Ramón Cote, born in Cúcuta, Colombia, studied Art History in the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. He has published seven books of poetry, including an anthology of his own work, two books of short stories and a biography of Goya. He has also compiled an anthology of young Latin American poets, and one of Colombian poetry. He was awarded two poetry prizes in Spain for his book Colección privada (Private Collection) and his yet unpublished latest book of poems.
Twenty years ago in Madrid, where Ramón Cote was studying art history, his book Poemas para una fosa común was published. It was one of the first respected books of Colombian poetry. At that time Cote was a devoted follower of the religion of painting, worshipping fervently in the Prado Museum. Barely past adolescence, and with a clear conscience of the power of words, he had written a rare thing, a book of beautiful poems. As the critic Santiago Londoño pointed out, “[Cote’s] poetry is made of images that create a space, evoke a sentiment, establish a symbology. It does not impart a message; it does not record a ‘message’, it inspires emotions.”
His next book, El confuso trazado de las estaciones, began a cycle that continued with El estado de los trenes en la antigua estación de Las Delicias and Botella papel. The leitmotif of this period was the origin and territory of the city, an intimate city beyond perception, where the senses are transformed by imaginative vision. In the prose poems of Botella papel, Cote's poetic restraint is remarkable, as in this fragment of ‘Reserves of visibility’:
Of splendour are days made. To suddenly find a stone staircase softened by the gentle hue and cry of moss. To see a photographer in a park, wrathful with alien eternity. To admire in an afternoon, among islands, a longish wooden toy rolling on the wooden planks of a dock. Findings that call us to order, that occupy the space of their revelation and throw forever their immediate clarity. And we can no longer be the same . . .
I have quoted this fragment to emphasise the visual nature of his writing. Even experiences that are not visual are tinged with colour in his work: “to repeat a name in the closed-in echo of white bathrooms”. This visual awareness is quite significant in his book, Colección privada, which is divided into eight sections, called “rooms”. In each, the poems take the title of paintings by painters such as Ucello, Leonardo, Patinir, Dürer, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya Cézanne, Bonnard, Juan Gris, Torres García, Morandi, Balthus, Rothko, and three Colombians: Obregón, Caballero and Juan Cárdenas.
Twenty years after his early discovery of the great painters in Madrid, Cote returned to the city to be awarded the prize Casa de América for an excited, and exciting, book about the revelations he had made thanks to painting. At the presentation in Madrid, the Spanish poet Luis García Montero, a member of the jury, said, “It is inevitable that a poet write about himself or about poetry when writing about anything. But it is clear that in this case painting is not an anecdotal excuse but the essential subject-matter of the poems . . . the individual vision, the need to choose, more than a negation of the whole, appears as an operation of recognition of the whole. Because of this, each trace hides the nostalgia of plenitude.”
Poemas para una fosa común (Poems for a common grave), Ediciones Arnao, Madrid, 1984; Ediciones San Librario, Bogotá, 2005
Informe sobre el estado de los trenes en la antigua estación de Delicias (Report on the state of the trains in the old station of Delicias), Editorial Pequeña Venecia, Caracas, 1991
El confuso trazado de las fundaciones (The confused layout of the foundations), El Áncora Editores, Bogotá, 1992
Colección privada (Private collection), Editorial Visor, Madrid, 2003
No todo es tuyo, olvido (Not everything is yours, oblivion) (anthology), Colección Viernes de Poesía, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2007
Los fuegos obligados (The forced fires) (unpublished), winner of the XXIII Unicaja Prize, Spain
Luis Ángel Arango Library Poems in Spanish
Review by Juan Gustavo Cobo in Spanish
Palabra Virtual web Poems in Spanish
International Poetry Festival of Medellin Poems in Spanish
Poemas de Poems in Spanish
Review by Juan Camerón in Liberacion Journal in Spanish