Poetry News

New Issue of Typo Features All Venezuelan Writing in Translation

By Harriet Staff


The current issue of Typo Mag, #18, features all Venezuelan writing in translation, thanks to the efforts of guest editor Guillermo Parra. Spanning the years from 1921 to 2001, and with the aid of translators Sara Bilandzija, Anne Boyer, Parra himself, and Cedar Sigo, it's a diverse and amazing heap of material. An excerpt from the introduction helps familiarize the reader:

Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001 includes a handful of texts each by poets whose work is emblematic of 20th century Venezuelan literature. It goes without saying that my selection is incomplete and highly personal. I intend for it to serve as an introductory sample of poetry from a country that remains unknown on literature’s global stage. My choices are dependent on personal taste, as well as what I’ve been able to find during visits to Caracas between 2001 and 2010. Books from Venezuela rarely circulate abroad so this makes the task of researching Venezuelan poetry a matter of ingenuity, PDF files, photocopies, university libraries and contacts with Venezuelan writers via e-mail, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

I have chosen two particular years as reference points for the anthology as a convenient frame for the 20th century. In 1921, the poet whose work inaugurates modern Venezuelan literature, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, published his first book, Trizas de papel [Paper Shreds], a collection of prose poems, essays and miniature short stories that was later incorporated into a subsequent book. During his lifetime, Ramos Sucre was acknowledged as a brilliant and admired poet whose work appeared regularly in Caracas newspapers and literary magazines. However, his radical reinterpretation of what poetry might accomplish was not fully understood in Venezuela until decades after his death. It was only in the sixties, when his work was championed by younger poets and critics aligned with the counterculture and the avant-garde, that his reputation as a foundational figure for Venezuelan literature was established.


I’d like to briefly address the topic of Venezuelan invisibility for the reader to consider. While Latin American countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru have produced writers whose work has been translated into English, with many of them becoming global classics, Venezuelan literature is terra incognita. When one mentions Venezuelan literature in the English-speaking world the immediate reaction is silence, as there are no reference points to guide readers. Even the ongoing political conflict in Venezuela that has made international headlines in recent years has not been enough to break that silence around Venezuelan literature. This is partly a problem of translation and research, as well as a result of the unequal circulation of culture in an age of empire. But the invisibility of Venezuelan literature has yet to be theorized and it remains an enigma. I’m fascinated and disturbed by this invisibility, so I translate.

Parra goes on to recommend other translations, and to discuss his work with fellow translators and editors. Contributors to the issue include José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Antonia Palacios, Vicente Gerbasi, Elizabeth Schön, Juan Sánchez Peláez, Rafael Cadenas, Francisco Pérez Perdomo, Juan Calzadilla, Ramón Palomares, Víctor Valera Mora, Miyó Vestrini, Luis Alberto Crespo, Hanni Ossott, Armando Rojas Guardia, Miguel James, Martha Kornblith, María Antonieta Flores, Patricia Guzmán, Luis Enrique Belmonte, and Eduardo Mariño. Check it all out here.

Originally Published: May 30th, 2013