A Prologue

From being in the daily habit of reading El Nacional during those weeks, I came across a notice for a reading by the poet Edda Armas, whose work I didn't know at the time. After an early dinner, I got a ride to the bus stop in El Cafetal and took the Metrobus to the subway at Los Cortijos. I went west to Chacaito and the CCC shopping mall, to a small bookstore with huge plate glass window displays. The Librería Macondo is on a second floor corridor overlooking a subway entrance in Sabana Grande. Across the street from a Kuai Mare bookstore branch, and if you continue walking blocks west, just before arriving at Plaza Venezuela and UCV, you'll find the great Librería Suma. These are remnants of periods in recent decades (1960s-1980s) when Sabana Grande's outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants flourished. But there's always remnants of any period in a city, and these facts of movement, deracination, architectural mismanagement or saturation are all part of the postmodern city, or the modern city, either one. Whatever combination of the two exists in that valley.

Armas read with a group of creative writing students graduating from a year-long workshop with the poet and critic Maria Antonieta Flores. The workshop was one of several conducted each year at the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Romulo Gallegos (Celarg). A notice in El Nacional last week mentions that Armas has just published a new collection of poems, En bicicleta (Caracas: Colección Bienal Literaria José Antonio Ramos Sucre, 2004). When she read that night, she introduced her poems as being part of a single manuscript, which I imagine could be this recently published one. The bookstore was filled with about fifty to seventy-five people, in fold-up chairs, on the floor, standing between book aisles. Her poems lived up to the audience's generous attention. In the middle of that dangerously free-falling year, 2002, this was one purpose of poetry: to create a calm, communicative space within the massive metropolitan chaos of Caracas. I remember Armas's poems referring to her "tribe of readers" or her "tribe of words." It was a calm night on the subway and bus ride home to Caurimare. Caracas at her best, after some afternoon rains, crickets and frogs sounding in the trees along the soft lit avenues, neon from a car/bus window upon blocks of metropolis east to west or vice versa, Monte Avila with a darkness hovering over the lights of an open city. And one can be either immune or invisible for poetry.

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