Rafael Cadenas: Hoy no hay espacio para la épica / Marjorie Delgado Aguirre

Rafael Cadenas: There Is No Space for the Epic Today

It has been many years since Rafael Cadenas has spoken about poetry to that invisible reader invoked by newspapers. It wasn't easy for him to guide his calm voice and his penetrating glance toward the disseminators of mass media, those who try to translate his thoughts, which are poetic truths, into words: "Poetry is a way of life and it's also a literary act, but neither of these options need always be together. A person can lead a life that one could call poetic, in the deepest sense of the word, without writing. Poetry is a way of feeling the world."

Yesterday, the poet Cadenas accepted an invitation to speak to readers through the word that tears, consoles, the word that has never been absent. The occasion was the appearance of his Poemas selectos in Venezuelan bookstores. A bilingual edition, entitled Poèmes Choisis in French, in whose pages one will find the necessary rereading of the highest points of his work as a poet. The book was published thanks to an agreement between the publishing house Écrits des Forges, in Canada, and the Venezuelan publisher Bid&co. It will go on sale on March 21.

There's a difference between the poetry you wrote in your youth, which was inhabited more by images and aphorisms, and the recent work, in which a permanent search for the self is reflected, a self which constantly confronts its own image. What caused this change?

—These changes aren't the result of will, they simply happen.

In Cuadernos del destierro you can already discern Falsas maniobras, which has a greater affinity toward prose. There was a certain effort at prose, and it's something that can be found in the other books. One never knows how one will write. In that sense, writers have to constantly establish forms for themselves.

This didn't happen before, because established forms existed and authors only had to turn to any one of those molds. What modern poetry brought was precisely that change. Today there are no actual poetic movements; authors simply exist and each one has to resolve the problem of the lyric in his own manner. I speak of the lyric because I think that's what dominates in modern poetry. I don't think there's any space for an epic, because the world has changed.

Human beings know the epic doesn't lead to anything, save destruction.

Was it hard to find that "I" after you began the search?

—I still haven't found it.

I'm always looking for something, but I don't know what it is.

Has poetry been useful?

—With luck, one is useful to poetry. I have folders full of attempts at poetry which are worthless. They're like the prime material from which poems might emerge, if at all. Of course, there are fortunate authors who have a great gift for writing, but that's not my case.

"I don't trust myself."

Who do you talk with about poetry?

—Not with poets. Because, among themselves, poets don't talk about poetry, which is curious.

Actually, I talked about poetry when I taught, because I had a captive audience who were the students. They couldn't escape.

Of course, in my youth, when we were members of literary groups, we talked, but afterwards each person took their own path, we stopped meeting and when we did meet we talked about politics.

What aspects of your childhood exist in your poetry?

—If there's an influence, it's completely unconscious. Childhood is like a province of our inner map.

How do you perceive your poetry in other languages?

—I feel the poems as though they were a novelty. I always hope they'll improve them.

In 1960 you claimed Venezuela was indifferent to poetry. How much has that reality changed since then?

—It has changed very little. There's more interest among people. There are more opportunities to publish.

What's true is that poetry is never massive; it has always been minoritarian and it's difficult for that to change. But in recent years the public readings, which didn't exist before, have become a habit.

For example, when I was 30 years old, I don't recall having gone to a single reading; today, I think that constitutes a tradition and this is due to the work of the literary groups. In the era of La Tabla Redonda and El Techo de la Ballena those types of readings were not done. Of course, I think the act of reading poetry is something very intimate, which is usually done alone, but those meetings, just like the poetry festivals, help people become interested in what they heard and it leads them to search out the books.

Should Venezuelan classrooms contemplate reading more poetry?

—What happens is that fiction is more accessible. Modern poetry presents more difficulties for the reader who's just beginning, because it requires more. But, mainly, one would have to train teachers in order to do that work.

Why have you been so silent in recent years?

—It's because of the interviews. I prefer to do them in writing, and many journalists get offended by that. Sometimes I ask them if I can read them before they're published and that bothers them. What they don't know is that it's not that I mistrust what they'll write, but that I don't trust myself.

The written answers allow me to be more careful.

{ Marjorie Delgado Aguirre & Rafael Cadenas, El Nacional, 17 March 2005 }




No es nada, nada
algo sin transcendencia,
Una dificultad leve
en la respiración.
Problema de angostura
¿Acaso no sabías
que la puerta es estrecha?


(Rafael Cadenas, Antología, Madrid: Visor, 1999)

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