Ser poeta, ser ciudadano / Gleixys Pastrán C.

Being a Poet, Being a Citizen

Essence delayed between verse and reflection, Armando Rojas Guardia's work gives him an important presence among Venezuelan intellectuals. Living in "the infernos of Hades," he has glimpsed "the light of gloom;" insomnia, neurosis and suffering have decanted his syntax.

Dusty tables, a pipe, a refrigerator and a pan to catch drops of water. All enveloped by an acrid smell, humidity, cigarettes.

He sits down, covers his head with his hands stained yellow and stays like that for a long time. He only looks down when he quiets. Meanwhile, he'll always look up at the roof; talking measuredly; thinking each phrase, each subject, each adjective.

"To speak I speak and gesture.

False maneuver save me from precise, definite

I sew the hollow amid gestures, cross words over
the depths..." he says in "Simulacrum."

To enter Rojas Guardia's poetic universe is to also enter his psyche. Eroticism, sexual force, the tireless hours without sleep ("an hour is a lot of time; it is, in 60 minutes, to have a lot to think about, to dialogue, with oneself, with God, with others. There's a lot to say, there's a lot to do") echo in his writing; a philosophical reproduction of what he's lived.

"I try to make an emminently reflexive type of poetry, where what's important is not mere imaginative exhuberance, but rather the imagination combined with a certain dose of intellect, reflexion, so-called thinking poetry."

Just then he manifests that the poet diverges into poet and citizen. His conception of the poet is not separate from the country's reality. He cites a fragment from T.S. Eliot: "The poet is not directly linked to the people, only indirectly; his immediate link is with language, with his language."

Ensayo, his most recent book, edited by Equinoccio (Universidad Sim
ón Bolívar) and El Otro & El Mismo, shows what Eliot said; it gathers the last twenty years (1985-2005) of Rojas Guardia's essays: El dios de la intemperie, El calidoscopio de Hermes, Diario Merideño, Crónica de la memoria, El principio de incertidumbre, among others.

He says within the historical context being lived in Venezuela one has to rescue the "well spoken word," and he adds: "we find ourselves with the reality that words like democracy, justice and poverty are devalued every day.

The necessity of untying those words, and all words in general, from their confused, indiscriminate and imprecise weight. That's a job made for writers."

"Being an intellectual doesn't guarantee you'll be immune to the mistakes in the focus of the country's political life. Neither Heidegger in Nazi Germany, nor Sartre supporting the Soviet Union in a certain way, or Foucault supporting Maoism. Today, Spanish-speaking writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Fernando Savater carry out the fundamental role intellectuals are called to perform: being the conscience of the people. And in countries like ours, where the majority is in poverty, the poet's character aligns with a social responsibility."

Not that the poet should become a populist, messianic instrument, he reflects, since this leads to the lowering of the quality of literature: "It doesn't depend on the poet whether the majority read poetry or not; that depends on the country's economic, political and social conditions. In that sense, the poet shouldn't assume a volunteer position of going out to find the people, and then try to lower the lyric quality so they'll understand it. That's unfair to poetry, to the poet and to the people themselves," he comments, alluding to Venezuela's intellectual world today.

{ Gleixys Pastrán C. / Armando Rojas Guardia, TalCual, 22 May 2006 }

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