the Juan Vicente Gómez era and the previous era under Cipriano Castro. Remember that when Mariano Picón writes Los días de Cipriano Castro, during the dictatorship, that book sold out immediately, because everyone said it was a metaphor of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Then Mariano Picón left the country. There’s a phrase of his, in reference to his trip to Chile, he was on an immigrant ship and in the hold he said: “I always saw my father who was defeated, disillusioned.” And that was because he had encountered economic hardship in the coffee industry in Mérida, since they were land owners. His father, don Pío, died in Chile and through his second marriage there are relatives of Picón Salas in that country. He belonged to a literary group there, but none of its members were as good essayists or historians as Mariano Picón Salas.

Let’s say the phrase offers a clear impression of Venezuelan obscurantism, but from your viewpoint and thinking about times closer to us, does it make any sense to you?
Comprensión de Venezuela is an important book of Mariano Picón’s. He finished writing that book in 1947, after founding the Department of Philosophy and Letters at the University. Rómulo Gallegos had already named him ambassador in Bogotá. Initially, those essays were published as articles in the Revista Nacional de Cultura, which he started. In the early days after the dictatorship, Mariano Picón was the secretary general for the ORVE political party, which included Rómulo Betancourt, but also the communist left and the democratic left. Picón was against certain ORVE initiatives, because he said “that would force Eleazar López Contreras to take radical measures.” He was named ambassador in Czechoslovakia, where he writes “Europa América” and various essays. Of course, he has a very critical vision of what Venezuela was at the time. Picón was about to take up his professorship in Chile, after López Contreras fired him for being a “communist.” There was a polemic between him and Ramón David León, the director of Esfera, who was the one that started accusing him of being a communist. But maybe the phrase had a ring of truth to it, within what would have been the Venezuelan political psyche. He doesn’t use phrases like those of Arturo Uslar Pietry, “we should sow our petroleum.” It’s something quite different.

Speaking of the psyche, there’s another phrase by Picón Salas I’d like you to comment on. “Tragic episodes such as the war to the death or the great emigration of 1814, facing the Spanish advance and reconquest, seem decisive in shaping the Venezuelan soul.”
Well, Mariano Picón effectively warns us that it would be irresponsible of us to not become aware of the damage caused by those episodes. Uslar Pietri would always say to me: “But Sucre, during Gómez’s era there wasn’t a single technician in the petroleum industry.” As if the country’s backwardness were a technical, cultural matter. No. It was also something else. It was this.

What does that phrase mean for a poet? What could it signify?
Well, if you start to look at it, Venezuelan literature hasn’t been very optimistic, right? Mariano Picón has a book called Buscando un camino, I photocopied it from the library at the Central University because there were no available copies. And in it there’s an essay about Nietzsche, dedicated to José Antonio Ramos Sucre. That’s in 1918, it includes an essay about Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva, who was the best poet of her generation, including her brother [Alfredo Arvelo Larriva], who was a supporter of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, and who really did follow the plain path. And Mario Briceño Iragorry, who in those days supported Juan Vicente Gómez. The thing is that Briceño Irragory vindicates himself because he stood up against Pérez Jiménez and really, he was beaten with sticks in Madrid (an attack ordered by the dictator).

In the mid-sixties, you criticize the elites because they weren’t up to the challenges that were facing the country. You refer to those who have the capacity to guide society and make decisions. Could you make that same critique about our current moment?
If you compare the resistance to Chavismo with that against Pérez Jiménez, of course we’ve progressed quite a bit. That’s the truth. One thing is Uslar Pietri, who came back with the same theme of corruption. “Where’d the money go?” That’s how Uslar Pietri would present himself at rallies in wealthier neighborhoods, in El Paraíso. During the 1963 elections, Uslar was elected senator, just like EL Pirujo (Ramón) Escovar Salom, with support from the FNP party, which later formed part of the “wide base” government (1963). But it wasn’t the wide base ORVE had, but rather that of the banker who said he had a castle on Mount Ávila (José Joaquín González Gorrondona). Escovar was the minister of Justice. My brother Leopoldo would say to me: “El Pirujo is good, he knows how make good political analyses.”

It’s true, the resistance isn’t the same, but that doesn’t answer my question. Would you make the same critique of the elites at this moment?
I really do think they’re prepared, if we consider the university (the Central University and the rest of the autonomous universities) where Chavismo hasn’t entered. Those people are prepared. During the days of Pérez Jiménez, of course, people were against him, but no one there spoke up.

A series of articles published in the Mexican magazine Vuelta in the mid-90s (they can be read in the digital archives of the magazine Letras Libres) created a great polemic. I’m quoting directly: “Those who called themselves intellectuals gave up on democratic ideas to join the armed conspiracy, and to even encourage it, without caring very much about the terrible consequences they could bring the country, the chain of coups, the chronic violence, the devastating social turmoil...”
Uslar Pietri, José Vicente Rangel, Juan Liscano, who was a friend of mine, but in the end he joined the conspiracy. Juan Liscano always had an open invitation to see Carlos Andrés Pérez at Miraflores Palace, during his first government. The first president of the CONAC (National Council of Culture), Luis García Morales, told me that Carlos Andrés Pérez would invite him over to dinner on Thursdays and there were Francisco Herrera Luque, who was a type of Chavista of the novel and Rafael Pizano, whose 80th birthday Pérez celebrated at Miraflores. The minister of Interior was my friend from prison, Alejandro Izaguirre, who would also tell me about these gatherings. I remember when I was working at Monte Ávila Editores, Liscano would arrive on Friday mornings and say: “President Pérez says this publishing house is elitist. What does he mean by elitist?” That’s what he’d say.

Violence (more than 20,000 homicides in 2015), social turmoil (looting and lynchings) and institutional coups (in the National Electoral Council, in the Supreme Court).
I saw all that, I had no doubts.

What could be considered your generation’s most important legacy?
I think Rafael Cadenas. Rafael is a magnificent prose writer, he’s written books in defense of language, but also books of essays and his poetry. Perhaps with the exception of his first book. Jesús Rafael Soto made sculptures he called penetrables, but half of that book is impenetrable. For a prize that was named after José Rafael Pocaterra, awarded by the Athenaeum of Valencia, I was asked to be a judge along with Ramón Palomares and Juan Sánchez Peláez. It was unpublished work. I said I couldn’t vote for the other one. I voted for Falsas maniobras, which was Rafael’s second book and from that point onwards the communists began to accept me into their circle again.

What would characterize literary criticism today in Venezuela?
That’s a problem, no just in Venezuela, but all over the Hispanic world and the world in general. Literary criticism, if you look at it, has always been dominated by the big publishing houses. For example, the Goncourt Prize, in France, Gallimard was very influential in that.

That’s not the case in Venezuela, where various publishing houses have disappeared.
What would matter is a bit of sincerity, but not expressed in a primitive way, insulting and sending someone to hell, not like that. And a bit of clarity. Not saying, right away, this is the great work. Eliot said something: “one can speak of an authentic work, but not of an eternal or great work,” because time decides that.

You writing is attained by means of passion, not virtuosity or erudition. Are you an adherent of any utopia?
I think we’re always oscillating between utopia and discontent, disillusionment. But that seems good to me. That we realize that. Because an excess of utopia leads to dictatorship, as we saw in Russia and Cuba. I was friends with Alejo Carpentier. He lived in La Florida, here in Caracas. Of course, I didn’t have a car and Carpentier didn’t drive, but his wife Lilia drove and would come get me on Saturdays, because there was a gathering at their house, we’d eat and have drinks afterwards. Alejo never spoke about politics. But when Castro’s guerrillas took Havana (January 1st, 1959), I remember I went to visit him and Inocente Palacios was there, proposing a champagne toast for the following week and offering to provide the food. A few months later Carpentier went back to Cuba and from there to Paris. Cuba's Communist Party didn’t like Carpentier. The only one who offered him support was Che Guevara. And when the Padilla affair happened, many people said Carpentier kept a low profile so he wouldn’t run into Sartre and his wife, Simone de Beauvoir, on the streets of Paris, because he was so ashamed.

In Mea Cuba, Guillermo Cabrera Infante writes about that anecdote and even claims that Carpentier seemed uncomfortable because he was supporting something he didn’t believe in.
I don’t think it was due to social climbing, because he knew very well he was submitting to a regime. But after men like him enter, it’s very hard for them to get out.

Isn’t that the relation between intellectuals and power?
Yes, of course. There’s some of that.

You’ve included an essay about Neruda in the new edition of La máscara, la transparencia. A great poet who had a dark side. The controversy around Stalin, the matter of freedom and democracy. Has this essay been an act of justice or a deserved acknowledgment of the poet?
I had that essay planned from the very moment I began to write La máscara, la transparencia. But it coincided with Pinochet’s coup and Neruda’s death, a few months later. I thought about publishing the essay, which takes some issue with Neruda, but that would have meant benefiting Pinochet. I decided not to publish it. I continued to edit and expand it. I wrote the final version in 1998. And I included it in this latest edition of La máscara, la transparencia, because I had made a commitment. So, I had always conceived the Neruda essay and I think I enjoyed writing it more that way, slowly, rereading nearly all his work. Except for his final books, which perhaps weren’t works of genius and, worse, used repetitive language.

Neruda held his ground. He never denied his communism, he wasn’t a revisionist.
Because he was very influenced by the French communists, instead of the Italian communists who were more revisionist. And he never thought about dissidents. I don’t think Mandelstam had been translated yet. The poet who reads a poem against Stalin. Stalin calls Pasternak and asks him: “Do you know a poet who gave a reading at which you were present? What do you think of that poet and his poem?” Pasternak didn’t know what to say. He opted for praising the person, not the poem. “I already know your opinion,” he says like a herald of death. The Hispanic world has been very obscurantist in regards to translating the dissidents of communism. I read the memoirs of Mandelstam’s wife in English, when I was living in the United States. And also in French. They weren’t published in Spain until much later.

What do you think of the fact that your book is a reference point for future poets?
The truth is that in Venezuela La máscara, la transparencia hasn’t been discussed very much, except for those two pages Jesús Sanoja Hernández wrote in Papel Literario, not much. It’s been talked about more abroad than here. But La máscara, la transparencia has sold very well in Venezuela, both the Mexican edition published by Fondo de Cultura Económica, as well as the Monte Ávila Editores edition and now the recent one published by El Estilete.

{ Hugo Prieto, Prodavinci, 7 August 2016 }


Nocturno / Fernando Paz Castillo


But these rivers that don’t run beneath the moon,
but these rivers, where do they go?
Immobility of the rivers in deep nights:
ecstasy of mobility.
Soul, you’re like these rivers:
you march immutably towards your fatal end;
a strange will turns you into a mirror,
but the mirror isn’t all clear.

La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)

{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }


Lo eterno / Fernando Paz Castillo

The Eternal

A leaf in the night,
neighboring a pale star,
almost became a star itself
and at dawn
it became all light with sun and rain.
Leaf, I feel the absent star in you
in the blaze of your water droplets.

La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)

{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }


Sorpresa / Fernando Paz Castillo


There’s a perfume
you can only sense on clear nights
Could it be a flower we haven’t seen?

La voz de los cuatro vientos (1931)

{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }


Confianza / Fernando Paz Castillo


Above the shadow
of my shadow I watch
life go by quietly.
It persists,
while everything flees,
and it’s memory
that lives in the soul...
Like a night
that can’t find asylum,
as it forgot the way
to the lighthouse;
like an absence
that was lost
because there’s no one
who might fear for it.
Like a whisper that doubled its daydream
before dawn
crowned a song.
That’s why it always guards me
beside life as it goes by.

Persistencias (1975)

{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }


Raíz / Fernando Paz Castillo



loves the flower,
so beautiful;
but few remember
how hard
the deep root
works to find life.


How it struggles,
in the tough shade,
to find the trail
to water,
and also
make its sap,
out of hostile


loves the flower,
proud and indifferent,
full of beauty,
always young
in its essence,
regardless of time
even though it’s powerless
against the symbol.


loves the flower:
but few remember
facing the colors’ suggestion
—rough or sweet beneath the sun—
the dark,
furtive and daily,
anxiety of the deep root.

Persistencias (1975)

{ Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986 }


Reviví caminos en minutos / Jesús Montoya

I Relived the Roads in Minutes

I relived the roads in minutes, bags of trash, eyes, hands. I relived damp roads, empty, imperiously empty. I relived the roads where youth was a glance and nothing more. I relived the roads and sang my undernourished will in silence. I relived roads and felt the accident, the bus, the week’s broken money, I felt the crowd churning, spitting my reflection, I felt the absence of those who loved me and I relived more roads without calling attention to myself, pointing at the sun with a flower, with a hand caressing my shout. Long live the street, the night, the poem, the eternal curse.

{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }


Imagino el futuro desde las calles / Jesús Montoya

I Imagine the Future from the Streets

I imagine the future from the streets
cold and hideous like beautiful years
coming to find me on tiptoes,
years kept at sea,
years of foam,
years in the shape a wave
that cross the streets
where I suddenly need
to write and write until I break;
because I always want to write when I can’t,
because the poems open up
like scars on my hands
when I think I’m a filthy
seer who walks like a blind man
without realizing he can’t even see,
because I always seem to be standing on the heights
and I never remember my falls,
because I know my past and its own distance
and I still love it.
I imagine the future,
I imagine its brevity on my skin,
a caress,
a melody hidden in the breeze.
I imagine the future
and I despise it.
I imagine the future
and I only imagine it,
so I won’t have to remember it.

{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }


Escriba, escriba / Jesús Montoya

Write, Write

Write, write,
write and don’t be nervous, don’t get hung up,
without any hands.
Write from memory against the morning light,
write about the afternoon at night,
night is the mother of poetry,
of eyes.
Write where the moon would be in your poem.
Write the years and the shades that insist on bending
like smoke on the corners.
Write against sleep from sleep;
write a girl a kiss and a hug for your
Write because the mountains are also
falling from your eyes.
Write desperately,
write calmly,
Get moving with your legs.
Sit down and go and find yourself and tell me why
you still believe life ends where this poem begins.

{ Jesús Montoya, Las noches de mis años, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2016 }


Adversario / Rafael Cadenas


You live
with simple fruition
though gripped
by your counterbeing.


Guided by Lao-Tze you
run errands to find
the route you haven’t lost.


Oblivion steps aside,
implants quietude,
corrects posture.

We see each other differently,
as space.

{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }


Te has dejado llevar / Rafael Cadenas

You’ve Let Yourself Drift

You’ve let yourself drift.
Maybe another path
waited for you in vain.

You’re a smiling

{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }


En una escuela / Rafael Cadenas

At A School

The children’s hands
joined in celebrating poetry
formed a flower I brought home with me.


Are you present in this moment?
We let go, but the knots cling
to our neck though we suspend
time, god of fright.


José Balza tells me from the heart
of the West, in a patio in Salamanca:
the trip should be pleasant.

{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }


Un viejo samurai / Rafael Cadenas

An Old Samurai

An old samurai
laments having dedicated
himself to war, instead of living.

{ Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho y otros asuntos, Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2016 }


The Night: Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s Homage to Venezuelan Poet Darío Lancini

                    [Photo: Luisa Fontiveros]

In The Night, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón has one of his characters speak the following phrase many people might easily identify with: “The same thing happens with writers: they offer us a phrase or an image that can eventually change our lives, and when we return from the revelation and want to find its source, it turns out they’ve been dead for many years, like how they say happens with extinct stars and the trail of their brightness.”

When he hears this phrase, the writer evokes the two times he spoke with Darío Lancini. One was at the Chacao Cultural Center and the other was at the El Buscón bookstore. “When I would remember those encounters, they increased my fascination while I was writing the novel. For me he was already a master, but I didn’t really know everything he had done during his life. So when I wrote this type of fictional biography, I was surprised that I hadn’t quite realized who I was so lucky to be talking with.”

As a writer, Blanco Calderón lamented the fleetingness of those encounters with the poet, that weren’t enough to satisfy his interest in a character he kept exploring further and further in his story, where he rescues him and even pays homage to him. “I had been fascinated for a long time with his book Oír a Darío and his palindromes. I began to formally write the novel the day after he died in 2010. Something sparked in me, it was automatic. Intuitively I always thought his life would make a great novel. While I was researching, I realized I was right.”

The novel by Blanco Calderón, born in 1981, is set in various types of chaos, Caracas today, with its routines, darkness and fears, where Darío lived, and where two characters from Blanco Calderón's short stories also live: the former literary promise Pedro Álamo and the forensic psychiatrist Miguel Ardiles.

What’s the reason for the repercussions and interest that have emerged for your novel?

I can mention what I’ve been told and what I’ve read. Obviously, there’s a political interest regarding the situation in Venezuela. A circumstance like the electricity blackouts is incomprehensible in various European countries. It’s sad, but there’s a certain exoticism about our backwardness. Beyond that first reason which is the context, there are also those qualities that aren’t up to me to talk about. I’ve been told that some people are fascinated by Darío’s life. Most of them didn’t know he existed. They searched some of the book’s events on the Internet and were amazed to discover he actually existed, which has also been the case for those readers who’ve looked up the Edmundo Chirinos case.

Could you talk about that encounter between the characters Pedro Álamo and Miguel Ardiles?

Miguel Ardiles appears in my first book of short stories, there’s a continuity. The same with Pedro Álamo, the main character in the short story “El biombo” from Los invencibles (2007). It’s been interesting to see their paths cross. For me the figure of the psychiatrist is the contemporary substitute for what could have been, up to the 19th century, the priest, an authority who receives the confluence of people’s confessions, secrets and trauma. Now, regarding the failed writer, I’m attracted to those types of characters. Both of them have narrative potential.

Some critics classify The Night as a gothic novel. Do you agree?

That’s a classification one of the characters in the novel makes, that he wants to write what he calls gothic realism. A lot of times people are repeating what the character says. If you go beyond the first chapter you realize it’s not quite so, that it’s part of an unfinished project. The Night flirts with being a gothic novel, even a detective novel, but it can’t be classified as either of those. They’re genres with a structure I don’t adhere to.

I noticed that in your acknowledgements you clarify that, despite consulting sources, this is a work of fiction. Weren’t you tempted to let the doubt remain?

That clarification is a symptom of the place where I wrote: Caracas, the capital of a lawless country. Despite being fiction, I reproduce some stories that might certain sensibilities. Also, you never know what someone might use to attack you. Fortunately —or maybe unfortunately— for writers, Chavismo is an illiterate dictatorship. Regardless, I felt the need to safeguard my work.

You’re a short story writer who decided to extend into the novel. At any time did it feel like an uphill battle and did you consider abandoning it?
I never considered abandoning it, but there was a difficult moment. When it came time to write the second part of the novel, Darío Lancini’s life, I thought I had enough with what I had researched up until then, especially in terms of written references. When I began to record testimonies about him I realized what a complex and interesting life he led. I had to do journalistic work, to put it another way, about a person who didn’t leave many traces, someone who was closed and who distanced himself from the literary world.

If you were traveling to Venezuela and they found a copy of your novel in the suitcase at immigration, what would you tell the functionary who asks what it’s about?
I would use labels. I’d say it’s about vampires and wolves, that it has nothing to do with Venezuela.

What do you hope will happen to the reader who finishes The Night?
One hopes that when they reach the last page, that punch you’ve prepared is effective and, as Julio Cortázar would say, knocks them out. And once this happens, the reader goes back to the first page and starts to read again. Of course, these are fantasies that go beyond our capacity for reading, with so many things to read and so little time.

You’re in Paris now. How does one’s perception of Venezuela change when you’re abroad?
Everything becomes sharper. You feel what’s happening with more anguish, you realize the backwardness this government has plunged the country into, especially when you’re amazed at having quality of life. There’s also the anxiety of being far away and not being able to help. My family and my wife are still in Venezuela. But certain cycles have to happen so we can move forward.

Will you return to Venezuela?
My stay here is tied to a doctoral dissertation. I’d love to live in Venezuela again, but I’m still not at the point where I can ask myself if that’ll happen or not. I hope to.

The Night was published by Alfaguara in Spain, by Gallimard in France and recently by Madera Fina in Venezuela. Two weeks ago it received the Rive Gauche Prize, established in 2011 by the writer and critic Laurence Biava for the purpose of recognizing one French novel, one novel translated into French and a literary journal. The author is currently writing a dissertation at University of Paris 13 about the work of novelist Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez and Venezuelan immigration to Spain.

{ Humberto Sánchez Amaya, El Nacional, 11 July 2016 }


Salvoconducto: I / Adalber Salas Hernández

Safe Passage: I

Caracas, those about to die don’t salute you.

They have no more hands to lift,
they’ve been cut off, they’ve been torn off
by the dogs walking on two legs at night
or they lost them in some sordid wager
cruel as your name.

And they don’t kneel either, those about
to die, this metallic trembling that
cuts through their backs doesn’t let them,
threading their vertebrae, twisting
their gait. A trembling that seems like it’s
brought from the world’s first cold.

They breathe your smoke, your molasses grass
and decomposed meat and burning
lead beneath the sun, that fills
your bronchioles, overwhelms your palate. Ungrateful
smell of garbage trucks and remorseful tar,
Caracas, all these dry mouths are yours.

We leave you childhood hardened
on a few streets, by the taste of bread,
in the first robbery, the first sunrise
hollowed out by gunshots and rain. It’s all yours,
this breath we own, we’re taking it. Those about
to die watch you like undomesticated
beasts and smile at you, toothless.

We don’t salute you, though we live
in your sand, in the dust that made us
now blending into our skin.
We’ve already sifted through your tired, dirty bones,
pruned by blindness. We know you, Caracas.
Each morning, the stone of your laughter
explodes against our forehead. We know your gestures
like a carnivorous mother, we’ve seen
where you bite your own tail.

We don’t salute you and no one even blinks.
No one notices the accumulated rust in
our voices, no one sees in our faces
how we’ve already understood, that regardless
the prose of our days will be abrupt
like your alleys
and the hour of our disappearance
will have the pity of your stray bullets.

{ Adalber Salas Hernández, Salvoconducto, Valencia, España: Pre-Textos, 2015 }


Venezuelan novelist Rodrigo Blanco Calderón Wins Prix Rive Gauche 2016 for The Night

                    [Photo: Javier Oliaga]

On June 30th, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s vision of an out of synch and neurotic Caracas was awarded the 2016 Rive Gauch Prize in Paris. This literary prize founded by Laurence Biava in 2011 has only been awarded to four international writers: Jeffrey Eugenides (USA) in 2013, Edward St Aubyn (England) in 2014, Gary Shteyngart (Russia/USA) in 2015 and, this year, the recipient was the Venezuelan Rodrigo Blanco Calderón.

This is the fourth Venezuelan book to receive a prize this year: Rafael Cadenas was awarded the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize in Spain, Yolanda Pantin received the 2015 Poetas del Mundo Latino Víctor Sandoval Prize in Mexico and Alberto Barrera Tyszka took home the XI Tusquets Prize for Fiction in Spain.

“At first it was a long, unexpected blackout that lasted five hours. Caracas seemed like an anthill that had been uncorked. Beyond the cancelled appointments, the checks that weren’t cashed, the rotting food and the collapse of the subway, Miguel Ardiles actually remembers that day with an almost paternal fondness: the city experienced the stupor of being a cave and a labyrinth.”

These are the opening sentences of The Night, Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s first novel published earlier this year in three editions around the world: with the small independent press Madera Fina in Venezuela, Alfaguara in Spain and Gallimard in France.

Previously recognized for his short story collections Las rayas (2011), Los invencibles (2007) and Una larga fila de hombres (2005), he’s now a prize-winning novelist.

You can read the first chapter of The Night (in Spanish), at Prodavinci.

{ Orianna Camejo, Efecto Cocuyo, 30 June 2016 }


Owner of a Lonely Heart / Ednodio Quintero

Owner of a Lonely Heart
—a song by Yes—

They jumped me on the corner, and before I could react they were already taking me away, almost dragging me by the armpits. The attackers were two strong individuals, armed to the teeth, dark sunglasses, keepers of the law. We climbed the steps to the Palace of Justice, an iron mass of concrete and mirrored windows, ninety stories high, the tallest building in the city. I knew there wouldn’t be a trial nor any right to defense: they’d execute me with a shot to the head, in an airless room. A clamoring multitude was waiting in the reception room, they were celebrating a carnavalesque ritual and fighting over the belongings of a beggar who thought he was a king. I took a chance during a moment of confusion and escaped. I got into an express elevator that was heading to the top floor, ninety seconds is all it took. I ran towards the terrace, from where I could see the cursed city from a steep height. I was the owner of a lonely, frozen heart, my heart. I took a running start and threw myself into the void, heading south. I’ve always dreamed I was a falcon.

{ Ednodio Quintero, Combates, Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2009 }


Muros / Guillermo Sucre


The stone perpetuates its own solitude
Constructs a vision
These walls don’t limit the sky
They concentrate it
The wind doesn’t blow in the backyard
Where I stop
A sun overwhelms me in its gleam
A crevice an armed salamander
Forgotten goddess restoring me in wounded fire
Something isolates me from the world
Blind I see myself with the eyes
That tomorrow will be a memory
Bird wandering in the unique foliage
Where its music is more limpid
The house is the labyrinth and I know a wooden plank
Encompasses it at night with stealth
This is where space begins
Another secret is spaced
I don’t name the fig tree
I’m talking about this thin, eroded
Line of light
That separates me from what separates me
I’m in an unknown city
Between higher walls
Ivy devoured by rust
Nothing belongs to me
And everything belongs to me
I move through the dead leaves that autumn governs
I’m just passing through
One step from what awaits me
From one city to another
Grey walls frozen gusts
Wine and the face I suddenly discover
An abandoned
Topaz stone
Caryatid with a single candescent glance
Everything there is of me in its
Bold nakedness

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Marginal / Guillermo Sucre


I am this land I name
These environs this fire where a glance agitates
I tend to divide days months years
In a brief pause from my life
If I live I also belong to that torrent of debris
Marginal wall
A vine has to persist when it returns
Burning lime or stone or cracks
That hard muted light moves me

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Tres historias perdidas / Rubi Guerra

Three Lost Stories

On the Barque

     We row along the river’s slow current. Standing on the flat bottom of the boat we pushed ourselves along with poles made slippery by the sweat and humidity. My two companions leave the last of their energy in the struggle against the viscous and absorbent riverbed. A yellow sky, unprotected by clouds, hangs over our heads like a threat. A tenuous cloud of vapor rises from the surface of the water. Shadows move amidst the palm trees on the far shore, we don’t know if they belong to animals or to the inhabitants of the devastated region.
     A wide estuary opens to our efforts. The waters of the river seem to spin around themselves, they form whirlpools of unhealthy colors, as though they couldn’t find an escape toward an impossible sea. The heat becomes less crippling.
     We advance toward a line of big mansions with wooden doors. As we drawn near, we notice that the iridescent water reaches the lowest windows. The fire has consumed the rooftops, the doors have fallen off the hinges and there are gunpowder and blood stains on the walls. We direct the boat toward one of them, more elevated than the rest, protected from the waters by a marble staircase.
     We agree to spend the night there. Hunger torments us. Even in that condition we manage to sleep, aided by exhaustion and the will to annul the world.
     I wake up with the first light of the sun. I shake my companions and we’re soon on our feet, ready to continue our journey, to reach the sea, to move as far away as possible and forget this region that’s been forgotten by the gods. The golden reflections of the newborn sun on the water and the facades of the mansions make the horror of the destruction disappear for an instant and allow a fugitive beauty to prevail.
     We search amid the underbrush and palm trees for the way out of the estuary. Slow spirals disorient us, but we eventually find it, hidden between scrubs and fallen trunks. The jungle surrounds us once again and accompanies us for hours.
     After unprecedented efforts one of my companions manages to catch a large fish. Three little horns stand out on its head. We gut it and lay its meat to dry on the planks of the boat. Hours later we devour it, sating the hunger that threatens to bring us down.
     Long stretches of jungle have disappeared, consumed by the fires. From the dead and blackened earth rises the smoke of the charred trees and animals. Further ahead, standing in the mud of the shore that stains her dress, a woman makes signs at us. We manage to drawn near and she climbs onto the boat. She stretches out on the floor with her eyes closed, her hands over her mouth in a gesture of stopping some words that she will never pronounce. We look at her and then back at each other; she’s a beautiful young woman despite her pale face that seems to announce death. I touch her on the shoulder; I offer her the remnants of the raw fish.
     At night we’re stunned by the icy glimmer of the stars. The constellations spin while we take turns rowing.
     The presence of the woman, who remains apart and silent, has made my companions stern and between them they’re plotting some type of violence. I decide to keep one step ahead of their designs: I wait for my turn in charge of the vessel; when I see them sleeping I toss the one closest to me into the thick water, where he sinks without even screaming. I hit the other one behind his ear with the pole. He tries to stand up; blood runs down his neck. I unleash a second, terrible blow to his skull. The sound of broken bones wakes up the woman, who begins to shriek as though she were crazy. The whiteness of her thighs awakens my drowsy senses.


The Tavern

     The two men —one old and the other young— arrive at the tavern. Like many other travelers in this corner of the country, they seem like they’re running from something, this is what the tavern keeper thinks. The majority of them come from the south and are heading north, toward the ports. The desert is in the east. The tavern is the last human establishment before the sands and the yellow stones that no one has crossed in centuries. The cities of the west, it is said, are cursed and have vanished from the memories of men.
     The old man and the young man get drunk every day with the liquor that is distilled in town. Some people affirm this drink brings on hallucinations.
     One night the tavern keeper stays at the table with them. There’s no one else around and he’s bored, so he’s willing to listen to a story. The youngest of the travelers affirms that the old man has been to one of the lost cities. The tavern keeper laughs. He’s already heard too many similar stories. “This one’s true,” the young man affirms. After a painful trip in which his companions and the animals for transporting their goods died, the old man —who wasn’t old at the time— arrived at a city of iron doors and stone walls. The doors were rusted and open, the temples had been decayed by time and by the grains of sand dragged along by the wind. In one building he came across a fountain from which a cold and crystalline water was bubbling. During the day he would explore buildings in which no utensil was left, no tool, no tapestry or jewel, not even a pottery fragment, as though its inhabitants had left taking everything with them, or as if thieves had visited the place for a thousand years taking even the slightest vestige. At night, he was visited by the specters of the city’s inhabitants, who came before him to voice their complaints as though he were a magistrate from the beyond. The translucent apparitions had terrible, sad faces.
     The tavern-keeper smiles reluctantly. Another absurd story.
     Just before dawn he wakes up and gets out of bed with careful movements. He’s been married for forty years and he’s still careful not to wake her when it’s still early. He goes outside. In the sky, the stars fade one by one. A cold and fast breeze coming from the desert shakes his wool clothing. He contemplates the infinite amplitude that extends before his sight as though it were an extinct planet. He too dreamed of one day crossing the great sands and conquering a forgotten kingdom.
     He puts on his clothing and blows on his hands before heading out to the corral to feed the chickens.
     His insipid days anticipate the indifferent sleep of eternity.


The Campaign

     We initiated the war to avenge the affront perpetrated against one of our women and to wash her husband’s honor. For forty five days we laid siege to our enemies’ city; we devastated their fields and took control of their flocks. At night, we would light giant bonfires that we nourished with animal grease to honor our God and to torment the starving defenders with its aroma. One morning the doors gave way to the push of the timbers. We penetrated like a man who claims his rights from a frigid woman, with blood and violence. First the defenders of the walls fell, then the priests who approached to negotiate; then came the men capable of picking up any weapon or tool; after that the elderly, the women and children, some of them disemboweled, cut in half, others slain quickly. Finally, we slaughtered all the animals remaining inside the walls. The blood mixed with the earth formed a thick, hot mud that stuck to our sandals.
     Our victory was not complete. Four hundred enemy soldiers had managed to escape through a secret door that led to a narrow mountain pass where they had hidden. Exalted by fervor and fury, we pursued them through the stone gorges until they were cornered. Then, our general, wise and prudent, spoke from his war chariot:
     “Brave warriors, God has favored us with his blessing; it has been a glorious day, but now the massacre must cease. Those who await death between the stone and the edges of our swords are brothers to us. It is true that they have offended us, but we worship the same God and speak the same language, their hearts beat like our own. We cannot allow their seed to be extinguished.”
     We made vows of peace. We gave them wine and food.
     We initiated a new campaign. Our army went to a neighboring city. We laid siege to it, broke its defenses, killed the soldiers and gathered the survivors in the plaza. Our general spoke once more:
     “Every man and woman who has had the experience of sleeping with a man should be irrevocably destroyed.”
     Then we took four hundred of their virgins and handed them over to our brothers. We slit the throats of all the rest.

Translator’s note: These texts are included as an appendix to Rubi Guerra’s novel, La tarea del testigo [The Task of the Witness], about the final days of the Venezuelan poet José Antonio Ramos Sucre (Cumaná, Venezuela, 9 June 1890 - Geneva, Switzerland, 13 June 1930).

Image of José Antonio Ramos Sucre in the mural “Letras y Tiempos” by Francisco Maduro Inciarte at the Liceo Andrés Bello school in Caracas. Photo taken in 2010.

{ Rubi Guerra, La tarea del testigo, Caracas: Lugar Común, 2012 / Fondo Editorial El perro y la rana, 2007 }


Al sur / Guillermo Sucre

To the South

If a certain gleam awaits me
I see the Southern constellations
A sky my eyes have covered a thousand times
Mirror of pride or terror
Murmuring faces in the shadows
Burnt stars
Some I no longer recognize
A long absence a sacred glance
Sonorous doubtful light
I go and see death shine
With a blind hand I close his eyes
His name was Juan
Sunny silex syllable
Subdued rivers thick frontiers
The earth was vaster for him than his dreams
He left the body his hands touched without sullying
The transparent elegy of sex
Solitude and passion
A more arduous flight and inhospitable air
Mother memorable madrepores
Ardent loyalty
I was allowed to know his radiant purity
I’m not bound to lament
I enter the prairie of my childhood
Which also belonged to your silence
Its glance dawns like a bird over the river
Promise of sun
Pollen I now disperse
Nothing is seen for the last time
Her eyes keep passing through my life
I see what I didn’t see yesterday
Burning streets walls that time doesn’t smooth
Though it calms us
City purified by stones
The waters bathe in nostalgia
The great rains are a house
In the lightning glow
Those elements were my only wisdom

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


En los caminos del abismo (III) / Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

On the Paths to the Abyss (III)

                              [Von fragile, ASV]

                                  Save yourself
                                  on that trail
                                  Yolanda Pantin, País

                                  maybe we don’t exist anymore,
                                  but we can’t realize it yet
                                  Luis Gerardo Mármol Bosch, Purgatorio

“To begin, we’re all out.”

“The fatherland.”

“Are they conspiring?”

“For all eternity.”

“What’s up with that cough?”

“Well, the body.”


“Hungover, way down low.”

“You leaving?”

“Yeah, to the altars.”

“With who?”

“With the avengers.”

“Are there that many of them?”

“They all live in my system.”

“Oh, really?”

“Since the Republic was born.”

“Something happened with the midwife.”

“Poor thing. Even the heroes weren’t buried. It’s just that you can still hear a lot of screams and bellowing way off in the bushes, especially when the rain passes and the roots are stirred up. But we believe, we believe. We cling to it.”

“Do they hear you?”

“When I pray. They sound, appear by the dozens.”

“They speak from a blurry, opaque spot you can hardly tune into.”

“I’m the only one who can feel them, understand?”

“Invite me to breakfast.”

“I said no.”

“Are you accustomed to servitude already?”

“It becomes beautiful when it’s voluntary.”

“Is that so?”

“These are historic efforts.”

“What a shame.”

“It’s my life, my struggle.”

“Our death, everyone’s, doesn’t this implicate you?”

“You all rush too much.”

“It smells really bad.”

“It gives so much.”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“I lost the pain. I lost my voice three years ago.”

“Now I just drag myself along the roads. Many of us live like this.”

“It’s better not to see, better to pretend nothing’s happening, better to leave.”

“Your boss has given you a certain metaphysics.”

“I’m indebted to him even for that.”

“And you can’t go backwards?”

“Can I?”

“Frankly, no.”

“Do you have for your ticket?”

“I’m clean.”

“The roads are poisoned.”

“There are specters.”

“Places you can’t see.”

“They’re burning. Even the ones furthest away they’re burning.”

“And you?”


“Not even a blink?”

“I forgot about you, soul.”

“You’re so fried.”

{ Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 1 June 2016 }


La segunda versión / Guillermo Sucre

The Second Version

I myself didn’t even know what dark allegory
I was seeking. I wrote a poem and named it
“the secret plot,” as if I were naming
an enigmatic —I supposed it was more
elusive and infinite— plot. All I did
was naïvely spin the story
and its tautologies. Any life,
we know, is only its nakedness, that
slow plundering of time. How could I
overwhelm you, earth, with naive
pretensions. I just wanted to return
to your inclemency.

                       Always, I wrote,
the tree of the storm will unleash itself
over the River; in the mornings
the City will always flower beneath
young light, and in the eyes of a child
the vigil always and the purification

                Life flows and changes,
but not everything that changes flows
with life. Preserve, earth, these
images, write with them what has
loved you. They are also epitaphs.

January, 1989

La segunda versión (1994)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


La vida, aún / Guillermo Sucre

Life, Still

Where’d the happiness of living go?
The unscrupulous slowness in conversation
and the clear glance of pride,
the glimmer of character and fate,
the hand that knew how to prohibit and consecrate,
the bodies that thanked the soul
and agile like vines wrapped
in nights of pleasure and also
pain; everything that was ceremony,
frugal or generous celebration, where is it
now, under what tinsel
and hate and opprobrium is it lying? Are there beings
who still live in the climate’s friendship,
breathe the earth’s vapor
at sunrise, who bathe in the sea
like a purification? Is beauty
still beautiful, does her face light up
on ill-fated days and do we love it
with patience?

                 Or have we only been
rancorous blood, patient only
for malice and insults?
Did we ever really know passion,
the suffering of its long wound?
Or was there only enough soul
for astuteness, threatened
honor, devoted vanity? Were we
once fair without enduring
mockery? And meanwhile there
was the desperate ridicule
amidst the misery, and did we have
no pity, no reverence? And meanwhile,
because of everything it takes to be
a man, were we merely Venezuelan

                 Or was life simply
fallacious, and venal. The only one who didn’t know
how to be austere, she didn’t retire on time,
she didn’t even have time to get
life insurance. A prostitute
for everyone: she was too beautiful
and only wanted to give pleasure,
or its illusion. Deep down, she never
thought she’d die. Now she seeks
refuge in memory, wanders
through desolate gardens thinking
she’s deciphering in the rose or jasmine she loved
the intimate, naked gleam
that lit her for the world. She is filling up
with ruins in the house covered
in vines. She realizes she no longer
matters, and cleans her masks.
Now she’s learning how to live her only
face: her secret agony.

La segunda versión (1994)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Soles / Guillermo Sucre


In some primordial landscape of my life
They awaken alone on the horizon
The clay in the sky opens up
The world’s first seed
Butterfly burning with the slowness of silence
Moderation and a long flight
The earth becomes transparent
It’s the first day and the last one
Torrent of clarity
Light and shadow are mirrors
The river passes through us its waters overflow
I see myself and have lost everything save
The moment that clarifies me
Owes them the memory that later explodes
In the delirium of midday
Sparkling head rolling
Allude to the abyss below
Cold fever a tree collapses
The beach cracks open invades me
The sweaty ocean of the shade
But in the end I always recover them
One afternoon a thousand years later in another country
With the same sacred glory

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Hay la cabeza / Guillermo Sucre

There is the head

There is the head born in the mirror polished by
it appears like music coming back after a
      long forgetting
the light drawing it keeps the evening awake from where
      it emerges
remote like the bird pulsing in our
the skin burnt by the scars of the
it is the beloved head lying on the cliffs
      in the depths of the years
the salt destroys itself and dissolves into his hair
the beach the sun illuminates as it leaves
      fading on his forehead
his eyes fix the cold fulguration of someone
      who wakes up in the middle of a dream
      and no longer recognizes the world.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Y en los días de lenta lluvia / Guillermo Sucre

And on days of slow rain

And on days of slow rain we become patient like things. Notice the clarity of water and memory. The stones, the wall of the house grow closer. The sensitive grove of trees is there: its freshness touching us. Images behind a glass, we are the immobility of the world in a glance. And so we keep discovering, not solitude, but quietude. Like everything a hand draws or writes will sink and emerge from blankness. What’s dissipated by fate and also stripped. Meanwhile only the slow, ceremonious rain persists.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Mil novecientos sesentiséis / Guillermo Sucre

Nineteen sixty six

Nineteen sixty six: a late November afternoon. And suddenly the calm burst of light that envelops everything. What air was that air behind the persistent and heavy midday; taking its time and light, made of crystal, like a bird that stops flying when we breathe. The perfection of the sky: that still intimate and final splendor of the city that was about to be given to us. In the garden: the mahogany tree still not too slender, the acacias and the dance of the green and red. And you’re reading in a corner beside a large window. And you lift your eyes not as if looking to see the afternoon: as if returning from the long memory of having already seen it.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Pienso en las páginas que pasan / Guillermo Sucre

I think of the pages passing by

I think of the pages passing by
when I write
                    the days
that are erased
                    the signs
the occult
that silence slowly
        with sparkles
various suns already
the snows of Oakland at dusk
or at sunrise
                    the fire
two bodies graze hands
cover and push away
the wind
          the gust the word
sealed another blow no less
          in the end pride
of dying
          like a finger
of sand
          rubbing our eyes
writing within memory
the poem

                                        to Alejandra

En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Ya no estamos en el verano / Guillermo Sucre

We’re not in summer anymore

We’re not in summer anymore
But we are the summer
We were able to be another way
We were given another fate
We are earth incarnate
The sun plots our dreams
The sea your fragrance
Memory sifts through the sand
The water bathes you and you flower
Coral of desire
The air and your body dilate
Cup of transparency
The dry liquor of language subdues us
Solitude pride
Arc of the sky
                        with no horizon
Your body creates space
If a bird crosses
A lightning bolt scratches its eyes
The sea is illuminated and its white
          close on your skin
Salt that devours and it devours us
Brightness that blinds and it blinds us
We were given that fate
I was able to see myself
In your glimmer
                        in your gaze

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


El fin y el comienzo / Guillermo Parra

The end and the beginning

The end and the beginning
I step towards the world
Amid bodies that gather
A single desire
Copious like a sky
They are cities and seasons
Streets that lead to a single
And hard possession
Solar rose sex of the skies
Savage hydra
A thousand times I bit your thousand lips
I contemplated your thousand eyes
I made you starfish
Sonorous cliff
I drank sipped the wines in you
Beside your fire
I covered myself in your ashes
Your ireful hydras
You were the blind night
But I could see
Cracks passageways in the darkness
I would always exit
To the glowing fury
The earth irradiated in my eyes
I had its face
Visage of volcanic stone
Eruptions of dreams
The forests were breathing in my chest
The coasts the beaches
Writing of desire the sands
The abandonment of our fleetingness
The glory of our fleetingness
A few steps and a glance
Between stupor and the encounter

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Memorable / Guillermo Sucre


I’m not there anymore I’m not there
I’ve slept on the animal stone that pulses
The river in the penumbra the nets
The stars tremble in their final gleam
And suddenly the shine that erases my name
The morning presiding all the encounters with yesterday
The peaceful fluttering city
The sky breathing inside the blue
The glare the consciousness of the sun
I say words only the wind recognizes
I think of other lives a forest
Sand dunes that intern me in time
I am alone I should be happy
That’s how we are when we come out of the shade
But I can’t find your eyes
I’m leaving everything is waiting for me
If you know me you know I live by the sea
With the seagulls
The wave’s eyelash opens
and closes over love
In Juangriego your skin divides the horizon
Day and night
Mirror and memory
Your sonorous glance like cliffs
They’re waiting for me I won’t stop
The red beast of the earth cracking
Stalks me I set sail
I’m ambushed by the air in Esnujaque
Idol of silence midday deciphers me
It writes for me in blood
Language of this extensive country
I always speak
And in whose blind habit I build myself
I come back but some things
Never come back with us

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }