Fernando Paz Castillo
Listening to the radio in the car, came across DJ Nomadic (w/ a new slot, early week afternoons on 88.1, moved from her old slot down the dial, Tuesday nights, I think.) She played De La Soul and Common's "Days of Our Lives" at 4:20 this afternoon, near dusk already, snow-bound. She remains one of my favorite Boston DJs, partly because her sets are so intuitive and surprising, tuned into archival sensibilities. The same ones I'm thinking of while I translate Fernando Paz Castillo's 1964 poem "El muro."
That belief in Nature's power, its indissoluble patterns, which the poet imitates and builds into a lyric awareness. Like his contemporary César Vallejo, Paz Castillo turned his exaggerated self into the repeated formal spine of the poem. Paz Castillo seems to disorient the distinctions separating city and Nature, writing pastoral meditations on a country wall or a city block, graffiti murals along the highways, bridges and underpasses of Caracas nowdays.
Fernando Paz Castillo was born in Caracas in 1893 and died there in 1981. He attended the Universidad Central de Venezuela where he studied law and became active in politics and literature. He was one of the founders of the Círculo de Bellas Artes (an association of young painters and writers) and he helped start the magazine Cultura. After the university was closed in 1913, Paz Castillo moved to the outskirts of Caracas in the mountain town of Los Teques, where he lived for several years, recovering from a long illness and beginning his first poems. In 1918 he returned to the city, where he worked as a teacher and embarked on his efforts as a poet and journalist.
Paz Castillo published his first book, La voz de los cuatro vientos, in 1931. From 1936 until the late 1950s he worked as a diplomat and ambassador for several Venezuelan administrations. In 1967 he received the Premio Nacional de Literatura and he continued to write and publish extensively until his death.
His collected poems can be found in Fernando Paz Castillo, Poesía, Selección, prólogo y cronología de Oscar Sambrano Urdaneta, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986.
An excerpt from Alfredo Silva Estrada's poem-essay "El poema: La forma de una vida" (1978) can serve as an epigraph to this English version of "El muro":
"The conception of the word in Fernando Paz Castillo
identifies itself with his feeling of time.
Lover of the present, of the here, now,
the poet doesn't say, he can't say the present.
Because the present is the unspeakable itself
the flight itself of time in its highest ecstasy...
Time, that a priori form of vertigo...
That nothingness, that almost nothingness where philosophers and poets
abyss themselves forever, joyously or torturously.
The temporal emphasis in Fernando Paz Castillo
is placed in a certain past:
A place of rest, preserved by spirit.
Here the poetic act is a ritual of memory.
A ritual often interrupted by euphonic meditations.
The perceived, the present—ephemeral—,
the poet's vision moves him toward a preterite
already blessed by the soft trembling of the eternal and the instant
thick ciaroscuro where opposites de-limit themselves:
the mystery shimmers,
light undoes the forms,
each form in dialogue with an absent form,
—counterpoint of presences and absences—,
immobility the meridian of movement,
a continuous beyond appears within each thing,
determining fluid and imprecise traces."
(Fernando Paz Castillo ante la crítica, Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, 1990)