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Venezuela: The Poet Who Enjoyed the Simple Things in Life

This week was the birthday of the late Venezuelan poet Aquiles Nazoa , but unlike other years in which there many festivities, the cultural life in Caracas was kind of silent. A couple of years ago around these dates, there were presentations full of humor and anecdotes remembering the poet, who used to write about the simple things of life.

Nazoa had always led a simple life. His poetry illustrated the beauties of daily life and the humorous soul of all Venezuelans. He was also one of the most furious advocates of Human Rights during the 1960s in Venezuela and this reflected his love for his people through his poetry. His work covered images of folkloric heritage, children’s games, colors, and dreams without putting aside political problems, freedom of speech and criticism of the bourgeois of the time. All of this was covered with a sharp and delicate, and at the same time, very authentic Venezuelan sense of humor. And as Dulceambar [es] writes, his works bring laughter to many. Nazoa is remembered by many, and Poética del Empedrao [es] writes that his greatest accomplishment is the eternal acknowledgement of his people.

According to Kalafia [es], it was on April 25th, which marked 25 years of his death. He describes Nozoa as:

Un verdadero maestro, ese que pone el alma en las manos de sus alumnos. Lo conocimos en la Escuela de Letras de la UCV y allì nos enseñò la vida secreta de las muñecas y los àngeles, el misterio del vuelo erràtil de los caballitos del diablo sobre las aguas de los rìos. Hoy queremos rendirle homenaje, al llamado jocosamente “ruiseñor de Catuche” porque es el poeta que supo captar y expresar el màs puro sentir venezolano, eso que llaman “la conciencia nacional”. Y por ser tan venezolano era tan poeta, y tan humorista y tan polifacètico.

Nazoa was a real teacher, the one that puts his soul on the hands of his pupils. We met him at the Faculty of Arts (UCV) and there he taught us the secret life of dolls and angels, the mystery of the flight of the dragonflies on river waters. We would like to pay him homage today to the poet humorously called “Cantuche’s nightingale” since he was the poet that best knew how to capture and express the purest feelings of Venezuelans, something we like to call “the national conscience”. Being so Venezuelan was the reason for him to be such a poet, so humorous, so versatile.

The blog Ilustres [es] gives some details of his life. Here we have the last activities, of great transcendence:

Durante la década de los 70, además de preparar libros como La vida privada de las muñecas de trapo, Raúl Santana con un pueblo en el bolsillo y Leoncio Martínez, genial e ingenioso(publicado después de su muerte), dicta charlas y conferencias, mantiene un programa de televisión titulado Las cosas más sencillas y proyecta la formación de un grupo actoral que pusiera en práctica el «Teatro para leer». Muere en un accidente de tránsito (…). En su memoria se creó por proposición de Pedro León Zapata, la cátedra libre de humorismo «Aquiles Nazoa», inaugurada el 11 de marzo de 1980.

During the 1970s besides preparing books like (The private life of rag dolls, Raul Santana with a town in his pocket, and Leoncio Martínez wonderful and ingenious) he gives speeches and conferences, he presents a program called Simple things and helps with the training of a theatrical group the “theater to read”. He died in a car accident. In his memory, and through Pedro León Zapata’s proposal it was created the chair at the university “Aquiles Nazoa”, which started on March 11, 1980.

Among his works there were an important number of humorous pieces written in verse for theater, with new versions of classics like Hernani and Cinderella, among others that made fun of marital life and “high class” ladies with their “new money” as a criticism to the new bourgeoisie. Here, a part of his Cinderella on YouTube [es].

Aquiles Nazoa was truly a wonderful soul to the Venezuelan body. Many literary prizes and elementary schools have been given his name. He adored children, people, pigs and dogs. He had a special devotion to people’s education and struggle for justice. And since without an example of his works this post would be incomplete, let’s do an effort in literary translation to bring to this space a little piece from the poet:

Verbos irregulares:

Estos son unos verbos que, a paso de tortuga,
Yo conjugo,
Tú conugas,
Él conjuga…
Como sin garantías todo el mundo se inhibe
Yo no escribo,
Tú no escribes
Él no escribe
Pues de escribir las cosas que uno tiene en el seso
Yo voy preso,
Tú vas preso
Él va preso

These are some verbs that, slow like a turtle
I conjugate
You conjugate
He conjugates
And since everyone is afraid with the lack of constitutional rights
I don’t write
You don’t write
He doesn’t write
For if one writes all the thoughts under the veil
I go to jail
You go to jail
He goes to jail

His biography here, and more of his poems (in Spanish) can be seen here.

Finally, some bloggers have fond memories of childhood alongside Nazoa's verses. Plomo al Arpa [es] writes:

Estudié toda la primaria y el bachillerato en el “Instituto Parroquial San Juan Bautista de La Salle”, frente a la plaza Capuchinos y al lado de la Escuela “19 de Abril” (Antigua Escuela Zamora) (…)Así me fui impregnando de San Juan, creciendo entre su gente y familiarizándome con su arquitectura, jugando en la plaza entre sus hermosas columnas de ladrillo rematadas por vigas de madera, sus palomas y sus borrachos, representando en actos estudiantiles las obras de un famosísimo libro llamado “Humor y amor”. Sentía particularmente cercano este libro porque lo que leía en él lo olía, lo veía, lo sentía en el camino al colegio, en mis juegos en terrenos abandonados, en mis paseos entre casas antiguas para hacer un “mandado”. Un día me conseguí con un poema que hablaba del palomar de la plaza Capuchinos y me pareció todo un detalle que un poeta le dedicara unas líneas a ese testigo de mis juegos y mis escapes de clase, después sabría que ese poeta había recorrido esas calles y estudiado al lado de donde yo lo hacía y que había hecho todo un universo con las cosas más sencillas que había percibido, muchas de las cuales forman parte de mi infancia. (…) el poeta de las cosas más sencillas, ese que me reenamoró de mi ciudad y de mi San Juan tan querido. Feliz cumpleaños Aquiles!!!

I studied all my life in San Juan Bautista de La Salle (a High School) in front of Capuchinos Square and next to the old Zamora School. (…) Thus, I grew up among that people and getting familiar with the architecture, playing at the square, with its beautiful columns made of brick and finished in wood, its pigeons and drunk men, representing little plays from a very famous book called Humor y amor (Humour and love). I felt particularly close to this book, since all I read and smelled the things that I felt it on my way to school, and in my childish games in abandoned fields, and in my walks through all the antique houses when they sent me to run an errand. One day, I came across a poem about the Capuchinos Square's pigeon house and I thought it was a wonderful detail that a poet could dedicate some lines to my games and when I escaped from school. Afterwards, I would know that this poet had run in the same streets and studied next to where I did and that he made a whole universe with the most simplest things that he had seen, and most of them, were also a part of my childhood. (…) The poet of simple things, the one that made me fall in love again with my city and my beloved San Juan. Happy birthday Aquiles!

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