Eugenio Montejo: An Introduction
In a poem meaningfully entitled “Creo en la vida” [I believe in life], Venezuelan poet Eugenio Montejo (1938-2008) affirmed: “but I am an atheist of nothing / except death.” This was his way of registering the deep rootedness he felt in what he himself called “terredad” or “earthdom,” that sort of affective consubstantial experience of life on Earth. Nonetheless, ten years ago, with great resistance, a fast-acting and untimely illness kept him from carrying on among us, at least physically.
As a homage to his creative work and the person himself, Latin American Literature Today has prepared this dossier, made up of texts by poets, essayists, and critics with expertise in Montejo’s work (Luis Enrique Belmonte, Miguel Gomes, Nicholas Roberts, and myself) that address some of the varied facets of this fascinating and complex body of work; a “choral interview” that serves as a sample of a project conceived by Montejo, in which multiple interlocutors (four, in this case: Julio Bolívar, Edmundo Bracho, Marina Gasparini, and José Pulido) ask him questions with the purpose of exploring his aesthetic and vital project; and, lastly, a selection of his poetry, not distant from the circumstances of his parting, along with one of his most emblematic essays, “The White Workshop,” in which we can find several of the essential elements that form the foundation of his poetic vocation. The translation of the entire dossier is owed to the talent and generosity of Arthur Dixon and Peter Boyle.
Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza is a poet, essayist, and university professor. He serves as the Associate Editor and Book Reviews Editor of Latin American Literature Today.
He has published the following verse collections: Al margen de las hojas (Caracas: Monte Ávila, 1991), De espaldas al río (Caracas: El pez soluble, 1999), Principios de Contabilidad (Mexico: Conaculta, 2000), Pasado en Limpio (Caracas: Equinoccio, bid&co, 2006), and Cuidados intensivos (Caracas: Lugar Común, 2014). His books of essays, literary research, and anthologies include: Lecturas desplazadas: Encuentros hispanoamericanos con Cervantes y Góngora(Caracas: Equinoccio, 2009), Itinerarios de la ciudad en la poesía venezolana: una metáfora del cambio (Caracas: Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, 2010), Las palabras necesarias. Muestra antológica de poesía venezolana del siglo XX(Santiago de Chile: LOM, 2010), and Formas en fuga. Antología poética de Juan Calzadilla(Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 2011).
Among other prizes, he has won: the Mariano Picón Salas prize for poetry (Venezuela) in 1995, the Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico), in 1999, and the Premio Transgenérico de la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana (Venezuela) in 2009. He is a retired senior professor at the Universidad Simón Bolívar (Venezuela), and he currently works as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Arthur Dixon works as a translator and as Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. His translation of Andrés Felipe Solano’s “The Nameless Saints” (WLT, Sept. 2014) was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize, and his most recent project is a book-length translation of Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza’s Cuidados intensivos (see WLT, Sept. 2016).
The seventh issue of Latin American Literature Today highlights indigenous voices with dossiers dedicated to three Wayuu writers from Colombia and Zapotec poetry and prose. We also pay homage to renowned Venezuelan poet Eugenio Montejo with a special dossier, as well as returning to the strange worlds of Latin American science fiction and opening a new space for Brazilian literature in Portuguese and English.