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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Cuban Poet Lorenzo Garcia Vega Reflects on Exile

By Belen Palanco

CORDOBA, SPAIN – Cuban poet Lorenzo Garcia Vega, an exile among exiles in Miami and a dissident even towards his dissident contemporaries, said in an interview with Efe that his is “the trade of losing.”

This is the title of an essay that the poet, who took part in the Cosmopoetica festival that ended on Sunday, said refers to the twists and turns of his life and literary career.

The 82-year-old poet walked gingerly through the cobbled streets of Cordoba to where his works received due recognition.

Lorenzo Garcia Vega was published when he was only 18 and at 26 won Cuba’s 1952 National Prize for Literature, which, he says, was “a Pyrrhic victory,” because “I was never meant to receive the prize,” and recalls sadly that the Cuban press “mentioned it as little as possible.”

Garcia Vega, who was born in Matanzas, Cuba, in 1926, was not liked by those holding the reins of official culture either before or during the regime of Fidel Castro in a country where “they hated” him.

The poet said that he had “a bad time in the group” Origenes, a legendary movement created by Cuban writer Jose Lezama Lima, and from which he later deserted and wrote his autobiographical study entitled “Los Años de Origenes” (The Origenes Years).

The book irked Origenes members so much they blackballed the writer, who had been the youngest in the group, and described him as “pestilential, heterodox,” which meant that for the first time he knew what it was like to be a dissident.

The bard, for whom friendship is above politics and who recalled that in life “everything isn’t black and white,” spoke emotionally about going into exile in 1961 without being able to take with him his university diplomas – he had doctor of law, philosophy and literature degrees from the University of Havana.

He spent a year with a “visitor’s visa” that banned him from working in Franco’s Spain, where there was a “pro-Castro” intellectualism. Since he couldn’t stay there, he moved on to the United States and never returned until 40 years later.

He pursued different occupations, but could not teach at a university. His degrees took time to be sent from the island, just like the daughter he did not see again until he had been in exile for 10 years.

He retired, he said humorously, at 60 from being a “bag-boy” – a carrier of shopping bags – for health reasons.

He never gave classes or workshops, though he said “he would have liked to.” And now that he is preparing his “‘post-mortem’ diary and mini-stories,” he is noting down dreams he has at night as a source of ideas.

He said he has “a feeling of unreality” about life, because he said that “everyone approaching death becomes a ghost.”

On his method of working with neither schedule nor editors, the author of “No Mueras sin Laberinto” (Don’t Die Unnoticed) in 2005, said laughing that part of his inspiration comes from his “voyeurism” of the wall, just as the moon was for Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez: he recalled that Lezama Lima told him that.

He has lived, he said, as a “non-writer,” because he didn’t write for anything or anyone, just for himself, since “there are circumstances that make you do that.”

His works are not easy to find in specialist bookstores in Spain, where for years he has been called on for competitions like the Cosmopoetica. The country that has truly welcomed his literature, he said, has been Argentina.

In his native land, the poet said that an anthology of his poetic works was published “less than a month ago” in Matanzas, Cuba, “by people I respect.” It was previously edited in Havana by Cuban poet Reina Maria Rodriguez.

In the end, poetry is above politics: “It’s possible!” Lorenzo Garcia Vega laughed. EFE

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