Venezuelan Rafael Cadenas Wins the Federico García Lorca Poetry Prize

                  [Rafael Cadenas, Madrid 2014. Photo by Alberto Di Lolli]

Agencia EFE — The Venezuelan poet and essayist Rafael Cadenas (Barqusimeto, 1930) has been awarded the Federico García Lorca-City of Granada International Poetry Prize in its twelfth edition, according to the decision of the judges that was announced today.

The judges highlighted the always lucid, deliberately marginal and very quiet work of one of the great poets of the Spanish language in the last sixty years.

This is what Carlos Pardo, poet and representative of the Federico García Lorca foundation, pointed out, speaking for the all the judges.

The work of Cadenas, awarded the National Literature Prize of Venezuela (1985) and the FIL Prize in Romance Languages of Guadalajara (Mexico) in 1999, “takes risks and is uncomfortable with any totalitarian manifestation of power,” according to Pardo.

Considered one of the most influential authors among young poets today in Spain and Latin America, Cadenas published his first poetry collection in a local printing shop in Barquisimeto in 1946.

From a young age he combined a passion for literature with political activism in Venezuela, which led to his being jailed and exiled during the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

He took refuge in the island of Trinidad until 1957, and it was in Caracas that he wrote and published Una isla (1958) and Los cuadernos del destierro (1960), years in which he formed part of the group for political and literary debate Tabla Redonda, alongside Manuel Caballero, Jesús Sanoja Hernández and Jacobo Borges, among others.

Gifted with a refined sensibility, Cadenas, also a retired university professor, stands out for a dense oeuvre closely tied to a philosophical perspective that, according to the judges, seems to fuse the paths of the reflective posture with pure inspiration.

His most famous poem, “Defeat,” which was passed along copy by copy throughout Spain and all of Latin America during the 1960s —transcending as the poetic hallmark of the sixties generation— led to work like Falsas maniobras (1966), Memorial (1977) or Amante (1983).

In all these books there is a poetry that is “essential, very demanding with language, very colloquial, almost minimalist but direct, that can be understood and yet remains very demanding,” according to Pardo.

Latin American and Spanish poetry of the last sixty years “can’t be understood” without the work of Cadenas, summarizes Pardo, who thinks the world of literature is indebted to the Venezuelan for “some of the most important moments of antipoetry from the fifties onwards.”

The prize, which currently includes an award of 30,000 euros, was established as the highest paying in its genre, and this year 43 authors of 18 nationalities were under consideration.

The prize, which for the first time has been announced at the Federico García Lorca Center in Granada, Spain, also includes a commemorative graphic artwork, a literary act and academic sessions dedicated to the study of the prizewinning work with the presence of the author, as well as an edition of an anthology of poems.

On previous occasions the prize has been awarded to Rafael Guillén (2014); Eduardo Lizalde (2013); Pablo García Baena (2012); Fina García Marruz (2011); María Victoria Atencia (2010); José Manuel Caballero Bonald (2009); Tomás Segovia (2008); Francisco Brines (2007); Blanca Varela (2006); José Emilio Pacheco (2005) and Ángel González (2004).

{ El Nacional, 13 October 2015 }

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