Roque Dalton

Nancy Hanks sent us two poems by Roque Dalton, the Salvadoran poet and revolutionary.

 

Nancy writes:

I love our struggle. The struggle of people — of all of us — for fairness and democracy, for bread and roses, for the power of the people. I love poetry. I love Roque Dalton’s poetry and appreciate him for bringing these human values together for us, and for putting his activity where his poetry was. I also love Roque Dalton because he was the progeny of American outlaws.”

 

roque dalton

Ars Poetica 1974

Poetry
pardon me for having helped you to understand
that you are not made of words alone.

 

And this second poem for all of the young people living through this awful and hopeful transition:”

 

You’ve Beaten Me

You’ve beaten me badly
your brutal fist in my face
(naked and chaste
as a flower where spring
dawns)

You’ve locked me up even more
with your furious eyes
my heart dying of cold
under the avalanche of hate

You’ve scorned my love
laughing at its small, bashful gift
not wanting to understand the labyrinths
of my tenderness

Now it’s my turn
turn of the offended after years of silence
in spite of the screams

Be quiet
be quiet

Listen

Nancy Hanks has been a longstanding builder of the independent movement. She is the founder of the Queens Independence Club.

Tomorrow we will be wrapping up our celebration of National Poetry month.  Stay tuned.

Roque Dalton

Jessie has chosen a poem by Roque Dalton for today’s selection.

Roque Dalton

Like You

By Roque Dalton (Translated by Jack Hirschman)

 

Like you I love love, life, the sweet smell of things, the sky- blue landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up and I laugh through eyes that have known the buds of tears. I believe the world is beautiful and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me but in the unanimous blood of those who struggle for life, love, little things, landscape and bread, the poetry of everyone.

 

blue sky 2012, photo by Cathy Stewart

blue sky 2012, photo by Cathy Stewart

 

Roque Dalton (1935-1975)– poet and revolutionary– was the major writer and an important political organizer of the revolutionary movement in El Salvador. He is considered one of Latin America’s greatest poets.

His father was a Mexican American who lived in Tuscan, Arizona and emigrated to El Salvador where Roque Dalton was born. His mother was a registered nurse whose salary supported the family.
Roque Dalton and Otto Rene Castillo met while Castillo was in exile in El Salvador and together in 1955 they founded Círculo Literario Universitario, which published some of Central America’s most influential writers.

Last year the government of El Salvador declared May 14, 2013, “National Poetry Day” in honor of Roque Dalton. In Latin America Dalton has long been recognized as one of the finest poets of the 20th century.

 

From the article: GRINGO IRACUNDO Roque Dalton and His Father  

by Roger Atwood

“The poet Roque Dalton was a key figure in the cultural avant-garde

that developed in El Salvador in the late 1950s around a loose circle of

writers and artists that become known as the generación comprometida. The group’s political leanings ranged from center-left to Marxist, but its members shared a critical view of El Salvador’s established order and a desire to modernize its modes of cultural and social expression and to break with its repressive traditions. …Although trained as a lawyer in Chile and El Salvador, Dalton worked as a news reporter and editor in San Salvador until the early 1960s. He was arrested no fewer than four times for left-wing political activity.Waves of antileftist political repression forced him into exile in Mexico and Cuba from 1961 to 1964, in Czechoslovakia from 1965 to 1968, and finally in Cuba from 1968 until 1973. He began publishing poetry in his late teens. Early poems showed the influence of Pablo Neruda, but later work achieved an extraordinary clarity and originality of language that incorporated common speech and urban slang and left a deep mark on Salvadoran literature (Vásquez Olivera 2005). A continual innovator, he was never content to pen poetry alone and wrote one of the seminal texts of the Latin American testimonial, Miguel Marmol, and two popular histories of El Salvador in a “collage” style that was influenced by his friend Eduardo Galeano. Although a dedicated communist, he grew deeply disenchanted with the bureaucratic inertia and cynicism that he had seen in Soviet-bloc countries while, like many Salvadoran intellectuals of his generation, giving up on the possibility of peaceful change in his own country (Alas 1999; Arias Gómez 1999). He returned to El Salvador to join its nascent guerrilla struggle in December 1973 and died eighteen months later at the hands of his own comrades in a vicious power struggle inside an urban guerrilla group.”

Here is an epigram poem on his life—

“Poetic Art” (1974) by Roque Dalton

Poetry

Forgive me for helping you understand

That you’re not made of words alone.

 

 

 

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