John Montañez Cortez over at Cervantes @ Mile High City, a literature, film, art and culture blog from Denver, CO, kindly gave me permission to translate and reproduce his 2011 interview with Venezuelan poet Alberto Hernández (Calabozo, Guárico State, 1952). See the original here.
VERSIÓN EN CASTELLANO ABAJO.
JMC: In a recent visit to the booming city of Maracay, en Venezuela, we were lucky enough – and frankly, honoured – to meet the excellent Venezuelan poet, author, mime artist and journalist Alberto Hernández. The perfect moment for an interview:
JMC: Tell us, who is Alberto Hernández?
AH: I’m a pedestrian who wanders around with words each day and gets confused with reality. From this habit I ended up with poetry, with stories of travels, with theatre and with many reasons to write and to say that I’m still alive. So I can say that I’m a human dedicated to writing poetry, telling some stories, commenting and informing through the media and trying to breathe the rarefied air of my country.
JMC: How did you get started in literature?
AH: I got started in these matters when I was still a teenager. In my house there were always books scattered in the corners. My father got interested in Rubén Darío, in Andrés Eloy Blano…in some of the traditional poets. He recited and wrote. That sewed the seed… that’s where everything started.
JMC: What authors have served as inspiration for you? What is the creative mechanism of your poetry, if there is one?
AH: Well, in reality it hurts me to talk about inspiration, I prefer the word influence. There are many authors who interested me with their books and went in. Among them, Ramos Sucre, Vicente Gerbasi, Rafael Cadenas, François Villon, Antonio Machado… there are so many that my gratitude won’t fit on this page. As for the mechanism, I can say that I don’t have any method at all: an image arrives, it settles in, excuses itself and the poem grows out of that. Until everything is sutured from so much correction.
JMC: How would you define the current situation of contemporary Latin American poetry?
AH: The poetry of our land has always been robust. We are a continent of poets. From Chile to the USA, because it is necessary to include North American poets too, for its level of influence. From Argentina to Mexico we are a land of images, of verbal rhythms, of creations with words that are tied to the spirit of the age. Our poetry has always enjoyed good health.
JMC: What books do you have on your headboard?
AH: As I practically don’t have a headboard I don’t have any books to hand at the moment. Many titles have dreamed with me. From Paul Valéry to Eugenio Montejo. I don’t want to go on too much because it would leave out much poetic fondness. There are many, that I will say.
JMC: Would you dare to recommend any book, or writer, in particular?
AH: Yes, for Venezuelans, I would recommend all of Montejo’s books. All of Rafael Cadenas’. For Northern authors it’s still good to go over Allen Ginsberg and members of his tribe. Of course, it’s a game of memory. There are others that go around here jumping rope.
JMC: We know about your talents in the difficult and magical world of mimes – puppet-shows, theatre, perhaps – what relation does this have with your creative poetic and narrative work?
AH: Theatre made me lose the stage fright of existence. Poetry and theatre have always travelled with me. Some of my texts are theatrical, just as short stories can be turned into scripts for the theatre and cinema. Theatre has been fundamental in my life.
JMC: Tell us a little bit about your path as a journalist, organiser and educator.
AH: From a young age, I liked journalism. Seeing my name in the papers, getting myself involved in other people’s problems, making them known. I see it as a profession that becomes a public service. I worked for more than 25 years as a teacher at middle school and university level. But that is now in the past. I’m dedicated to literature full time.
JMC: Is there any funny, or interesting, anecdote that you would like to share with the readers?
AH: At a university student event in Spain, some Arabs confused me with a mute Arab. Of course, I pretended to be mute and even the Arab the whole time to not seem like an idiot. And all the dry fruit they brought me formed part of my lunches and dinners. In any case, saying goodbye with a very Arabic gesture, we parted as friends. We never saw each other again.
JMC: Thank you very much Alberto for this great opportunity…
Find out more about Alberto Hernández on his blog: puertasdegalina.wordpress.com
En reciente visita a la pujante ciudad de Maracay, en Venezuela, tuvimos la fortuna —y francamente, el honor— de conocer al excelente poeta, narrador, mimo y periodista venezolano Alberto Hernández. El momento oportuno para entrevistarlo: