Fernando Rendón is founder and director of the Latin American poetry magazine Prometeo, which has published 70 issues since 1982. He is also founder and director of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín, which has been held on fifteen occasions since 1991. He has published four books of poetry, and the Universidad de Valencia, Venezuela, will soon publish A Radiant Question, from which the poems in this selection are taken.
In Fernando Rendón’s poems we can track his most constant subjects, his worries to find the needle in the haystack of language, that is to say, the words that cause the baggage and the traveler to be the same. His baggage, his luggage, is the fruit of his desire to liberate his feet so that they find their own way. And his condition as a traveler is expressed in his longing to touch faraway places. It is not possible to read his poetry without having the sense of traveling, of a transposition of times and places, from a tone evocative of Old World sagas that intermingle with the legends of this side of the globe, in a fecund crossbreeding.
In all of it we are present at the resurrections of man. Love echoes in dreams. The country looks for itself. It denies, if not death, the legacy of the “time of the assassins” pointed to by Rimbaud, who for Rendon was a poetic beacon and a major influence since his feverish adolescence. Man and his time and man in time are the center of his preoccupations. His statement, “We rise against the call of gangrene”, is one of his clearest expressions of rejection of a destiny of miseries. It is because of that that he does not take notice of the “frontier guards of reality”, of that dark reality he saps with what René Char would call “a desire of the spirit, a counter-sepulcher.”
Rendón knows well how to take the Troy of dreams with a horse. And how to invite us to the marshy ages of other times, knowing that “for us a cannibal is the same as a soldier, the first century as the twenty-first”, in his wish to see the world and its facts as a totality, as one who is concerned with all that happens to all people. His poetry is a kind of argument that faces up to the hardships of reality in a natural way so as to question what fences us in as individuals. Like the blind man who does not declare at customs the landscapes he has in his touch, Rendón shares with us his desire not to be a customs officer of his emotions, of his shared desires after crossing tenuous frontiers.
To the question of Hölderlin about the raison d’être of poetry in times of penury, something that in all ages would deny its sense – if we look backward in history all times turn out to be needy – seems to oppose the assertion of Flaubert about art, like the God of the Jews, feeding on holocausts. Because, as is known, it is during the epochs of penury that we are most in need of poetry.
In one of his most beautiful poems, ‘War’, in the series ‘Songs in the Fields of Mars’, he talks with precision about war, about those moments of eclipse for men, in an unequivocal condemnation, but without aligning himself with any particular side:
It is something that again cries out from the sphere of hunger and dying, from that fear of death that distorts so many freedoms: “They say that if they do not eat they die/ even though if they eat they also die/ but they fear hunger more than death/ and out of fear of hunger they die.” It is a hard syllogism, a dragon that eats its own tail, a link in which human bondage is extended.
You will always have reasons
You will draw out the sword
like an angel
And when you have unsheathed it
you already are a demon
There is love but no honey or saccharine in this poetry. There is an occasional and uninhibited humor as when he reminds us that “the Pope does not believe in God”, but does not evade certain accents in his visions that come wrapped in the best religious sense. There are many questions besieging great certainties. There is also, and in such a keen way, a country that is always present, with its festivities and its mourning, with its hardness and its renewed dawns.
Images in his poetry are not there for the sake of images. Visions. Intuitions. Calls. These three make up a sort of tripod in which he weaves the plot of his words, words that respond to man, to the wind, to the woods, to animals, as if wanting to reciprocate, gratefully, in response to the beauty that he receives from them from time to time.
Contrahistoria. Editions Coopiss, Medellín, 1986.
Bajo otros soles. Editions Coopiss, Medellín, 1989.
Canción en los Campos de Marte. Collection of Poetry Prometeo, Series Hipnos, Medellín, 1993.
Los motivos del salmón . Collection of Poetry Prometeo, Serie Hipnos, Medellín, 1998.
Poems in Anthology of Hispano-American poetry.
Internacional Poetry Festival of Medellín
Interview and poems.
Inaugural address by Fernando Rendón at the International Poetry Festival of Medellín, 2004.
Fernando Rendón on Lyrikline