Computer Evening

I am sitting in the evening's hallways, alone across the universe, late. Don't throw away certain newspaper articles, you might use them later on the blog or in the notebook. A coffee with milk is part of the routine, as is the chatter in my eyes and ears. It could just as well be a computerless evening.

Just finished reading a great essay by Nicolás Cabral, called "Razones de un apátrida":

"13. Después de todo, me pregunto si este desarraigo esencial, esa carencia de raíces, no será, en el fondo, una manera perversa de ser cordobés, de ser argentino."

The same could go for being a venezolano at this moment in "history."


Also, I've been reading fantastic poems by Mark in his chapbook 29 Cheeseburgers (Pressed Wafer, 2004):

"Whenever anyone looks at the painting,
their eyes mist
with tears she saw a man
in a black hat a chapeau walk
out of the painting one night
& into the other wall."

There's "magic" and brilliant lines & phrases throughout these poems.


What is written first by the sun through the afternoon shades, a silouhette of winter branches in our eyeglasses. The "we" is a fiction and we use it for that exact reason. To amplify and shroud the city, day and night. I was disappointed that Squeeze didn't reunite, since their Singles remains one of the best cassettes I've ever owned.

The Jacqueline Goldberg translations will be up on Monday sometime. As it happens, she was one of the many writers to add her name to the open letter to the Cuban Minister of Culture. Her work has never been explicitly "political." But that is a difficult word for poets to use sometimes. Since the political is arguably present in all of our daily actions and thoughts. Whether we choose to ignore this fact or to face it in whatever way we can. It surely doesn't mean writing "political poems." Very few poets can do that successfully. Even a poet as intelligent as Auden couldn't quite write a political poem. Sometimes however, "political" posts or statements are necessary. I would feel like a coward and a fool if I didn't say something about political events in Venezuela.

The question arises of course, as to how many political situations we choose to address. For instance, what should be said about this reckless empire emerging under W's foolish guidance? Or, on a more local level, what can one say about the racist traditions and habits of a city such as Boston?

The poem can be an escape, at times. I think of it as an avenue, a method for facilitating vision through language and the image. I don't know much most times. My own method is intuitive and perilous. Particularly, because so much is left unsaid. Whether the silence is chosen or imposed.


I look forward to reading Los detectives salvajes tonight and/or tomorrow. Some novels are so brilliant they seem to inhabit our lives while we read them. Bolaño's multiple narrators emphasize the diasporic realities of Latin America at this moment. How many of us have left or will leave our countries? To return sporadically or never. Creating a wound that only grows with time, never healing.

What is that process between being a latinoamericano and being a Latino here in the U.S. Whether we are born here or there, the fact of marginalization is going to be a daily repetition. Of course, Latinos "come in all colors," yes. But my own experience here in the U.S. (which is also "my" country) has been a continuous education in the existence of white supremacy as a system with firm roots. Obviously, this doesn't mean all "white" Americans are racist. Just that, as a nation, the United States has not rid itself of its fundamental rejection of blackness and brownness.

Any doubts about this should be addressed by watching Chris Eyre's second film, the magnificent Skins (2002). The question remains then: what about race? Du Bois was correct when he wrote, in The Souls of Black Folk (1903): "...the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line." The problem continues unabated.

And what about poetry? She's very beautiful at times. At others, useless.


"Entre dos vacíos

Larga llanura presentida

entre los párpados del entresueño

desemboca a través de barrotes en la ciudad desmantelada

Nuestras huellas sólo piden borrarse

¿Qué puerta nos sorprende enmarcada en el aire

con sus goznes que la lluvia sujeta

su aldaba donde leemos el silencio?

A lo lejos

ponemos un pétalo sobre un cráter

una gota de rocío enfrenta la tormenta

Y esta ola rompiéndose entre dos vacíos

descubre risas más allá de los rostros

El ala de otro despertar

espejea en las manos que lavan la copa

Un muro me pide trazar con nuestra sangre

en su derrumbe una palabra


{Alfredo Silva Estrada, Al través, Angria Ediciones, 2000}
The Latino Factory

The semi-anonymity of the DJ, or maybe the librarian, is what I often admire. Lead us to the exact texts, those we might otherwise never find. The secret books.

Write with the sentence crumbling once it's posted. Work with the machine to "produce" the words, this factory living. Claudia has theorized the notion of the "Latino factory," an extension of Andy Warhol's warehouse aesthetics. How much of our lives do we lose to career repetition? How can we use that forced repetition for our own poems? The Latino factory is Jean-Michel Basquiat in his various studios, producing a huge body of work before his early (although expected) death. The Latino factory is writing itself to prove its visibility. No matter how ridiculous the situation (And they do get ridiculous. See, for instance, the episode in the paint factory in Ellison's The Invisible Man.), the Latino factory keeps producing. Perpetual movement is what aligns the Latino factory. The factory is always minimum-wage and overworked.

In an interview, the Guyanese novelist Wilson Harris recounts the time he worked in a factory when he first moved to England in 1959. If you can imagine his future jungle-dense epic prose poems working long hours at a grim London factory during the middle of winter, that too is the Latino factory.
Peace to Pedro Pietri

"Extinction is not on our agenda," he said. "There is no assimilation for us. It is possible to be on two islands at the same time. That is why we are here."

{Pedro Pietri, quoted by David Gonzalez, "When Life Is Art, Dying is Simply Not an Option," The New York Times, 27 January 2004}


will right now be doing their own thing
where beautiful people sing
and dance and work together
where the wind is a stranger
to miserable weather conditions
where you do not need a dictionary
to communicate with your people
Aquí Se Habla Español all the time
Aquí you salute your flag first
Aquí there are no dial soap commericals
Aquí everybody smells good
Aquí tv dinners do not have a future
Aquí the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
Aquí Que Pasó Power is what's happening
Aquí to be called negrito
means to be called LOVE"

{Pedro Pietri, "Puerto Rican Obituary," 1973}


"Durante sus últimos meses de/en vida, el para siempre rayo de la gran poesía venezolana, Juan Sánchez Peláez, nos preguntaba sobre cómo veíamos el país, esa Venezuela que aún conserva la costumbre de poner a vivir en la ciudad de la indiferencia a sus altos espíritus, y sin esperar a que respondiéramos, decía casi con la forma del susurro: “me angustia y temo que, ante la ausencia de una estructura moral sólida, no podamos salir urgentemente de esta barbarie…” "

{Alexis Romero, "La estructura moral de la Coordinadora Democrática," El Meollo}
"Poetry and Revolution"

"Poetry is certainly "counterrevolutionary" in the sense that it expresses compassion for all human beings, regardless of class or race.

Poetry may be taken as the type for all art, and to censor it or any other art is like censoring those functions of the body which purify the blood or give us our sense of balance. Revolution is to be accomplished by an act of will on the part of some, a paralysis of it overtaking others, but it cannot be assisted by censoring the truths of artists. Artists always have been and always will be individualists."

{Stephen Spender, "Poetry and Revolution," The 30s and After: Poetry, Politics, People 1930s-1970s, 1978}
" a shade"

"In Benjamin, truth seems to stand in the way of truth, or more exactly, truth and its transmission get in each other's way. He explicitly ascribes that dilemma to Kafka, but he could have pointed to Klee's forests of signs pretending to be correspondences. Truth is always too deadly, and transmission deceptively accomodating. Benjamin, as is well known, would have liked to circumvent this dilemma: he dreamed of writing a book made up solely of quotations, as if there were still, within speech, pristine fragments, moments of impersonal directness. No leakage of attention, no distraction, nothing but concentration absorbing the shock of words. The sounds of proper names, he suggests, which we try to make meaningful through etymology, are residues of an original God-given language.

But in a postprophetic age, proclamation and revelation are dangerous simulacra. In one way or another, Benjamin refuses to confine the identity of the literary work to a message or reader-directed intention, one that could reach its destination. A counterpropagandistic reticence always intervenes--a reticence that is not particularly cryptic but rather aesthetic, a shade or veil (Hülle; Verhülltes) which still allows us to recognize heart or body in hiding, but asks us to forgo imagining that from which we are excluded."

{Geoffrey Hartman, "Walter Benjamin in Hope," 1997, A Critic's Journey: Literary Reflections, 1958-1998}


Venezuelan American

I am thinking of doubleness, and of migration. Considering, along the U.S. Latino spectrum, the relatively recent wave of Venezuelans arriving here. In Florida nowdays, the city of Westwood is often referred to as Westezuela. From Miami to Tampa, the past decade has seen the population of Venezuelans rise significantly in Florida. My siblings and I love this, since twenty years ago we were definitely the only Venezuelans at our school.

Because I didn't return to Caracas until 1990, I often felt in the 1980s that I was "losing" Venezuela the longer I lived in Florida and Massachusetts. A few years ago, I heard the phrase "balseros del aire" in reference to the many Venezuelans flying permanently to the US or elsewhere. My sister and brother and I must have been the pioneer balseros del aire, then. Due to complicated family circumstances, we left by avioneta from the Aeropuerto La Carlota to Jamaica, where we boarded a commercial flight to Miami, that magnificent empire city, capital of Latin America. When I wrote a poem several years ago about our arrival that day, I mocked the city: "O Miami, take three more indios / into your glittering arms, etc."

I'm asking myself a relatively minor question tonight. What is a Venezuelan American?

Later this week I'll be posting translations into English of several poems by Jacqueline Goldberg, from her collection Insolaciones en Miami Beach (Fondo Editorial Fundarte, 1995). As I've been rereading that book, I've thought of her insights regarding Miami, as seen from a visitor's eye. I also sense the impulse to leave Venezuela in some of these poems.

I always have the desire to return to Venezuela, to work and write in Caracas. In recent years that has been impossible, and now most of my immediate family has left Venezuela. Aquí no hay país, ni consuelo. But this is also a problem of the age, and it's not limited to Venezuela. Displacement and doubleness have ocurred for ages, and they continue today. César Vallejo perhaps was writing about this when he spoke of "cuatro conciencias simultáneas" in his Poemas de París, or Poemas humanos.

Much of it is learning to live with an absence, whether of family and friends or of physical places, landscapes, avenues missed. Without falling prey to a nostalgic illusion of a "homeland" or an idyllic childhood in Venezuela. It's also an awareness of the distances we might carry with us here in the North. My writing is for remembering, saving whatever pieces the words might lift.


Terror Twilight

In the below zeros again, reading Alejandra Pizarnik's journals, Diarios (2003). Tonight's evening sky was a translucent dark blue after the sun had sunken behind buildings. This afternoon watched the Venezuelan film Adios, Miami (1983). While at times it was too reminiscent of a telenovela it reminded me that Venezuela's current crisis has been developing for more than two decades now. We moved to Florida in 1982, so the footage of Miami in the early 1980s cheese of shiny skyscrapers and manicured palm trees was semi-nostalgically amusing. And the thought of disappeareance into the United States, by way of Florida, was familiar. My siblings and I made that move twenty years ago, to inhabit two countries, sometimes simultaneously. Sometimes the episodes resemble fictions, a long novel that takes decades to write. This novel would include the cities of Boston, Caracas, Tampa, New York, Providence, Mexico D.F.


A veces uno escribe para los abuelos, los familiares que han muerto y los que nos siguen acompañando.


When we saw Pavement play in Boston for their 1999 Terror Twilight tour the theater was much too crowded with drunk frat boys. The band played masterfully, adding improvised changes to the songs, or mistakes left to adorn. Music can lose its aura over time. Or the aura fluctuates over the years. That projection of music is of the same impulse as poetry. As recently, I wonder why I hadn't listened to Belle and Sebastian's great album The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998) until now.


"11 de abril, jueves [1963]

Imposibilidad de la poesía. (Apenas anoté esto hice un poema para demostrarme que no.)

Los problemas que me plantea el escribir. El primer, mi exilio del lenguaje. Dada mi espontaneidad y mis fuerzas debiera arrojarme sobre quinientas hojas en blanco y <<escribir como siento>>. Ahora bien: sucede que yo no siento mediante un lenguaje conceptual o poético sino con imágenes visuales acompañadas de unas pocas palabras sueltas. O sea que escribir, en mi caso, es traducir."

{Alejandra Pizarnik, Diarios, Editorial Lumen, 2003}


Place where the waters meet

"poem from the hand of the god of love"

(14 January 2004)


My good friend from Tampa, U., has recently been sending me one-line poem letters, including the one above. U. and I met in 1994, when we were both prep cooks at a vegetarian cafe in South Tampa. Since we were both studying at USF at the time, we coincided with weekend shifts under semi-tyrannical bosses, spending as much time as possible discussing art, literature and music while making tofu burgers, tempeh sandwiches and macrobiotic salads at the endless shifts behind the kitchen counter. At that time, Uari had recently returned from living at a Buddhist monastery in New Jersey.

I plan on posting several of U.'s poems here sometime soon. Born in Puerto Rico in the 1970s, U. was raised in Tampa. He mentioned a few years ago, while I filmed him and C. walking through Ybor City for a super-8 film project ("Agua Florida," 1995-1999), that his grandfather had built several of the "cigar worker" tin-roof houses to the West of the interstate.

Over at pamphlet I was trying to write about Ybor City when I was back in Tampa recently. Ybor has always seemed to be a ghostly section of Tampa, with so many of its abandoned or unused historic buildings. While critics have pointed to Nilo Cruz's play Anna in the Tropics as being mediocre, one thing they overlook is its location: Tampa. As a city that is often made invisible or underestimated, Tampa can seem to exist only within itself, a remote province. In that sense it can be a visionary city. I learned how to read and write in Tampa, and I lived everything that one might need to live in that city.

Maybe this "blog" as a form of mythologizing cities. And we often see them through cars. Again, the machine coinciding with the human. Or, the machine writers quick at their instant publishing houses, here on (for instance) Chicha Press ("Made in E.E.U.U."). In Anna in the Tropics the unseen villain is, of course, the machines waiting to displace the lector. And, typically, I have seen no criticism that addresses the Taino elements of the play. Cruz makes an implicit link between the figure of the lector and the caciques and shamans of the Taino indians. So we're back again at invisibility, no?

In Green, Michael Stipe sings beautifully: "Let my machine talk to you..." I first listened to that under autumn trees in rural North Carolina, driving in a car with C. to the small town of Elkin. The mountains in that part of North Carolina are also visionary.


Expendable prose. I love the title that was given to Ginsberg's posthumous book of essays, Deliberate Prose. Pero esto es expendeable prose. Because I don't even have internet at home. "Thus, I have written this poem on a jet seat in mid-Heaven..." called the various libraries or internet cafes de Boston. Which require a money one doesn't own. So, the entries write themselves from a cubicle quickness. Hasta que siga siendo gratis.

An awkward prose, an easy and imitative prose. A clear prose and also a mystical prose. Poseur prose.
"It's on..."

There's something so magnificent in certain moments of hip hop. For those of us who model ourselves after Walter Benjamin, collecting artifacts and gathering quotations and information for our notebooks, hip hop is indeed a culture that informs all our actions. And, the fact that, at its inception, hip hop culture aimed at dismantling the unfortunate machine of white supremacy that rules this nation makes hip hop our savior.

There are countless moments on recordings where, as in the mistakes preserved on old jazz or blues LPs, improvisation and intuition are given the proper form to flourish. B-Real created some of the most impressive moments in hip hop music during the early 1990s, although his lyrics (for me) never quite lived up to his talents. His nasal vocal style and impeccable timing make him one of the most important writers in hip hop:

"One time tried to come in my home
take my chrome, I said yo it's on."


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.



El ancla de este sueño abre mis ojos a la vida.
Juan Sánchez Peláez

constance city, compact city of mine
poet living in Palos Grandes at the foot

of El Avila, this city uncolonized though
only in print occasionally, even-metered

—te imaginas, Guillo? when the Spanish
first reached Monte Avila, looking into

the uncut valley below, whose Guaire
would have been translucent then

unlike our

currents, tribal fracture
mientras tanto across the river

desde Caurimare in the early 1980s
who wrote these allegories above

my unawareness, childhood sped-up
Capital, trans-Caribbean



Este suelo secreto / Esdras Parra

Esdras Parra was born in Santa Cruz de Mora, in the state of Mérida. She has published poetry, fiction and criticism. Her essays appear regularly in El Nacional, El Universal, and other Venezuelan publications. Parra was awarded the Premio de Poesía de la Bienal Mariano Picón Salas in 1993. These five poems are translated from the original Spanish versions in her first collection of poetry, Este suelo secreto (Monte Avila Editores, 1995).


This Secret Floor (selections)

The word that's woken
by that late dream
beside your route
navigates through your voice
secretly walks
over the buzzing rocks
answering your enigmas
with an ache in its bones.

In your rooms
there are no tears
nor stairs sinking
into shipwrecks
nor sand arrived
from dreams
only a rock
that shifts in the frost
or leans over to speak
with silence.

Your words shine like bones
they've seen daybreak
stuck at one side of the wall
and the tongue fleeing the candle
sighs for silence
unexpected silence
codified by sound
dawn no longer feels ashamed
arriving with naked shoulders.

And you knock on the door
with a visible sound
that makes you tremble
with an arid sound
that echoes a scream
with your quiet voice
that door opens
within boredom.

With the word's effort
which is endless
or which lends itself to lifting edges
with that announcement
you walk toward your habit
what you abandoned
next to the cup of coffee
to which you'll return
if someday
you find yourself standing
on the high sidewalk
at the shore of your illusory life.
"inaudible music"

In the below zero city, wanting prose factories for fingers. This coldness, like the extreme humidity in Tampa during the summer, drains my body and mind of action. I bought the latest issue of Fence magazine last night just for the fantastic text ("Cubism, the Blues, Visions: A Conversation") by Alice Notley and Edmund Berrigan, who mentions:

"...or the fact that when I write I leave holes and fragments in poems to account for the translation lag between my thoughts and feelings, and my ability to put them on the page. That would be where the inaudible music takes place, and the decision-making process is part of it, which is why performance is necessary. It is a ritual with a purpose. I often change certain of my poems as I read them to an audience. I try to account for this as I write certain works, with the idea that the reader may skip around, or may "lose" some of the work, or perhaps read the words that they hear coming next..."


Una vez más esta ciudad vacila / Alfredo Silva Estrada

"Una vez más esta ciudad vacila

.....................Mi ciudad todavía
Oculta a veces por no herirte
Arropada en el miedo

Hoy busca su secreto
El despejado espacio para decir

..........Pronunciando raíces

Contorno de antes y después encontrar
Nuestros sexos
..................Su desnudez de mitos

Realidad encarnada en cada brote
En las magulladoras de tu ciudad esquiva

Ciudad que te hace frente hasta los extramuros

Ya no es el espejismo de aquella aldea lejana
...........................adormida en tu rostro

Somos de nuevo en ella hombres de la vigilia"

Alfredo Silva Estrada, Acercamientos (Monte Avila Editores, 1991)


Las ciudades a veces / Alfredo Silva Estrada

"Las ciudades a veces
derivan nombres en tus ojos
hacia otros territorios

Nos abandonan las imágenes
a los recodos de horizontes
en el relevo de los puntos de fuga

.................................. Atravesamos
nuestros rostros con el óxido de las ráfagas

Un halo desde el sueño
protege todavía los frutos entrevistos"

Alfredo Silva Estrada, Acercamientos (Monte Avila Editores, 1991)
The Black Interior

I was very happy to come across Elizabeth Alexander's new book of essays this weekend, The Black Interior (Graywolf Press). Graywolf Press has also republished Alexander's amazing first collection, The Venus Hottentot (1990). Along with essays on Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Michael Harper, Alexander writes about a poet who is essential to my life as a reader and writer, Jean-Michel Basquiat:

"The illusion that Basquiat was a wild child, living always and only in the moment of utterance, prevents a more complex understanding of his work and particularly its sense in black contexts. Certainly, stories are legion and legend of a drugged-up Basquiat barricaded in a studio in a narcotic haze, churning out picture after picture that were snatched away and sold. But Basquiat was, in fact, also a doomed black aristocrat, a master of outré Afro-aesthetics who styled and profiled outside of many boundaries."


El libro de las puertas / Alfredo Silva Estrada

The Book of Doors

to Luisa Palacios

Et par la porte ouverte
La perspective du hasard
Pierre Reverdy

the closest door:
a beginning block opens

from a threshold of unfelt things
doors of the five senses

to be born in the strangeness of knocking at a door

may it be the door
between sky and earth

robust memory doors
for the inner fire

listen to eternal chance
at the trembling door

doors that drop
a horizon in our hands

to love the light that unfolds through the door

infinitely, the eyes
through the half-opened door

some other avid door
while we taste our bread and the unpronounceable

what doors grow from earth
when we enjoy our earth-being?

o door sustained by knowledge of air!

secret scent of true earth
carried by the glowing door

maybe there is an absent door
moving calmly

and chance
--in pairs, after all--
as a friendly door

Translator’s note: Poet, essayist and translator Alfredo Silva Estrada was born in Caracas in 1933. He has published several collections of poetry, including most recently: Por los respiraderos del día / En un momento dado (Monte Ávila Editores, 1998) and Al través (Angria Ediciones, 2000). In 1997 he was awarded Venezuela's Premio Nacional de Literatura. Silva Estrada lives in Caracas and recently published his translations into Spanish of the work of Lebanese poet Salah Stétié.

{Alfredo Silva Estrada, Acercamientos, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1991 }


Arthur Miller in Havana

Excellent essay by Arthur Miller in The Nation, "A Visit With Castro." It offers a vivid portrait of everyone's favorite dictator, that obscene dinosaur who, like Strom Thurmond, seems to have no end.


"Watching him at lunch--he ate two leaves of lettuce--one saw a lonely old man hungry for some fresh human contact, which could only get more and more rare as he ages. He might very well live actively for ten years, perhaps even longer as his parents reportedly had done, and I found myself wondering what could possibly be keeping him from a graceful exit that might even earn him his countrymen's gratitude?

The quasi-sexual enchantment of power? Perhaps. More likely, given his history, was his commitment to the poetic image of world revolution, the uprising of the wretched of the earth with himself at its head. And in plain fact, as the chief of a mere island, he had managed to elevate himself to that transcendent state in millions of minds. The more so now, after all other contestants had fallen away and conditions in Latin America and Africa gone from bad to worse, the possibility needed only its right time to erupt again. After all, he had thrown Cuban forces into action in many countries around the world despite his country's poverty and the obstinate resistance of his main sponsor, the now-abominated Soviet leadership.

It would have been too much to expect that after half a century in power he would not become to some important degree an anachronism, a handsome old clock that no longer tells the time correctly and bongs haphazardly in the middle of the night, disturbing the house. Notwithstanding all his efforts, the only semblance of a revolt of the poor is the antimodern Islamic tide, which from the Marxist point of view floats in a medieval dream. With us he seemed pathetically hungry for some kind of human contact. Brilliant as he is, spirited and resourceful as his people are, his endless rule seemed like some powerful vine wrapping its roots around the country and while defending it from the elements choking its natural growth. And his own as well. Ideology aside, he apparently maintains the illusions that structured his political successes even if they never had very much truth in them; to this day, as one example, he speaks of Gorbachev's dissolution of the Soviet Union as unnecessary, "a mistake."

In short, there was no fatal contradiction inherent in the Soviet system that brought it down, and so there is nothing in the Castro system or in his take on reality that is creating the painful poverty of the island. The US embargo created this island's poverty out of hand, along with the Russians by their deserting him. It is Don Quixote tilting at windmills which, worse yet, have collapsed into dust."
Open Letter to Danny Glover

In today's Tal Cual, columnist Laureano Márquez includes a hilarious letter to Danny Glover (posted below), who is in the middle of a visit to Venezuela, as a guest of the "Bolivarian revolution." The letter is written in broken English, and while Márquez may be joking throughout much of it, he is addressing a very serious problem in Venezuela: the amount of foreign intellectuals who come to Venezuela in search of that ridiculous, adolescent illusion of a "revolution for the people."


Serious humor

Laureano Márquez


Open Letter to Danny Glover

By Laureass Márquez

Dear Mr. Glover:

Welcome to our land, Venezuela, land of the liberator Simón Bolívar, the first and the second. I read in the newspaper, que you have come (And I can see you come a lot, because are very big, like two Aristóbulos) to this country to see the situecion of the blacs. You now, the news peiper spicks much sheet. I knew since the first time that this isent could be true: One american citizen visitin ower land to see the situeicion of the blacs. !No me foking! That mey be a joke, blac humor what calling.

Well but in a negative suppose that the motivation of your visit is that, let me tell you something: May be you listen a much to the declarations of the canciller and the vice- president sayng that the problem in Venezuela is a confrontation between blacs and guaits. Rich guaits and poor blac in the most clear tradition of the novel “Poor blac” of Don Rómulo Galician, the same author of Mrs. Bárbara, like the mother of your president.

Let me tell you something: Here we have other kinds of problems. We never had buses for blacs and for guaits, only escoñeteiting buses for everi body. Our government, a diference of yours, no fuk only a blacs, sino a all of us parejo. I don’ t know if I am explain. We don’ t have blacs who like to be guaits an somete itself to a process of blanqueition, like Michael Jackson., ni de pod. Here never a blac woman have to stand up of the seat because a guait don’ t have seat, we like very much blac woman, because they are very good. Here the word “negro”, “negrita” shows love. We have blacs ministers, like Aristóbulo, the little blac that you met the other day in the viceprecidency.

The problem with Aristóbulo is not the blachood, if he tell you this pod, he fuk you. The problem is the incapacity, the incoherence and the cinism.

See. I tell you the problem: We was conquered by the Spanish, they came here, and Rodrigo of the Triana says “Laaaaaaannndddd” and they said “that’s mine”, like you in Irak, I don’ t now if you are understandin me? Well, after a time called the colony we get the independence of the hand of the liberator Simón Bolívar (ower first dictator, Boris Izaguirre says). After de independence we began a century of civil guars, like yours but a complete century: The gocho people came from the mountains one after other and to the coñazo limpio take the power.

Here not law, here not institutions, here not nothing. ¿Are you following me? Then we began the XX century with another gocho dictator: Juan Vicente Gomez. When Gomez peling boling, we began a little democracy: Lopez, the transition and Medina a very simpatic little fat who make legalizations of political parties, including the communist.

The adecos knock out a Medina and then Chalbaud knock out the adecos, and then Pérez Jimenez knokck out Chalbaud, an then –ten years later– the democracy we will come back with the other Rómulo. This democracy, in the course of the time, have had a lot of errors: corruption, especulation, murder, people become poor in the middle of the sea of petroleum. Then the people get a big a red chair and change of the adecos and the copeyanos for Chavez. But the adecos and the copeyanos stay smalls in front of Chávez. They was children of breast. More poverty, more inequality, corruption that you get sick of your stomach and had to go to the bathroom very frecuently. The family of the president in the power (the same like yours but whithout election) and he speaking big eggs all day in the televition. Is this what you want to continue? Is this correct?

Here, we don’ t have ratials problems, and no religions too. Here we want to live the life in peace!Oh Ohoooooooooo!

Then Danny, go to your beautiful land and do that you have to do there, and if you want follow ower example:

One people who want to knock out a one learning of dictator with the law and whitout violence to living life in peace ¡Ohoooh Ohoooooooooh!
Dirt McGirk

So, Old Dirty Bastard has been on my mind recently because I've been listening to his "Best of" CD. One can never be sure if ODB is a genius or a fool. Maybe one of Shakespeare's wise fools. His recent arrests and stints in rehab are part of a long series of "misadventures" that have served to enhance his legend as The Wu-Tang Clan's resident chaos factor. His lyrics tend to blur the edge between coherence and violence. He has also penned verses that refer to his Native American ancestry, explicitly linking his "black" words with a "brown" history.

What it might come down to, as with any good rapper, is how he makes the English language move in ways it has never moved before. While the following verses (from "Brooklyn Zoo") might seem mediocre on paper, when he uses them to open the song they are hip hop perfection:

"I'm the one man army, it's on
I never been tooking out
I keep MCs looking out
I drop science like Crosby dropping babies
Enough to make a nigga go crazy
Energy-building, taking all types of medicines
Your ass thought you were better than?
Hey, son, I keep planets in orbit
While I be coming with deeper and more shit
Enough to make you break and shake your ass [...]
Rhyme good as a tasty cake mix
This style I'm mastered in
Niggas catching headaches
What, what, you need aspirin?"
"What is hip-hop if it doesn't have violence?
Chill for a minute, Doug E. Fresh said silence..."
{A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory, 1991}


I wish

I could write with some purpose, or clarity. But even my readings are fragmentary and riddled with allusions. Part of my reason for opening this blog was to challenge myself to write more often. But that was already there in the notebook. So, there's a performative angle to this writing. Which I dread. I would much rather read, but even that is an activity that is always threatened.

Citation is my mode, for now. Because the channels don't change fast enough for me. Because the various forms that Pain takes in my life demand diversion.

I keep thinking about Borges when I think of blogs. His story of meeting his future (past?) self on the banks of the Charles river.

I write because living is inadequate. I write more simply each day. Or, more dully.

The novelty of this medium should be wearing off anytime now. At which point I can hopefully post only when necessary. No more of these self-reflexive comments. A friend recently described what happens on some poetry blogs as "masturbation." And I think he has a point.

I wish I remembered what I meant to say here, before the routine of self-focus overwhelmed me.

I wish the poem were constant.
The Love Below

Over the past month, I've been listening to the new double CD from the Outkast, Speakerboxx/The Love Below. Actually, I've mainly been hooked on Andre 3000's half The Love Below. The "Hey Ya" single is nice, catchy, etc. But the rest of the album is much better. It's full of citations (Geto Boys, Ice Cube, Prince, John Coltrane, Rick James, Jimi Hendrix), and refuses to settle into any single mode. For me, it answers the question Mos Def talked about on his album Black on Both Sides (1999) : "Where do you think hip hop is going?"

According to Andre 3000, it's going toward its eclectic, hybrid roots. It's embracing jazz, rock, its former selves (1980s, 1990s), classical, Broadway musicals, classic love songs, and whatever can be made to fit within two turntables & a mic. Which is everything. It is like Borges' library: "The universe (which others call hip hop)..."
"My hip hop falls on your head like rain..."

And it does, Old Dirty Bastard (aka Big Baby Jesus, or, Dirt McGirk) has to be one of the best MCs of the past decade.

Driving in a snow flurry two days ago, as though the trees were weeping w/ me. God is of the smallest details, the briefest interludes. Two days that appear and depart as though two hours.


I finished reading Carl's $4 Poems chapbook last night. The series of (mostly) untitled poems ends with these great lines:

"[...] and tell me
more about The Clash, their influence
on pinch-stomach kids of the southwestern
dead malls and brunch retreats, where
the death rate exceeds a show of hands"


And this, from Eileen's Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole:

"That one begins a journey voluntarily will be irrelevant to the outcome? The source of a wave is never certain; despite its seeming repetition each wave is singular."


The keyboard and drum machine so sublime on New Order's song "Sub-culture," from the LP Low-life (1985).


Yesterday quiet in the living room, invisible, listening to Nas' The Lost Tapes. More "refined" than ODB, a very different style, in general. Both, though, inhabit hip hop's New York intellectualism. Or, words and our survival.


La revolución perdida

According to today's Tal Cual, Ernesto Cardenal has just released the third and final volume of his autobiography, La revolución perdida, in Managua. The article quotes comments that Cardenal made during an interview with a Chilean newspaper. In recent years, Cardenal has been explicit in his criticism of his former comrades in the Sandinista movement, blaming their obsession with power for the failure of the Nicaraguan revolution.

For me, there are very few poets who are as exciting to read as Cardenal. I am heartened by the fact that he refuses to romanticize the idea of revolution.


Below is a translated excerpt from the Tal Cual article:

Cardenal explains that he renounced from the Sandinista Party in 1994 because "I couldn't accept that in a country with so much poverty, supposedly revolutionary leaders would clean out the State funds when they were forced to give up power."

The poet affirms that the leaders of the Sandinista National Front were incapable of assimilating the 1990 electoral defeat against Violeta Chamorro. "The [Sandinista] Party was corrupted. Defeat did not have to mean the end of the revolution, which had been democratic and which created free, just, and honest elections, and which because of this could lose those elections. As it did.

But it could go on being the revolution from the side of the opposition. Once they lost the election, its leaders were demoralized and they devoted themselves to stealing before handing over the government. They destroyed the revolution for the sake of personal enrichment," said Cardenal to the newspaper La Vanguardia.

That was the end of the Sandinista dream for Cardenal: "Once it was corrupted, that beautiful project stopped being revolutionary. That is why I have left the Sandinistas.

Today the party is dominated by a Stalinist leadership." With the exception of the writer Sergio Ramírez, the former Minister of Culture does not exempt any of the Sandinista ex-leaders from blame.

"I excuse neither Daniel nor Humberto Ortega. Both of them took advantage of their positions in order to enrich themselves. Nor do I excuse Tomás Borge, the guerrilla leader who participated in that great robbery. Many others succumbed to temptation. As Galeano said: those who were not afraid to give their lives were afraid to hand over their Mercedes Benz, their houses, and the products of that robbery carried out by the Sandinista leadership."

Canto llano: XII

Cintio Vitier

Algo le falta a la tarde,
no están completos los pinos,
y yo mirando a las nubes
siento lo que no he sentido.

A cada instante pregunto
por el tesoro perdido
cuya sombra se desplaza
con melancólico frío.

Mirándome está el deseo,
nocturno, solo, infinito;
callada va la nostalgia
llameando eternos vestigios.

No llega nunca mi gesto
a la tierra del destino;
la vida acaba inconclusa,
quedan los sueños en vilo."

{Cintio Vitier, Canto llano, 1953-1955}
"Revolutionary" crime

According to an article in today's El Nacional, in 2003 there was an average of 25 homicides per day in Venezuela.


Canto llano / Cintio Vitier

I've been reading a magnificent edition of Cintio Vitier's selected poetry: Antología poética (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2002). Going back to his early poems in the collection Canto llano, written during the early 1950s. I sense an affinity between his tendency toward the use of traditional forms or meters and that of poets such as Auden, Lorca, Vallejo, and in Venezuela, Ana Enriqueta Terán, Vicente Gerbasi, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Fernando Paz Castillo.

Maybe in alternative ways certain Venezuelan poets follow this formalist passion today: Rafael Cadenas, Luis Alberto Crespo, Jacqueline Goldberg, Patricia Guzmán, Yolanda Pantin, Elizabeth Schön, Alfredo Silva Estrada, and Esdras Parra (among others).

Cintio Vitier is the most important Cuban poet now writing. His extensive bibliography of publications spans from the 1930s to the present. The poems in Canto llano use the quatrain and couplet as a pattern in a formalist gesture, while the context of each poem breaks up the frequencies of those set forms.

Dama pobreza (1992) reminds one of Derek Walcott's creative use (and deconstruction) of traditional English (or, in Vitier's case, Spanish) forms: "Tan cerca de la nada que es lo poco / a que puedo acercarme todavia."

Vitier is, like his friend Ernesto Cardenal, a mystical Catholic poet. Interestingly enough, he was born in 1921 in the United States, in Cayo Hueso, Florida. Reminding us of the proximity of Cuba and Florida. And so, in that geographical sense, Cuban and American poetry are linked. Vitier can also be read as a universal poet, one of the major poets of the Latin American 20th century.



Hay una gota en el mar
que es la que está sustentando
su masa verde y amarga,
la opulencia de su llanto.

En el fuego hay una chispa
que es la que está alimentando
como la envidia de un oro
en otra parte llameando.

Hay un soplo entre los aires,
en la levadura de un grano,
tiempla en el todo una nada
que es lo que estoy deseando."

{Cintio Vitier, Canto llano, 1953-1955}


Textos del desalojo / Antonia Palacios

Antonia Palacios Textos del desalojo (Monte Avila Editores, 1974)

"Te siento crecer oh temible ardimiento. Siento tus vestigios y tus signos, tu duro asentamiento que cimbra la materia. De rodillas. De rodillas te presiento, yo, la extraviada, y tú dejas al desnudo este muñón de ala ya petrificado."



is difficult and I always postpone reading, thinking, or writing about it. As with theory and some novels. The reading gets done anyways, after excuses are spent. But the physical world is (obvious) much clearer and unavoidable. It can be beautiful as it was new years eve, in the woods of Port Charlotte, or a backyard view of the Gulf of Mexico another instant. Same as an instant seeing Caracas from the porch of a house in Santa Paula, staring down into the valley from that height, late afternoon into night.

I probably need utilitarian prose, basic signs, just the words in a plain style. Certain slownesses and books we struggle with. Florida highways can carry sadness quickly. Valued friendship and loss over a decade. And the realization of loss, how profound she can be. So, plainer words maybe. No se sabe. Pain speaks directly and clearly, sometimes mumbles.