“La poesía es una forma de vivir” - Entrevista Luis Enrique Belmonte, poeta / Daniel Fermín

“Poetry is a way of life” - Interview with Luis Enrique Belmonte, Poet

(Photo: Enio Perdomo)
One morning in the 90s, Luis Enrique Belmonte (Caracas, 1971) skipped an exam at the Escuela de Medicina to read César Vallejo. This is how the doctor began his relationship with literature, which opens a new chapter with the publication of Compañero paciente, a collection of poems that’s nourished by his experience as a psychiatrist in order to assume an empathetic view toward suffering. Proof that poetry can also be therapeutic.

The Venezuelan poet took a few elements from his job and applied them to his verses. “I realized that psychiatry is related to writing. Not on a thematic level, but in terms of other tools. Clinical observation, for example, is something that has elements of the poetic. As well as attentive listening,” said the writer, who has published six previous books.

The author of Inútil registro sees literature as a psychedelic experience, as a form of revealing the mind’s content. However, he doesn’t assume it as self-therapy. “People say that poets don’t need psychoanalysis. I understand that it can be, at certain times, a means of exploration, but it’s not therapy. I think it can be, actually, a risky career. Poetry is sometimes nourished by states of psychic turbulence,” added the writer.

Belmonte’s last book was Salvar a los elefantes, a short novel. That incursion into fiction perhaps led him to the prose-like verses that predominate in his most recent book, which was published by Lugar Común. “The collection has a tone that leans toward fiction. I don’t know if it was because of that novel. Many of my poems have those registers. I make a more communicative, more discursive poem. I’ve always had an approximation to prose.”

The author himself had already said that Compañero paciente is one of those books that he’s enjoyed writing. “I really liked how, unconsciously, it’s very oriented toward the more fraternal aspects of life. That seemed pleasant to me. To think of a book that’s about the fraternity of beings, with friendship amidst the circumstances the poetic subject encounters.”

In the book he offers a portrait of the solidarity that exists among patients (“He says that when things get bad / one forgets they can get worse,” page 25), or the life of an anatomist (who is “dying several times without finally dying,” page 41). He also offers a section in which he gives advice to street dogs (“Don’t complain so much about hunger: keep looking, you always find something,” page 83, or “Read Cervantes in a kennel,” page 81). “I think there are many processes of healing tied to this book. I think we can conceive of poetry as a means of preparing for life. And life is tied to death. Poetry is a way of life,” explained the winner of Spain’s Adonais Prize for Poetry in 1998.

Belmonte also won, in Venezuela in 1996, the Fernando Paz Castillo Poetry Prize. And in an old interview he said prizes can interrupt the course of a budding voice. It happened to him. “It distracted me a bit. Suddenly you’re no longer anonymous, you begin to receive accolades that don’t let you focus on the process of writing. The ideal condition for a writer is solitude or anonymity. Or the anonymity that solitude grants.”

Since then he publishes very little. Or much less than before. It took him five years to write Compañero paciente. “It has to do with a more mature awareness of the responsibility of saying. And one still doubts. I corrected this book until the day it was sent to the printer (a copy in his house has corrections marked with a pen). That’s when I understood you never finish a book, but instead say goodbye to it,” concluded Belmonte. Poetry requires patience.

{ Daniel Fermín, El Universal, 6 July 2012 }

No comments: