El sueño / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

The Dream

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


El sueño

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

Cuál es la risa (1989)

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


Yolanda Pantin o la poesía ciega / Antonio López Ortega

Yolanda Pantin or Blind Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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


Se mece suavemente el viento / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

The wind rocks softly

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


Se mece suavemente el viento

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

Cuál es la risa (1989)

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


Uno muere varias veces / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

You die several times

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

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


Uno muere varias veces

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

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

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

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


Era el río detenido / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

It was the stopped river

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


Era el río detenido

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

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

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


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

What is bigger...?

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

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

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


¿Qué es más grande...?

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

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

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

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

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


En las playas cálidas / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

On the warm beaches

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


En las playas cálidas

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

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

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


Colmarse con lo no esperado / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

To fill yourself with the unexpected

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


Colmarse con lo no esperado

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

Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)

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


La búsqueda / Rafael Cadenas

The Quest

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

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

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


Musa / Rafael Cadenas


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

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


El diálogo según un dictador / Rafael Cadenas

Dialogue According to a Dictator

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

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

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

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

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


Estar / Rafael Cadenas

Being There

I try to be
Is it necessary?

I’m not asking
for anything.
I go along

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

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

I’ll oblige you
with losing
the path.

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


El que está siempre / Rafael Cadenas

The one who’s always

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{ El Universal, 20 October 2015 }


Caminas entre escombros / Rafael Cadenas

You walk amidst the rubble

You walk amidst the rubble
of yesterdays.

A looking after
reestablishes you.

This is how you honor
your surroundings.

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


Rafael Cadenas: la meditación por delante / Antonio López Ortega

Rafael Cadenas: Meditation In Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


La mañana luminosa / Rafael Cadenas

The luminous morning

The luminous morning
authorizes me
to look.

The leaves on the trees
for whoever sees them.

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

is covered with names.

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


Venezuelan Rafael Cadenas Wins the Federico García Lorca Poetry Prize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{ El Nacional, 13 October 2015 }


Madera Fina inició su camino literario con Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez / Keyla Brando

Madera Fina Began Its Literary Path With Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez

                  [Rodrigo Blanco, Willy McKey and Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez |
                  Photo: Carlos González]

Luis Yslas, Willy McKey and Rodrigo Blanco used cocuy liquor to baptize the novel Y recuerda que te espero, a work that passes through two continents and traces the possibility of drawing a map from memory. The publishing house will seek to disseminate the work of Venezuelan writers.

Yesterday at Kalathos bookstore, at the Los Galpones Art Center in Caracas, the book Y recuerda que te espero by Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez was presented by the publishing house Madera Fina. The event included important figures from Venezuelan literature, among them the writer Elisa Lerner, who later this year will publish a compilation of all her non-fiction writings along with an unpublished text with this publisher.

Willy McKey was in charge of presenting the book. He conjugated his words to the rhythm of the golpe tocuyano, traditional music from the state of Lara, where part of the book takes place. He described Méndez Guédez as an “eternally young writer” who with this new project seeks to reconstruct his birthplace: “Barquisimeto is seen more clearly from Spain.”

He affirmed that the image of the novel emerges when the main character starts to miss his hometown and is forced to imagine a city made to be recalled vividly. But this journey involves “looking back, without nostalgia, with no need for stopping, only keeping on.”

The writer himself thanked the support of Venezuelan readers and he noticed a particular passion for work produced in Venezuela. He pointed out that this is a travel book: what’s important aren’t the situations, but rather the places. The work involves “exploring your own city as if it were an unknown space,” which is why he incorporated the chance characteristic of all voyages.

Rodrigo Blanco, founding editor of Madera Fina, expressed his enthusiasm about this new publication and pointed out that they decided to begin with Méndez Guédez because they believe in the permanence of Venezuelan writers. Despite the “hostile environment” that is lived in Venezuela today, books can still be read, written and published.

Translator’s note: You can find Madera Fina on Twitter (@EditaMaderaFina), Facebook and Instagram (@EditaMaderaFina).

{ Keyla Brando, El Nacional, 11 October 2015 }


¿Y dónde está la literatura del chavismo? (algunas sentencias lapidarias) / Eduardo Febres

And Where is the Literature of Chavismo? (A Few Lapidary Precepts)


Chavista literature is a contradiction. An aporia. In any form of Chavista writing the weight of the anchoring Chávez/Chavismo turns any horizon different from the political one into nothing. It subordinates and subsumes it. And more so if it’s a horizon as fragile as the literary one. My neighbor Aquiles Zambrano wrote about this in an episode of lucidity: “If it’s Chavista then it isn’t literature: it’s Chavismo, in other words, a political discourse.”


Chavista writing, if it’s authentic, is political, and its horizon is the possible, which isn’t always verifiable, but does point towards the truth. That’s why the best Chavista writing isn’t literature, and if there are Chavistas who write good literature, the good aspects of that literature are not that they’re Chavista, in the same way that the good aspects about their Chavismo aren’t the literary ones.

“Today’s events are what matter. But more than writing them, they must be produced,” could be a key phrase for the Chavista writer.


That was written by Rodolfo Walsh in 1969, in a private diary (published in Argentina in the 1990s), where the same tension moves through all the pages more or less from 1968 onwards. A tension the editor of those private papers (Daniel Link) condenses into “there’s no separation between life and literature.” But it gets better on the scene in this anecdote from the diary: “The time I should have spent on the novel I spent, mostly, in founding and directing the weekly for the CGT (General Central for Workers).”

You can rest assured that during these past fifteen years the time for writing novels of the best Chavista writers has likewise not been dedicated to the novel. And if there’s something similar to what we can call “Chavista literature,” one of the places to look for it is in the possible diary, or the email inbox, of one of those writers: in a writing that transforms into text the conflict described by Juan Calzadilla: “Not being able to choose action is always the fate and tragedy of all poetry.”


That conflict can end up producing a very potent writing, between the irreversible addiction to literature and the deep conviction that: “All males should ignore and curse literature. Reading it is a dissipation worthy, at most, of the harem’s deceitful odalisques and perverse eunuchs. ”

A lapidary precept by our Caribbean poète maudit, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, who also passed through and experimented that tension, although he never got close to political life except by accident, and in fact fled from the world and from life.

Nevertheless, his imaginary, isolated, bookish and self-destructive manner of living heroically produced a writing much more revolutionary, for example, than that of his contemporary Andrés Eloy Blanco, who really was a poet of the people, and definitely wanted to place his literature at the service of revolution.

Revolutionary literature has rarely been made by those who wanted to serve political revolution with literature, and it has always been made by those who have aimed to go beyond the limits of what is known and read as literature in their time.

The best place to look for the literature of Chavismo is in the future, or in forms of reading (or not reading) in the future.


One place where you definitely won’t find the literature of Chavismo is in established literature. Though there are plenty of writers who’ve tried to simplify (and capitalize) the storm of Chavismo from the comfort of that literature, all of them have crashed straight into what Che already warned against in 1965, in Socialism and Man in Cuba: “Authentic artistic research is annulled and the problem of general culture is reduced to an appropriation of the socialist present and the dead (but not too dangerous) past. This is how socialist realism is born.”

{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 7 October 2015 }


Ya no hay palabras / Guillermo Sucre

There are no more words

There are no more words that aren’t the last.
We can invoke the gods but we’ll never befriend them.
We haven’t known how to name the world and we barely
     talk with equivocal sounds.
The word is a parabola that never closes; we haven’t
     glimpsed the horizon to extend it.
The bow used to break with our mere impulse.

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 }


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 }