Rafael Cadenas was born in the city of Barquisimeto in 1930, where he befriended the novelist Salvador Garmendia. Parts of his third book, a series of prose poems entitled Los cuadernos del destierro (1960), were written when he was living on the island of Trinidad after having been expelled from Venezuela for his opposition to the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.
Beginning with his fourth book, Falsas maniobras (1966), Cadenas began to radically change his writing style, aiming for a more minimalist aesthetic in his poetry. A key poem in this shift is his famous “Derrota.” In 1986, Cadenas was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to research North American literature at the Widener Library and other locations around Boston. He has taught for many years in the Escuela de Letras at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, where he lives and works today. In 2000, Mexico's Fondo de Cultura Económica published his complete prose and poetry. His most recent publication is a selection of his translations of poetry into Spanish, including the work of Walt Whitman and Robert Creeley, entitled El taller de al lado: Traducciones (Caracas: Bid & Co, 2005).
I have translated several poems from Los cuadernos del destierro at my Antología blog for the month of January. This closes an initial cycle of translations into English I began a year ago. I will not be updating that blog anymore, in order to focus on a long-term translation project. I intend for my versions of these twelve poets to serve as a skeleton for an anthology of XX century Venezuelan poetry in English translation. There are many other poets I hope to include in the anthology, which is why I’ll need to spend less time blogging and more time researching, translating and seeking out possible publishers for this project.