“Sí soy un poeta de la revolución” / Ana María Hernández G.

“Yes, I’m a Poet of Revolution”

[Photo by Nicola Rocco for El Universal]

The journalist and poet Luis Alberto Crespo, president of the Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello, is in charge of reorganizing the foundation he directs in order to fit the socialist profile outlined in the recent Decree 6,102. Additionally, if Crespo doesn’t explain what will happen with the law restricting the importation of books to the country, at least he gives us his opinion.

– What will be done in the Casa de Bello?
– What we’ve done is a restructuring so that the processes move more efficiently and so that we can work on promoting books, attracting talent, articulating links with other programs, and right now, the importance of books, how they arrive and what’s needed.

– Are books reaching the entire country?
– Yes. The National Book Distributor is beginning. It has made progress but not one hundred percent. There are 52 locations for sales in Venezuela, the process of distribution continues to grow, we have more than 12 trucks, we are working with great interest. If books are not distributed, how can we work?

– In light of these assessments, how then do you interpret the measure by the Ministry of Light Industries and Commerce that restricts the importation of books?
– I’m learning more about that, trying to understand that part better. There are a series of technical reasons regarding the market for books, as regards the private distributors. What I am certain of is that the measure doesn’t serve the purpose some people are saying it does, which is to restrict, prohibit, place limits. I don’t believe that. What I believe is that there are a series of technical reasons that can be explained, and Minister Farruco (Francisco Sesto) himself has more authority than I do to tell you about it and with terms that are exactly more valid.

– What’s happening is that the Minister doesn’t appear…
– On principle, I don’t think it’s a mistake. Look what the president of the Republic just did with that Law (of Intelligence and Counterintelligence). There are mistakes, because I don’t think one has to be restrictive when it comes to culture. I believe we will never be able to retain or impede any books we might want to read from circulating in Venezuela. I think it’s a fundamental debate.

– Regarding the second paragraph of Decree 6,102, which points out that the Casa de Bello “will promote measures that guarantee the direct participation and active shared responsibilities of the masses in the formulation, execution and control of its management oriented towards the construction of a socialist society,” what are those measures?
– That’s fundamental. What does it mean? There are two systems of life, two dreams. The one we know, which was the previous one, and which some call neo-liberalism. But there exists a system of life, that has had practices which have failed successively, but that exists within the dreams of men, which is to invent a society of equals. That’s the greatest of utopias. Why not demonstrate that it’s possible, at least in part? It’s a lie to say that tomorrow we’ll wake up being socialists. We’re a capitalist society, we have petit bourgeois tastes, who doesn’t? To invent, to have ideas, to dream a system that aspires towards a society that’s less broken up by inequalities of all types is noble, and it’s worth finding a definition for it, at least our own, but within a socialist base. This is a capitalist society, but one that wants to move towards another concept of social, political and economic life. That’s what’s being worked on. Is it 100 percent realized? Definitely not. Are there defects? Many. Is it difficult? Extremely difficult. Is it impossible? No. While we have the will, while this remains a democracy, we will continue to debate that problem. That’s a consultation. We have a consultation coming up in November, there was a consultation on December 2nd. For now, in the case of culture, I think we’re doing something: the distribution of books, making them more affordable, distributing them around the country; being able to count on people knowing how to read and write, and deepening that knowledge which is basic and maximizing that achievement, these are all part of this cultural policy. To the degree that it becomes a whole and gains efficiency, and that it be effective and have fewer mistakes. Because it’s not easy to get things right all the time.

– What is the Casa de Bello doing or what will it do to accomplish that goal?
– If we have a program directed towards the country, if we have writers’ networks and the regional cabinets, I think there will be a change. I’m not going to say that those who were in charge before didn’t do this. I think they did and in many ways they did it well, but not in a national, general sense. Now, the important thing is to know who we can count on. If we don’t have a solid cultural policy there will be no progress, and that’s what we’re building. With interest, with fundamentals, with confrontations, with criticism, much of it inhumane and petty.

– How do the administrative changes in the Casa de Bello translate?
– It doesn’t mean areas of study will disappear or anything like that, but rather that there will be more efficiency in the procedures of the projects, and what before was handled by a single person will be amplified: the focus areas will continue, such as the indigenous, children’s literature, regional or local histories, orality, poetry, theater, the Andrés Bello Seminar, and we’ve created the Alberto Arvelo Torrealba Seminar for telluric literature, and we’ll be opening three regional houses.

– Which ones, initially?
– The ministry wants there to be 24 houses, but that’s an uphill struggle, and in order to know what possibilities exist for putting them into practice and seeing how they function, we’ll start with the cities of Barquisimeto, Valera and Puerto La Cruz.

– What does telluric literature consist of?
– For example, José León Tapia, or Julio César Sánchez Olivo, the chronicler of the state of Apure and author of song lyrics, corridos of poetic writing, of those songs you hear every day. The authors of décimas. It’s that poetry that remained completely segregated. The idea for the seminar is to give these specialists an academic credential, since up to now they’ve done their work in an intuitive manner, with lots of love, but without any academic support.

– Do you feel like a poet of revolution?
– I am the poet, me. I’m the poet who likes poetry, I love poetry and my function, if it’s for the sake of revolution… in the scheme of its unfolding I end up being pretty inadequate. Look at what I’m interested in: the desert, midday, oblivion and above all the little turtledove, which for me represents the world’s soul. What I think is that if I participate in this revolution, because it’s a matter of reforming the bases, at least I have the will to participate from my area. My great concern is, what is all my knowledge worth if I can’t share it with others? So then yes I am, if that’s what it means to be part of the revolution. But I’m a very solitary poet, and in a world that’s more than anything a desert, very spiritual and maybe slightly religious.

– The V Festival of World Poetry recently took place. What tangible benefits were obtained?
– The balance is interesting. To say it was a total success would be lying, because there’s always room for improvement. We always make mistakes. Not everything turned out well, but 80% did: it’s not easy to have it take place throughout the entire country, but the result is satisfactory for us. We paid homage to Gustavo Pereira this time, and for next year we want to propose to Juan Calzadilla that he be the one honored. We haven’t spoken with him, but I think he’ll accept.

– In concrete terms?
– It’s interesting, because with the incorporation of the regional cabinets there are more people showing up, the incorporation of young people is impressive. It’s not that I want to underestimate Venezuelans, but I think poetry was considered a type of reading that was done by a few people, something that’s not understood and it was very strange to see the lines of people who went to listen to other people. A bewitchment of poetry in human beings.

{ Ana María Hernández G., El Universal, 18 June 2008 }

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