Oh, mancha del lloriqueo universal / Jesús Montoya

Oh, stain of universal whimpering

And not being able to leave.
And not being able to say what I’m saying now.
And not being able to even scream.
And not being able to even stop continuing.
And not being able to accept or renounce.
And not being able to scorn.
And not being able to at least burst.
And not being able to desire or stop desiring.
And not being able to forget.

Reinaldo Arenas

Oh, stain of universal whimpering.
Oh, broken body.
Oh, fleeting matches.
Oh, heartbreaking feeling of relief.
Oh, vagabond heart.
Oh, magic mirror of my chest.
Oh, marginal street.
Oh, Virgin of delights:
break my entire head
with the most blessed hangover you’ve got
I’m letting myself get lost just enough
no one will see my eyes again
I never opened them under the sea
and the waves are cold
and it’s the same things
always the same things
since forever
as ever
tracing this delicate repetition
if I’m going to hallucinate I’ll do it
from an elemental and farcical light
from a puerile and strident light
from an enamored and hoarse light
enamored and slutty like my voice on the sidewalks
whispering huge kisses
sweeping aside everything that happens around me
under the filthy spark of the stars
you will be my love
don’t abandon me in the night
and burn my hands during the day
now and forever
with the same fire
facing the crowd
facing the people heading to work on the streets
I stroll backwards through life with a tear falling from the sun
and I’m so stupid
and I’m so banal
and I’m so mundane
spinning in the unknown patios of cities
where my loves are lost
I sleep with my head leaning on their trips
cackling to myself
betraying myself in my own illusion
drawing lines on myself with the weeping of roads.

Oh, sparkling sea.
Oh, midnight prayer.
Oh, Mérida faggots.
Oh, sweet mother who waits for me.
Oh, cold and pale body.
Oh, harmonic laughter.
Oh, girl with big eyes.
Oh, mountains of the south.
Oh, crazed poet
if your face has filled
with tears again
it’s not from shame
learn that you are minimal
and that you’ve shed
your skin like a snake does
let me show you
let me explain
let me sing to you
the smallest reflection
from the puddle of my face
murky and yellowish
learn how to come back once and for all
and forget authentic departure
only within is the shade that kills you
only within the roses are furiously white
highway ruffian
prince of the binge
love of my loves
boy of my dreams,
sing with me,
sing my first trip.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


Escucha mi canto / Jesús Montoya

Listen to my song

Listen to my song, brother, it’s cheerful and mediocre and filled with all my visions. Feel the movement of the shadows, listen to my song. We’ve fallen vertically to embrace the rain, listen to my song. From now on you’ll know what binds me to the world, sing with me. We have named the body, not the soul. Sing, fortune is the kiss that kills us. I see the universe clearly when I close my eyes. Tell me if you see it. We’ve come to trace the golden time with white teardrops. We have formed the same circle. Tear my eyes out. Don’t stop listening to me. I will be stripped of my own hands like a criminal. I will never again laugh tangled in the fog. Brother, wake me when you start to dream. If I write that poetry is a flame, it’s because everything is shutting down.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


He decorado la traición de la belleza / Jesús Montoya

I have decorated beauty’s betrayal

I have decorated beauty’s betrayal.
I have made ignorance my behavior.
I have believed all the secrets,
because everything remains.

The words are choking me. I will never again lack this impossible oath to curse them. I know I live because I sing. I still possess the frightening laugh. I won’t hide anything. I feel tormented, shining, shining. Open your chest. I’m not acting. Look at me, I’ve kept the sea in my eyes forever. Let me inflate my consciousness in space. The horizon is marvelous. I’m not faking it. No one will come and spill their hands on my body because no one is listening to me. No one will edge the limit. No one will grow by embracing my words. No one. Listen closely to what I tell you: the words are burning me. That’s what freedom is like, shining, shining. Every day I feel myself disappear a little bit more. Silence, silence. My misfortune is terribly alien and its story is fleeting. Silence, silence. The birds sing and announce my departure.

{ Jesús Montoya, Primer viaje, Maracaibo: Movimiento Poético de Maracaibo, 2014 }


Pez-Girasol / Graciela Bonnet


You come from the night, in the middle of sleep, you say you’re a sunflower fish that emerges displaying a tail of sand, the tip of the fin, which is also a petal, which is also a leaf.
You come from the other side of the room, which at dawn is an infinite space, a desert like you’ve never seen before, complete desolation, the glare of closed eyelids, the sheets are superimposed solid doors closed to that other reality, the one that comes from sleep, turning in thousands of superimposed images, while you say you’re the sunflower fish buried in the sand in the back yard, amid the tilled dirt waiting for seeds, dampened so it’ll explode in a thicket of leaves.
It doesn’t matter anymore what was hidden behind those doors of memory, it doesn’t exist. If you finally open them, there’ll be nothing hidden, so nothing will be able to hurt you.
And tomorrow when the sun rises we’ll pray the waves in the patio, to the ones that pass over our heads, very high up there, lowered by the wind, the ones swimming backwards, fleeing through the clouds, sunflower fish, until the glare of the sun, until eyes closed, until never again.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Nos gustaba / Graciela Bonnet

We liked watching the night from the window.
It was a window that opened to the city’s valley and you could see a multitude of lights shinning or turned off.
You were saying behind those lights there was life, people were loving and dying, hating and being born.
I know. I didn’t need to lean out the window to understand there were people in the city who lived their tragedies and their unimportance each day. There was nothing we could do, no matter how much we insisted on staring out the window every night, and repeating to ourselves there were a multitude of lives in the darkness; we couldn’t even understand the moment, the close coincidence threaded in the world allowing us to do that, simply sit together and watch the night, on no particular day, at any window, in an anonymous city.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Juan Liscano / Graciela Bonnet

Juan Liscano
January, 2001

The water’s murmur rushing through the rocks.
The sunny patio, with its rocking chair, its half-finished paintings, its wooden or clay figurines.
The living room sofa with a blanket woven in vivid colors.
The angled window, right by the just-cleaned kitchen, everything calm and ready for a nap.
The smell of the sheets ironed, folded and put away with camphor tablets, a branch of lavender or a cinnamon clove.
An ancient chest, a hobby horse, the dinning room table, a cage sleeping on the windowsill.
The board in the middle with the half empty glasses.
Those words that spoke of a loosed youth.
Of a love until death, of a thought, of a thought
The book that was left open forever.
Paintings, postcards, letters, photographs, music, newspaper clippings
Everything has a face, a voice that speaks to me from inside and tells me goodbye, never, no more.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


Eugenio Montejo / Graciela Bonnet

Eugenio Montejo
June, 2008

We’re born with a few feelings and sensations that make us unique in the universe.
Since we enjoy life, we soon understand the deal involves negotiating what we have so death might not take us so soon. Thus, we keep renouncing our things in exchange for death allowing us a little more life.
One day it keeps our simplicity, and eventually it will seem fine to us when it takes our freshness, strength and confidence.
In the end, when we have nothing left, besides a pile of broken bones, we understand that it’s time we returned to our old residence.

{ Graciela Bonnet, Libretas doradas, lápices de carbón, Caracas: Lector Cómplice, 2014 }


La torre del árbol / Eugenio Montejo

The Tower of the Tree

                                                            to Juan Sánchez Peláez

      Green is the tower of the tree
and its wall murmurs.
The wind knows it will never win,
the clouds fall from the drawbridge,
the sun traps the walls, but it doesn’t pass.
Green is the strength of its tower
and unbeatable on the earth it’s erected
from the roots to the high battlements.
At night the nests close up
and outside the eye of the sparrow
reading his Hamlet
without being distracted guards the horizon,
meditating the prince’s story
until the final act.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Réplica nocturna / Eugenio Montejo

Nocturnal Reply

      I won’t write any more tonight,
silence, shades,
cover my voices with ash and memory,
bells are suddenly wolves,
each word becomes a knife
and stains my hands with blood.
Anyways, this old lamp
lies too much.

      It won’t be tonight. I’ll fill my eyes
with drunken morning surprise.
I’m stunned by the insomniac noise of taxis
as they descend through the suburbs,
birds that become stars
but don’t sing.
I’m going to mix with the sleep of the world
until dawn arrives to pronounce the words
from my somnambulant notebook.
This lamp returns to dead butterflies
and their glass monologues
cross the centuries and cut my speech.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Una palma / Eugenio Montejo

A Palm Tree

                                                            to Ramón Palomares

      What I look at
in a palm tree
is not a leaf or the wind,
nor the savage caryatid
where color appears
to glimpse horizons.
It’s not the bitter rancor
of the rocks
nor the green guitars
of the inconsolable sea.
Some of my bones, don’t I know,
the blood that drop by drop
and man to man
has been rolling for centuries
to populate me
somewhat too of my beloved dead,
their voices,
rotates in its column
and adds me to the air.
What I touch in it
with my eyes
and look at with my hands
the root that binds us
to this deep land
from a dream that’s so strong
no storm
can displace us.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Trópico absoluto / Eugenio Montejo

Absolute Tropics

      Blue and white palm trees
sharp marine sun at the shores of the coast,
iodized wind, naked bodies, waves.
I’m contemplating this land as if I were seeing it for the first time
or were about to leave it.
I cling to it, celebrate its ancient desire
in each rock, in each little pebble.
It’s the same landscape modulating the voices
so many times heard in cities and villages,
the same sun that was burning
in the absorbed retinas of my parents.
I’m not sure if I see it from another world
and wander absently now
dreaming through the air.
This light epitomizes for me life and death
in a beam of floating colors
that my silence draws in letters for me.
In this light the false pearl of the thief,
the dark girl with the turban who crosses herself,
the street urchin’s rags,
the alcatraz, the cicada, the noise of the salt marshes,
all align in a vast rainbow
where the magic of the absolute tropics
grows in a scream in the depths of my blood.

{ Eugenio Montejo, Trópico absoluto, Caracas: Fundarte, 1982 }


Noviembre / José Barroeta


                                                  To Mario Abreu

Let’s go look for my father,
My body is full of apples
and I could go out into the hills
with your month's name,
to wait for the stars to come out
and take us to him,
to his black head lost in the mud.
We’re passing the houses,
where your clarity November
frightens the women
to look for my father at the bottom of the soup
that boils.
Let’s enter the cadaver through the gold holes
that the rabbits open
and let’s watch how you pose in them November
close in the eyes to animal convulsion.
Don’t leave home without tracing
neither river nor stone nor forest
go right in at the hollow
right at November’s skin
and take me to the warm place of the dead.
Leave your busy bee clearness as a symbol
that my dead father is found anywhere
nourished by that love I give the night when
I look for him.
Leave me fixed and uninjured,
like the woman who lives in my body,
as I prepare the return to the sky of the cadaver
I seek
and it moves mysteriously in god like the first movement
that was made in the world,
quick and fertile like the dead father
I seek with you November.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


En la mañana / José Barroeta

In the Morning

                                                  To Miyó Vestrini

There’s sun.
My father’s milk drops from the cadaver
into air.
An oneiric milk,
in a state of coma
knocks down summer’s shine at the beginning,
doubles white the roses where the bird poses.
There’s sun.
My siblings like chicks
start to open spaces in the
timid earth.
There’s sun.
I’m riding in the car of the dead
with November flowers
and milk from my father on my face.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Samanes / José Barroeta


                                                  To Ludovico Silva

These samanes where the day
falls with Christ
keep the sinister away.
Death doesn’t elevate itself in them
but actually lives again
like in childhood
walking around randomly.
Those samanes
living with your father’s colors
in their eyes
they carry no time and no space
they’re calmly subject to disappear.
These samanes that don’t make sense,
because we’ll never reach them,
they make your dead father appear
amid shadows
with the light of those psalms
the wind gives the dead.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


A mi tos no hay lana que la cubra / José Barroeta

There’s No Wool To Cover My Cough

                                                  To Víctor Valera Mora

There’s no wool to cover my cough.
I’m so scared, father, that I wait
for a glass of water alone.
October’s desire to take me has passed,
but I’m scared.
The beast calls me,
my own,
the one I contained so much.
What I thought to leave in spirit
became body
and life indulges me so much
that night still falls.
When the fruit of my town drops
they’re my owners,
I’ve done nothing to keep them
in my heart.
Father, I have a great fright,
tell my mother about it as you touch
her pillow.
Tell her they stole my partridge
and the fig,
the September shade I treated
so poorly.
I can’t do it father.
My sister lives like a chicken
and I want her feathers;
I can’t stand
so much love in her belly.
My thirst for the old places
suffers a fable.
You and I, father,
made appointments in the forests.
Before showing up we imposed silence.

El arte de anochecer (1975)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Elegía / José Barroeta


While death exists I will live in song,
wandering in a wave of desperate music. In the winter,
in any season, there are so many who have died for me.

I always want to leave life without bitterness,
to leave it as I’ve seen it. The hope night gives me,
maybe the obsession of being dead, have prevented me from burying myself,
from flying over the thread of my solar soul.

I would like to dress myself with the color of death,
carry the rigorous fantasy within. Love a pale woman with
wings like nothing else.

My desire is not to flee from life but to fix it within what
snatches it away. This light today covers nothing and only the cadaver’s dream
invites us to travel.

Todos han muerto (1971)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Victoria de Stefano: “Vivimos con temor a que el país nos arrastre” / Hugo Prieto

Victoria de Stefano: “We live in fear of the country sweeping us away”

                                                  [Photo: Elvira Prieto]

The writer is struggling with the novel she’s writing at the moment. She has chosen a Gauguin painting as a lamp that guides her path... Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Surely the country, the bog that Rómulo Gallegos spoke of, is imposing formidable obstacles for her. But we already know about her tenacity, her perseverance. There will be continuity, a line that extends to her most recent novel Paleografías (2011), but also a portrait of what we are and a renewed exploration, perhaps without the joy of other experiences, of that great theme which is desolation nearly transformed into a literary genre.

Victoria de Stefano will speak about the contemplative world, which is the world of artists and of intellectuals in general, and about her extensive literary oeuvre at the Plaza Altamira Book Fair tonight. She will be joined by another great Venezuelan writer, Elisa Lerner, in a colloquium that will be moderated by the poet Rafael Castillo Zapata. The event is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. What follows is a long conversation with the author of Historias de la marcha a pie (1997).

What’s your view of the panorama of Venezuelan literature?

I think that the crisis of these last few years (economic, political, cultural...) the crisis of a country more that divided, right? even with people completely cut off from one another, has forced everyone to feel the necessity of reading Venezuelan writers. In the 1970s, when I began to appear as a writer, let’s say, there were very few writers, apart from the already famous ones: Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, Elisa Lerner, Baica Dávalos, Orlando Araujo, Francisco Masiani... I could name more, but there wasn’t the quantity of writers from different generations who coexist as they do today. I’m talking about fiction, about the novel, the short story. Of course, there’s also the poets. In those years, young Venezuelan writers needed to read the elders. Now I think we read each other more. Today I have no problem reading both younger and older writers. There’s a need for acknowledgement and also, perhaps, for establishing a tradition.

That seems to come later in Venezuela, right? That is, if there’s not a tradition, there’s not a school, there isn’t constant renovation but rather a literature like the one we’ve seen: zigzagging, abrupt.

But we definitely can say that the academy has grown, the professors have grown. We can’t talk about literary critics, since there aren’t any publications where literary critics might write. I mean, the tradition of criticism is weaker, but we do have one. What I think is that there’s been an attempt to remake a tradition.

With the existence of talent, isn’t there a need for that literary tradition, that tradition of criticism?

There is a literary tradition! That is, there’s been a tendency in the country to depend on tradition. In Argentine literature, for example, where that fact is very present, there’s something interesting as well. There are even writers who in their novels make references to not only literary tradition, but they embody it in characters, in situations, in circumstances. There’s a type of dialogue with other writers, with other tendencies. We’ve seen much less of that process, but the tradition exists. We’re not going to say that it’s a tradition like the French one or what Gombrowicz calls the primary traditions. No. We still belong to the secondary traditions.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it make you perceive a more precarious reality?

No, more conflictive for the writer. I mean, if the writer is reduced to the local world, to the Venezuelan tradition —which of course is part of the Latin American tradition, right?—, if you localize yourself too much, you lose the possibility of creating beyond those immediate surroundings and if you turn too much to the outside, in regards to writers from abroad, that also turns you into a second rate writer. I’m going to lay it out for you as a writer not a critic, because the question you ask me about the panorama would imply that I’ve tried to internalize that panorama, something I haven’t done. I’ve never been a professor of Venezuelan or Latin American literature. What is the conflict one faces? Well, in the end I say to myself, I’m going to write what I want, what I can and what interests me, no matter how much the country might scold me for not writing about what’s happening here, regardless of someone telling me I have a lot of references to Italy in my work. Yes, those are in there.

To traditions outside our own?

We all have the right to do that. The homeland, for writers, for intellectuals in general, can’t be reduced to geographical limits. That theme of identity no longer interests me at all. That was back in the 1970s, not just for me but for many writers. Well, trying to write proudly, to write what you think has to be written. There’s a detail too. I was born in 1940, in Rimel, Italy. When the war was over, I came to Venezuela. There’s a glance, because I have a family tradition, both my father and my mother were educated, trained people. So, how am I expected to cut that world off? I can’t. Anyways, today we’re all multicultural beings.

Venezuela is a country that’s eternally under construction, that has struggled a great deal in many areas to achieve accomplishments, completed tasks. Could its literature be a reflection of that?

Each generation, each period, tries to build itself from the beginning, as if what came before weren’t there. The generation I belong to studied elementary school in the 1950s, I entered the university in 1958, we had a more vernacular education compared to students today. I say it in a more Venezulanist, more Americanist sense. When I started school, we had many professors who came from Argentina, some of them came after the fall of Perón, we used to read the poetry of Gabriela Mistral. Do they read anything like that in high school today? We read Ramón Díaz Sánchez very well. I used to levitate with “Cumboto,” With the novels of José Rafael Pocaterra. It was actually a world with a more Latin Americanist vision.

I’d like to propose something to you, since you mention Pocaterra. Many people are waiting for the novel about the Bolivarian revolution, like Memories of Underdevelopment in Cuba or the counter narrative, as Memorias de un venezolano en la decadencia could have been. But neither of them has appeared.

But that’s a petition that can’t be made to writers. I mean, Pocaterra’s book has to do with the concrete experiences of a country, it’s the biography of a writer, a writer who’s been in jail, who has known conspiracies, who also has a lineage and antecedents in England, he forms part of a time period when politics, the country and literature went practically hand in hand. The role of the writer now isn't Pocaterra’s, nor is it Arturo Uslar Pietri’s. They're more isolated figures, they’re less engaged with the country in that sense. By this I mean the country has become departmentalized, just like in France today you can’t think of figures such as Sartre or Albert Camus, it’s another era, another story, another world.

They’re more solitary, more self-absorbed.

It’s another society. That starring role no longer exists and whoever aspires to it might attain some social or media success, but it won’t go beyond that. We write, and who knows if in 20 or 30 years anyone will read us or not. I think the idea is that writers should write, regardless of whether they might hope or not hope to be read. What will be left of this small world in 20 or 30 years? We don’t know.

What’s left of that country from your first novel El desolvido (1970)?

A great disenchantment and a great sadness. But there might also be a certain nostalgia for youth, for the chimeras and the experiences that were lived and took shape.


No, not bitterness.

It’s nostalgia, a sorrowful feeling, a certain mourning, but not bitterness.

It includes a portrait of your generation.

Yes. Historias de la marcha a pie, which I wrote much later on and was very difficult to publish, is a continuation of La noche llama a la noche (1985), it’s another reflection on the same theme, amplified. In the tradition of universal literature, the theme of disenchantment is very present, there’s even a category of novels called the category of disenchantment and in Cuban literature there are great novels of disenchantment, for example, the novels of Jesús Díaz. There’s a tradition, it almost constitutes a genre. But when I write, I don’t do it based on a plan... I’ll write about this... I’ll write about that, no. I start writing from very small things. For example, in Cabo de vida (1993), which is a novel that hasn’t been read much, because it didn’t have editorial continuity, the theme is a group of waiters for a party planning agency, who go from party to party, serving, so there’s both worlds, how they see them and the fact that being waiters doesn’t prevent them from having a spiritual rather than an intellectual life.

Out of those utopias, those experiences, what remains? What line could be established in continuity?

I wouldn’t know how to answer what line of continuity might exist. There are people who lived through those experiences, some of them are writers, some are intellectuals, some are even in politics and have lived through the fact of disenchantment. Sometimes, a few of them can do this with bitterness, others not. I don’t feel any bitterness.

The characters in your novels live in surroundings that dominate them, that impose themselves, but at the same time they’re characters that reflect tremendously about that. One could say they’re not people of action and yet they experience situations of great adversity.

The theme of adversity is present in my novels. In La noche llama a la noche, there’s a man of action, who is the kidnapper, then he leaves and continues his political activities throughout the world. He dies on a train. We don’t know how, I don’t even know how, if it’s a suicide or a paranoid situation that leads to his death. In my novels there’s a reflection on action and on the contemplative world, which is the world of the artist. That’s in all my novels. Even in the one I’m currently writing. But there’s an overarching theme which is adversity. Maybe when you asked me if there’s bitterness, I said no, but there is a great fear of adversity. Of the adversity that can present itself in different ways. There’s also the theme of freedom and of how you’re determined, how others determine you, and of what the human being’s space for freedom might be. As a question. I never have an answer.

Adversity isn’t the result of an action, it’s the result of a circumstance, of events that are unleashed and those characters are unrelated to those events.

And that’s our reality, for my characters. I don’t know if I’m making sense. My characters include many depressed people, who are living through a moment of crisis. Some of them very serious, others not as much. I don’t know how a French person might live in Paris, who’s a professor or writes. But I do know how we live here in Venezuela. Those of us who are intellectuals, writers, even other types of people, we live everything as if it were a crisis, with a fear of a certain adversity, that the country might overtake us, that it might sweep us away, that we might return, as Rómulo Gallegos would say, to the bog. I do think that’s present and, surely, it can be found in many other writers.

There’s an anguish that competes with adversity. One notices that the country already devoured us and it continues to do so. How can we fight against that?

As an individual, independent from your social or intellectual condition, we all have to fight against that, individually.

With an intellectual life or a political one?

Each person makes a choice. Some are made for political life and they fight from there. Others are made for the spiritual life. Regardless, they’re not two separate things, right? Are they two separate things?

I think that in Venezuela, yes.

Ah then, in Venezuela yes.

Would you agree with that?

Yes, I agree.

Is Historias de la marcha a pie a novel about death?

It’s about illness, death, adversities. Yes, that’s the central theme. On one occasion I read a chapter at a university in Mexico, where I was invited. At first I said I felt bad with them, for reading such a terrible chapter to them. And the professor who invited me, who knew my novel very well, said: “But it’s written in such a jubilant style. One feels that when the writer writes she enters into a certain ecstasy, a certain jubilation, so read it like that.”

It’s also a jubilation for life.

Of course, exactly. That’s what he meant.

It has that counterpoint.

That’s life.

And what you’re narrating is death.

Which is a part of life.

Don’t you think death is a business we should leave to doctors, priests, conjurers?

I think that regardless of the word business, each one of us negotiates with our illness and our death, in our own way. There are people who don’t negotiate illness and death. I’m remembering a friend who was gravelly ill and the doctors told him he needed an operation and he didn’t do it. He died on his own terms.

Which is also valid.

Perfectly valid. Juan Sánchez Peláez [the poet] also refused treatment. But regardless of that, maybe recovery by means of medicine is valid. But there’s also recovery through desire, through necessity, through will. All the variations exist. So does suicide. At the moment, I’m writing a novel. Each time I write a novel, I set up a painting for myself. It’s as if it guides me, maybe it doesn’t guide me and I find another one. But the one I have for my novel right now, which I’m having a lot of trouble writing, I think I feel a certain amount of dejection. Where am I heading? What am I writing? What interest can this have? I’m not writing with the jubilation I had when I wrote Historias de la marcha a pie. Does that have to do with what’s happening in Venezuela? I suppose. Obviously yes. But the painting I set up is Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Do you know which one it is? The famous painting by Gauguin that he painted in one of those islands.

In that sense, will your next novel have continuity with Paleografías?

I hope so. But I feel that what we’re living is slightly where we come from, who we are, where we’re going and that it’s an eternal question and that maybe with us it’s more present, marked.

It’s an eternal question, but at this moment, for us in Venezuela, it’s an urgent question.

Well, eternal and urgent.

{ Hugo Prieto, Contrapunto, 16 November 2014 }


As de sol / José Barroeta

Ace of Suns

                                                  To Rebeca Giamate


You’re my forbidden reading,
the true story I love and tell myself,
You’re the golden door that makes the afternoon,
the fire it lights to celebrate my best


Your fragrance recovered
Oh your fragrance I loved so illusively,
may the sun and all the stars move for you.
And even when my heart’s fire perishes,
even when it sobs sacredly with solitude,
even when without looking at the earth your strong smell persists
all over the world,
you will see my cold silhouette, leafless in the wind.


dreamed daughter of beauty,
who comes to me riding your sun horse.


Fable where being or not being
is the red countryside.


Honey hidden in a cup of liquors.
How many times have I tasted your last presence there.


Your web of gold makes a vassal
of my life. You fly like a beautiful and imaginary


The distance between your two breasts
is a long red and white acacia.


I call you,
I speak with you in the depths of the rain.
A volcano and silk rose falls to me from your


City where our retinue
is crossed by wild animals. Inexplicable castle
of a pure and real anxiety.


Even for you in the olive grove
I listen to blood from your words. For you that thought
of the cross becomes aroma.


There’s no fable nor truth
where I might keep you.


You speak a language of wild animals,
there’s no pride nor treachery to serve your taming.
You’re one thing in the world and another in the sky,
you always fill my lair with water copiously.


I reach you through desolation.
For you I haven’t ceased stepping on sadness.
To persuade you I’ve gone to every temptation.
To have you I’ve filled your head with breeze.


Now I blaspheme.
Your pollen skin sleeps far from me.
Sacred like the moribund.


great master of the year and sky,
cover our entire white past.
Insult this holiday of sadness.

Todos han muerto (1971)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


Rostro de Baudelaire / José Barroeta

Face of Baudelaire

                                                  To Rafael Brunicardi

Face of Baudelaire into which I always
dose of dawn and the Bastille.
Oh, my poet,
let’s talk under the moon tonight
entrusted to the cats,
let’s talk alone as in elegies.
Face of Baudelaire where my adventures
are flowers of evil.
Face of Baudelaire that wanders in my room,
that accompanies my turbid and hurried sleep,
who will accompany me triumphant on dead nights.
Face of Baudelaire;
sick god of every day.

Todos han muerto (1971)

{ José Barroeta, Todos han muerto: Poesía completa (1971-2006), Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2006 }


La vigilia / Antonio Trujillo

The vigil

The vigil

is learned
in trees

look at them

day and night
in the same spot

toward the fog

they too

know nothing
of God

{Antonio Trujillo, Taller de cedro, Caracas: Editorial Tropikos, 1998}


Una mesa / Antonio Trujillo

A work / table

A work

is always
something rude

it’s due
too many blows

lives churlishly

tends to speak
poorly about the government

about the king
and his subjects

man leans
on this table

never the soul

{Antonio Trujillo, Taller de cedro, Caracas: Editorial Tropikos, 1998}


De la niebla / Antonio Trujillo

Of the Fog

All of that could have been in the ages
of the recent plumage and of the fog
Migue Ramón Utrera.

The tongue
of the valley

Desires the humidity
of that height

And there’s no vestige
of the landscape

All of the fog
comes from us

There is a smell
of fog

Of an engraving
of a rusted sky

If it descends
the rain won’t come

A certain tremor
says it.

To the center
just to look

The sky
and the hills

Don’t forget
Have edges

tossing flowers

it devours you

offers itself

And the light
isn’t enough

takes you

Through spikes
to the frond

The nascent
lives below

You should drink there
like the birds


The path
is another

You say fog
and the sky listens

You name it
and the trees tilt

The gesture
where we’re lost

You forget it
and it chases you

It is a desire

You think
someone has died

and it’s raining

Once again
it’s in the valleys

Not a single tree
reigns over your heights

Toward the landscape
you live blindly

Though the sun
lifts that white sea

That fog from last night

The fog forces
it knows you’re alone

The mountain offers
not even a magpie

The fog
challenges you

And the field
is it

You descend
without knowing

You think you’re there
and you break

In another house

I walk
in what’s possible

Until dawn

I wait for the branch
that breaks the dark

And I give
in this fog

I look
and it’s not enough

It too
is fugitive

The fog
changes and moves the houses

not a single word
makes noise

there’s no light
and truth doesn’t
sprout in the fields

Only within
too deep

A certain cold
lifts the scream

While the fog

In the leaves
makes another light

This penumbra
of trees


its own fate

There is a zeal
in the fog

I’ve seen it
covering the grass

That lights
this part of the earth

It barely glimpses you

Becomes flight
something moves it

If man
walks in it

                         to Ricardo García De La Rosa

There is fog
in the sea I hear

It grows on
the rocks

And the water
opens itself an instant

I can see it

its depth

Drink its light
and return to these meadows

it pronounces


over the landscape

To flee
through these majaguas

There is no branch
to     detain it

There it is
touching the air

don’t look for it

and stars

Go after it

If you implore
the sky escapes

If you demand

You’ll never know
what the wind does

I live in it
and nothing is dark

It surges and moves
the irises

It’s there above us

Pay no mind
to what’s dense

Mark the air

The fog
is a leaf

All the leaves

Have a path
on Earth

They flee on it
and exit to the sky

they are the forest

The penumbra
we lack

There are no fears
in the fog

It knows how to look
at your trembling from there

The fog
does not offend

It hovers
and knows how to die

It knows
this side

It is in God

{Antonio Trujillo, Vientre de árboles, Los Teques, Venezuela: Ateneo de Los Teques, 1996}


Del mismo lugar / Antonio Trujillo

From the Same Place

Some plants

and you descend

in these irises
calm of the sun

tall spike

you dawn wounded
on stars of grass

below your valleys
plot the fire.

I don’t know the weight
or the mystery

of these places

I barely glimpse
a light

toward the valleys


It is water light

the shade
from the bamboo

measures the humidity
of the greeting

flowering the river
sinks its return.

{ Antonio Trujillo, De cuando vivían los pájaros y otros poemas, Los Teques, Venezuela: Ateneo de Los Teques, 1994 }


Fracaso y aprendizaje / Margarita López Maya

Failure and Apprenticeship

The tributes the poet Rafael Cadenas has received in Latin America and Spain make me think about how difficult but valuable it is to accept personal or collective failure. Cadenas began his poetic notoriety decades ago by expressing his existential failure in a context that included the defeat of his political convictions. One of his emblematic poems was titled “Failure” (1966) and another “Defeat” (1963). He wrote them several years after returning from exile in Trinidad.

Cadenas suggests for me today the idea of the new defeat of the Venezuelan left, or better yet, of that left that never learned from the disaster that was the armed struggle in the sixties. Hugo Chávez’s “socialist” project now displays its unviability, not merely economic but political and moral. A great deal of beautiful rhetoric and utopia, but at its core, it is not democratic and it is sustained by the volatile and sterile petroleum income. Nicolás Maduro in New York, with an entourage of 175 people, spending money all over the place while the country is facing shortages; the use of a PDVSA state oil company airplane for private errands in Brazil by the family and nanny of minister Elías Jaua; and Jaua’s wife checking in to the very expensive Syrian-Lebanese Hospital of Sao Paulo, Brazil, while Venezuela endures shortages of medicine and the collapse of our basic medical services. These all reveal an elite that is self-absorbed and alienated from the reality that surounds it.

The failure of the Chavista project is also the failure of Venezuelan society that supported it and kept it in power. But, as Cadenas says, that failure could be a “clue toward another more demanding space.” If this elite and us were capable of looking at ourselves in the face and recognizing that we’ve failed, we could begin to repair the “magical” side of our petroleum economy, which has once again brought us to this dead end. That acknowledgment would allow us to open ourselves to humility, which would in turn create the conditions for listening, engaging in dialogue, evaluating our weaknesses, while also examining our strengths. From this other space it would be possible to rebuild a less grandiloquent plan for the country, one that is rooted in the ground and allows us to take the leap we need in order to articulate ourselves for the globalized community of the 21st century. It won’t be easy, as is the case with all lives that deserved to be lived, or with the itineraries of societies that have provided dignity and well-being to their members. We need to learn from this failure that belongs to Chavismo, but also to the rest of us.

{ Margarita López Maya, Últimas Noticias, 10 November 2014 }


Cinco poemas del lugar / Antonio Trujillo

Five Poems from the Place

When she comes
everything smells like earth

she announces herself
with a riled lightning bolt

we shut doors
and want the flame

when she comes

the cliff sings

then the grass grows.

She comes naked     rising

damp trees
cling to her skin of sky

she doesn’t talk

flies and moans
such an old dream

in loose leaves

lives saying goodbye.

A few birds
cross the fog

without song

lean on branches
their capacity to forget

return to flight
always without talking.

Then the night plunges you

stubborn spiral

the river returns in full humidity
and the houses were gone
just beyond the leaves

where no one
moves the trees.

This yellow
of so many irises

brings back
a certain time

where roosters
climbed their song

and their hard crests
we already flowering.

{ Antonio Trujillo, De cuando vivían los pájaros y otros poemas, Los Teques, Venezuela: Ateneo de Los Teques, 1994 }


La narrativa de Gustavo Valle se sitúa en los lugares abandonados / Humberto Sánchez Amaya

Gustavo Valle’s Fiction Is Situated in Abandoned Places

Álex Kantor is sick of it. He decides to escape the city that’s been the stage for all his failures. He can’t find himself there. He needs to exile himself from his frustrations, including his family.

This is the leitmotiv of Happening, the most recent book by Gustavo Valle which won the XIII Annual Transgenre Contest sponsored by the Sociedad de Amigos de la Cultura Urbana.

“It’s a fantasy everyone has, to slam the door, take off to an unknown place and start over. These are traumatic decisions that many people never make,” expresses the novelist who recently came to Venezuela to present his work at the Kalathos bookstore and the International Book Fair of Carabobo University.

Desperation is the fuel for the protagonist and his only attachment, at the beginning, is the 1976 Range Rover that will take him to a place where he expects to find some peace. He takes the trip at night with darkness as his accomplice, until an involuntary homicide adds other motives to the anguish of the character, who ends up hiding in the Gulf of Cariaco alongside others who are also waiting for redemption.

Caracas is seen from a distance by the author, specifically from Buenos Aires, where he has lived since 2005. He left Venezuela in 1997, for Spain. “I spent a long time over there. In 2003 I returned to Venezuela for a while, until I left again,” he details.

Unlike the protagonist of his book, Valle assures us that his departure from the country doesn’t have anything to do with any particular torment. He only did it, he affirms, to expand his horizons.

“My imaginary universe is situated here in Venezuela, which means that I work with memory a great deal. I write non-fiction about the place where I live and my fiction is based on the zones I’ve abandoned,” notes the novelist, who is already back in Argentina.

Memory can be deceitful, he admits, but that doesn’t bother him. “The writer is an impostor of memories. He’s permanently placing masks on them. That’s his job. When we evoke the past we always corrupt ourselves and transform ourselves. What occurs is reconfigured and becomes a viscous, unreachable matter.”

He indicates that the escape and the journey are themes in all literatures, but that in Venezuela there’s a particularity that is difficult to ignore. “The most recent Venezuelan circumstances speak of a migratory process that grows more immense each day. There are writers who are placing a magnifying glass to this situation. There’s a discussion about concepts such as flight, exile, escape, none of which were on the menu of terms for Venezuelan literature and for daily occurrences,” affirms Valle, who is now concentrating on a novel about sexual initiation.

{ Humberto Sánchez Amaya, El Nacional, 7 November 2014 }


A los vencidos ancianos la noche les cae encima / Lorenzo García Vega

Night Falls On the Defeated Old People

Walking, as if headed to the brothel that only ends up being a trompe l’oeil, I sing to Saint John of the Cross.
     I ramshackle in my song, then. Somber night. Oh dark night of the soul!
     I don’t know how to get there.
     I take the wrong road.
     Ugly people, oh canticle!, through the streets with the blackness of ink (do you want anything more stupid than what I’m whistling?).
     I don’t think I’ll get there.
     Incredibly, in the years of my youth, when I was at the Havana Institute of Secondary Teaching, I would always go around (but why does it occur to me to evoke such an idiotic thing?) dressed in a coat and tie.
     Don’t ask me anything.
     I’d have to sing what a somber Venezuelan priest once sang.
     Oh canto, pretty or ugly, I’m an old man and I walk. I love the dark night, repeat and repeat my Nonsense Nocturne.
     “And he kept sleeping forever / hugging the rigid skeleton,” sang the priest Borges.
     And then, at the moment when the guitars should come in, what’s said, even if it makes no sense, is said.
     But a light rain —keep singing this Nonsense Nocturne— is falling on the green house in front of my house.

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }


Una chorretada difícil de comprender / Lorenzo García Vega

A Hard To Understand Squirt

If you don’t know about the crocodile that circles me, it’ll be hard to understand what I’m about to say here.
     What I saw, very white, and later, having heard someone say, to someone else, that it was enough, the presence of a maharaja for a pain in his neck to disappear.
     Nothing, a pretty yellow bird, but someone else said that just by using the Manager (sic), or a black pebble, “the cover of the mountain” would come crashing down. There’s a knife that opens without opening, the other one ended up saying.
     A little bit of death won’t hurt. He went to a little box of chocolates. Someone tossed it, and it landed in the patio of a jail, full of starving prisoners.
     The nuns of the Sacred Heart send me the Mater Pages every month, but I’m barely able to buy the shoes I wanted in the fur shop where I’d been. You see, I was listening to the absurd allegations of some clients, cowardly and combative.
     My grandfather was in the habit of making his own cigars —they were cigars with yellow paper—. But now someone the Argentines call a “boludo.” This “boludo” escaped the very moment —smoke-filled night— I began to think of him.
     It was five in the morning. It had been a while since I’d left the Publix where I worked as a bag boy. Twenty-five decrepit old ladies, dressed up as little girls were at the Home. The horror! So then I started to think about how, in the Publix, they owed me two weeks of sand. What did this mean?
     The deserted sidewalk. The undead man staring right at me. Raining which is a happiness. I’m gonna go out with the painter Baruj Salinas, but before that someone dictates how I should paint. Afterwards, I hear about something more or less like this: someone, who’s left for Oregon, leaves the toilet seat cover for his grandma.
     The devil whispering to me on the little cart I drove, when I was a bag boy at Publix. Where will I take him? I ask myself if that little cart might actually be inside me.
     What was the painting I set out to make, when I thought I could be a painter? I discover myself insisting. Romans? The opposition to a matrimony?
     It seems like an argument. A wedding should not take place.
     There’s a tenuous pinkness, in all of this.
     And I can finish by saying that the son of the heroine —a barber, as far as I can tell— is happy when he learns that she’s the only one who’ll escape. But how many colors does it take to say this?
     I don’t even find out how sad I am.

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }


Pequeña alucinación / Lorenzo García Vega

Little Hallucination

The green of the smear? A quantity of ants, where you might learn a lesson.

But above. Above? Especially above. The head of the smoke. We know the past wove it (stain, little stain, on the unforeseeable, ancient mailbox).

But what it’s about precisely is the rhizome, that will appear when the electricity arrives. Well, jotting something down like, from a river, the fissure.

A river, if someone were actually able to notice it, would produce cuts in the silence (could it be, silence, like a broken hose, without water?).

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }


La teoría y Ayotzinapa / Heriberto Yépez

Theory and Ayotzinapa

Events like those in Ayotzinapa test our concepts. The elite commentariat of the dominated territories use ideas from the social sciences and humanities of a previous era. This gap has been evident in the case of Ayotzinapa.

I will enunciate three understandings that theory today already judges as obsolete. But that govern the interpretation of Ayotzinapa.

Foucault or Snowden aren’t necessary to understand there is no such thing as “personal life.” But people insist Ayotzinapa was a loss of the “personal” lives of “young students.”

Ayotzinapa was an assault against a micropolitical group, composed of dozens of Mexicans of which millions exist, a profile that is anything but “individual.”

Faces, desires, discontent, their lives were the same as those of millions of bodies here and there. Ayotzinapa doesn’t belong to the order of the biographical but to that of the biopolitical.

A second fallacy of the commenters indicates that the Mexican government is the aggressor.

There is a theoretical consensus that we live under a global order. But the commenters cling to the existence of autonomous, identifiable and “national” governments.

They seem to be unaware of NAFTA. To not know we’re part of North America.

Everything that happens here is part of a check list of economic, military and political powers that administrate this transnational zone. Only the naive or desperate can believe in the “national” and when faced by an event such as this complain against their assistant political class.

From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson, all repression in this zone follows the same geopolitics.

That’s why a third outdated understanding (invoked to exhaustion in these weeks) is the most laughable of all: to lament that in “Mexico” there’s no “rule of law,” and, instead, that “barbarism” or “corruption” rules; as if they lived in a century that never existed and didn’t know that “civilization” and the “law” operate to perfection here and, thus, impose violence and inequality.

Ayotzinapa was a civilizing violence, not very different from the one practiced in New Spain to “civilize” indigenous peoples and blacks and very similar to the fast and furious civilizing violence of the United States.

Ayotzinapa was one more police action to impose “civility” today in the transnational region of North America. There’s nothing particularly Mexican about it.

Even more than in 1968, Ayotzinapa is a protective measure for diverse economic interests. We will never know who gave the first and final authorization to protect such interests, always already glocal.

If you think the president is a fool, then the fool is you. National governments don’t exist. This has been known by global theory for a long time already.

We shouldn’t think lucid theory will help us. It is merely the technical confession of civilizing crime.

Commenters and common victims come and go without ever even suspecting the diagnostic laugh of high theory, the latter always a neighbor to those guilty of genocide.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Suplemento Laberinto, Milenio (México D.F.), 1 November 2014 }


¿De qué luna se trata? / Lorenzo García Vega

What Moon Is It?

There’s me, today —and I’m not surprised—, under the January moon that serves to maintain for me, fixed, a morning there once was in the town of my childhood. But what strange constancy could this be? I can’t measure it. Threads, I’d say, that don’t break, but threads that have already ceased to exist. There will be a silence to explain what I’m saying here, but I don’t think there will be an end where I’m able to touch that silence. So, there’s a January moon, and that seems to be enough. More or less, yes, that seems to be enough.

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }


Pianola por el mediodía / Lorenzo García Vega

Midday Pianola

In an abyss? What could there be in an abyss? Pieces? The paper star that adorns a box of cookies doesn’t have to look like that impoverished place, called Pereira, where my grandfather slept.

And yet, I would guard, during the daytime sleep of this midday, the sinister child —his hallucinating eyes— who threatens with the stick he holds in his hands (is there a zero?).

But how can the paper star on the box of cookies look like the place that was called Pereira? Is there a hallucination going on?

And yet, there’s no doubt the place of the paper star on the cookie box is the same place —a place of earth— that was called Pereira. The place where my grandfather slept.

Meanwhile, in a uterus? The child, no doubt, could keep threatening with the stick.

Could it be I’m about to get a cold?

And the eyes mark an Egyptian face (but what eyes am I talking about?), while maybe we’re at the edge of the sinister.

In other words, to put it simply: it might be that with the pianola of this midday today, the paper star on the box of cookies is driving us toward a little box where it wouldn’t be strange at all to find an abyss. One doesn’t understand anything, but these things do happen.

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }


Creo en unos triángulos / Lorenzo García Vega

I Believe in Some Triangles

I believe in some triangles.
     I believe in some triangles!
     Standing by a window. The window facing the little leaves of the tree. I believe, I repeat.

In other words, rain, rain, rain, a wig.
     It’s stupid to start talking about a wig, but it’s raining.

While everything smells like the din of the past: butter —boiled—, but barely recalled.

Thrown in the patio, flooded by rain, the dry triangles I believe in.
     However, I don’t know what formula could’ve sucked the color out of those triangles.
     (I laugh with some invisible cubist teeth —I laughed for the first time, after the dentist made quite a few extractions—, but I won’t talk about that right now.)

Waiting, then, like this. Stripped of all my knobs. But what knobs am I talking about?

Although, thinking more about it, how can I depend on a belief? Well, despite my belief, there could be a road where I might find a lung made of rotten caramel, in the dry triangles. Road... and what might Kandinsky say, then? Road, finally, where we might even, maybe, find a strange smell. It could happen, yes, just like I’m saying it could, all it would it take is for you to stop paying attention for a second.

{ Lorenzo García Vega, Erogando trizas donde gotas de lo vario pinto, Madrid: Ediciones La Palma, 2011 }