Andrea Cote was born in the oil port of Barrancabermeja on the banks of the Magdalena river, lashed by high temperatures, the harshness of the landscape and the traces of more than one hundred years of intense social and spiritual history. As often happens in the Colombian poetical tradition, in Cote’s poetry the exploration of the landscape of childhood and the metaphor of the native land and of a geography – always present on account of its intensity and acting as a revelation of a spiritual vision – support the base of her first and only published book, Puerto calcinado (The Burnt Port), which has been partially translated into French, English, Arabian, Macedonian, Catalan and Italian, and has won, among others, the “Struga Bridges” award for the best debut book worldwide, bestowed by UNESCO and the Struga Poetry Evenings in 2005.
The poetry of Andrea Cote is characterized by an intimate tone that employs the rhythms of anecdotes and everyday life, and that recreates dialogues between people that observe and register, and let themselves be wounded by an external reality that often moves them to the point of being terrorized. The poems of The burnt port flow from seeing an interior image that leads to a kind of writing “where man is joined, through a sober and precise language, to the landscape, achieving a very personal and at the same time universal atmosphere”, as it was put by the jury that awarded her the Universidad Externado Poetry Award in 2002.
The poet does not limit, or pretend to limit, herself to the mere observation of her own autobiographical ego, but struggles to reach the point where writing talks to the community, beyond the personal frontier. At the same time it is worth pointing out that the theme of women’s situation is present in Cote’s poetry as part of a narrative voice that treats the home, everyday actions, the body and domestic chores but does not at all pretend to build her poetry, as she herself asserts, on the idea of a vindication of a historical feminine subject. She, on the contrary, is part of a generation of new women poets like Lucía Estrada and Catalina Gonzalez among others, who reject femininity as a point of departure of the poetic creation, but not as the source of their personal sensibility.
In the same way, in a certain sense, the poetry of Andrea Cote is set within the concern of the most recent generation of Colombian poets, who avoid the avant-gardist zeal and the acts of formal experimentation that are common in other poetical traditions, and rather accept the forms and rhythms of the most visible, actual Latin American poetical tendency. On the other hand, in a country such as Colombia, where poetry has a privileged place and the wide acceptance of the young people who every year welcome dozens of poets from all parts of the world to the Poetry Festival of Medellín, it is natural that one finds in the poetry of Cote the traces left on her by the intense reading of the most recent Latin American poetry, such as that of Blanca Varela, about whom Andrea has published a critical essay.
In many ways, the poetry of Andrea Cote is the poetry of someone who declares in her words the will to establish her own poetical language, through a personal imagery capable of maintaining the poetical search as a means of knowing and understanding the world.
Translated by Nicolás Suescún
Puerto Calcinado. Editorial Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2003.
Poems and press release about the “Struga Bridges” award.
Prometeo Magazine No 67
Banco de la República
El Nuevo Herald
Press release about the poetry prize.
Press release about Puerto Calcinado. By Juan Manuel Mogollón.