Crónica de un poeta en el parque / Adriana Villanueva

Chronicle of a Poet in the Park

It was a difficult decision. I was debating whether to take to heart the idea that a classification exists between writers of the regime and writers of the opposition, or to enjoy the X Feria de Libro. I was still deciding when Marsolaire Quintana, from the Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, invited the participants of the workshop The Writer and the City to an open class by Armando Rojas Guardia on Sunday morning at the Cinemateca Nacional, and I didn't want to miss it.

For the first time in many years, I returned to Los Caobos park on Sunday morning. It's easy to forget that Caracas still has green zones where athletes jog, children ride bicycles, people take their dogs for walks and there is a functioning fountain, which is a true act of faith since it hasn't ceased to rain and the resevoirs are empty. The booths for the book fair still haven't opened but I'm greeted by dozens of young people with orange shirts putting together the green and orange display modules designed by Juan Pedro Posani. On this fresh June morning I'm almost reconciled with Caracas. But there's no time to waste with sentimentality, the Cinemateca is waiting.

Even though it's almost ten, the doors of the Galería de Arte Nacional (GAN) are closed. Armando appears behind the gates and opens a little door for me. We gather on the steps of the museum under the tryptich of Miranda in the Carraca which announces the exhibit Masterpieces of Venezuelan Art. The visitors who are here to see Reverón and Michelena paintings ask impatiently: "When do they open the GAN?" The GAN opens and we remain standing on the steps waiting for the Cinemateca to do the same, when Marsolaire appears with the bad news that the Centro Nacional del Libro (CENAL) forgot to reserve the space. But Venezuelan culture has been able to emerge from worse aggravations, the friends from the CENAL assure us that the class is still on, if not in the Ateneo then under a small tent in front of the fountain by Maragall. And that's where we end up, the poet dressed in white, his disciples, the photographer with her camera and poetry lovers who woke up at dawn for the pleasure of listening to Rojas Guardia, because Sunday morning at ten is dawn.

The wait drags on despite the fact that we have with us the most important element, which is the poet. We're seated in a clearing of the park which at the moment doesn't receive shade from the trees, and while we're sweating the slow hour, boys in orange shirts try to make magic so that the microphone will work, because the post it's connected to doesn't have any power. Marsolaire decides that we've had enough, even Venezuelan poets have dignity and in these conditions it's better to just cancel the event. We leave with our heads hanging low from that feeling of cultural defeat which has become so familiar when, along the way, Marsolaire bumps into one of the organizers from the CENAL, who accepts no complaints: "After all, we were doing you a favor."

But the morning isin't lost. A small group gathers in the cafeteria of the Museo de Ciencias. Rojas Guardia reads a few brief texts, Mariahé Pabón and Alberto Márquez tell us about the worship of poets in Colombia, and I reach the conclusion that yes, in Venezuela literature is treated with disdain but, seated in the cafeteria of the Museo de Ciencias, I can't help feeling privileged.

{ Adriana Villanueva, El Nacional, 4 June 2003 }

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