After a Masters in Latin American literature at the Sorbonne in 1994, Montoya embarked immediately on a successful literary career in Paris, publishing four books of poetry, an anthology of her work and several Spanish translations of French poets and female poets from Africa and the Middle East. She has published her poems in journals from Colombia, Cuba, France, Morocco, Mexico, Canada and Spain, and has been invited to a handful of international poetry festivals. She is presently co-director of the publishing house of world poetry, L’Oreille du Loup.
Myriam Montoya’s poetry is a labyrinth of flight, desire, night and uprooting. With a simultaneously firm and flexible poetic voice, she has emerged from Paris as one of the most outstanding Colombian female poets alongside, among others, Maruja Viera, Meira del Mar, Annabel Torres, Eugenia Sánchez Nieto, Amparo Osorio, and the disappeared María Mercedes Carranza.
Born in Bello, Antioquia, Montoya took her first steps as a writer in the literary workshop of the great novelist from her region, Manuel Mejía Vallejo. But it was the poet Jaime Jaramillo Escobar, the legendary X-504, considered as one of the major nadaísta poets and one of the most important in the country, who initiated her into poetry and its mysteries. Reading poetry aloud under his guidance, from a young age Montoya experimented with the hidden meaning of words which, thrown to the wind, could become electric sparks.
After obtaining her undergraduate BA degree, she moved to Paris, where she was rapidly discovered by the great French Hispanist Claude Couffon, who translated her first books, Fugas (Flights) and Desarraigos (Uprootings). Later, her work was translated by the French poet Stéphane Chaumet.
In Paris, a crossroads of world cultures and new movements, Montoya has not only had relations with the Latin American diaspora in Europe, she has also been open to the poetry of Europe itself, as well as to poetry of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In the course of her passionate work on behalf of poetry, she has translated the work of several important French poets, such as Bernard Noël, and of foreign female poets including the Persian Forough Farrokhzad and the Tunisian Amina Saïd.
Her own original, rebellious poetry has attracted attention at several international poetry festivals to which she has been invited. The French poet and critic Jean-Luc Despax has said she is a “woman-poet, more of a poet than a woman, for her poetry gushes out from her innermost core. She suggests that the seed and the semantics, the matrix and the mantra, ensure the perpetuation of the dream.”
Looking at her poetry, we find, in effect, the basic elements of flight and uprooting that emanate from the entrails of the profound night, the universe and the void. In her bilingual Spanish–French anthology, Vengo de la noche (I Come from the Night), Montoya says she originates from that ancestral, nocturnal “roar of lurking of wild beasts” and the “odd years of migrations and oblivion”. Her intense and sharp long poem ‘Trazos’ stems from exodus, flight, death, birth and destruction, and summarises in its painful creation the basic elements of her poetics.
Fugas / Fugues (Fights) (Spanish with French translation by Claude Couffon), L’Harmattan, Paris, 1997
Desarraigos / Déracinements (Uprootings) (Spanish with French translation by Claude Couffon), L’Harmattan, Paris, 1999
Vengo de la noche / Je viens de la nuit (I Come from the Night) (bilingual anthology of her work), Écrits des Forges, Canada, 2004
Vengo de la noche (expanded edition including a selection of several unpublished works), El Perro y la Rana, Caracas, 2007
Voces africanas (African Voices) (an anthology of African Francophone poets), Ediciones Verbum, Madrid, 2001
Amina Saïd, Arenas funámbulas, (Grotesque Sands), El Perro y la Rana, Caracas, 2006
Michel Therien, La aridez de los ríos, (The Aridity of Rivers), L’Oreille du Loup, Paris, 2008
Marcel Kemandjou, A la sombra del poemar, (In the Shade of the Poetry Orchard), L’Oreille du Loup, Paris, 2008
Salah Al-Hamdani, Bagdad a cielo abierto, (Baghdad in the Open), L’Oreille du Loup, Paris, 2008
El jardín de tinta (The Ink Garden), poems by Michel Deguy and Bernard Noël, L’Oreille du Loup, Paris, 2008
Stéphane Chaumet, Donde la noche franquea (Where Night Opens), El Perro y la Rana, Caracas, 2008
Stéphane Chaumet, La travesía de la errancia, (The Wandering Voyage), Alforja, Mexico, 2009
Poems and biography (in French) on Arts Livres website
Poems (in French and Spanish) on Hiedra website
Interview (in French) on Horizon Guinée website
Poems and biography (in Spanish) on Alforja magazine website
Poet page (in Spanish) on International Poetry Festival of Medellin website