The poems by
José Antonio Ramos Sucre
(Cumaná, Venezuela, 1890 - Geneva, Switzerland, 1930) translated here
are taken from his three main books, Timon's
Tower (1925), The Forms of
Fire (1929) and The Enamel
Sky (1929). Ramos Sucre worked
as a teacher and as a translator for the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
in Caracas. During the last year of his life he lived in Europe. Largely
overlooked during his lifetime, his work was rediscovered by young avant-garde
poets and critics in the 1960s and he is now acknowledged as a foundational
figure of contemporary Venezuelan literature. Poet and critic Francisco
Pérez Perdomo has described his writing as "...one of the most
innovative produced by Latin American poetry."
Palacios (Caracas, 1904 - 2001) was a novelist, essayist and poet.
Her autobiographical novel Ana
Isabel, una niña decente (1949) is a classic of Venezuelan fiction,
required reading in Venezuelan high school curriculums. In the 1970s,
Palacios began to publish the poetry that would make her one of the
most influential poets in Venezuela at the end of the 20th century.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s she ran the legendary writing workshop
Calicanto out of her home in Caracas. Dozens of young writers participated
in Calicanto, which served as a major cultural reference point for Venezuelan
literature. She received the National Prize for Literature in 1976.
The son of Italian
immigrants to Venezuela, Vicente Gerbasi (Canoabo, 1913 - Caracas,
1992) published his first major collection, Mi padre, el inmigrante, in 1945. This long poem is considered one
of the first surrealist texts of Venezuelan literature. In 1937 he cofounded
the literary group Viernes. Gerbasi was awarded the National Prize for
literature in 1968. He worked as a diplomat and was Ambassador for Venezuela
in several countries, including Haiti, Israel and Poland.
and essayist Elizabeth Schön (Caracas, 1921 - 2007) published nearly two-dozen
books and was awarded the National Prize for Literature in 1994. During
her later years, she frequently welcomed and mentored younger poets
at her home in Caracas. In a blurb for Schön's final book, Luz
oval (2007), María Antonieta Flores wrote: "A voice that suffers
collective injustice and suffering, in which we can find the nation,
the district of childhood and the house, spaces that shelter the inner
Princeton Encyclopedia Poetry and Poetics, Luis Miguel Isava cites
the importance of Juan Sánchez Peláez (Altagracia de Orituco,
1922 - Caracas, 2003) for Venezuelan poetry: "A herald of the Generación de los 60, Juan Sánchez
Peláez [...] is considered the most revolutionary, complex, and stimulating
Venezuelan poet of the 20th c. His poetry bore some thematic resemblance
to previous poets (Ramos Sucre, Gerbasi), but distinguished itself by
a revolutionary lang. that combined the grammatical transgressions of
the avant-garde with a singular and tender intimacy..."
Sánchez Peláez worked as a teacher, journalist and diplomat in Spain,
France, Colombia and the United States. In 1969 he was a Fellow at The
University of Iowa's International Writing Program, and in 1975 he received
the National Prize for Literature.
Cadenas (Barquisimeto, 1930) is arguably Venezuela's most important
living poet. His third book, Los
cuadernos del destierro (1960), marked a turning point for Venezuelan
poetry. It invoked the rising influence of José Antonio Ramos Sucre
and foreshadowed the emergence of the political and poetic avant-gardes
of the sixties. In the seventies, Cadenas's work shifted toward a minimalist
and contemplative aesthetic that he continues to explore today. In 1986,
he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and lived in Boston, where he conducted
research on American literature at Harvard's Widener Library. His collected
works, including poetry and essays, has been published in Spain and
Mexico in recent years.
Poet and critic
Francisco Pérez Perdomo (Boconó,
1930) belonged to the literary groups Sardio and El Techo de la Ballena
in the 1950s and 1960s. A life-long scholar of José Antonio Ramos Sucre,
his anthology of that poet's selected works in 1969 was the first mass-market
volume of Ramos Sucre and it has continued to be reprinted in subsequent
editions. Pérez Perdomo's own poetry has followed a singular path since
his first book appeared in 1961. His poems evoke the rural landscape
of his native city in the mountainous Andean region of western Venezuela.
Nightmares, ghosts and hallucinations populate his visionary texts,
making them seem part of a single, life-long poem written in installments
over several decades. He was awarded the National Prize for Literature
as a poet and painter, Juan Calzadilla (Altagracia de Orituco, 1931) is currently the Director
of Venezuela's National Gallery of Art in Caracas. He was a member of
the radical collective of writers and artists El Techo de la Ballena
in the sixties. Calzadilla was an early scholar of José Antonio Ramos
Sucre's work and was influential in the recovery of his poetry. Calzadilla's
poetry could be considered conceptual, in that it undermines and analyzes
itself by means of humor, sarcasm and a visionary poetics that blur
the lines between poetry and criticism. A selection of his work in English
was published in the volume, Juan Calzadilla, tr. Katherine M. Hedeen
and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Journal with No Subject (Salt Publishing,
Born in the mountains
of Trujillo state, Ramón Palomares (Escuque, 1935) has created
an oeuvre that blends surrealist gestures with the distinct regional
dialects of the Venezuelan Andes. Palomares was a member of the literary
groups Sardio and El Techo de la Ballena in the 1950s and 1960s. He
worked as a teacher in Caracas and as a professor in Mérida. He was
awarded the National Prize for Literature in 1974 and the Víctor Valera
Mora Poetry Prize in 2006. Patricia Guzmán writes of his work: "A
strange and simple voice destined to expand 20th century Venezuelan
poetry... Strange by virtue of the prophetic, kabalistic and magical
accent that the poet stamps upon it. And simple, because of the arduous
linguistic task to which Ramón Palomares dedicates himself..."
Valera Mora (Valera, 1935 - Caracas, 1984) is Venezuela's most important
and popular political poet. He joined the communist party as a teenager
and was jailed during the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the
1950s. He studied Sociology at the Universidad Central de Venezuela,
where he became part of the literary group La Pandilla de Lautréamont
[The Lautréamont Gang]. His first book was published in 1961 and his
poems throughout the sixties expressed solidarity with the leftist guerrilla
groups that emerged during that decade in Venezuela. He lived in Italy
during the seventies and in 1979 published his final book, 79
Vestrini (Nimes, France, 1938 - Caracas, Venezuela, 1991) grew up
in Maracaibo, where she emigrated as young child and eventually became
a member of the poetry group Apocalipsis. In Caracas during the seventies,
she participated in La República del Este, the informal and influential
gatherings of writers and artists in the bars and cafés of Sabana Grande
Boulevard. She worked as a journalist in Maracaibo and Caracas and was
twice awarded Venezuela's National Prize for Journalism. She published
three books of poetry and left behind a final collection that was published
after her death by suicide.
Venezuela's Ambassador to UNESCO, Luis Alberto Crespo (Carora, 1941) is
a poet, essayist and journalist. He is the author of more than twenty
books and in recent years has been the director of the cultural foundation
Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello. Beginning in the late 70s
he was the director for 16 years of Papel
Literario, the legendary literary supplement of the newspaper El Nacional. His poetry and essays have been very influential on several
generations of Venezuelan poets in recent years.
and translator Hanni Ossott (Caracas, 1946 - 2002) published her first book in 1975.
She lived for a time in London and Athens and eventually worked as a
professor of Literature at her alma mater, the Escuela de Letras of
the Universidad Central de Venezuela. The poets she translated into
Spanish include Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence and Rainer Maria Rilke. The poem included here is from her seminal book,
El reino donde la noche se abre
Rojas Guardia (Caracas, 1949) published his first book in 1979,
with poems that reflected his experience as a member of the spiritual
community Solentiname, which the poet Ernesto Cardenal established in
Nicaragua. Throughout his career as a poet and essayist, Rojas Guardia
has repeatedly addressed the tensions and confluences between his Catholicism
and his homosexuality. He was a member of the group Tráfico in the early
1980s and was the author of their manifesto that advocated for a poetry
rooted in the language of the everyday and the urban experience. Since
his earliest publications, Rojas Guardia's poems and essays have often
displayed a notable mystical component.
Raised in Caracas
from a young age, Miguel James (Port of Spain, Trinidad, 1953) emerged in the 1990s
as an original voice in Venezuelan literature, with poems that are at
once colloquial and visionary. He studied Literature at the Universidad
Central de Venezuela. His books include eight collections of poetry
and a novella. James hasn't published anything since 2007 and now lives
in Trinidad, but his status as a legendary poet continues to grow among
readers in Venezuela.
Kornblith (Lima, Peru 1959 - Caracas, Venezuela, 1997) moved to
Caracas from her native Peru as a young girl. She attended the Universidad
Central de Venezuela, where she met the fellow writers with whom she
would participate in the literary group Eclepsidra. Kornblith published
her first book in 1995 and two posthumous collections after her suicide
in 1997. While her oeuvre is relatively brief, her poems continue to
gain new readers to this day in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.
A prolific poet
since the 1990s, María Antonieta Flores (Caracas,
1960) is also an essayist, critic and university professor. For several
years now she has published the online literary journal El Cautivo.
The poems included here are translated from her collection La voz de
mis hermanas (2005). Most recently, she has maintained an active presence
on her Twitter account (https://twitter.com/epifitas), which is closely
followed by fellow writers in Venezuela and Latin America.
During the 1990s
Patricia Guzmán (Caracas,
1960) edited Verbigracia,
the influential literary supplement of the newspaper El Universal. She received a PhD in Latin American Literature from
the Sorbonne, where she conducted research on the Venezuelan poets Vicente
Gerbasi, Ramón Palomares and Luis Alberto Crespo. She has published
four collections of poetry. Of her work, Luis Alberto Crespo writes:
"Patricia Guzmán's poetic oeuvre is given to us as an experience
of initiation from the body to its aura..."
From a relatively
young age, Luis Enrique Belmonte (Caracas, 1971) began to receive accolades for
his poetry, winning major prizes in Venezuela and in Europe during the
1990s. He studied Psychiatry at the Universidad Central de Venezuela
and did graduate work in Barcelona, Spain. He has published eight collections
of poetry, as well as a novel. In 2010, BOMB
Magazine published four of his poems in English translation. Belmonte
is also a violinist and has performed informally with fellow poets on
Poet and fiction
writer Eduardo Mariño (San
Carlos, 1972) published his first book of poetry in 1995, a collection
of hallucinatory, expansive prose poems entitled Por si los dioses mueren [In Case the Gods
Die]. After that, his poetry shifted radically toward enigmatic minimalist
forms. He has received various regional and national prizes in Venezuela,
including the Fernando Paz Castillo National Prize for Poetry in 2002.
Since 1999, he has worked in the Ministry of Culture and Sports for
the state of Cojedes. In recent years, he has also served as a director
of the Cojedes state branch of the National System of Printing Presses.
Monte Ávila Editores in Caracas has recently published his collected
Sara Bilandzija is a fiction writer and occasional translator
living in Los Angeles, California. Her work has appeared in Try!, Vanitas, Greetings and Big Bell. Her collaboration with Cedar
Sigo on the translation of a selection of poems by José Antonio Ramos
Sucre was published by Blue Press Books in 2009. She teaches English
and composition in the heart of Little Armenia at Los Angeles City College.
Anne Boyer (Topeka, KS, 1973) is a poet whose works include My
Common Heart, The Romance of Happy Workers, Anne Boyer's Good Apocalypse,
and Selected Dreams with a Note on Phrenology. She is an
Assistant Professor of the Liberal Arts at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Parra (Cambridge, MA, 1970) has published the translations José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Selected Works (University
of New Orleans Press, 2012) and José Antonio Ramos Sucre, From
the Livid Country (Auguste Press, 2012). Since 2003 he has
written the blog Venepoetics, dedicated to the translation
of Venezuelan and Latin American literature into English. He lives in
Pittsburgh where he is working on a bilingual edition of the Collected
Works of José Antonio Ramos Sucre.
Sigo studied writing and poetics at the Naropa Institute. He is
the author of seven books and pamphlets of poetry, including two editions
of Selected Writings (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2003 and 2005) Expensive Magic (House Press, 2008) and most recently, Stranger In Town (City
Lights, 2010) His poems have been included in many magazines and anthologies,
and he has published poetry books and magazines under the Old Gold imprint.
He has given readings and performances at The Poetry Foundation, the
Poetry Project at St. Marks Church, Bowery Poetry Club, PS1 Museum of
Contemporary Art, Beyond Baroque, San Francisco Poetry Center, The San
Francisco LGBT Center, Intersection for the Arts, and Small Press Traffic,
among others. He has collaborated with visual artists including Cecilia
Dougherty, Frank Haines, Will Yackulic and Colter Jacobsen. He lives
in San Francisco.