Pedro Arturo Estrada was born in Girardota (Antioquia), Colombia, in 1956. He has publiched Poemas en blanco y negro (Poems in Black and White; 1994), Fatum (2000), Oscura edad y otros poemas (Dark Age and Other Poems; 2006) and Suma del tiempo (Amount of Time; 2010). He won the Ciro Mendía prize in 2004 and the Luciano Pulgar prize in 2007. He is a contributor to various poetry magazines and national newspapers, and has taken part in events such as the International Poetry Festival in Medellin. His writing has also appeared in anthologies, both in Colombia and abroad.
At the age of thirty-eight, Pedro Arturo Estrad published his first writings with the publishing house of the University of Antioquia (1994), under the title Poemas en Blanco y Negro (Poems in Black and White). I sensed in that book a taste for the sombre, not only in the choice of subjects and poetical motives but in the colour of a writing, which nonetheless showed, paradoxically, a great clarity (even a somewhat risky clarity). All this at a time when contemporary poetry chose concealment, inscrutability, and the abstract exploration of proposals that were sometimes merely linguistic or experimental. Thanks to master José Manuel Arango’s recommendation of his work, the collection opened up a challenging and arduous path from which he would never stray. He continued working on a sparer style of writing – not alien to scepticism, but more open to existential possibility, framed nonetheless within a lucid awareness of chance, of destiny as an unpredictable plan, beyond the desire and will to live. In 2000, Fatum, his second collection, was published by the Autores Antioqueños Collection. In both collections, the hallmarks of simplicity and authenticity were evident.
In time, I learned that Pedro Arturo was preparing a new collection, Oscura edad, in which he was trying to express certain things which he had barely glimpsed before. He felt that he needed to open his verse to contingency, to the roughness of the day-to-day and collective reality. He could not withdraw from the concerns and feelings which generally have an impact on us all, from the survival of humankind to the crushing and hopeless truths of our country. To such a time and such circumstances he wished to bear witness in a series of poems in which a pained, but not whiny, voice – a voice which is certainly melancholy and stoical at the same time – displays itself:
I abandon myself to the unpredictable. In the end, it is more mine.
Even if horror only at times disguises itself
This voice never overwhelms, because its very austerity, the rigour already evidenced in the earlier collections, enables it to express the most sensitive experiences credibly and accurately.
Someone dares to ask after him who has not returned.
And the shadows answer: nothing, nobody, no one.
Someone wanders sniffing the last steps,
the moans he left in the air, the voices that still
creep in under the doors.
Going beyond the intention to make an easy impact through social or witness-bearing poetry, Pedro Arturo leads us into a strange and, if you will, desolate atmosphere, although behind it all, as will be seen, there survives a certain lucid awareness of the world, and of poetry as a sufficient revelation, fairer when conquered as personal, secret, ultimate truth. Pedro Arturo Estrada falls within a generation of poets who have had to struggle for their space in Colombia and fight to keep it – more so since he has not belonged to any group, elite or literary cabal of any kind. Poetry has always been his only and best life choice, since, being only self-taught, he has been able to survive through constant reading and intense dialogue with the poets he has loved since his teens, and whose influence he acknowledges – Rimbaud, Artaud, Breton, Pessoa, as well as with, Mutis, Quessep and Arango, among others. He knows he must not expect too much beyond the daily exercise of living, of finding worth in every experience, in every instant stolen from death.
In his newest book, Suma del tiempo (Sum of Time; 2009), Pedro Arturo offers us more or less a narration of that first period of his poetic life (1988–2008), which could be summarised in the following lines, found almost at the end of the collection:
But what did it avail you, this accumulating of more air
on emptiness, this adding of more words to the shadow? [ . . . ]
All reality swings,
dances in the heights
It is evident that the experience of reading Pedro Arturo Estrada may reveal a disenchanted, but not detached, vision of the world, of an orphan age, indifferent to the sacred – a vision that certainly does not lapse into banal complaints, does not betray rigour, clarity and the sense of truth, has no intention of preaching. In this poetry, as affirmed before by José Manuel Arango, we find “a mature, fully made voice” that must be taken into account at the current crossroads of the future of Colombian poetry.
Poemas en blanco y negro (Poems in Black and White), Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, 1994
Fatum (Fatum), Colección Autores Antioqueños, Medellín, 2000
Oscura edad y otros poemas (Dark Age and other poems) Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2006
Suma del tiempo (Sum of Time), Universidad Externado de Colombia, Bogotá, 2009
Pedro Arturo Estrada’s blog
Pedro Arturo Estrada on the festivaldepoesiademedellin.org
Museo Otraparte: Poems and texts by Pedro Arturo Estrada
Pedro Arturo Estrada’s biography and poems on the online magazine Eldígoras
Poems by Pedro Arturo Estrada on Arte Poética
Video of poem " Treno por los muertos