Rafael Cadenas: “Los surafricanos han debido prestarnos a Mandela” / Jolguer Rodríguez Costa

Rafael Cadenas: “The South Africans should have loaned us Mandela”

(Photo: Ernesto Morgado)

Is Venezuela today a poem or an ode?

An ode lends itself more to epic poetry. Well, those that call themselves revolutionaries think that’s the title that corresponds to the fight they’re carrying out.

A title?

Anachronism, forced indoctrination, a by now limitless power that turns whatever power the regime seeks today unnecessary.

The prologue?

It would have to explain that only the present exists and at any moment the future will be present.

A fragment in accord with the situation?

“This country hasn’t finished burying Gómez.” A verse by Eugenio Montejo that summarizes quite well the Venezuelan tragedy.

How does a poet survive in this country?

Some in government positions, others as active or retired professors, others as newspaper columnists. Others with some type of fellowship or pension or any type of honest work.

What do prizes taste like for you?

Like survival. In my case the one from the Guadalajara International Book Fair was of great assistance, for which I’m grateful to Mexico.

Was the national language romantic?

Maybe up until the first decade of the 20th century.

And then?

Especially as employed by those in power it has become repetitive, insulting, irresponsible. Calling the opposition fascist demonstrates this.

Does hunger stimulate the muse?

No, it only pushes you to look for work or to demand from the government the right to security that is due to the unemployed.

Your favored muse?

She doesn’t visit me.

What curtails her?

The scant work.

The poet of the revolution?

Gustavo Pereira.

And of the opposition?
I wouldn’t do him a favor by mentioning him.

A poem for the revolutionary process?

“I’m with the revolutionaries until they attain power.” (A verse by the Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist.)

Another one for the opposition?

“The revolutionaries want to construct a paradise and they create an inferno.” (In Hölberlin’s Hyperion.)

The president who was a friend to the bards?

It would have been Rómulo Gallegos, but the coup plotting army didn’t give him time.

The allied system: capitalism or communism?

Neither one, but capitalism doesn’t attack poetry.

Are you still a communist?

It’s been forty years since I abandoned all credos, save one: democracy, because despite its flaws it means freedom, it respects the Constitution that guarantees the rights of the individual and it can be improved.

Does your magical and elegant language coincide with the surrealism of Venezuela today?

There’s no surrealism here, but rather a pseudo reality based on propaganda.

Is it a make believe country?

A story with no end, narrated with a very grandiloquent official language that’s no longer seen in any civilized country.

A story that no one believes anymore?

The government’s fight against corruption.

The tall tale?

The autonomy of public powers.

Would you ever be a translator of presidential speeches?

The languages I know wouldn’t be enough for that task.

Who needs a translator?

The functionary who gets tangled up in the search for justifications.

Do you cry for the country?

No, and yet I’m concerned about a country divided by the insistence on implanting so-called socialism. And that division is anti-Bolivarian. One can fight without hatred. The South Africans should have loaned us Mandela

Is 21st century socialism an essay?

We know that the Marxist type hasn’t worked anywhere, we’ve been seeing here for many years now its incompetence for resolving the problems that affect Venezuelans.

The point of absurdity for a poet?

Believing yourself to be a poet.

A revolutionary poet?

From where?

Would poetry change the muse of politicians?

It’s possible it might influence those who frequent it.

And can it be a refuge for the citizen?

Yes, but it’s not alone, so are fiction, theater, the arts.

A work to drain the situation?

The Divine Comedy.

Ideological poetry?

Each poet has a conception of the world that I don’t relate to ideology.

Your reference?

Walt Whitman, because he’s a cosmos, he expanded the language of poetry and created free verse.

Do you imagine a law of social responsibility for poetry?

That’s a repressive law and thus in opposition to poetry.

Does a bard practice self-censorship?

Within each one there’s a critic of what one does, not a censor.

Does your poem “Defeat” (1963) remain relevant?

So much has been said about it that I no longer have anything to add.

Would you go into exile like you did in 1952?

I hope not, it’s difficult at my age.

At age 83, do you see any relation between power and poetry

Power is malignant and poetry tends to avoid it.

Poets to power?

No, because the ones that have administrative abilities are rare.

Do you visualize an epic ending?

No one knows the future, but it would be preferable to a violent end, a war, that “shipwreck of all that is good,” according to Erasmus.

The epilogue?

Who can write it?

What would happen in Venezuela if they also intervened poetry collections?

That’s already happened in other countries with totalitarian regimes and it has been the end of them.

{ Jolguer Rodríguez Costa, El Nacional, 13 October 2013 }

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