Apuntes sobre Ramos Sucre / Américo Martín

Notes on Ramos Sucre

“I would like to exist amid empty darkness, because the world damages my senses cruelly and life afflicts me, impertinent lover whispering bitter stories.” (JARS, “Prelude,” Timon’s Tower)

Were we to guide ourselves by such a confession, the poet from Cumaná José Antonio Ramos Sucre would fit more within Romanticism than Modernism. The tormented solitude, the feeling of being overwhelmed by the world that pursues him, the bitterness more virtual than real and the early immolation, sing to Romanticism, a soul weakened and pessimistic without a discernible cause.

Ramos Sucre’s Romanticism is in his way of living, his visionary pathos and suicidal vocation, along with his admiration for the French poet Gerard de Nerval—Ludovico Silva considered them twin spirits—who was a distinguished representative of French Romanticism.

“I found myself lost”—writes Ramos Sucre in The Airs of Presage—“when I was served as a guide by the French poet Nerval.”

But if we study his writings of careful syntax and easy fabulation, we will find the modernist. Do his evasions serve as proof of his affiliation with that Modernism that rebuilds and takes delight in an imaginary past? His fondness for the past is not a precious imposture but rather a propensity toward constructing a world of fantasies. As his words reveal:

“...seeking consolation from disgrace and rest for the spirit, I often wished for a retreat to the distant country where I could live alone far from the contemplation of so many crimes.”

According to close friends, Ramos Sucre lived in a confused atmosphere. Isolating himself from reality and suggesting another one more vast is a nuance taken by Modernism from French symbolism. And yet, Ramos Sucre’s anxiety to break the mold places him at the threshold of the avant-garde. His stylistic audacity and his rejection of meter don’t allow easy definitions. He is a modernist moving toward the avant-garde with romantic traces.


Ramos Sucre maintains a certain parallelism with Góngora. Both of them became flags for movements of rupture: the Generation of 27 in Spain and the Sardio Group in Venezuela. Góngora was a great poet, recognized as such even before his elaborate period. He had been a man of simple and brilliant versification. But the darkness of his later strophes was not an imposture. The preceptist Francisco Cascales said that from being a “prince of light he had become a prince of darkness.”

Three hundred years later, the Generation of 27 (Alberti, Guillén, Lorca, Altolaguirre) recovers him from a semi-oblivion of three centuries, an exaggeration at heart. As with any emergent force, those of the Generation of 27 wanted to affirm themselves beyond surprise or scandal. Placing Góngora in the scepter, in response to a past that had been hostile to him, they were repairing an injustice. There hadn’t been one.

Although Góngora didn’t need saviors, after vindicating him so much those young writers opened 20th century Spain to the innovative literary avant-garde. That historical daring will repeat itself in the Venezuela of the Generation of 58, with the brilliant literary flowering embodied by the groups Sardio and Tabla Redonda. This time the figure rescued isn’t sinking in a past of centuries; he died in geneva barely 29 years back and in the words of Carlos Augusto León:

“He was accompanied in equal measure by the admiration and affection of a small group and the incomprehension of many.”

Ramos Sucre didn’t have many readers. Misunderstood, solitary, rootless, noctivagant and with death as a project and destiny: he was ideal for reproducing in Venezuela the rescue of Góngora by the Generation of 27.

He was probably isolated even further by his blasphemies, ingenious but puerile:­

“—God is cruel to the poor.
– God lacks practical existence.
– God is the relegated and lazy sovereign of a constitutional monarchy, where Satan serves as Prime Minister.”


Ramos Sucre would have felt assaulted by the tribute of those Venezuelan writers who resuscitated him for unexpected struggles. It was death, with all its literary potentiality, that claimed him.

“I saw growing beside him, the shadow of death.” (Fernando Paz Castillo)

“Ramos Sucre’s writing is the project of his death.” (Víctor Bravo)

“The only thing the aesthetic super-ego communicates with the profound ego of the poet is the feeling of death.” (Ludovico Silva)

Literary schools are similar to legal codes. They freeze progress in order to establish parameters of comprehension, but they are immediately surpassed by incessant artistic creation. To say that Modernism is the equivalent of evasion toward Hellenic mythology turned out to be an error, based on the impact of Azul, the first of Darío’s books. The Nicaraguan bard himself wrote Cantos de vida y esperanza in order to distance himself from Azul and Prosas profanas. And as Torres Ríoseco said:

“Darío’s works contain another note by which he is not only the poet of swans, but also the poet of America.”

Modernism was liberating because of its cosmopolitanism, audacious metaphors, intrepid use of language and its ease when facing consecrated models. Once these premises are accepted, there is room for the objection to the aristocratic influences in the first modernists, elegant evasions and art for art’s sake taken from the Symbolists and Parnassians.


The reaction of the poet from Cumaná against literary forms was not spontaneous but rather intellectual. Wanting to renovate the rules he reduced and eliminated the relative THAT, “at times” a compliant resource not very open to formal creativity.

But, c’mon!, “at times,” and when it’s eliminated for no reason it imposes a dark distillation.

Ramos Sucre’s works are not legion. Biblioteca Ayacucho gathers them in a single volume, not particularly thick. One can read his entire oeuvre, and I have done so several times, in a short while. Did he write in prose so as to not submit to the strict Castilian meter? It would be daring to doubt his ample knowledge of the rules of language, which is why we should ask another question: was he a poet, an essayist, a literary exegete, an aficionado of hullabaloo in the manner of Gómez de la Serna? Critics have consecrated him as a prose poet but I’m not completely sure about that. His writings are very attractive because of the sharpness of his opinions and their formal beauty. Poetry undoubtedly predominates in some of them but in others it is the didactic, informative and epigrammatic purpose.

There is no poetry in his brief essay on Walt Whitman or in his acidic commentaries regarding Lugones, but in Las formas del fuego, on the other hand, the prose is saturated with it. Theseus seducing the queen of the Amazons. Later on wandering deliriously, he threatens to transmute himself into a wolf. Theseus, the Amazons, the lupine temptation. Is that modernist evasion?



“Inside the precinct a fearful and dark space extended itself, and a glacial cold that came from very far away prevailed. (...) I moved above it lightly suspended by invisible wings. (...) But when I felt behind me the clamor of life, like that of an abandoned and loving bride, I turned back in my steps.”

“...the memory of that woman makes my heart palpitate, the only being who seems to live in this place of silence nature, tired of activity and anxious dies.”

{ Américo Martín, Tal Cual, 8 December 2012 }

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