THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE
The last Ernesto Cardenal unpublished
The Books on Wheels Collection, sponsored by the Malaga EMT, distributes today for free The Visible and the Invisible, a personal anthology of the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal, with his last unpublished poem.
By Manuel Francisco Reina
This January 20, Ernesto Cardenal would have turned 95 years old. I met him in February 2016, on a tour of Nicaragua, presenting my novel Princess Paca, which recounted the love story between Francisca Sánchez del Pozo and the great Nicaraguan national figure, the poet Rubén Darío. Between presentation and presentation, book signing and meetings with students, academics and the media, I asked the efficient director of the Nicaraguan Institute of Hispanic Culture, René González-Mejía, still today its director, to fulfill my desire to meet the great Nicaraguan writers that he admired so much. Thanks to his efforts, I was able to deal, among others, and then cultivate the relationship, with Gioconda Belli, Sergio Ramírez, and Ernesto Cardenal. I met Father Cardenal, who was what everyone called the poet and priest in Nicaragua, at the Nicaraguan Center for Writers in Managua. At his side, always loyal, the poet and painter Luz Marina Acosta, Cardenal’s personal assistant for four decades, and his current legatee. I was introduced to that young 91-year-old poet on the day he was celebrating them. She kept in her fragile body a lucid intelligence, eager to know what authors from other generations and countries were doing and writing in Spanish. Demanding, implacable with poetry and its creators, he reminded me in his commitment to the poet Pilar Paz Pasamar, my teacher, whom he met in Madrid in the year 49, and the conception shared by both that “the word is sacred ”. He was still suspended “a divinis” by Pope John Paul II, due to his political significance, although the current Pope Francis restored him to the priesthood a few months before his death.
Protected by his generosity, and in the mediation and friendship with his assistant, I dared to ask him for a small anthology for the collection that I have directed in Malaga for 4 years with the sponsorship of the Municipal Transport Company, and that distributes 10,000 copies every month of each title. Cardenal was already working on what he knew his last book, with the biblical title of On the road to Emmaus. (Poems of resurrection) who meditated on life but especially on death. The poet was excited about my proposal and sent a personal poetry anthology. The selection, made in February last year, included an unpublished text, which gives the book its title. Luz Marina Acosta tells that the ninety-five-year-old Nicaraguan poet finished this poem on the same day, January 20, his birthday. At the party he was given, at the Mexican embassy in Managua, Cardenal read a fragment of this long poem that is given to readers for the first time and which, according to his assistant, was the last poem he wrote as he died a month and half later, on March 1. It was part of this book, ‘On the road to Emmaus’, of which it is the last of 5 poems, written as long songs, in which the poet and priest of Liberation Theology speaks of death, of union with God, which is the universe: “The beauty of the universe reflects God / and was created by him to unite with us” he says in a couple of verses of this unpublished, as if the beauty of the world were the mirror of Alice through from which to unite the divinity and its creatures.
All the poetic scope of Ernesto Cardenal, is in this beautiful mystical text, of union with nature, of wisdom and of serene assumption of life and death. A revolutionary text, as is all his work and his ethical, aesthetic, literary and political commitment. A hymn to evolution, to an “evolutionary god” he calls it, who looks at himself and is in his creation, in the stars, in nature, in everything, also in death. Cardenal, the most important poet that Nicaragua, a land of great writers, has given after Rubén Darío, continues to be a figure mistreated by the country’s officiality. His example and his work, however, continue to be a benchmark for contemporary Latin American literature and a beacon of international consciousness. Not even his funeral was respected, and a pro-government mob interrupted the funeral by insulting Cardenal and beating his coffin. They may not name him in Nicaraguan classrooms, by government imposition, but the creator of the so-called “revolution devoid of revenge” is still as alive in his last verses, as in his most ferocious texts of the Cosmic Canticle, Psalms, or The Gospel in Solentiname, with whose verses the latter continue to dialogue, organically. Ernesto Cardenal, like every great poet, overcomes repression, persecution and insults, because he lives in his vital and literary truth. He is a poet for the time that lives in the visible and the invisible.