A chemist by training, Mauricio Contreras teaches in several schools in Bogotá. For more than a decade he was a publisher of poetry and an active reviewer of books in magazines and newspapers. He has published three books of poetry, is co-author of an anthology of Colombian poetry and another of mystery tales. He has translated a volume of selected poems by the Brazilian poet José Paulo Páes. He won the National Poetry Prize (City of Bogotá) 2005 with the book from which this selection is taken, La herida intacta (The intact wound).
There is no doubt that the artistic value of poetry, that is to say, its artistic effect on those who risk immersing themselves in it, exploring the figurative universe of words, lies in the power of poetry to make us feel the passing of time with its ups and downs. Contreras’ subtle return to the scenes of his youth that marked him is a return to paradise, to a time in which “the mystery of simplicity” is revealed, an open space, a vista of trees, flowers and rivers; but at the same time it is the perception of being “torn from his most elemental bonds”, haunted and subjugated by unknown forces, somewhat like the inscrutable Fate of the Greeks. The effort to explain this division is, as he says in one of his poems, “the tragic conscience of modern man”.
In these latest poems of his — with an acute sense of self-criticism he chose for this site only poems from his recent book, The intact wound — Contreras shows, in different words, the contrasts through which poets of all time have tried to unveil the mysterious nature of human existence. Humanity advances by groping its way in open and closed spaces, between elation and despair; and only poetry, he seems to say, can uncover the essence of what is properly human: “Poetry,” he writes in his first book, En la raíz del grito, “is the business of the astonished man, forced in his multiplicity to be angel or demon, man or woman, in peace or war, emotion or thought, defeat or greatness.”
Paradise, he seems to suggest, only exists in poetry — and in literature in general — as a result of playing with words and the evasion of the real world that this makes possible. Through words poetry recovers what we have done and invites us to interpret our being in the world. In this evaluation, from which we cannot escape when we are truly alone — and poetry is made in this condition of isolation — the word displaces itself and creates a space for prophecy. We reconstruct this image when we gain access to the semantic universe of Contreras’ poetry. Prophecies occurred in the past, but in his poems they are shown as if they were in the present, or as if we are unable to rid ourselves of the prophetic vision every time we ask ourselves what the past has been. This is is the real strength of poetry, as is clearly seen in the poetry of Mauricio Contreras.
En la raíz del grito, Cooperativa Editorial Magisterio, Bogotá, 1995
La herida intacta (The intact wound), Instituto Distrital de Cultura y Turismo, Bogotá, 2006, ISBN 958-8232-70-8
De la incesante partida, Colección Los Conjurados, Bogotá, 2007, ISBN 958-97198-1-3
Luis Angel Arango virtual Library
/>Review of En la raíz del grito
Colección Los Conjurados
Review of De la incesante partida
Virtual Magazine Confabulacion
/>Article by Mauricio Contreras