Barnet and his advice on non-compliance

For almost 26 years, Ediciones La Luz, the publishing house of the Hermanos Saíz association, has been promoting Cuban literature from the city of Holguín. And the publisher recently arrived at the Havana International Book Fair with the premise of Miguel Barnet’s latest collection of poetry: Tips not to follow (2021).

I was responsible for compiling and selecting each text, always accompanied by a strict editorial by the poet Louis Yousseff, who accepted the draft from the first reading.

The design, proposed by Frank Alejandro Cuesta, commemorates the Fairy, the mascot that accompanied Barnet during the period of confinement we are forced to endure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, he used for the cover an image of the plastic artist Ernesto Rancagno, with whom we communicated in the last days of his life and who gladly gave up the rights to the work.

As many already know, Barnet became known in Cuban literature for two already important texts that sparked interest in the study of his work: Lovely stone and peacock And guijes island. These deeply lyrical texts are so marked by myths and the popular African imaginary that his critics have classified his work from the outset as an original and authentic fusion of poetry and ethnology.

His novels would later be published, leading to significant research at universities in North America, Latin America, and Europe.

Appreciation of his storytelling and poetry, according to specialized critics, became more intense. In many competitions, he has even been recognized as the most published, read and studied Cuban writer in the country and in the rest of the world, followed by Alejo Carpentier.

Nancy Morejón in her text “The Poetry of Miguel Barnet” as a prologue to that Poet on the island stated:

“Most impressive for critics and ordinary readers was his handling of free verse, born from the colloquial speech of Havana, and his adaptation to the tradition of our poetry of those tones that are inherent in the poet, so obviously far from Barnet, as Eugenio Flori, above all, in his long and sobering poem conversation with father“.

The poet invites his readers and challenges them to understand the vicissitudes of our lives. His poetry, novel, and his ethnographic studies constitute the original feature of the biblical form that he takes. From the plane, the author contributes to the continental cultural discourse and opens up one of the most significant ways to comprehend our peripheral postmodernity and, thus, fits into the history of the Cuban, Spanish-American and universal narrative.

His poetic bibliography consists of a large arsenal of texts that are references to Cuban literature. We could not quote holy family, Oriki and other poems, night letter, watching my life go by, weather map, with cat paws, chinese verses, Acts of the end, On the promenade wall, Hourglass, In the elusive smoke of the departed or Poet on the island. All of them are united by a thematic universe, which was the author’s obsession with finding out who we Cubans are and why we are. In other words, we mean an anthropological view of our lives, “(…) without adventurism or laboratory chemistry,” as his great friend, the poet Sigfredo Ariel, conceptualized. Lyrics in which the existential analysis of marginalized and subservient characters and self-expression is evident through spontaneous and authentic language.

Throughout his creative life, Barnet did not perceive poetry, ethnology, and storytelling as separate forms of literary expression. He has experimented with them and occasionally uses them as complementary strategies in his task of comprehending and interpreting Cuban culture. He stated that his apparent eclecticism enabled him to break out of the schemes that the academy defines.

Every author does not think that there is only one great book of poetry. Each stage is different from the previous one, so that as life is diverse, so are the themes in literature.

So it was very difficult to select every poem from Barnet’s extensive work between 2020 and part of 2021. This is an attractive selection of what I consider to be the most significant texts of his recent work. Confessions converge here, questions, mixed feelings, critical views on the reality of the modern world, something as everyday as the noise of a neighbor’s cistern that did not allow him to write, or when he became disillusioned with such a project as thinking. great poem… / but you came with a bunch / of apple-banana / and the lavender scent of your skin / and I lost all inspiration“.

Fortunately for me, I know the author very well. Miguel is suffering from a supposed illness that I don’t think is listed in medical records. He calls it “temporary urgency.” For Barnet, tomorrow is today, any request or dream does not sleep for a moment. This is how he suggests it in his poem Time:

Don’t ask me how time flies

Time passes faster

than a jet

but none of us

Even the wisest don’t know.

and we continue to live

in dizzy days


erecting statues

that the minute they fall at our feet,

avoiding the magic of the moment,

live passenger loves

consumed by temporary urgency

when we are history

It was not difficult for me to arrange these verses in thematic rather than chronological order. Perhaps the last poem was the first he wrote, but I organized them in my own way, respecting how they came about. The poet stops in life and in the seemingly unimportant, that which nourishes and nourishes his existence. Gives incorruptible value to the useless”Immeasurable joy is born from the belly of the night / that floods the place and infects us all / Convertible currency does not always guarantee / the joy of life“.

Tips not to follow This is not a monothematic book. It reveals the life force of a poet who, at the age of 80, is blinded by the night, believes in love, goes to a bar and mythologises it. This is a person who lives in complete spiritual youth and thinks that “A poem may begin with a lie / And what difference does it make if a lie / is an unholy metaphor for the truth.“.

Let me talk about this coexistence with a poet. Barnet always writes poetry, and recently, in an interview I gave him, he told me: “All poetry is detailed: I don’t think anyone writes even one book of poetry. This is the pedantry of some writers. I believe that a person writes as life imposes topics, as life encounters different situations and different areas of subjectivity, and for this reason my poetry is very diverse, very heterogeneous, its genesis lies in the circumstance in which each poem is written. .

Simply put, through his lyrics, he expresses a whole range of sensations and experiences, which poetry itself should reflect. Perhaps that is why, in this piece of Barnet from Ediciones La Luz, he disputes: “Look, poet, don’t fool yourself / You’re not the same anymore / What started is over / The only thing left forever / It’s your language that came to dialogue / with a blank page“.

WITH Tips not to follow I know that readers will appreciate the authenticity of the poetry of a young man of eighty who believes in poetry as the seed of all thought, prehistoric included.

Source: Juventud Rebelde


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