Eugenio Montejo (1938-2008)

[Photo: Enrique Hernand]

I’ve just come across this horrible news in El Nacional, Eugenio Montejo died yesterday in Valencia at the age of 69. The article doesn’t mention the cause of death.

In 2004, Australian translator Peter Boyle published an excellent English edition of selected poems by Montejo, The Trees (Salt Publishing). Consequently, his work has been widely read in the English speaking world, a rarity for Venezuelan poets. Some of Boyle’s versions of Montejo can be found online at:

Three Candles Journal

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País in 2002, Montejo spoke of his relationship to poetry:

“Poetry is the last religion we have left. If there’s a final judgment, it will take place in front of her. Brodsky says that if poetry is seen as the supreme form of eloquence it ceases to be an art and becomes our anthropological genetic end. Our entire wager takes place under poetry. And that’s not just an aesthetic, it’s an ethics.”

Montejo died from stomach cancer, close to midnight yesterday. Via Iván Thays, I find an interview with him in El País from February 2008. Some of the other bloggers & newspapers paying homage include:

Harry Almela
Juan Carlos Chirinos
Daniel Duquenal
Ficción Breve Venezolana
Jorge Gómez Jiménez
Kira Kariakin
Miguel Marcotrigiano
Iria Puyosa
Rafael Rattia
Eleonora Requena
Fedosy Santaella
Tal Cual
Héctor Torres
El Universal
Adriana Villanueva
Hernán Zamora

Canto lacrado

No pude separar el pájaro del canto.
Oí murmullos, ráfagas, acordes,
gotas de oráculo amarillo,
cosas indescifrables;
anoté cuanto pude sin espantarlo.
Me detuve abstraído ante sus ecos
sin indagar si modulaba un son antiguo
o si su voz se contamina
en esta hora llena de máquinas.
Lo oí después, lo seguí oyendo muchos días,
otro o el mismo ya no supe, un canto
lacrado entre los pliegues de los aires.
Ignoro aún si trasmutaba en su inocencia
ruidos de goznes, pernos, hélices,
el zumbido de los taxis que van y vienen.
Ignoro si inventaba o traducía.
Sólo anoté una raya de su sombra
sin apartarla de sus alas.

Hidden Song

I couldn’t distinguish the bird from the song.
I heard whispers, sudden blasts, chords,
golden oracles in droplets,
indecipherable things.
I jotted down as much as I could without startling it.
Absent-mindedly I stopped before its echoes
without worrying if it was modulating an ancient sound
or if its voice was already contaminated
by this hour filled with machines.
I heard it later, I kept hearing it for many days,
another bird or the same, I didn’t know,
a song hidden among the folds of the air.
I didn’t even know if in its innocence
it was playing variations
on the sounds of hinges, bolts, screws,
the buzz of taxis as they come and go.
I don’t know if it was inventing or translating.
I just got down one line of its shadow
without separating it from the wings.


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