Pérez Perdomo: “Hay que tratar, a través del poema, de descubrir lo invisible” / Carmen Virginia Carrillo

Pérez Perdomo: “You have to try, through the poem, to discover the invisible”

Plaza Bolívar in Boconó, birthplace of the poet

A few years ago I interviewed Francisco Pérez Perdomo. I was beginning my research of the poetics of the sixties that eventually became the book De la belleza y el furor. I encountered a polite man, of deliberate speech and vast culture who told me anecdotes about his youth and we spoke about literature. What follows is the dialogue I sustained with the poet of magic and phantasmagoria.

Carmen Virginia Carrillo: Your first publication, Fantasmas y enfermedades, from 1961, came out with the publishing venture of the literary group Sardio. Could you tell us about your incursion in this group?
Francisco Pérez Perdomo: Sardio is the first group I belonged to in Caracas. Sardio emerges from the contact between future members of the group while they were still in high school together. Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, Guillermo Sucre, Luis García Morales and me. We were a group of people who were restless.

CVC: Do you think the group had a concrete theoretical proposal?
FPP: Sardio had two great theorists, Adriano González León and Guillermo Sucre. Adriano affirmed that Rómulo Gallegos wasn’t of great importance. That phrase was repeated, maybe not in the same form, but bringing its proposal to the forefront, as happens with any young group that wants to open new spaces.
     When Adriano made his comment about Gallegos a questioning of values and a formulation of principles occurred. This is very positive, because it responds to a restlessness among youth that should never disappear. However, when revising values one can make mistakes when wanting to break with everything that has come before.

CVC: What opinion does Gallegos’s work deserve?
FPP: Gallegos is one of the great figures, he highlights the great dramas of humanity; and yet his writing isn’t one of the most captivating. I’m particularly fascinated by Doña Bárbara because she’s a character that betrays Gallegos.

CVC: In what sense?
FPP: When Gallegos writes the novel he establishes a theme: the struggle between civilization and barbarism. The character he tries to condemn and abolish from the story is Doña Bárbara. However, she’s the most fascinating character because she represents witchcraft and magic. She’s a girl who is raped by bandits, and who unfolds, because her bitterness is joined with her capacity to live great passions. She’s a character that seduces, since she’s able to feel sublime affections; she believes in love and that’s why she encounters conflict, just like Santos Luzardo.
     The latter is not one of the best characters, he represents the petit bourgeoisie, one of those centaur-like plainsmen who have become civilized —for him the university is extremely important—, who wants to fight for the plains where freedom is to be found. Santos Luzardo confronts the barbarism embodied by Doña Bárbara. When she’s defeated by life, she disappears. Doña Bárbara respects the love of Luzardo for Marisela, because she’s her daughter and to destroy him would mean harming her own daughter. There’s an unfolding in the character when Doña Bárbara puts down her weapon and leaves; she becomes the great myth.

CVC: Is there any relation between that mythical world present in Gallegos’s work and in your own poetry, such as the phantasmagorical, magic, the paradoxical?
FPP: I love Gallegos, but my writing isn’t like his at all. The themes, on the other hand, do coincide in terms of the topics since they have to do with magic, myth and witchcraft.

CVC: Regarding your work, the constant presence of certain phantasmagorical elements, the game in which one can perceive a tangible spatiality alongside an intangible one, does it have any relation with the influence of various authors, or is it a more individual search?
FPP: All of us poets are more readers than we are poets. You have to establish a difference between imitation and writing. Imitation is parodic. Influences are fructifying.

CVC: Can your poetry also be considered an heir to fantasy and horror literature?
FPP: I really like fantasy literature. When I lived in Boconó there was no electricity and we would use gas lamps. There were people who would tell fantastical stories, and in the shadows we would see apparitions and we believed in those stories. That stayed with me, along with the taste for fantasy literature.
     My poetry comes from my reflection on reality. Anyone who looks at reality should find vibrations. Reality is vibrational. I think everything has two sides and that one is always hidden; we have to seek out that hidden side in order to discover it. Regarding this hidden reality, you see that objects move and that when you write about something you encounter those two worlds: first the visible and then the invisible. You have to try, through the poem, to discover the invisible. Many people can say my poetry is equivocal because it begins with an anecdote from childhood and, suddenly, that shifts toward the other reality that exists and has another time, which is otherness.

{ Carmen Virginia Carrillo, Tal Cual, 15 June 2013 }

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