Born in Medellin in 1961, Guzmán studied Mathematics at the National University of Colombia in his hometown. He has published books entitled Coro de ahorcados (“Choir of hanged men”) and Todo paisaje es la elegancia del ojo (“Every landscape is the eye’s elegance”), and his poems have been published in many Colombian and foreign reviews and on various websites. In 1995 he was invited to China by the local Society of Authors, and he has appeared at international poetry events in Helsinki, Curitiba (Brazil), and Quito (Ecuador). He currently publishes his work on a website.
Since he published Coro de ahorcados, his first book of poems, Jairo Guzmán has continued his inquiry into the basic human sense of intuition, the cypher of living things. That said, the source of the subterranean world of his poetry is actually something else — music, a sonorous river running through his verse.
Guzmán is unusual, both as a poet and in his form of expression. “Poems travel through the umbilical cord,” he offers up frankly, observing that the navel is the origin of poetry: “everything enters through it.” This is the reason he called his website, “the navel of the fish.” As he claims, “I learned everything through the navel, when I was in the womb.” Guzmán writes poetry from a sense of this prenatal stage of existence and developed his early voice through images, verses, personal experiences, all of them connected in his proteic imagination. He speaks from the navel, which he considers the seat of his conscience.
Guzmán’s first readings were images, and he still ‘reads’ Sanskrit and Hebrew, not as signs but as images. He gains inspiration through contemplating the sign as image: “I came to poetry through intuition and concentration.” Contemplation influences his view of the world by transforming matter, reality, and expanding thought: a sacred act prior to the written sign, not done in search of its meaning but its sacred principle. For Guzmán, the letter is an image that breaks all lineality, that demolishes verse. Like the concrete poets, he believes that the cycle of verse is complete.
“A concept is a stroke of luck in thought, a sudden advent. It is poetry, a dark rhythm that goes together with language, when it emerges. Concept and symbol are separated by an abyss, the symbol is charged with its own inner light and flows outward; the concept needs the interpretative light, it has no inherent light, it is the dawning of rationality, although its origin is not rational.”
In his early poems, Jairo Guzmán found a good part of the propitiatory elements of his creation in pictorial images. Pieter Brueghel and the Flemish painters, as well as the surrealists, have influenced his polysemic sense of the different forms of his expression. His experimentation explores all veins of language; a poet against the babel of meaning, which he sees as a straitjacket for the symbol: “…all poetry goes against meaning, language is social control.” He also asserts that “…the struggle against meaning has not been accomplished, meaning weakens the irradiation of words and writing.” This reaction against meaning is the source of his sound exercises, close to music and orality, and although he abandoned these exercises, his musical play, the original sense of his writing flows from this concept of sound that makes no concessions to the word.
Coro de ahorcados, Colección de poesía PROMETEO, serie Hipnos, 1995
Todo paisaje es la elegancia del ojo, edición particular (special edition), 1997
Jairo Guzmán’s page on the Medellin Poetry Festival website
A blog by Jairo Guzmán
El ombligo del pez
Jairo Guzmán’s poetry blog