Todo viaje deja una ausencia / Guillermo Sucre

Every journey leaves an absence

Every journey leaves an absence and that absence is the true journey.     As everything we love we destroy and that destruction is true love.     As every hand that closes a door opens a wound that never scars.     As a garden has to be crossed afterwards.     As the grove and the light that mark you are your kingdom.     As the slow generations of summer gradually polish your face.     As everything the glimmer scratches seeks shelter in your glance.     As the hour has become fixed by your astonishment.     As you’ll successively go out and return to the garden and go out once again.     As you’re always being born in the desertion of happiness.

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 }


Anochecer en un bar / Guillermo Sucre

Nightfall in a bar

Nightfall in a bar, closed, actually in the shadows, somehow oceanic, surrounded by all the colored bottles, half-glimpsed faces, voices, maybe some music, and the navigation of the senses and memories begins. To perceive (touch?) a naked body in a room with drawn curtains, and outside it’s summer, the sun is at its zenith or already declining, the ivy creeps, covers the walls, and inside (it’s a mansard) everything breathes a warm freshness, the shade and humidity of ferns (of a patio from my childhood). Experiences, not figures.

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 }


El agua, el aire, el cielo / Guillermo Sucre

The water, the air, the sky

The water, the air, the sky —when the light opens within it a space, no matter the season; the crown —if tall and not too thick, balancing itself, better, more remotely— of the trees; large webs spreading, circular, over the twilight surface of a river; the city, the corner of a city —street paved with stones and moss or bricks, the branches over the garden walls, the incipient breeze— surging at sunrise as we wake. Matter that is matter, flowing. Images, not symbols.

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 }


Así fueron repartidos / Guillermo Sucre

This is how they were distributed

they polished everything
they shuddered just from smelling the disgrace
they would put grains of salt on the wounded
they navigated the story making a sail
     out of any wind
we were none of these
the inexorable was that we weren’t inexorable
the gods forgot us even in their
     mournful rays
we consumed various suns scraping a single
     to make fire

En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1988)

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


Sino silencio / Guillermo Sucre

But Rather Silence

poetry isn’t made in silence
but rather with silence
the cicadas the panpipes of summer
the heat the rains explode
menacing arc
we haven’t seen the sky
but we know there’s
lightning at its shore
that shore scratches itself and is the sea
you and I walk away or return
on the final afternoon
but when the words appear
space of another space
only silence sounds

En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1988)

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


Fin de Archivo Hache / Heriberto Yépez

The End of Archivo Hache

                        [Image: Ulises Carrión]

A week ago I was notified this would be my final column. At first, I wanted to say goodbye to my readers with a longer text. But I realized it would be a mistake to close in a manner different from the one in which readers gave me a couple minutes each week.

Journalism means seeking the truth behind the lies other journalists call news. Everything else is marketing.

During the years this column lasted, from week to week I sought to dissect a cultural system ruled by corruption and farce.

Describing all the types of mechanisms of High Cultural Fraud (its uses and customs) was the main theme of Archivo Hache.

I’m the first one to be surprised I lasted so many years pointing out this pseudo-mafia.

Being a literary writer, I wanted each column to be an aphoristic, gunslinging (like my grandfather) micro-essay.

Being critical won me enemies. Almost all of them writers and functionaries.

It also brought me a few readers. Starting in mid-2012, we opened a space to republish the columns (www.archivohache.blogspot.com). As I write these lines, the blog had 230,927 visits from all of you and the same number of thank yous on my part.

In 1997 I began to collaborate in a Baja California weekly and since then I haven’t stopped writing cultural journalism. Next week, for the first time in nearly two decades, I won’t have the obligation of sitting down to write my weekly piece for some media outlet.

I’ll listen to the same songs but this time I won’t have to type anything. It’ll be a strange afternoon in Tijuana.

Combining journalism and literature today means combining activism and performance. Creating an ethics out of aesthetics, in other words, wanting verbal beauty to dance with analytical truth, without us having any merit beyond playing one part of the music, and knowing that, since we’re in Mexico, we shouldn’t be surprised the dance includes gunshots.

Because this is the end of a series, I want to register that on the date of the closing of this failed archive, Mexico was in a narcopit, dug, once again, by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), in alliance with the cartel of transnational corporations.

And whose cultural apparatus (governmental institutions and affiliated companies) wanted to retake the remote control of opinions and networks, keyboards and screens, because, in reality, the president himself was a selfie in crisis within an infomercial full of manipulated voters.

We are passing through a sinister cultural tunnel. North American-Mexican control and the society of the spectacle have ruined the fabric of the critical imagination, and they design artists and writers in charge of providing an image of “civility,” “tradition,” and “novelty,” and of dismissing, silencing and attacking dissidents (and changing the topic).

I was critical in all directions. If I didn’t criticize someone, I beg your forgiveness for the oversight.

Archivo Hache has closed. Over and out.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Milenio (México D.F.), 12 September 2015 }


Venezuela & the North American Academic Left / Carlos Padrón

a leftist academic in the humanities in the united states takes on as his subject of study (for a paper, let's say) Chávez's funeral, or the brand name clothes worn by the opposition activists who appear on TV, or simón bolívar's disinterred corpse, or the political potential of the misnamed “chavista hordes,” or the revolutionary potential of the communes in venezuela, or about the racial geography of caracas, or about the importance of the difference between the words “insecurity” and “criminality,” or about the new and necessary populism of the red tide starting from the venezuelan case, or about the re-semantization of the concept of “border” and of “sovereignty” based on the closing of the border between colombia and venezuela, or about the gochos (from the mountains of western venezuela) as a version of the tea party in south america, or about the rhetoric of telesur (and all the other chavista media) as a form of radically critiquing the coloniality of knowledge, or the topic of sifrinismo (middle & upper class mores) in venezuela as a political concept, or about the bio-politics of power in relation to the bodies submitted to the violence of the private media... all of this based on second-hand references, or because they saw it on tv, or because they went to venezuela as tourist-activists, or because it serves them to “prove” a theory they’ve already developed. they speculate wildly and with absolute certainty from a distance. then they publish the paper in a north american magazine no one reads. thus nothing changes at all in the space-time of the area of their object of study. but they accrue points to obtain tenure with a sexy topic in the north american academy. they obtain prestige among leftist intellectuals in the north american academy who are at the same time their best friends or their followers. they’re paid an astronomically high salary in comparison to the people that constitute the geographic area of their object of study. they get tenure. they become the petite bourgeoisie they always criticized, and based on that very same critique, they obtained their well-deserved academic position.

Translator’s Note: the title for this translation is my own, as the original post is untitled.

{ Carlos Padrón, Facebook, 10 September 2015 }


Felipe Segundo / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Philip the Second

     Despotism is a prodigious heir. It consumes the most treasured reserve in more benign days. Spain ceases to produce, under the Austrian kings, the opportune politician, the entrepreneur soldier, the subtle diplomat.
     Capable men are still abundant around Philip the Second, he envies and persecutes them. They evoke the wonder of a vegetation that renews itself triumphant over the weather as it turns hostile. He only accepts those who are similar to him in his practices of an insignificant and timed office worker, the ones that accompany him in the religion of the formula, the requisite and the dossier. A circumstance that explains the more sustained fortune of the Duke of Alba, a sophist instead of a soldier due to the habit of rumination and hypothesis.
     No one more adequate for the superfluous and impolitic punishment of Flanders. A type from his narrow, unkempt, famished and violent town. He unleashes his fanatical rancor against pagan life and the brimming prosperity of the country that is nourished directly from the loot. He wouldn’t have forgiven a Flamenco lady the attempt to seduce him with her luxuriant and fluffy beauty, because it would have led to the theme of a tragic romance forcing her death. He would have followed the coffin with a measured and proud step, and, once returned, he would have sat insomniac by the light of his silver candelabra, without taking off the velvet suit nor the bearing worthy of his martial self.
     The retinue of equipped servers facilitates Philip the Second’s plans with more assurance than the wealth of the entire new globe. No treasure is equivalent to a fecund spirit. But he tangles and paralyzes them with the detailed ordinance and rigid program. The absolute monarch is hostile to individual initiative, capable of altering the unity and uniformity that he proposes.
     This ideal in fashion at the time originates in how man simplifies in order to understand. Saint Thomas Aquinas gauges spirits because of the faculty for unifying. He assures us that superhuman beings understand with a minimal volume of ideas. The unit passes, without delay, from a requisite of thought to the goal of an ill-fated politics.
     The absorbing and centralizing effort was praised all over Europe by the theologians who remembered the reasons of Saint Augustine in The City of God and by the jurists who brought from Roman Law the machines with which to eradicate feudalism. For unifying, politics served the orthodoxy.
     Philip the Second personifies and extends the totalizing design that consolidates royalties. Under his authority he adds the clergy and sterilizes the enthusiasm of new religious orders. He lives in a solitary relationship with Divinity, whom he represents and substitutes on earth in contempt of the Holy See.
     A third irremediable decline under that amanuensis and swindler king, who accuses honorable people of rebellion, who never acknowledge him for exalting the armies and fertilizing discipline. Graduates and procedures consume the stipend of heroes.
     That mania of centralization and rules, grafted onto the perfidy of a Tiberius, had prospered with his being raised far from nature, amid etiquette and a formalist and petty education. Titian exhibits him inappropriately in front of a landscape painted with the hilarity of the colors of that era.
     The historian of that malignant life needs to reproduce the continuity of the dramatic piece and its growing effect, illuminating itself with the indignation of Alfieri. To force the fantasy of a seer and and a philosopher’s examination instead of an archivist’s details. To point out with a priest’s intonation the fatality that frustrates each of the king’s enterprises, and to promulgate in the horror of the denouement the edifying commentary of the chorus in ancient tragedy.

La Torre de Timón (1925)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Un sofista / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

A Sophist

     Mister Leopoldo Lugones continues to annoy us with his newspaper and instruction manual erudition.
     Lately he enunciates his political ideas, adopting the arrogance of one who publishes predictions. He limits himself to reproducing the impertinent and antiquated deliriums of Nietzsche. He maliciously confuses democracy with the fold, and he treats it with the arrogant and unintelligent disdain of a patrician from Greco-Roman antiquity. He remembers the improprieties of Theognis, the ferocious oligarch of Megara, and the autocratic thesis of Guizot, the odious freedman, ungrateful to the French Revolution. He is unaware that democracy is directed at suppressing artificial inequality, and is the only regime capable of provoking the coming of an individual aristocracy, as a term for plain and frank competition.
     He resoundingly denies the efficacy of ideas, and affirms that man’s intelligence only serves for passive adaptation and doesn’t go beyond being a mechanism that registers, inept for guiding the course of life. Herbert Spencer wouldn’t have expressed himself with more naivete in 1860.
     Lugones sees in man the vicious and egotistical beast. He omits the innate feeling of solidarity, and takes warrior metaphors of Darwin literally. He professes a refuted biology.
     By this same road he identifies the law with its observance or with force, forgetting the primitive notion of justice is born from sympathy. We feel ourselves threatened when we witness the grievance inferred by our brother.
     The political ideas of mister Lugones can only be measured with his opinions as a close reader of Homer. He affirms that knight errantry is the imitation of the heroes of the Trojan cycle and, starting from such a premise, he doesn’t hesitate to boldly rectify the humanist Alfredo Croisset, regarding Diomedes.
     He fights in a puerile manner with Christianity, and refers to it as Nazarene barbarism, usurping the famous adjective of Heinrich Heine. He rejects the notion that the knightly ideal is sustained by devotion to the Mother of Jesus, professed in a unanimous manner by superhuman paladins. The Middle Ages perfectly ignored Homer. Dante himself was removed from the speech and civilization of the Greeks, and he knew them through Virgil.

Originally published in the newspaper El Nuevo Diario in Caracas, 27 January 1926.

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


El paria / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Pariah

     To Caracas, reduced almost to a disgraceful mendacity he comes from very far away, the separation from his own people afflicts him with unexpressed shame, because the ordinary expression of pain isn’t worthy of severe souls, it frightens him from the memory of home fulminated by destiny, he is retained by a generous idea: the good of humanity, of the fatherland, maybe the justice to which he promised to be a husband like the saint of Assisi to poverty.
     He is roused and maintained constant in his goal by the spectacle of victorious brutality, of beauty reduced to a scouring pad, of the hidden or negated merit; he suffers and thinks with his soul placed in the reparation that will come and insulting the triumph of force he doesn’t justify not even in nature.
     Like the Greek philosopher finds the man who solicits among the humble and never was he tortured more by disillusionment than when he saw everything stained black and with miserable and treacherous clarity spread around when he believed fire of ingenuity.
     He doesn’t listen to those who advise abdication with the word and the example; the dreams of his youth are wiser and keep his soul sick, a moment that will know how to consecrate them with brutal reality harder than a flag of insult or a life from the jaws of a wild beast.
     Incurable dreamer, reality gives you rude alerts in vain, your spirit responds very little to the impression of exterior life like a sea dead from cold that ceases to accompany with its rumors those of the air trembling from gusts of ice and mourning. He suffers poverty with decorum when inside him uncontrollable and never satisfied desires stand twisted and violent like asps, and the very deep and very black future approaches a danger.

Originally published in the magazine Cultura in Caracas, 5 October 1912.

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Today Marks 30 Years Since the Death of Miguel Otero Silva (Venezuela, 1908-1985)

The writer and founder of El Nacional was a distinguished figure in the world of journalism and literature.

Miguel Otero Silva, founder of the newspaper El Nacional, died on a day like today in 1985 in the capital city of Caracas. His legacy to Venezuelan culture is immeasureable, not only as a writer, but as a political activist, journalist and above all a faithful believer in democracy and the participation of all citizens in the country. He is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest representatives of literature from not only from Venezuela but also Latin America, counting among his readers the likes of Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez.

One of his most important novels, Casas muertas, also marks 60 years since its first publication.

“Miguel Otero Silva is one of the representatives of that last type of Venezuelans who were able to define many aspects of the 20th century for us. He had a wide range of views and a great tolerance for individuals with positions different than his. He was a man of the left, a communist, but he never stopped opening his doors to people with different political positions from his own: he is a model of openness and respect for the ideas of the other. Likewise, he has a place guaranteed for his work in the literary canon and he’s also, without a doubt, one of the great patrons of culture in Venezuela. Now is when we should read him more than ever,” expressed Ricardo Ramírez, professor at the School of Letters at the Central University of Venezuela.

Regarding this commemoration, the School of Letters of the Central University of Venezuela dedicated this second semester of the year to the writer.

{ Keyla Brando, El Nacional, 28 August 2015}


Anhelo / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen


If someone were to set fire to silence —make it crackle in multiple tiny inaudible silences— tear it apart in tender unending agony.



Si alguien prendiera fuego al silencio —lo hiciera crepitar en múltiples pequeñísimos inaudibles silencios— lo desbaratara en tierna agonía inacabable.


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


Caracas, 25 de octubre de 1929 / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Caracas, 25 of October of 1929

Mister Lorenzo Ramos Sucre,
Agent of Banco de Venezuela

Faithful Lorenzo:

     I’ll begin by telling you that Federico has a pension from the State of Sucre and that he isn’t working at all on his studies. He’s a society man and not vulgar at all. Such a happy young man hadn’t ever emerged in the prison of that house. Observe the difference. Luisa can be hostile with strangers, but she doesn’t exasperate her children and you see it in the children’s marriages. Relatedly, Ramón’s calm presence neutralizes any melancholia or severity Luisa might have. I don’t believe in severity, bad moods, irascibility; I merely point out cruelty and vulgarity.
     You know the scant resistance I offer against illnesses only comes from a nervous system destroyed by the infinite displeasure, disagreements, curses, desperation and strangulation that afflicted me.
     Carúpano was a prison. Father Ramos had no idea at all about the proper guidance a child needs. He would incur in a stupid severity for ridiculous reasons. This is why I feel nothing towards him. I would spend days and days without going out to the street and so I’d be prey to moments of desperation and would remain for hours laughing and crying at the same time. I hate the people who were in charge of raising me. I never approached our father because I was scared. Father Ramos was an eminent figure and I was no one, just a foul tempered child. Bestial humanity didn’t see the foul temper came from the desperation of being locked up and not having anyone to turn to. I was scared of father, who paid attention to Trinita and not me. So you see how my disgrace began to develop. Suppose I was scolded by father Ramos and by that piece of shit Martínez Mata because I would run around with kids my age, at age eleven, in Santa Rosa plaza. That is, I was scolded for an act imposed by Anglo-Saxon pedagogy three centuries ago and jealously defended by the Anglo-Saxon police. Talk with people who know England or the United States.
     Once I left that prison that was Carúpano, circuit of a Dantean inferno, I was able to return to the street, but the tyranny was even more severe although in a new form. I would incur Rita Sucre’s anger for being unaware of certain courtesies or if I was too tired to notice something and these scenes were tremendous and would go on for months. I couldn’t placate her despite my native docility. I thought I was required to provide the example of honesty and all I managed was to be a hypocrite, a liar.
     I believe in the power of my lyric faculty. I know very well that I have created an immortal oeuvre and that at the very least the sad consolation of glory will be my recompense for so many pains.
     You will suppose if with such antecedents I can withstand an imperishable infection like amebiasis. The imbalance of my nerves is horrifying and fear is the only thing that has stopped me from the thought of suicide. We don’t do what we want but what the circumstances of inheritance, education, health or corporeal illness, etc. might allow. Our actions are involuntary and even reflexive.
     Now, I observe that I was sharper than all my contemporaries and that they only surpassed me in having a soothing and tolerant home. I have been loved, admired, pitied by the most beautiful women. Naturally, I haven’t taken advantage of their good will. María del Rosario Arias spoke with me one single time, before I came to Caracas and she always remembered me affectionately for that reason alone. She was surprised by my humanity and pleasantness when she met me.
     I don’t remember José Antonio Yépez. Say hello to him very cordially in my name. Dolores Emilia is very satisfied with you and your people.
     The judgments on my two books have been very superficial. It’s not easy to write a good judgment about such untarnished or refined books. The critic needs to have the knowledge I treasured in the cavern of my suffering. And not everyone has had such an exceptional life. Only Leopardi, the poet of bitterness. Someone has already pointed out my similarity to the Italian lyricist and philosopher. Lyrical is he who speaks of his own emotions.
     The day before yesterday the important Gladys, my perfect niece was here. I don’t think she left unhappy.
     Maintain your health and buy a house in Caracas.
     Your brother embraces you,


{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra poética, Edición crítica de Alba Rosa Hernández Bossio, Madrid: Colección Archivos, 2001 }


Pittsburgh’s J.A. Ramos Sucre Mural in New York Times

                  [Images via the New York Times]

The José Antonio Ramos Sucre mural in Pittsburgh's North Side, part of a public art project entitled “A River of Words” (2014) by Carolina Arnal, Israel Centeno and Gisela Romero, sponsored by City of Asylum Pittsburgh, is included in a recent New York Times feature about Pittsburgh.

The mural includes my English translation of the opening paragraph of Ramos Sucre’s poem “The Clamor,” from his final book:

“I lived submerged in the shadow of a lethal garden. An affectionate being had left me in solitude and I constantly honored her memory. A few high walls, of a secular old age, were defending silence. The willows were sporting flowers of alien branches, which I myself had sewn into their sterile foliage.”
(The Enamel Sky, 1929)

The NYT video can be seen here: http://nyti.ms/1HuX6Zy

A free PDF download of my English translation of José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Selected Works (University of New Orleans Press, 2012) is available via the link below:



Del fuego viene... / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

From fire comes...

From fire comes and in it ends all music
There’s no difference between music and a fire.
The columns of sound end in flames —
The musics bubble in the fire.
A burning magma dances and overwhelms itself.
Dismember me to the fire of music —
In embers of music bury me
Sweet and terrifying music
cheers the air and spirit.

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


Antes me desesperaba... / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

I used to grow desperate...

I used to grow desperate waiting —
the endless impatient waiting.
Now I don’t wait for anything — and it’s still insufferable.

You’ve set me aside beautiful traitor.

The scale of the dream:
I fall knocking myself down — destroyed — blessed.

Careful with repeating gestures and words
(it brings bad luck and a worse conscience)

Invalid from such happiness —
they almost forgot the color of the sky.
(Was it red? — was it black?)

The most vibrant harmony
is made of dissonance
(and regret).

Sink your feet into the earth —
do you grow roots?
— the white lily sprouts —

The unusual odious
characters of my dreams.

The stubborn form
of the graceful wind.

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


Luis García Morales (para Elisa Lerner) / Antonio López Ortega

Luis García Morales (for Elisa Lerner)

In these past fifteen years (2000-2015) we’ve lost important Venezuelan writers. I’m not referring to a quotidian importance, but rather a transcendent one. These are authors who marked the 20th century, who sculpted it until giving it the shape of a prodigious century, with variable, arrogant, resonant, intimate, revelatory voices. Sadly, we attend the gradual disappearance of two generations: those born in the 20s and those the 30s. Novelists like Gustavo Díaz Solís, Salvador Garmendia, Adriano González León; or poets like Juan Sánchez Peláez, Eugenio Montejo, Francisco Pérez Perdomo have departed without receiving a word of thanks from the country. Because that’s another extenuating circumstance that makes the situation even more devastating: the feeling that this culture without a memory doesn’t think, doesn’t value what has made it possible. If these authors spoke of our human landscape, they described it to its core; if these authors elevated our nature into metaphysical realms; if these authors spent their days working until they found the “common traits,” why does the humanity that survives them walk unmoved, numb, ignorant? The first lack is institutional and corresponds to the State that doesn’t recognize its great figures, but then we also have a lethargic, dismantled apparatus (institutions, universities, press, literary groups) that doesn’t appreciate the good, the transcendent, maybe because it’s immersed in a storm that consumes the days with greater urgencies: murders, tortures or hunger.

Another magnificent voice we’ve lost in these days increasing the funeral choir is that of Luis García Morales (1929-2012). A poet from the state of Guyana, a member of the literary group Sardio, president of the Consejo Nacional de Cultura in the 1980s, his poetic works, although brief and discreet, were clearly innovative and responded to an honest reading of his time. With this I want to say that his readings were the best, he was up to date with the great contemporary masters, especially the French and English, and his expressive intensity had few antecedents among us. His verbal luxury aligned him with Juan Sánchez Peláez, and his manner of revealing the gaps within matter displayed an uncommon penetration. Of course images from childhood (the grandiosity of the Orinoco river, for example) are transformed to levels in which the origins are erased, becoming pure abstraction, but that same procedure is the one an artist like Jesús Soto would use to admit that the poles of his “penetrable” kinetic sculptures were no more than the solar gleam the river itself would emit, especially during sunset hours.

In books like El río siempre or Lo real y la memoria, García Morales is able to combine landscape and memory to such a degree that the reader isn’t able to distinguish between one and the other. We could say a memory might be a tree, or that a bird is actually a thought. To go deep into the landscape is to go deep into memory, or seeing is the same as remembering, or admiring is the same as meditating. When the poet tells us these verses: “I write the ghost and it’s my oblivion / I write my name / And the water passes overhead / Washing its darkness,” it remains clear that existence and non-existence are false antinomies, or that the name of something and its erasure are the same. Just as the ancient river wanders our sleep and divides us in two, likewise the memory of the poet, when we think it’s gone and it continues within us.

{ Antonio López Ortega, El Nacional, 16 July 2015 }


Los recuerdos / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

The Memories

The memories disintegrate
so slowly — in oblivion—
A few of them are reborn suddenly
by inertia or exhaustion.

A new gathering of asemantic “poems”
Trifles and Pamplonians —(flowering).

Twenty-eight salvos of disordering.
Relaxing humor of all theologies.

Domiciles sponsored —by the suicidal venture.

It seems we see —myriads of extinct stars.
They also affirm reality is a miniscule portion
of boundless emptiness.
We thus find out about occurrences
from trillions of years ago and touch
as solid what’s nearly a pure hole.
Will we take them as lucubrations
of the intellect or fantasy?
As pleasant as breathing-in
the sea breeze or grasping the elegant rope
of any little bird or insect.

The distant rowers—
in suspense in the night.

The offenses endured
there’s no way to repair them —
resentment burns unceasing
until destroying the entire soul.

A whirlwind of inaudible percussion

Rant and deceive —
you will save your life and darken your honor —
there is no risk.

It was still possible —to bribe the wind.

The infants of the desert
improvise new ideas to trace the map
of all the existing oases
in the world.

Epiphany of the siege and conquest of the mirage.

Arrival to the oasis like arrival to the door
of paradise only the door.

Who will you find on the untraveled
perceptible roads of the sea
or the desert?

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


Ritual de arena / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Sand Ritual

How do the cymbals sound
the rattlesnakes the bones
the human leather of the tambourine?
the concert is stirring and moves
thick layers of terrestrial bark
tears out fugitive stars
as whirling skies
tear each other apart
to the sound of carved up suns
in the renovating dance of chaos
Absorbent chaos
light and dark.

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


La vida después del Buda punk / Heriberto Yépez

Life After the Punk Buddha

                        [Mario Vargas Llosa, Venezuela, 2014. Via @shirleyvarnagy]

If Disney banned the selfie-stick it’s because it put too much distance between the I and the I. For the system to clone itself, the I cannot put any distance between the Vile I and Vile I. Any distance threatens to become critical.

This era consists of hiding the truths of Buddha. Although Buddhism is a high point of earthling thought, we would like to allege that arrow never wounded us.

Contemporary literature is an amusement park tour. In experimental literatures, the veteran North American one, for instance, Burroughs and Acker would no longer be possible today. Punk is prohibited. Being a writer in the Facebook Era means Behaving Well: Like! Like! Like!

Nearly everything related to Millenials is detestable: they were designed by the media. Their reaction to everything that happens is a reference to the world of show business. Each thing they encounter in the world reminds them of a movie or a video.

In North American literature they call it “Post-Conceptualism.” In Latin America and Spain, “Return of the Chronicle” or “Autofiction.” In one case after another, they are escapes from what truly followed: writing as a destruction of the I, I and I.

Selfie, Networking, Retro and Hipster are the keywords of today’s globcult.

They used to follow forms of writing that went beyond the author. But the Death of the Author was replaced by the Writer As Celebrity-Zombie.

20th century literatures reached a point of no return and the initial literatures of the 21st century decided to return. Mario Vargas Llosa is its best avatar. He was once an author of the Latin American Boom and today he’s on the cover of ¡Hola!.

Gabriel García Márquez’s black eye prefigured it: thanks to the confessionalism of social media we would all become Varguitas.

There’s not a single social media account that doesn’t want to be ¡Hola!. The notion of an “oeuvre” has died from spontaneous combustion.

The literary product is now of tertiary importance. What’s important is the “author.” And the author is now his own pure image.

The most important aspect of writers today is their photographs. The book is only a pretext. They key is their names, in other words, their place within networking. Click: the photo is total.

We’re now in the first moment in the history of literature when it doesn’t matter if a writer produces works. What’s essential is that his image be popular or, at least, pivotal in some virtual literary network.

What’s relevant is that it can be sold well on Amazon or in chain bookstores or, in the case of writers without success protected by some cultural institution or clique, that their posts have a certain relevance in their network of Privileged Losers.

No one will be Vargas Llosa anymore. Vargas Llosa himself wasn’t able to do it. But everyone can aspire to be a semi-star in some corner of the Web.

And literature? Literature became a branch of fantastic photography. Photography has colonized all media.

The Punk Buddha was merely an X Dream. Take a selfie.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Milenio (México D.F.), 11 July 2015 }


Una nouvelle de Ricardo Azuaje / María Celina Núñez

A Novella by Ricardo Azuaje

Ricardo Azuaje (Altagracia de Orituco, Venezuela, 1959) is a writer of great talents, something the reader can confirm by looking at his interesting bibliography. Between 1986 and 2000 he kept a very high profile. Today he publishes interesting texts of fiction and opinion at his Facebook page.

I would like to speak about Juana la Roja y Octavio el Sabrio (Fundarte, 1992), a very well-written novella that addresses problematic realities basing itself fundamentally on the masterful creation of the protagonists.

When the book begins, Octavio is a young man who is starting his university studies and is in the process of developing a relationship with a girl his own age. Everything seems to be in perfect order until, after years of absence, he runs into his mother by chance. From that point onwards, the image of Juana makes itself present.

After the encounter at Octavio’s house, the main setting for this novel, the actions acquires an urgent pace. The mother and son living together will lead to a domestic clash but, above all, it will undo the connection that has kept a feeling at bay: Juana’s presence will awaken in her son a path of unexpected initiation.

The narrative fluctuates between the past and the present. The central plot revolves around the impossible love between both characters: Juana doesn’t accept being called a mother and Octavio considers her too erratic to see her as an authority figure. In this conflicted tie there is an affection that constantly nears desire but is never consummated. It is also a tragic love: once Octavio manages to become closer to his mother, he will lose her forever.

In order to shape the tale, Azuaje wisely chooses a second person narration. In this way he expresses the perennial desire for access to the other which is what gives an agonizing pulse to the main character and to the text in general.

However, this isn’t the only agony. Juana, in her own life, is committed to a struggle which she eventually questions, despite her passion. Her political commitment is framed by the guerrilla insurgencies of the 1980s, when utopias no longer enjoy the solidity of the past and hope has already been extensively undermined by historical events.

The author appeals to binary images to display the textual reality: Juana and Octavio represent inverted roles, both at the level of political ideology and lifestyle, as well as on a more intimate plane, due to the confusion regarding who might hold the authority in this curious relationship.

On the base of these permanent contrasts, Ricardo Azuaje achieves one of the greatest virtues of the novella form: a texture of constant suggestion, the emergence of a subtle possibility against a backdrop of what appears to be a plain reality. Thanks to these elements, sometimes evident, other times distant, the story acquires multiple connotations. The chosen aesthetic resource is the second person narration that occasionally “confuses” the object of the discourse: from the mother to the girlfriend and vice versa. To the point that the character of the girlfriend progressively loses textual space to the presence of Juana, each time more eroticized.

From the moment Juana enters the life and home of Octavio, he beings a series of recriminations that will continue to change his initial rejection of his mother. In fact, Octavio lives a very complex process of initiation because it happens almost in parallel to his relationships with his mother and his girlfriend. The sensuality acquires an Oedipal character almost from the first page: “she stands at the door with her arms open and says come here.” This image recurs in the text and synthesizes, symbolizes the relationship between them: embrace and goodbye, desire nearly consummated, definitive goodbye and a kiss on the lips on the highway before Juana disappears forever. The author created a very sober text that successfully avoids the pitfalls of melodrama.

Alongside this intimate story, we are presented a portrait of Caracas. To speak of Caracas in the 1980s is to portray a city wounded by the construction work for the Metro, crowded by a series of devices that congest it despite the fact they intend to do the opposite. It’s also about the drawing of a key era for my generation that is, I wouldd say, the same one Azuaje belongs to. In the 1980s the ideological struggles were receding (I thought they were finished) and it is in that frame that Juana’s struggle takes place. Her son is the first to point out this gap. This portrait of an era is completed with the articulation of the fiction with an episode of extra-textual reality: Juana will die in the massacre that took place in Cantaura in 1982.

The handling of private space, the house, by the protagonists provides the key of opposite personalities and the evolution of the relationship. The order and objects of Octavio will be linked to that other mode of order that is Juana’s and with another type of objects and cultural references: Octavio is wise and sober, “Sabrio,” and Juana is a hippie, “Loca.”

Private space is so important it could eliminate any other scene. Because of that the city, the marks of its possible routes, appear in the background as complementary resources that have an effect on the verisimilitude of what’s being told. On the other hand, the story that occurs in that public space isn’t disposable; on the contrary, it defines the end of the novella.

But definitely, if anything has a great deal of specific weight in this brief novel it is the presence of desire. Octavio, apparently a more or less cerebral, logical being, is prey to desire. In this manner, the always-closed door to his mother’s room is perceived as a prohibition.

There is a subtle lyricism throughout the book. With only a few metaphors that are barely removed from colloquial speech, and the use of a free indirect style, an impossible love story between mother and son is constructed; and also that of an era full of impossibles: What else do we call a time without utopias (and there are the victims to prove it)?; and, finally, of the human condition. This is how Juana “plagiarizes” the poem “Defeat” by Rafael Cadenas.

Octavio can’t recover Juana as his mother, he can’t let himself be taken by that other feeling that unites them, nor can he live ignoring that other world as he proposed for himself at the beginning of the book.

In the end, Juana and Octavio lose their nicknames of “Loca” and “Sabrio.” And the reader closes these pages with a sadness that captivates her, undoubtedly, and is yet more proof, certainly not the only one, of the talent and literary complexity of Ricardo Azuaje.

Today’s article is an invitation to read Ricardo Azuaje. Don’t miss out on that pleasure.

{ María Celina Núñez, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 26 June 2015 }


Carta abierta a María Auxiliadora Álvarez / Igor Barreto

Open Letter to María Auxiliadora Álvarez

The poet from Caracas was recently honored during the activities of the XII World Poetry Festival. Upon the occasion of this award, Igor Barreto sends this open letter to his fellow poet.

Dear María Auxiliadora Álvarez,

Many of us are surprised that you accepted the tribute from Chavismo in the recent edition of the World Poetry Festival in Caracas. It was just over a year ago that dozens of students died in the streets of Venezuela, executed with a coup de grâce for protesting against a new type of dictatorship. Of course it doesn’t look like Pinochet’s dictatorship but essentially the quadrature of its political behaviors are the same. During these past seventeen years, even while being aware of the continuous human rights violations confirmed by international organisms, some intellectuals who call themselves progressives or revolutionaries, in a true act of cynicism have supported this contemptible “process” (as Chavismo refers to itself). They defend a useless utopia, that, as Mandelstam said, was a failure for haven chosen not the path of humanity but of authority. Szymborska also spoke of the Marxist utopia as an island where any trace of doubt is condemned: “The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here / with branches disentangled since time immemorial.” These references seem to be mere abstractions, but we live that failure and it can be felt like the coldest metal.

The populism and Stalinist recipes of the old Stalinist manuals created the collapse of our productive economy, bringing shortages and hunger. Corruption has impoverished the country and death surrounds us at each step. Drug trafficking has turned the nation into one giant airplane runway, with the grotesque enrichment of many government officials, some of them with court cases pending abroad because of those crimes. Venezuela is living the hour of its decomposition. Its most intimate fabric has given in to the worms, like the dog lying by the side of the road after being run over.

You probably saw the horde of the government’s political party, the PSUV, kicking the faces of the journalists from the newspaper Últimas Noticias right in downtown Caracas, or the photo of the other journalist who was (recently) thrown from a second story, simply for doing his job. You’ve heard people talk about the “Gate of Tears” which is nothing more than the immigration gate at the international airport in Maiquetía through which our young people pass to never return. Did you by chance know about the agony and death of Franklin Brito, who died in a hunger strike under the impassive glance of president Chávez? Franklin Brito could have written this verse by Celan that says: “We dig a ditch in the air...” The enumeration of torturous acts could continue almost into infinity, just like the fearful or complicit silence of the poets who accompanied you during those days in Caracas recently. They are mute at the foot of the dead letter. It would be interesting for everyone if you would explain your acceptance and complacency. What is the reason for your visit to Venezuela from the United States? What are you looking for? You were invited to participate in a monochord World Poetry Festival, in which the only chord that vibrates is the one officially approved. That Festival is an “International congress of fear,” as Drummond would write.

I was able to see you on a news program on Vive TV celebrating the virtues of this literary event without antecedents in Venezuelan culture. Indolence, vanity or indifference have been your three forms of turning your back to the country that today in its majority demands a more just course. Or maybe you turned your back and didn’t see some of your friends going to the supermarket the day that corresponds them according to their national I.D. card.

{ Igor Barreto, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 5 July 2015 }


¿Poesía y polarización? / Oriette D’Angelo

Poetry and Polarization?

               [Original Monte Ávila Editores logo designed by Gerd Leufert (1968)
               & new 2006 logo]

Yesterday I participated in a literary event at the Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello [Andrés Bello House of Letters]. The poetry reading took place with the winners of the 2014 edition of the annual Unpublished Authors Prize sponsored by Monte Ávila Editores. Our table included not only those of us who had won but also two members of the jury, Andrés Mejía (who works as an editor in Monte Ávila Editores) and William Osuna, the president of the Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello and who is also known for being one of the figures who defends the politics of the Chavista era.

Those who know me, who have read and listened to me, are aware that I oppose the Chavista regime. I was raised to “oppose something” because Chavismo reached power when I was 9 years old. I also oppose some of the politics of the opposition that, while they do operate at a disadvantage to those in power, have been disastrous for the country. Whatever I disagree with I say it, without fear.

The World Poetry Festival has been criticized by many people for being an event organized by the State. What I notice is that many of those people who criticize attended and supported the most recent annual international book fair FILVEN, which was also organized by the State. Incoherence? What’s the difference between the World Poetry Festival and FILVEN? I participated in both events and was able to read my poems, poems like “Rodilla en tierra,” for example. My book was chosen with all its poems so there was no harm in reading something controversial at a State-organized event. That’s what happened and I was the frightened one. The poem was well-received and no one insulted me, in fact the opposite happened: several people came up to me to ask me when the book comes out and to tell me they’d liked that poem specifically.

Yesterday at the World Poetry Festival, William Osuna sat beside me, and he spoke to the public about our books and gathered the poetic universe that each one of the winners exposes in their work. He was very friendly and I was able to speak with him for a long time. I liked him. We spoke of literature and the books that won, and something that was making me nervous: not a single political commentary was emitted to make anyone uncomfortable. My husband José Delpino was in the audience and took various photos of the event. The room where we read was beautiful, above us hung an enormous painting with a portrait of Andrés Bello and the chairs we sat in were so elegant someone thought they belonged in the National Assembly. I had never read in such a formal place and with those characteristics.

But I didn’t want to post the photos where we all appeared to any of my social media because I knew that, had I posted them, several people would say ill-intentioned things. I know it because I see the comments they make about my friends, because I know they call certain poets “Chavistas” merely for winning prizes awarded by the State, because I know what people are capable of saying behind each other’s backs. And actually, a friend with whom I was close until only recently, actually dismissed the prize (and thus my poetry), just because one person in the jury was Chavista. Where is all this leading us? The event we were gathered for wasn’t political, it was literary, despite being hosted by certain institutions. I participated because I won a prize and I wasn’t defending any type of politics there. Does poetry allow so much polarization?

I know that some people will say Chavismo does the same thing with poets from the opposition and I can’t agree with them much. There are more of us writers from the opposition who are invited to government events than Chavista writers invited to literary events organized by the opposition. I also know that invitations have been sent and writers from both sides have rejected them. That’s how far polarization reaches and whoever thinks the government is the only one with radical ideas is wrong. Both sides have radical groups and that passion for defending ideologies is making us lose our focus and our commitment to literature. You think authors should be political entities? Yes, that’s possible. All of us choose what we defend, all of us have to be for and against something, but the problem is when we resort to insults and discrediting people merely because of our ideological differences with others. Or when we share the same ideology but our participation in a particular event makes others think one has changed sides. Do we have to know? Does a poem lose or gain quality merely by being written by someone in a particular party? Poetry should defend itself and shouldn’t admit such pettiness. I imagine that just like I stopped myself from uploading a photo to my social media just because I appear beside a Chavista writer and politician, some Chavista writer has stopped herself from doing the same because she’s seen with someone from the opposition. It’s a mutual circle we might never escape. This is our curse.

Or maybe, what some might see is that I’m 25 years old and I’m too innocent to view things as they are. That will be my problem and I’ll keep doing what I like: to defend and disseminate the quality of things without insulting or degrading anyone for having different politics from me. Thanks to which I have friends, whom I will also defend.

{ Oriette D’Angelo, 19 June 2015 }


La conferencia de poesía en Berkeley / Heriberto Yépez

The Berkeley Poetry Conference

North American experimental poetry is undergoing an unprecedented crisis this year and last week an historic shift occurred.

The Berkeley Poetry Conference was originally scheduled for June 15-19. It was going to bring together innovative poets (at mid-career) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the gathering of writers like Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, among others.

The 1965 conference was a defining and historic moment. And the new Berkeley conference was likewise set to become a reference point.

The participants included (to mention only five) Claudia Rankine, Cathy Park Hong, Juliana Spahr, Fred Moten and Vanessa Place, in other words, representatives of the best of North American poetry today.

But prior to the conference the scandal against the racist works of Vanessa Place erupted. There was talk of disinviting Vanessa Place, who would surely have taken advantage of the event to present a racist or polemical performance.

The organizers, however, reiterated their invitation to Place. And in a matter of days, three-quarters of the invited writers (myself included) pulled out of the event. The conference collapsed.

The mere fact of this boycott already marks an historic moment, a symbol of new poetic times, of the sociopolitical crisis and the explosiveness of our current literary period.

But the organizers came up with a masterful counter-move. They agreed to cancel the original conference but organized another one in its place, “Crosstalk, Color, Composition: A Berkeley Poetry Conference.”

Along with poets who didn’t cancel and new poets of color, the second conference gathered CA Conrad, Hugo García Manríquez, Judith Goldman, Craig Santos Perez, Ronaldo Wilson, among others.

The conference took place and the expectations, as well as the technical dexterity in the readings and discussion panels, made it memorable.

The discussions to follow, of course, will continue for a long time.

But the key point is that everything that happened, from the memory of that 1965 conference up until the collapse of the original 2015 conference and the celebration of the new one, established a new moment in North American poetry and, because of its influence, in global poetry.

This is all happening amidst the crisis of police violence (from Ferguson to Ayotzinapa); the new conference took place on the very same week of the massacre in Charleston and Donald Trump’s racist comments about Mexicans.

The consequences of everything taking place in North American poetry and the event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Poetry Conference have sealed two undeniable facts: 1) a cycle of North American poetry officially ended in 2015 and 2) the new North American poetry will be more and more dominated by non-white poets.

The struggle between literary white (matriarchical-patriarchical) supremacy and the poetics of minorities will determine the path of poetry in this new century.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Milenio (México D.F.), 27 June 2015 }


Estoy ya de regreso / Antonia Palacios

I’ve Already Returned

I’ve already returned. I pass my fingers over the relief of everything. Outside the air dissolves in a slight extenuation. Everything seems hidden, submerged, things occupying their ancient place. I think I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve stretched out beneath my shadow. Time is losing density on its silent trip. I look under the limits. The antecedents leave no trail.

Hondo temblor de lo secreto (1979-1980)

{ Antonia Palacios, Ficciones y aflicciones, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Una invisible oscuridad me sombra / Antonia Palacios

An Invisible Darkness Shrouds Me

An invisible darkness shrouds me. Day by day I make myself in the light of this obscure sparkle, this absence of sonorous vibration. I am attending a dissipated form, the space closing itself and here where I settle gradually loses its nascent light. The movement of my body escapes through the air. It will be still eventually, rooted in the depths, drinking a barely abandoned sip, exhausted sip the bodies left waiting. Maybe it’ll dream of touching a living being, wounded heart. Maybe it’ll dream it flies and decipher in the air the secret of the wind.

Hondo temblor de lo secreto (1979-1980)

{ Antonia Palacios, Ficciones y aflicciones, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Me estoy buscando en sitios de otros tiempos / Antonia Palacios

I’m Looking for Myself in Places from Other Times

I’m looking for myself in places from other times. Walking amid spaces where silence once passed through. I’m tracing the path of the dull trail my feet left in nights of oblivion. There is a changing light. A sky that hides while stretched out and floating. Distant is the earth that serves as my support. I seek it in the inclemency, in the special sadness of the disappeared days that continued their descent without knowing the destination. I don’t know who I am anymore. I lavish myself tracking the memories that are scattered everywhere. My hand is another hand, my arms and neck happen on someone else’s body. I am that unknown woman who was suddenly shut down in her own shadows.

Hondo temblor de lo secreto (1979-1980)

{ Antonia Palacios, Ficciones y aflicciones, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


En esta casa no miro el cielo / Antonia Palacios

In this House I Don’t Look at the Sky

In this house I don’t look at the sky. I look at the hard extension surrounding me, I listen to the battle of the wind far off in the distance. Its limits marginalize me from the openness. It’s a closed house, nothing in it is revealed. There are no spaces or columns or eaves where restless birds might nest. A naked house without the deep tremor of the secret. I stick to its walls, to its desert scent. It’s my house.

Hondo temblor de lo secreto (1979-1980)

{ Antonia Palacios, Ficciones y aflicciones, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Estoy ensayando un gesto / Antonia Palacios

I’m Practicing A Gesture

I’m practicing a gesture. My equilibrium is broken at the start of a gesture. My body remains at rest. I have stopped at a gesture. I’m looking for another form, disengaging it from time, freeing it from the body. I have begun to flow like a swollen river. There are hands that sink, hands that want to touch. My gesture is stretched out, it stops belonging to me. Another gesture stands up, another flight, another distance.

Hondo temblor de lo secreto (1979-1980)

{ Antonia Palacios, Ficciones y aflicciones, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }


Reaparición / Rafael Cadenas


Today I discovered that the malignant edge still exists. It hadn’t revealed itself because I was living on the margins. In the calculable, with a thread in my hand. My cautions had replaced desires. There were no intruders in my room. Serenity was dawning over the sheets after collecting its victims. The executioner had retreated to the outskirts, and to my surprise, his panting dog was sleeping in my shadow.

Memorial (1977)

{ Rafael Cadenas, Obra entera, México DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000 }


La crisis de la poesía gringa se expande / Heriberto Yépez

The Crisis of North American Poetry Expands

               [Tweets by the poet Cassandra Gillig to Kenneth Goldsmith, March 2015]

What’s been happening in North American poetry these last few months?

Unlike national poetries like Chilean or Mexican (which are unitary, grouped in a single polemical field), North American poetry is segmented, primarily, into “mainstream” poetry, poetics tied to cultural identity and experimental poetry (which is relatively multicultural but dominated by white poets).

This experimental current, because it continues the avant-garde and postmodernism of the 20th century, influences other “innovative” national literatures today.

And this is the sector that’s suffering a great crisis.

Up until this year, conceptualism was its most well-known current, imitated and respected (inside and beyond the United States). But in a matter of weeks its two leaders (Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place) fell from grace in scandals related to racism and a great portion of the experimental field withdrew its support for them.

It’s pretty obvious that the rise of conceptualism ended in 2015.

But the crisis isn’t limited to conceptualism and instead, different agents (semi-anonymous groups, women writers and social media) extended the questioning, for example, to institutions such as Naropa and Berkeley and to writers such as the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, the now canonical avant-garde (post and anti-Beat). They have been called out for being complicit with the white-patriarchal domination (and “demon”) of experimentalism.

This great crisis is serious because of its critique of racism and the fact that it doesn’t involve just one group but the entire structure in intense (electronic) battles that are unprecedented. And this happens within the context of the strong social movements now taking place in the United States; it’s the crisis of the streets entering North American literature.

The collapse isn’t merely aesthetic (one avant-garde attacking another in order to replace it, as is usually the case internationally) but rather it is an ethical crisis, one of credibility.

Through social media fights, links and rumors, old allegiances and friendships have been broken. The experimental network is being fragmented by these discussions.

As the history of the avant-gardes has taught us, the effects of this crisis in North American experimental literature will soon be felt, in an invisible manner or simply in forms of restructuring, in other literatures, especially in Latin America and Europe, where the influence of North American experimentalism hasn’t stopped growing.

But suddenly, North American experimentalism went from being considered cool to being racist; from being a network with high levels of internal agreement to being divided into guerrilla groups.

Everything indicates the crisis has only just begun.

No one knows what will be left standing and what will be swept away, buried, damaged, replaced or made impossible.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of North American experimentalism? Maybe.

But this could go further. Or be interrupted. Or extend to other literatures.

The networks will define it.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Milenio (México D.F.), 6 June 2015 }

* * *

For Internet readers I’ve elaborated this


Social antecedents: 2014 and 2015 have been marked in the United States by protests against police brutality and racism. The most famous case has been that of Michael Brown, the young African-American murdered by the Ferguson police. But the protests and the discontent are generalized because North American racism is truly delirious.

Literary antecedents: Cathy Park Hong publishes an essay, “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” where she argues that the (North American) avant-garde has been constructed from a base of white supremacy. This essay generated a great deal of debate and support. I recommend reading it; a key essay.

13 March 2015: At a literary event at Brown University, the leader of conceptual writing Kenneth Goldsmith (the most recognized experimental North American writer of the 21st century) read an ironic poem (a malicious appropriation) elaborated from the autopsy of Michael Brown (the young African American man murdered by the police). Immediately the literary social media condemned the act as racist and from then on Goldsmith has kept a low profile and has been marked as clear evidence of the white supremacist values that have silently built the scene of North American experimental poetry.

26 March 2015: At the poetry festival @Now 2015 the panel “Mongrel Poetiks” is presented, made up of Lara Glenum, Bhanu Kapil, Eunsong Kim, Lucas de Lima and Jennifer Tamayo (http://andnow2015a.sched.org/event/f270323bb038f9f76be6f186a5ba05bb#.VXLBuKY_7-N). It’s important to note that these poets don’t claim to be members of the Mongrel Coalition. But their decision to present themselves as “Mongrel Poetiks” inevitably associates them with that group.

3 May 2015: Through their Twitter account, the Mongrel Coalition appears, a semi-anonymous collective (they call themselves anonymous but they actually reveal some of their members at different levels of the organization). The Mongrel Coalition is a collective with a pro-minority agenda, focused on defending this cause within North American (experimental) poetry. They are radical, violent, equivocal and, undoubtedly, one of the most interesting movements of North American poetic activism, despite their mistakes and authoritarianism. I recommend following their activism.

18 May 2015: After an Internet petition asking for Vanessa Place to be removed from her position on a subcommittee to chose tables to present at the 2016 conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), the AWP decides to remove her from her position (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2015/05/awp-removes-vanessa-place-from-2016-conference-subcommittee/). The reasons behind the petition are the racist projects of Vanessa Place, that are added to the Kenneth Goldsmith scandal for the same reasons, although, strictly speaking, Place’s projects began several years before Goldsmith’s.

29 May 2015: The Berkeley Poetry Conference that had been planned is cancelled due to many of the invited speakers pulling out in protest of the presence of Vanessa Place (although others cancelled for various reasons). This congress sought to celebrate the 50 years of the 1965 Berkeley conference where poets such as Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, among others, presented, and which became a (polemical) symbol of that decisive period in North American poetry. The fact that the 2015 conference, organized to update the discussions that took place at the first one, has been cancelled adds to the general crisis of experimentalism. However, the organizers have announced they will restructure the conference so it centers on the question of race, and they’re inviting poets of color. At this date, it’s not clear who the new speakers will be and what the substitute conference’s definitive program will be (scheduled to take place between June 15-19).

Polemics: This crisis can’t be understood without the polemics centered around canonical poets of experimentalism, for example, the ones that emerged in response to texts by Ron Silliman and the sour comments by Barrett Watten on Facebook and his website. They are two of the main targets of criticism because many poets consider that Language poets, along with conceptualists, have collaborated with maintaining white hegemony within innovative North American poetry.

The Present:
As I’ve said in my column today: the networks will determine what will happen. Inertia means dominant white groups will try to prevent the crisis from growing (for it not to “escalate”) and that elements of discontent be co-opted so as to go back to business as usual; the white tendency seems to point towards turning the crisis into a (genealogical) moment in which a few movements (Language poetry, conceptualism) are replaced by other movements and names. But the crisis is strong and something more substantial could happen.


Entrevista / Rafael Cadenas


In his final days
the old poet
reached the Great Uncertainty;
but since he’d become reticent
he gave no details of his state.
He merely felt —he declared—
that he had wasted his life.

I would rather know what he didn’t say
than any one of his poems.

Maybe he also had no idea
where the mistake lay;
but throughout the conversation
we can see the dilemma between the lines: art
is offering
or vanity.

Gestiones (1992)

{ Rafael Cadenas, Obra entera, México DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000 }


Inmediaciones / Rafael Cadenas


Sleep has succumbed. At this instant there is nothing beyond those sleeping rooftops and the tenuous thread that brings them. Only this, what I look at, the other life.

Earth, so careless. I was nourished by the heat of tireless specters. But what surrounded me, the illegible, I had set it aside.

Reality, a crumb from your table is enough.

Ceding to an inertia, set aside with no pain, living milk, with its burning mouth contour, an open secret, a spring robbed for centuries.

Without it there is no flame. Without it each one of my steps brings me back. Without it the names take control of the world.

I am what I miss, I am my own nursery, I am the other side of myself. I don’t want to be repetition but novelty. The novelty of what I lack.

You ask for nothing. You know you’re complete. You know it with your skin. Not even your self is yours.

The soft gesture by which you live doesn’t betray like you the tenor of nature.

Stillness, gift for that unknown person who leans on the balcony in shirt-sleeves to watch the night over rooftops without resolving anything.

I have wanted to demolish myself; be an omission to be reborn.

I don’t erect myself from what I was. I set myself aside, but don’t stop carrying myself. I can do nothing.

I am memory, memory that recognizes itself. What else? Nothing, only this.

Floating from the still waters, from the wounding brushes, from beloved deafness. Alone, doubting my sense, to be what barely shines. What is so foolish.

Memorial (1977)

{ Rafael Cadenas, Obra entera, México DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000 }