A poet, actor and active cultural promoter, born in 1955 in Miranda, Cauca, Julián Malatesta studied at the Universidad del Valle, the main university in his native region about whose writers and thinkers he has written several essays. He then became of Professor of Literature at this university and one of his main interests has been Oriental poetry: the first of his four books of poetry was a book of haikus.
In his diatribe Against the poets, Witold Gombrowicz, takes on those bards who use the poetic word to artificially distort reality by way of rhymes, versification and a supposed purity of form, tricks which then provide an excuse for poets to talk about themselves and their poetry. What Gombrowicz criticizes is that poets have become enslaved by Verse, a condition which precludes true self-expression. This apparent affront to the task of the poet supports a lucid remark in his Diary: “Let [the poet] dedicate himself to poetry but if at every moment he is able to realize all of its limitations, horrors, stupidities and ridiculousness; let him be a poet, but a poet at every moment willing to revise the relation between poetry and life, reality. Being a poet, let him not for a moment stop being a man and let him not subordinate the man to the poet.”
Well, if this delirious Pole had known the poetry of Julián Malatesta, he would have found in it an exception to the solemnity and rhetorical flourishes he thought smothered true poetic feeling. Far from being artificial or solemn, Malatesta’s poetry is a constant affirmation of the preoccupations of his daily life, his persistent struggle to — in the midst of a polarized and violent society — enforce words which fulfill the teachings of the elders, of the father with his “head upright, like a bird”. It is in this hostile environment that the poet tries to struggle in his benevolent father’s shadow: “Sometimes he is cheerful like the greeting of old sailors / sometimes silent and severe like an Egyptian priest”.
It is his father who writes in a poem that “the word love . . . is like a completely empty pitcher/ into which we throw small impulses, crazy longings”. It is that pitcher — in his love poems — into which Malatesta introduces part of his political commitment: “Love is disorder/ Man’s most intimate conspiracy.” Love, with its delights and sufferings, feeds the poet’s creative fire, conscious of the incandescent quality of his art, an art which is closely related to the ancestral lore of the local old men who travel the roads and the seas. It is a word governed by the winds, winds of incantation and of light. Passion and poetic rapture sustain every poem which, as Gombrowicz wants, is closer to ordinary men and women than to poetic sophistry.
If You’re Looking for a Woman
The Port of Machala
The Manners of Fire
Each Entry into Your Body
The Captain’s Final Voyage
In the port of Santa Lucía
Hojas de trébol, Ediciones La sílaba, Cali, 1985
Alguien habita la memoria, Universidad del Valle, Cali, 1995
La cárcel de Babel, Universidad del Valle, Cali, 2002
Cenizas en el cielo, Universidad del Valle, Cali, 2004
Poéticas del desastre, Aproximación crítica a la poesía del Valle del Cauca en el siglo XX. Fondo Mixto para la Promoción de la Cultura y las Artes del Valle del Cauca, Cali, 2000
Internet page of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín
Paz y Acción
International magazine of actuality. Biographical note and poems
Bibliography and poems
Virtual Library of the Banco de la República. Memorias de por aquí. Essay by Julián Malatesta
Virtual Library of the Banco de la República: Golpes de creación. Essay by Julián Malatesta