Prologue to Central America in My Heart, by Manuel Durán

Yale University, Professor Emeritus, New Haven, CT



oetry is, as Octavio Paz notes in The Bow and the Lyre (El Arco y la Lira), “knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment.  An act capable of changing the world, poetic activity is revolutionary by nature; a spiritual exercise, it is a system of internal liberation.”  And the poem is “a passage of access to pure time, immersion in the nascent and original waters of existence.”  Antonio Machado is more brief, but not less accurate: “ poetry is the essential word in time.”  For Coleridge, poetry is remembrance --memory of an emotion distilled in words --in a later age more serene and reflexive.


As we know, poetry is nourished by profound emotions and intense experiences.  To ensure that the audience that listens to poetry can share the emotions of retrospection and introspection of Beauty, the poet must carry words to the cusp of their power, must create images and rhythms, establish internal connections, almost always invisible at first sight, within each part of the poem and other parts within each section and its entirety.  And as each experience is untranslatable, and each emotion is the reaction to our own intimate being, with every fiber of our muscles, with every drop of our own blood, something great and intensely profound is disclosed right before us --a communication of experience and emotion which is one of the most difficult literary feats and which requires the maximum expressive effort.  With each well constructed and revealing poem, the poet finds his place in the cosmos and helps us to find our own place in it.


And that is exactly what happens in Central America in My Heart.  Oscar Gonzáles knows how to create an expansive poetry, that opens up to horizons that are more vast each time, without forgetting its roots in the concrete, in the immediate, in detail that is precise and revealing, a poetry that approaches and offers the reader



that shiver like sapphires of silent music that lead to the sea

(“Inebriated Breeze of the Sea”)


and in which the poet achieves to beautifully communicate what is inexpressible, he moves towards distant horizons in mystical ships like Rimbaud, and arrives at eternal and unexplored sites, on secret shores where only mystery resides.  Poetry like an adventurous danger, poetry that pursues and reaches the unattainable, a poetry of vertigo that tries to communicate to us --and achieves-- what the poet pursues and reaches as a man, as an enamored man, as a man for whom love is not only a victory, but a passage towards the knowledge of the absolute:


the incomprehensible sensation of eternity on my lips

(“Dreaming you in the tepid gold of the dusk”)


Each poet who deserves this name is, we know it, unique, original, unclassifiable.  And, at the same time, it also helps us to understand a work by placing it within a more encompassing corpus.  Our poet belongs to an eminent and numerous group.  More concretely, Oscar Gonzáles comes to us from a country that is easily classifiable as “exotic” and “tropical”, until you have visited and shared the sadness and hopes of its people: Honduras.  It is a country with its very own and valuable poetic tradition, although it is not well-known in Spanish America and Europe, especially outside of the Hispanic tradition, a tradition which Oscar Gonzáles knows perfectly and which has helped him to find his own voice.


In a more encompassing perspective and light, we can assert that our poet belongs to the family of Pablo Neruda, because of the amplitude of his poetry’s horizons, the strength and firmness of its voice, and the “intimist” and cosmic sensuality of his love poetry.  Eroticism and panoramic vision of nature are characteristics that unite the two poets, together with an interest in the themes of liberty and the disdain of oppression, injustice, tyranny that were manifested in a book of poems formerly written by Oscar Gonzáles titled Where Lead Floats (Donde el Plomo Flota), in which the principal theme encompasses the daily life --saddened, limited, oppressed-- of his native motherland.  But now the theme of his poetry is love, shared and victorious sensual love, and this makes it easier for his readers to share the experiences of the poet and vibrate with the emotions that each poem evokes in us.


Yes, our poet belongs to the family of Neruda, the enamored Neruda of Twenty Love Poems and Desperate Song (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada), and later, the one thousand and one poems inspired by Margarita Aguirre.


But at the same time Neruda belongs to the family of Quevedo --and to that of the surrealists, even though he denied it-- and all poets belong to the great family of Homer, Dante, Garcilaso, Donne, Milton, Racine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Rilke, Eliot.  All are related through their essential style and their passionate desire to communicate something precious and intense that they have seen, that they have felt, that they have lived.  And now the voice of our poet is added to all these voices.  And since every book of poems is at the same time a revelation of something intimate, a vision that allows us to share that intimacy, a ceremony and a celebration, now it is our turn to pay attention: the poet embarks on his trek of prophecy, the curtain is about to rise.

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