English

Lauren Mendinueta was born in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1977. She began writing in 1997 while working as a librarian in Fundación, a small village in Colombia. She has published six books of poetry and one biography of Marie Curie. A collection of her poems, entitled Poesía en sí Misma (2007), was published by the Universidad Externado de Colombia as part of its Un libro por centavos collection. La vocación suspendida (2008) received the sixth Martín García Ramos International Award for Poetry.

In 2005 Lauren Mendinueta lived in Mexico under a Resident Artist scholarship, granted by the Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Fund for the Culture and Arts in Mexico (FONCA). She is frequently invited to festivals and literary gatherings in Europe and the Americas. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Russian, German, Portuguese and French. Her work has been included in poetry anthologies in Europe as well as America. Between 2006 and 2007, she lived in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She is currently writing a novel and is based in Lisbon, Portugal.
Lauren Mendinueta’s is a voice uniquely mature and reflective, in contrast to the youthfulness of the author. Without a doubt, what is most striking about her is her relentless pursuit of linguistic rigour and clarity of expression, a careful flight from over-sentimentality and images which are difficult to visualise. These aspects of her work are sufficient to make her stand out in the field of contemporary Latin American poetry and, of course, in Spanish-language women’s verse, where her eloquent sobriety and her control of speech in the interest of a balance between communication and poetic effusion is exceptional.

The economy of metaphor in the poetry of Mendinueta, in effect, surprises. As with other Colombian poets (and I think, above all in the work of the great Alvaro Mutis), her eschewment of the baroque and, in general, the conceptual darkness brought about by a century of modernism and experimentation, shows, in my opinion, a close relationship with cultivated poetry on this side of the Atlantic by recent Spanish generations who have been influenced, from the fifties onwards, by teachers of English modernism (Eliot, Auden, Larkin), and are therefore hostile to the excessive rhetoric of the tearing currents that have thrived in Latin America since the glory years of surrealism.

Lauren Mendinueta is one of the more individualised voices of her generation. Hers is an extraordinarily mature voice, in control of its resources, which has succeeded in building a tradition to suit it without being seduced by it, through what should be the project of any true poet: the creation of a character endowed with a moral self. In the work of this young Latin American writer, there are hints as to who will be the best lyricist of the century, and in whom poetry now renews its ancestral force.

Jon Juaristi (Translated by Constance Lardas)

Last updated: Jan 27, 2010

Bibliography

Poetry

Carta desde la aldea, La Dádiva Editores, Barranquilla, Colombia, 1998
Inventario de ciudad, Golem Editores, Barranquilla, Colombia, 1999
Donde se escoge el pasado, La Dádiva Editores. First edition May 2004, second edition January 2005
Autobiografía ampliada, Ediciones casatomada, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 2006. Second edition Editorial Salida de Emergencia, Mexico, 2006
Poesía en sí misma, anthology by Antonio Sarabia, Universidad Externado de Colombia, El Malpensante magazine, Bogota, 2007
La vocación suspendida, Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, Spain, 2008. Second edition, Editorial Travesias, Ministry of Culture, Barranquilla, Colombia, 2009

Biography

Marie Curie, dos veces Nobel, Panamericana, Bogotá, Colombia, 2004

Poems

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

I insist on avoiding nothing
to live is to participate
Anyway is it not more sensible to choose from what you know?
I oppose servitude
Have I achieved it?
Subjected to another slavery
I am executioner and victim.
I accept it I prefer it
I recognize the hero’s grandeur
Oh glory! Oh victory! Oh wretched one!
The coin I carry in my hand
is a tiny mirror
Catching sight of myself ignoring my flip side
shadow hole
The head of the coin is beautiful
its outlined profile
its ugly flip side
It is not easy
to mold myself like a work of art fashioned by my own hand
If I renounce that other side of me
if I cast it off and let beauty triumph
then I would need to renounce my own self
I surprise myself
Isn’t this also a moral?
I renounce being
only that which is not
is built
Today infancy is a shudder
“all has been consummated”
In time
the coin will not last
The mirrors do not store the essence
the only immovable part
The fear of memory frightened away
there are too many paths for one face alone
My words
roam through the streets of the brimming city
eye of the needle
or driven spike of absence
Is this a useless sketch?
Premature punishment
of the very image.

© 2000, Lauren Mendinueta
From: Autobiografía Ampliada
Publisher: Ediciones casatomada, Palma de Mallorca, 2006

© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

BOGOTÁ, FOLLOWING A VISIT TO HELENA IRIARTE

There is no relationship between things
and what embodies them.
At best, reality is a void
and its copy in the mirror
the evidence of its precariousness.
Names traverse the world
depicting the anguish of not being what they name.
People hurriedly run
towards the subway car or the bus
because life hinges on a concept.
Not even punctuality corresponds to its word,
since it’s not possible to arrive at destiny behind schedule.
Can spirit and body ever coexist?
Would they not be an inseparable binomial,
one lone thing we still fail to name?
With these themes, as with so many others,
I stumble over rhetoric,
and I ask myself anew if it is possible
just to live.

© 2003, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 9788496508200
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

I FORGET MYSELF

October has arrived controlled by the rains,
and the remaining months have followed it here.
Suddenly this pile of time fills everything,
the green of the house, the chairs,
the blanket that covers the floor
when I lie down to read in the summer.
I am not able to abandon time,
had forgetfulness bestowed its grace on me
I would have been saved from this invasion.
Now I must step cautiously,
not mistreat myself with so many memories.
Will I deceive myself or will what I say be true?
I refuse this visit, I am not afraid of solitude.

© 2005, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 9788496508200
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

LETTING MYSELF GO

Only yesterday I was forty-nine.
Today, the first morning of April, 1977,
I looked for my face in the mirror,
my face even more broken
in the cracked mirror of the bathroom.
Dear body beyond my reach,
why do you stubbornly continue to show your reflection?
I am guilty of living.
I can see you’ve fallen apart
and in the recent and trembling past
your entire weight rests upon the lightness of sleep.
In childhood I saw you walking among the carious smiles
of the harbor,
running with legs spreadeagled
as if dodging the oaks,
covering yourself with sweaty hands zigzagging the busy cities
and nursing infants who
searched in vain for other liquids, not mercy.
I saw you, body,
rest your face upon the modest grave
that now evokes your very face.
I am nearly rubble,
an indistinguishable stain
on the mirrors of asylums and supermarkets.
I know that I am alive because I feel pain;
the body is an absurd obligatory
extension of the mind.

© 2007, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 9788496508200
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

MAIEUTICS

The world suggests.
I do not wait for the muse’s visit,
I go after her, I lead her by the hand.
Those who know me
say mine is a sad life.
Endeavoring to spend hours with a stranger
arguing, arguing.
They cannot imagine how much I prefer
her grating company,
the argument almost always antagonistic,
the sarcastic smile of triumph,
to the complacent prattling of them all,
my congenial friends.
Then they say I cut an embarrassing figure
when I go out to seek the elusive muse
at whatever hour and in whatever fashion,
and I return alone and they hear me inventing monologues
that clumsily imitate a dialogue.
But before each failure I think,
Tomorrow I will look for her again,
if I am lucky
she will bring her harp and between speeches
she will play me splendid music.

© 2007, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 9788496508200
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

NOCTURNAL IN DEATH

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall?
Wallace Stevens

.
Do not press so eagerly to live!
Death erases memory.
Henceforth the past no longer exists.
Looking back
Is forbidden to us, the dead.
Death is the only prospect.
Endless march.
Concerning light,
An astonishing hidden form
Bids us follow it along a path
Conceivable only to lifeless eyes.
We are pilgrims searching for a paradise
Which expands.
The past is an
Insatiable
Black hole that devours minutes.
This is what constitutes eternity
To forget at every turn
The pronounced judgment of permanence.
You must be made aware in due time
That this tedium of being is eternal
Just as the continuation of the poem
Is infinity itself.

© 1999, Lauren Mendinueta
From: Inventario de Ciudad
Publisher: Golem Editores, Barranquilla, 1999
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

POSTHUMOUS POEM

The book I am writing
Is a grave much anticipated.
Were I to make a list of what
Remains to me
It would be this:
THERE IS NO BODY LEFT.
Maybe writing a poem was the best thing
Even though poetry is good for nothing.
At times I thought
I was outside of History
Escaping from hard times
Just a damn illusion!
I succeeded at silence like the others
But I could not forget
The sound of each letter.
I know that a poem
Will not justify my choice
And that death
Cannot vanquish History.
So then
Why do I fear this book?

© 2000, Lauren Mendinueta
From: Autobiografía Ampliada
Publisher: Ediciones casatomada, Palma de Mallorca, 2006
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

SHADOW AMONG SHADOWS

Just like a firebird
Your wings let fall
A deep shadow.
I saw you blacken
As if the night ashes
Covered you too thickly.
And your shadow a melody of blood
Soaked my bones.
And your eyes
Asphalt mirrors
Carved statues of water.
And your hands
Columns of seaweed
Shook the seas.
Me
A frightened ghost
Hiding myself.
I dreaded looking at your eyes
I knew they held oracles.
Four and one nights went by.
Your shadow turned white
Like your tongue.
I found out you would go away.
I tried to see your eyes
An endless sequence
Of unknown faces.
Then I understood
That one night falls
With the weight of all the centuries
And that all the centuries
Weigh upon man
Like a shadow weighs upon a body.

© 1999, Lauren Mendinueta
From: Inventario de Ciudad
Publisher: Golem Editores, Barranquilla, 1999
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

THE IVORY TOWER

The world is an ivory tower, in vain
I search for a door within its curved walls.
I look like an actress playing a drunkard,
I struggle to walk a straight line,
never S’s. I am not a professional
actor, I don’t even resemble one,
but I will struggle to walk a straight line.
Sometimes I sit at the computer and search
for all manner of things, from shoes to love.
And yes, I find it all there, because the world is a tower
and inevitably I am trapped with everything else.
When I look at myself in the mirror,
I am surprised by how common
my face seems, and I tell myself:
it’s good to look as common as this, don’t be afraid.
I sit down at the computer again and find
the same things, everything, everything, even love.
And right there, typing,
I try to understand
why I feel free within the bird’s cage.

© 2005, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 978-84-96508-20-
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas

.

THE YEARS PASS THUS

The years pass
and though life accuses me of immobility
I have also traveled.
Like a particle of dust
I have fluttered through the house
and taken root on the books.
Like an insect I have rested on the banks of ditches,
or I have simply been a woman
who has looked out to sea
from afternoon to afternoon
searching for boats, forgotten by the fog,
which return to memory,
without any hope
aside from death.

© 2005, Lauren Mendinueta
From: La Vocación Suspendida
Publisher: Point de Lunettes, Sevilla, 2008
ISBN: 9788496508200
© Translation: 2010, Constance Lardas



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