Jotamario Arbeláez is the main exponent of the nadaísta movement, a group of rebellious poets and writers who revolutionized Colombian literature in the 1960s. He was one of the first followers of its founder, Gonzalo Arango. He dropped out of high school, but some years later was awarded an honorary degree for having written the ‘vindicative’ poem, ‘Santa Librada College’. For twenty years he worked in an advertising agency, has been awarded three national poetry prizes, and is now a columnist at El Tiempo newspaper. He has spoken at poetry festivals in sixteen countries.
Jotamario Arbeláez’ poetry is above all irreverent and anti-rhetorical, and characterized by an exuberant narcissism. His intention is to build a personal mythology in keeping with dissent and derision, a kind of self-love that subsumes the state of permanent rebellion of his poetic and vital personality. He meticulously follows the nadaísta proposals contained in the First Manifesto of 1958, and has been the most faithful but also the most unruly member of the nihilistic movement that shook the foundations of the staid Colombian culture.
From the poems that express his experience at school to those in which he feigns marginality (nadaísmo was an extravagantly histrionic movement) and a pose of poète maudit, or those, more sober, that place the poet in a family genealogy; he has always been determined to stand out. But he has also remained faithful to the world of that early poem, the celebrated, ‘Santa Librada College’, which concludes “Santa Librada / College / I owe you / nothing." It is the expression of a sentimental and cultural education, describing an atmosphere in which the poet is a rebel who rejects the whole educational system. It is easy to uncover in this poem the main characteristics of his poetry: a preference for humor, for paradoxes, for word play that inverts meaning; for narcissism (the ego is always in the foreground), and an exaltation of life.
However, in his early poems you can still find a tone and a language that point to the maturity of a poetic temperament which has relatively little to do with programmatic exhibitionism. Thereafter, he alternated between the expression of his inner disorder, in a more serene and even tender tone, although always playful and ironic; and a defiant battle against commonplaces, in which he is not only irreverent but blasphemous. He once wrote: “I was a prophet at home and in my land to contradict the words of Christ, and I saw that I was good”.
In recent years, he has made eroticism a central theme of his poetry. He expresses sex not through guilt but through innocence, dealing with this, and other themes, with convincing immorality. Even crime (feigned and with literary roots) is part of this, familiar as he is with Sade, Lautréamont, Rimbaud and Jean Genet. “I sat on the knees of Beauty and I must have seemed to her bitter for she covered me with injuries”, he wrote, paraphrasing Rimbaud's famous line.
El profeta en su casa, Ediciones Triángulo, Medellín, 1966
Mi reino por este mundo, Editorial Oveja Negra, Bogotá, 1981
El espíritu erótico (with Fernando Guinard), An anthology of poetry and
pictures, Bogotá, 1991
La casa de memoria, Ministerio de Cultura, Bogotá,1995
El cuerpo de ella, Instituto Distrital de Cultura y Turismo, Bogotá, 1999
Nada es para siempre. Antimemorias de un nadaísta, Bogotá, 2002.
Le corps d’elle, engravings by Máximo Flórez, translation by Marie Daguerre, Paris, 2004.
/>Poems, essays, short biography. In Spanish.
/>Interview by Rafael del Castillo. In Spanish.
Public Library Piloto form Medellín, Colombia:
/>Essay about work of the writer, one poem. In Spanish.
La Idea Fija:
/>Interview. In Spanish