The son of Colombian parents, George Mario Angel Quintero was born in 1964 San Francisco, California, where he spent his first thirty years. He studied literature at the University of California and was later awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction from Stanford University. He has published fiction, poetry, and essays in English as George Angel in literary magazines and the chapbook Globo (1996), and received the Nilon Award from Fiction Collective 2 for his book The Fifth Season (1996). Since 1995, he has lived in Medellin, Colombia, where he has published the Spanish poetry collections Mapa de lo claro (A Map of What is Clear; 1996), Muestra (Sample; 1998), Tentenelaire (2006) and El desvanecimiento del alma en camino al limbo (The Soul’s Dwindling as It Makes Its Way Toward Limbo; 2009) as well as a book of plays in Spanish, Cómo morir en un solar ajeno (How to Die in Someone Else’s Yard; 2009). His visual art has been exhibited and he has also illustrated books. Since 2003, he has worked as director and playwright of the theatre company Párpado Teatro. He also makes music with the groups Underflavour and Sell the Elephant.
One day George Mario Angel Quintero discovered the key to his own poetic calling in the verse of César Vallejo. So he tells us in a short and beautiful essay, in which he says of Vallejo’s work that “it has been [ . . . ] one of the doors to open, in order to discover the possibilities of the poem in Spanish in our context”. This explains, in part, how, for Angel Quintero, the poem is not just the product of a calculated intellectual or erudite operation. For him, poetry is direct experience, instinctive and concrete; an experience of collision, of surprise, of the instantaneous, and of verbal magic whose energy erupts like a sensitive fluid from the substrata of emotion and thought that life accumulates blindly in us. In Vallejo, he adds, what interested him were those “breaks in the verse; the materiality of the word, so porous and susceptible to mutations”, which only shows that poetry seeks, like water, because of its very nature, the closest and most direct path in each poet when it is truly ready to manifest itself. In Angel Quintero, poetry found, surely, this unique manner of expression, that, as in Vallejo’s work, only requires a gesture, a minimum impulse to unbind itself and open to the light, like a subterranean current that bursts through, like the wind that snatches the leaf or the sudden “Tath that /of doves” that, with a wingbeat, cuts the silence.
When asked regarding what he ‘does’, about how he works on a poem, Angel Quintero responds, “My work is a series of forms taken on by the wonder I feel as a certain pressure reality of exerts itself upon my sensibility. In this same way I pressure words, syllables and letters to give something of that simultaneity, that counterpoint that sounds so clearly in the lived moment.” He speaks like the musician and master performer that he is, and adds that he does not resort to formulas to write, that he lacks the astuteness to manage pre-existing ‘containers’, which is clear in every text one has seen sprout, rise, and shine in its ecstatic clarity, like the archetypal tree:
The tree’s pale loneliness
against the sky’s blue.
Apart, in this sea
of surfaceless deep heights.
Despite the liberty, the apparent spontaneity of his poems, strict attention to language, continually in the background of his work, is present here – that same attention that, without emphasis, without tricks, keeps the potential rhetorical excess, the lyrical indulgences we are so prone to, in check.
George Mario Angel Quintero honours his Anglo-Saxon education and the expressive succinctness, solemnity, and cohesion of the English language through the sharp wit of his theatre, the fluid nature of his music, the transparency but also rejuvenating capacity of his artwork. The refined simplicity, ironic elegance, black humour and wordplay of English are elements always on hand in his oeuvre.
Borrowing the title of one of his best poetry collections, Mapa de lo claro, this ‘making’, this search for expression, not only in images, but in sensations, sounds and symbolic representations, is inscribed in what Angel Quintero assumes literally as a “map of what is clear”, a cartography of reality perceived continually with wonder, intensity, the lightning strike of being, a cartography of memory in constant counterpoint with the word, in the end an ephemeral material, exchangeable, like a scuffed coin. A word that shines though in its moving instantaneity; and we join it to others to keep the void company, because it exists, because it commands a unique presence, like a firefly in the night of our solitude, or simply lightnings, / fireworks / in a jar. . .
It would be easy perhaps to find affinities, intertextual relationships, between the poetry of Angel Quintero and poetic movements such as Dadaism, imagism, Huidobro’s Creationism, concretism, objectivism, and so on. But it is also enough to enjoy his work based on one’s own experience, taste or aesthetic education, to read his work not as tree, but as a tower upon which our own being shines, a ‘still tower, distinct / from this lack of clouds’.
Fiction in English
Globo and Design for a Tablecloth, Will Hall, Fayetteville, 1996
The Fifth Season, FCII, Normal, 1996
Mapa de lo claro (A Map of What is Clear), Editorial Párpado, Medellín, 1996
Muestra (Sample), Editorial Párpado, Medellín, 1998
Tentenelaire, Editorial Párpado, Medellín, 2006
El desvanecimiento del alma en camino al limbo (The Soul’s Dwindling as It Makes Its Way Toward Limbo), Los Lares, Medellín, 2009
Cómo morir en un solar ajeno (How to Die in Someone Else’s Yard), Transeunte, 2009
George Mario Angel Quintero’s blog
Underflavour, George Mario Angel Quintero’s band