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 }


Aproximaciones / Rafael Cadenas



I stepped aside
(simplifying labyrinths
with a no)
but now rejection
has a burning lucidity:
it’s the only path.

You live under skin.
You ignore
that being
means: reachable.

It grows
the desire to see your face,

your face without me.

I follow the strange
of life.

Flame that turns into novelty
whatever it touches.
Like a child’s hand.

Everything flows,
and he who contains
is merely he who contains.

The unseen face
is my face.

My life
to ask for nothing.

They will call you to the plaza of distortion.

Disregard all the voices.
Live with the burning logic.
Return to where you still don’t begin.

Like a flaming space that empties itself always.
In the trembling of being only vacant life.

I am this vigilance.

I am this vacillating readiness,
this absence of face,
this faded color.

I am the one in whom
even the idea of man is extinguished.

reduce me to being
only a crudeness facing you.

Memorial (1977)

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


Tomás Eloy Martínez, hecho en Venezuela / Daniel Fermín

Tomás Eloy Martínez, Made in Venezuela

                     [Photo: Nicola Roco]

Tomás Eloy Martínez (Tucumán, 1934 - Buenos Aires, 2010) wrote a myriad of news articles during the time he lived in Venezuela. The Argentine, a reference in Latin American journalism, practiced his career in the nation that served him as a refuge from the dictatorship in his country between 1976 and 1983. Ciertas maneras de no hacer nada, an anthology published by La hoja del norte, gathers the essential texts he wrote in Venezuela.

The first half of the book is dedicated to certain places. A theater actress who was practicing with her group in the Jesús Soto Museum in Ciudad Bolívar, a salt mine worker in Araya who nearly falls in love with his sister, a singer from Calabozo who tries to break his own father’s record of 32 children. A series of anonymous beings who offer a glimpse of Venezuela in the 1970s.

The second part of the anthology gathers profiles and interviews with figures from Venezuelan culture. Juan Liscano, Guillermo Meneses, Vicente Gerbasi, Andrés Bello, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Jacinto Fombona Pachano. Intellectuals from that era who were profiled by Martínez. Texts reflecting his passion for the arts, stories charged with a lucidity that resists time.

The following are some of the phrases spoken by the figures he profiled:

—It’s very tempting to be a leftist poet, but it’s so sad to realize how it destroys the true meaning of poetry.
(Juan Liscano, 1976).

—All poetry is political. What I reprove is that it be used as a combat instrument, as a stone in the barricades.
(Juan Liscano, 1976).

—To write: speaking our torments aloud, making peace with the dead who haven’t quite left us.
(Adriano González León, 1975).

—Maybe I write for that reason: I aspire to transform my life through literature.
(Salvador Garmendia, undated).

—One doesn’t just write for something, but also for someone.
-(Tomás Eloy Martínez, 1975).

Sergio Dahbar was in charge of the prologue and compilation of the book, which also includes an introduction by Jaime Abello Banfi. Ciertas maneras de no hacer nada, which owes its title [Certain Ways of Doing Nothing] to a phrase spoken by the novelist Adriano González León to his interviewer, closes with Martínez’s farewell to his wife Susana Rotker, who was run over by a car in 2000. A book that more than one Venezuelan journalist should read.

{ Daniel Fermín, El Universal, 30 May 2015 }


Visitantes / Rafael Cadenas


Voice, you couldn’t take care of the house. The pursuers never listened to the most powerful one. They slowly infiltrated until becoming a storm.

Immobility, tent of our delirium, you intensify the pursuit.

She, the unconquerable one, couldn’t stop the pack of hounds. I hear voices, torches, whips. They’ve been here for months. I yell at them: I’m not the one you’re looking for. But they know their prey: they know I haven’t moved.

Now they’re camped out in front of the balcony. They prepare themselves to becoming gusts. The prey transforms into a witness who sees, with naive distance, the cruel task.
       The day’s grievance.

She remains immobile.

Didn’t he honor you? Didn’t he pull you out of the frozen corner where you were drowning? Didn’t he make his table your table, considering, without worrying? Now you abandon him to his solitary strength. He counted on you. You were the one that moved him. Don’t leave him, he won’t survive alone; the pursuers are superior to him.

The voice was interrupted by the chimera, by disdain. Nothing remained exempt. Now the one who was being pursued also disbelieves: he sees no corporeal nature in words.

Let the son and his shade be born from the white metal. The acrid-colored water has flowed weaving days to the punishment. Copper is missing in the black matter. Not words: they don’t make a front. Writing was a drawing traced amidst the urgency of persecution.

I’ve wandered under this light because I never found what was calling me. Protean life, multiple voice, moveable face. Spirit of ductility, halting, misty, hermetic. Roundabout for conjunction. Don’t look for me in the dream of masks. I betray.

Lord of change, son of the sea, shake the immobile waters, move the sick metal, convert. Take from me detention. Make me a new face.
I don’t want the pursuing hands to find me.
Without your favor the task becomes interminable.
In your hands I place my destiny.

Memorial (1977)

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


Presencia / Rafael Cadenas


suit colors,
skin tones, so immediate!
in the eyes
tired of being mine.

Let the eyes
recover from you.

The eyes’ only doctrine
is to see.

Whoever taught the eyes to read
erased paradise.

The owner is afraid.
The eyes only have reality.

What arrogance: to give lessons to the eyes,

If another world is possible
it must be this one
from a pair of eyes
subjugated by diaphanousness.
Illegible plasmation,
hidden inheritance,
hieratic dominion.

The eyes are not scared
and they’re not brave.

“I have eyes,
not points of view.”

What am I doing
behind the eyes?

Memorial (1977)

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


Rafael Cadenas: la vía profunda / Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

Rafael Cadenas: The Deep Path

                                    [Photo: Jorge Humberto Cardenas]

One of his books, maybe one of the least known, is called Apuntes sobre San Juan de la Cruz y la mística (1998). I occasionally return to these pages and feel that in some way they extend into his poetic writing. I can’t glimpse anything else when I approach this luminous fistful of aphoristic thought shrouded in the humility that accepts the presence of something that overwhelms our comprehension and at the same time is there, quite close: “only the reality we are exists,” he notes, “the ideal is a mirage.”

We should return to his reminders: to quiet —and pacify— temptation in order to encompass a total comprehension of reality. To assume the former, and if I understood it correctly, this implies letting go of the compulsive desire to impose points of view —actually, it’s a matter of having eyes— and mastering reason. That’s why, in adhesion to clarity, Cadenas meditates with firm serenity: “Instead of bringing them together, religions divide human beings, just like ideologies of any sign, as well as nationalism. This trinity is guilty of countless crimes.”

Life and beliefs, the instant and the Projects, the flow of consciousness during the day and not the slowing of thought, the acceptance of what can only be perceived for a few moments. From this we can infer Cadenas’s relationship to the Tao, the early distancing from orthodox ideologies and his reticence towards the merely “literary”; maybe this is why he distances himself in his essays from the more inquisitorial —or exhaustive— tones of the treatise, the monograph, the thesis, because in the end he’s speaking of an inner path and not an affirmation through will, a knowledge closer to intuition than reason —but it’s not a matter of negating it, but rather experiencing it’s limits, that’s the question.

His teachings tend to come from various angles: the word isn’t a site of splendor and inner breaking can start at it, a reflection of other breaks; precisely the gift received for approaching his fellow beings —the tongue— ends up being used for the purpose of an idea. This is where an arc is drawn: power’s speech falsifies, manipulates, twists, impedes the perception of the instant and the ability to receive something like “the real.”

I should repeat it to myself: it’s a matter of being in love and a lack of concern for the laughter released by the person who knows he doesn’t know anything and accepts it without fear or arrogance. Because for St. John, the author of these “notes,” illumination is “union with God.” He cites the passage referring to man the spiritual Canticle, but “seen” with wizened eyes and maybe even suspicion: “He and nearly all the mystics point to a single path towards God. They leave no alternative for those who think there are many paths towards him, some even unexpected. Maybe there’s none, maybe when we let go of the idea of a path, of a distance to be traveled, and the present recovers its intensity, can we feel closer to the mystery.”

That’s the “illumination.” The pure and simple fact of being and agreement facing that escape of so many thoughts parading in front of the perplexity —my own, right now— of the instant. The end of questions. That’s why I’m nearly certain that, already in Realidad y literatura (1979), Cadenas, the man who claims to live in radical ignorance, stopped at what “Wordsworth offers the world”:

a heart
That watches and receives.

{ Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 15 March 2015 }


Vanessa Place Inc. y la Poética Mongrel-Nafta / Heriberto Yépez

Vanessa Place Inc. and Mongrel-NAFTA Poetics

North American experimental poetry is going through a serious crisis. First, in March, Kenneth Goldsmith gave a racist performance and since then the Internet is destroying Conceptualism (and worse things will follow).

In May, Vanessa Place, a Conceptualist co-star, plagiarized the scene with another performance, and now we find her body where Goldsmith’s once lay. 2015 will go down in history as the year when Conceptualism committed suicide by lynching.

Place operates by means of in your face copy-paste, scandal and an identity-avatar even more cynical and capitalist than Goldsmith’s.

This is how she defines herself: “VanessaPlace Inc. is a trans-national corporation whose sole mission is to design and manufacture objects to meet the poetic needs of the human heart, face, and form.” (http://vanessaplace.biz)

For Place, “poetry is a kind of money.”

She was recently designated as part of a committee for the influential congress of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Los Angeles in 2016.

And last week a campaign was launched against Place, due to a project of hers that revives racial offenses. Faced with the pressure, AWP decided to remove her from the position.

The main beneficiary of this coup against Place was the semi-anonymous Mongrel Coalition, which led the petition drive.

The Mongrel Coalition is a new experimental movement, that could have been innovative, had it not plagiarized the very same capitalist violence it attacks.

The coalition claims to arise from minorities who are proud to employ hegemonic means and ends: to force consensus through coercion. Either you support them or you shut up, or they seek to eliminate you.

One tragicomic element of the anti-Place triumph of this self-declared “decolonialism” via bullying (?) is that they launched their intense campaign against Place a few days after publishing xenophobic stereotypes about Mexico.

And then, faced with complaints, they threatened to “disappear” those who might be opposed (to their methods of appropriating a decolonial discourse for North American purposes) and reiterated their right to say whatever they feel and want.

Since the networks of white experimental writers (consolidated or aspiring) don’t want to be attacked by the Mongrel Coalition they purposely overlooked their xenophobic violence.

The Mongrels, knowing their xenophobia and threats could affect their careers, used the campaign against Place in order to finish burying their anti-Mexican episode.

Maybe this was redundant: in the United States, Mexican lives don’t matter. They are subhuman immigrants, neighbors or raw material.

To insult, make invisible, threaten, to spit on the Mexican is a privilege that all North Americans have, regardless of their color or position.

For them, the Mexican is one of two things: Nothing or Nobody.

This week the Mongrel Coalition beat Vanessa Place Inc. in impeccable NAFTA style. Their Stocks are Going Up.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Milenio (México D.F.), 23 May 2015 }


Dificultad / Rafael Cadenas


The actor destroys everything that might reflect him. Instead of the direct route he prefers the interminable detour. He lives amid delays, sharpening his capacity to lose sight of things, overlooking, staring obliquely, hiding proofs, altering facts, elaborating versions, placing his dark salt on everything.

Memorial (1977)

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


El espectro / Rafael Cadenas

The Specter

You’re not there
when the glance stops
on a stone, a face, a bird,

in a suspension
with no waiting,

in that being

in that clearing
at the margins of comedy.

You show up afterwards
with your sad retinue.

Finished mud,
durable anguish
and oblique light.

Not the end of the specter
(stronger than the flame).

Agony of not being empty.

When he departs
his place is occupied
by a calmness.

Bonfire with no other men
only presences.

The mistake
isn’t so much yours.
Like the face
or a hand
or a bone.
we drink the wine that touches us.

I’m not what I wear
but the recipient.
Place of the presence,
place of emptiness.

I receive, I give,
I prepare.
or someone
I don’t know?

You don’t live from a name,
nor with answers,
nor on a single side.

It’s meager
the piece of land
you’ve chosen for yourself.

To live
in being’s flavor,
to who completes a burning invasion.

One moment separated from all other moments
has been waiting for you beyond the years for years.

Nor dark news.

The old sentence.

And of course the days,
so terrestrial,

without apex.
A weight
is whoever lives it,
not me
it’s not even
made to be felt.

Nothing is plain between us,
the most divided.
Not even suffering.

Mirrors that face each other
dividing themselves.

I plunge my hands
into the water
of a creek;
looking for what I lost,
this is it:

Thought drags itself as if drowned.
Today’s strong tide that sweeps the disarmed coasts
where clean days grow mute
(their assaulted ken
has no weight).
Far over there the clean line.
Days in which I live like a strange plantation.
Quiet, quiet, don’t wake the elders.

turn us into,
dissolve us in a new style,
make our breathing the absolute bellows.

magic phial,
nectar of being present.

The country we won’t reach
within our grasp.

Nothing interposes itself,
but like rich travelers
we’ve extended the trajectory.

The trip,
a blind man’s
Has nowhere.

It’s here
each moment

Don’t you hear
the last bird?

I know
that if I don’t become no one
I will have wasted my life.

I have nothing
to provide you
You come and go
at your taste.

From a silence
will come the answer,
the glowing honesty.

Memorial (1977)

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


Abdicación / Rafael Cadenas


I become mute
amid the real,
and the real says
with its language
what I keep.
Does a face
need words?
The flower
want sounds?
Are words sought
by the dog, the rock, by fire?
Don’t they express themselves
just by being?
Immense mouths
deafen us
without being heard.
I stop talking. I go no further than my eyes.
I’m sure of these surroundings.

Memorial (1977)

{ Rafael Cadenas, Antología, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1996 }


El gobierno de El Dorado / Eduardo Febres

The Government of El Dorado

                  Instead of a river of gold, the capital of the country where we found
                  El Dorado has a river of shit.
(Photo by Caracas A Pie)

Enrique Bernardo Núñez saw two situations: this country was forged in the struggle with heroic stubbornness for “two big objectives called by some people myths or mirages”: El Dorado and freedom. Both of them equally bloody, having occurred, full of mosquitoes, illnesses, starvation and death, and in the utopian logic of a pilgrimage that when it stops becomes unnatural, becomes something else.

The crusade for El Dorado could join the series of precursors to Kafka that Borges imagined. But even more, a story about the search for El Dorado where freedom substitutes for gold: an encampment that lasts however long it lasts to find out there is no freedom there. Or that yes, there’s freedom, but not a city made of freedom, where the fountains and even the septic tanks emit freedom. And then we have to move somewhere else to keep looking for it, and the encampment is abandoned and we build another one.

The model of a portable country is a nation condemned to a pilgrimage, to wander rootless, with no limits, in search of a freedom that when it seems to have been found has already become something else and forces us to keep moving.*

Núñez saw in both chimeras two ways of understanding history, but also an image of two forces facing off in “the struggle developing on the planet” (June 1948, the end of WWII and the beginnings of the Cold War). “The struggle between man and gold. Between gold and the will or the spirit,” he wrote.

Slightly to the margin of the ideological and warring fantasies that gave order to that struggle as a war between the Western and Eastern empire in the second half of the 20th century, Núñez wasn’t proposing an easy solution to that tension. He reminded us that “all the treasures of the Americas weren’t enough for Spain to subjugate Europe. Nor did they serve to prevent its own decadence, and in our days we’ve seen great nations sink beneath the weight of all their riches. In contrast, others have resisted for their love of freedom.” But that didn’t prevent him from recognizing that “in man’s struggle for freedom, gold has won most of the battles.”

In that reflection, of an almost cruel honesty, I find a model for reading the wandering of a country-encampment which is simultaneously idealist but with a miner’s consciousness. Where we find verifiable acts even crueler than Núñez’s affirmation: the city where gold is born never literally appeared in Venezuelan territory, but it does have an immeasurable common pit of combustible fossils, that creates the conditions necessary to create money almost like a demiurge.

Our friend William Serafino published a few months ago an essay in two parts that provides a brief historical review of the mechanisms for generating profit-looting exponentially greater than production. And in the most recent version of the business world’s swindle, the image of the empty storage container, carrier of gigantic profits, is a consumation of the mirage of El Dorado turned into merchandise. But while the mirage of El Dorado opens bank accounts, large estates and a model for creating wealthy people without wealth, what happens to the mirage of freedom?

“This ideal of freedom is the very history of Venezuela. And this is why we should continue with it,” Núñez closed his speech after being incorporated into the Academy of History. I think that, despite all the dangers and disasters the ideal gives us, there’s always a common sense pointing in that direction in the Venezuelan imagination.

But if El Dorado found a formula to pass from a Medieval fantasy to a postmodern economic context, it seems that up until now all the formulas for freedom (an even independence) that are formulated in the political field can’t avoid strengthening the economic mirage, which at the same time does nothing but assault and impede and postpone the freedom and independence of everyone, while propitiating that of only a few.

Thus, in the government of El Dorado, the encampments (the ministries?) are taken apart and moved just when they’re about to stop being mirages, and while the great mirage of profit redoubles its density of unbearable reality.

* Translator’s note: Febres is alluding to the novel País portátil (1968), by Adriano González León (1931-2008).

{ Eduardo Febres, Contrapunto, 6 May 2015 }