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."


Antonia 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.


Poet, playwright 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 self."


In The 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.


Rafael 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 in 1980.


Equally renowned 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, 2009).


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..."


Víctor 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 poemas stalinistas.


French-born Miyó 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.


Recently named 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.


Poet, essayist 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 (1986).


Armando 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.


Martha 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 certain occasions.


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 short fiction.





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. 


Guillermo 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.


Cedar 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.