Venepoetics: A Postscript

I started writing Venepoetics when I was living in Boston, in September of 2003, after a summer of reading many poetry blogs from the U.S. and Venezuela. I first heard about them via The Poetry Project Newsletter, which had a feature on blogs. Two decades feels like a good number to end a translation space that had been very active in the 2000s, serving me as a workshop and archive to pursue my Venezuelan-American interest in Venezuelan and Latin American literature. I'm especially grateful for the friends and colleagues I met through writing Venepoetics.

The years of this blog coincided with the destruction of Venezuela by a military caudillo and his band of thieves, who demolished the nation's infrastructure and forced over 7 million Venezuelans into exile, as of 2023. Because of that crisis, many of the translations I posted here in the 2000s came from columnists and writers I followed in Caracas newspapers such as Tal Cual and El Nacional, all of them trying to make sense of Venezuela's complex crisis.

But literature was always the main focus of Venepoetics. Between 2006-2012 I lived in Durham, NC. It was there I was most active with this blog, focusing on the work of the poet José Antonio Ramos Sucre (Cumaná, Venezuela, 1890 - Geneva, Switzerland, 1930). That's him sometime in the 1920s in Caracas, in the photo above, taken by Manrique & Co. 

In the years 2009-2012, I published dozens of first draft translations of Ramos Sucre here at the blog. Some of these were eventually included in my English translation of his poems, aphorisms and letters: Selected Works: Expanded Edition (Noemi Press, 2016). Having this blog gave me an outlet for the research on Ramos Sucre's work and life I was conducting in the U.S. and Venezuela. That research and translation of Ramos Sucre's work continues.

As a postscript, I've gathered a very personal list of links to various posts in Venepoetics relating to 26 Venezuelan, Latin American & Spanish writers (in no particular order) that I translated and wrote about. Although there's no index for the blog at the moment, individual authors translated here can be found through their labels at the bottom of each post.

Armando Rojas Guardia (1949-2020)

My translation of the poem "Patria" (2008) and the essay "¿Qué es vivir poéticamente?" (2013). Rojas Guardia was a member of the Caracas literary group Guaire in the 1980s.

Miyó Vestrini (1938-1991)

A poem by Miyó Vestrini, "Un día de la semana I" (1994). Vestrini was a member of the Maracaibo literary group Apocalipsis in the 1960s. Later she was an influential journalist in Caracas and a member of the literary movement La República del Este.

Renato Rodríguez (1927-2011)

Novelist and nomad, author of my favorite novel in Venezuelan literature, El bonche (1976). Back in 2008 I translated a 2006 interview with Renato Rodríguez by Albinson Linares for the newspaper El Nacional.

José Antonio Ramos Sucre (1890-1930)

The first poem by Ramos Sucre  I ever translated was "El extravío" (1929), back in the summer of 2008 after getting back from a trip to Caracas. There was something in that poem that drew me into his work completely. Among items related to Ramos Sucre, I also translated an essay by Eugenio Montejo (1938-2008) "Nueva aproximación a Ramos Sucre" (1981).

Finally, my English version of his essay on Alexander von Humboldt, "Sobre las huellas de Humboldt" (1923).

Manón Kübler (1961)

A poem from Manón Kúbler's first and only book of poems, Olympia (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1992), "XVI."

Antonia Palacios (1904-2001)

In the 1970s and early 1980s, at her home in Caracas, named Calicanto, the novelist and poet Antonia Palacios held an influential workshop where poets and fiction writers of several generations interacted. Her novel Ana Isabel, una niña decente (1949) is a great book that portrays a young artist's childhood in a rapidly-changing city. She is one of my favorite poets in any language.

Among the work of hers I have translated for the blog is a poem from her book Textos del desalojo (1973).

Oswaldo Barreto (1934-2017)

I translated many of Barreto's two columns in the Caracas newspaper Tal Cual: Pórtico and Balanza de Palabra. Before he wrote for Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper, which always opposed Chavismo from the left, Barreto had an unusual life in politics, with connections to literature through his close friendship with figures like the poet Juan Sánchez Peláez and the novelist Adriano González León. 

Barreto's astonishing and complex life as an underground guerrilla fighter in Venezuela, Latin America and the world in the 1960s is semi-fictionally recounted in the novel by English writer Lisa St. Aubin de Teran, Swallowing Stones (2006), which was based on interviews with him.

My translation of his column from November 3, 2009 ("Resurrección de El Techo de la Ballena") recounts his attendance at a book presentation in Caracas by some of the remaining members of the 1960s collective El Techo de la Ballena, where Barreto critiqued their support for Chavismo. Barreto was close friends with the Salvadoran poet & revolutionary Roque Dalton (El Salvador, 1935-1975), who wrote a poem in honor of Oswaldo Barreto, "Primavera en Jevani," in his book Taberna y otros lugares (1969).

Teodoro Petkoff (1932-2018)

In 2007, I attended a book presentation for Teodoro Petkoff's Socialismo irreal, which is a reissue of two of his books from the 1970s. Petkoff was a legendary guerrilla commander in the 1960s who, like Barreto, transitioned into civilian life during the 1970s.

The book presentation was held in a bookstore in the Chacaito shopping center in Caracas, I went that night with my dad and wrote about the event in a post after getting back to the U.S. a couple weeks later.

Petkoff's small but influential newspaper Tal Cual had excellent opinion and culture sections during the 2000s, and I frequently translated articles into English from there for my blog, in the interest of raising awareness about the crisis in Venezuela.

Two Peruvian Surrealists

Between the years 2007-2010 I spent time researching the poetry of Juan Sánchez Peláez (1922-2003) in Caracas, at times consulting with his widow, my friend Malena Coelho de Sánchez Peláez (1937-2022). My translations of his work are available in Air on the Air: Selected Poems of Juan Sánchez Peláez (Black Square Editions, 2016).

Among the poets I encountered through researching Sánchez Peláez were the Peruvians César Moro (1903-1956) and Emilio Adolfo Westphalen (1911-2001). Moro was the only Latin American writer associated with the Surrealists in Paris (he was kicked out by Breton), and in the 1930s he and Westphalen met and collaborated in Lima.

César Moro, "The Scandalous Life of César Moro"

Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, "Viniste a posarte sobre una hoja de mi cuerpo"

Miguel James (1953)

Probably the most popular translation I've published, this short poem by Trinidad-born poet Miguel James,  "Contra la policía" (2003).

Fernando Paz Castillo (1893-1981)

The poet Fernando Paz Castillo used to accompany his friend José Antonio Ramos Sucre on some of his nighttime insomniac walks through Caracas in the 1920s. Paz Castillo was also one of the first critics to recognize his friend's unusual poetic gifts.

My translation of an essay by Rafael Arráiz Lucca (1959), "Fernando Paz Castillo: Nuestro poeta metafísico" (2015).

My translation of Paz Castillo's, "Poema" (1975).

Víctor Valera Mora (1935-1984)

My translation of this revolutionary poet's iconic 1968 poem "Masseratti 3 litros."

Victoria de Stefano (1940-2023)

One of Venezuela's most important and fascinating novelists. My translation of a 2014 interview with de Stefano

An appreciation from 2019 of Victoria de Stefano by her friend the novelist Ednodio Quintero.

Ednodio Quintero (1947)

Ednodio Quintero is one of Venezuela's most dynamic Venezuelan novelists writing today. I translated this short text by his friend Enrique Vila-Matas (Spain, 1948), from 2017, "Ednodio Quintero, Venezuela." Thank you to Vila-Matas for including a link to this translation on his website.

Ana Teresa Torres (1945)

Ana Teresa Torres is an incredible novelist and essayist, whose work has often reflected on the crisis that has engulfed Venezuela in the 21st century. This is my translation of her 2006 essay, "La voz intelectual se escucha en la escena pública."

Elizabeth Schön (1921-2007)

In 2018, I translated a series of prose poems from Schön's 1972 book, "Casi un país." In the book, she writes about a young woman from a small town discovering the universe of Caracas.

Adriano González León (1931-2008)

Adriano González León was a member of the writers and artists collective El Techo de la Ballena in Caracas during the 1960s. In 1968 he published the novel País portátil, a classic of the Latin American Boom. In the final years of his life he published a column in El Nacional newspaper. 

My translation of his column from 2006 about Caracas, "Una ciudad enloquecida."

Guillermo Sucre (1933-2021)

Sucre is known for his book of essays on Latin American poetry, La máscara, la transparencia: Ensayos sobre poesía hispanonoamericana (1975/2016). He was one of the scholars responsible for the rediscovery of the poetry of José Antonio Ramos Sucre that happened in the 1970s and 1980s in Venezuela.

An essay by Antonio López Ortega (1957) on Sucre's selected poems, "Guillermo Sucre o el país imborrable" (2021).

My English version of Sucre's poem "Toda la mañana ha llovido" (1982).

Rafael Cadenas (1930)

During my research trips to Venezuela between 2007-2011, I was lucky to see Rafael Cadenas at various readings and book presentations in Caracas. His legendary silence and poetry are essential to Venezuelan literature today.

Rafael Arráiz Lucca wrote about Cadenas for El Nacional in 2001, "Rafael Cadenas y la otra voz."

My translation of his 1963 poem "Derrota."

Roberto Bolaño (Chile, 1953-2003)

In 2003, I discovered Bolaño thanks to a friend who told me I had to read Los detectives salvajes (1998) immediately. Bolaño's early critique of Chavismo helped me understand the dangers facing Venezuela today.

My translation of a public statement Roberto Bolaño published in Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper Tal Cual in 2001, in relation to the Rómulo Gallegos Prize:

"I don't have much patience for Neo-Stalinists (or pseudo gangsters or corrupt functionaries)."

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