Antonio Cisneros, the Peruvian poet laureate, died on October 6, 2012, at 5:30 in the morning. An article [es] in the daily El Comercio spoke about his involvement in the “1960s generation” of Peruvian poetry and the various awards he received: “National Poetry Prize, Casa de las Américas Prize (1968), the Gabriela Mistral Prizel (2000), Iberoamerican Letters Prize José Donoso (2004).” Furthermore, “he was named Gentleman of the French Order of Arts and Letters. On June 8, 2012 he received in Santiago, Chile, the Pablo Neruda Latin American Poetry Prize.”
During his life, Cisneros published various collections of poems. Some of the best known collections are: Real Commentaries of Antonio Cisneros (1964) (“Comentarios reales de Antonio Cisneros”), Ceremonial Song Against an Anteater (1968) (“Canto ceremonial contra un oso hormiguero”), As a Fig Tree on a Golf Course (1972) (“Como higuera en un campo de golf”), The Book of God and the Hungarians (1978) (“El libro de Dios y de los húngaros”), Monologue of the Chaste Susana and Other Poems (1986) (“Monólogo de la casta Susana y otros poemas”).
In the following YouTube video from 2009 from the magazine Otra Gaceta (Another Gazette), we see Cisneros reading three of his poems:
Cisneros was also a journalist [es], a translator, a professor, and an important promoter of culture [es] in his country. However, in interviews he always mentioned that the most important thing in his life was not literature but his five grandchildren. His colleagues remember [es] him as a joker, a great friend and footballer [es]. “Toño”, as he was known by his loved ones, was writing [es] a collection of poems about his family. The Minister of Culture has stated [es] that he will be sure to honor the life of this great poet.
The poet Marco Martos spoke about [es] Cisneros’ poetry that “had the capacity to demonstrate pain without tears. [..] within his verses there is an intensity, a river of thought.”
The literary critic Ricardo González Vigil states: “He had an ironic point of view, with his feet on the ground, that never stops connecting to the criollo [local] humor. And that allowed him to demystify the grand constructions and stereotypes of the poetry of the past,” and added: “He had a more elliptical, suggestive, caustic way of treating language, it is not as verbose as many others.”
In the following video recorded in 2011 by Bolivian writer Juan Claudio Lechín, we can enjoy parts of an interview with Antonio Cisneros:
Writer and literary critic Gustavo Faverón remembers Cisneros and tells a few anecdotes about him, also commenting [es] on his literary style:
Fue ideológica y estéticamente complejo: en sus libros se reúnen elementos muy disímiles: un marxismo heterodoxo; una suerte de utopía garcilasista que si bien a veces vira hacia lo aristocratizante, otras veces se introduce felizmente en lo popular; un afán constante de mestizaje cultural; un historicismo preocupado y punzante; una poderosa unción religiosa que sólo es contenida a veces por la ironía, y una forma única de revisión de los diversos modelos del clasicismo y del barroco que jamás, pese al tono de parodia, se permite la simplificación de descartar o malbaratear esos modelos.
Su poesía no solo está atravesada de ideologías que al común de nosotros nos parecerían contradictorias. También es una consciente reflexión sobre ellas y sobre el asunto mismo de la ideología. Uno de sus poemas más bellos se aproxima al tema de manera conmovedora (porque una de las maravillas de Toño fue su capacidad de conmover profundamente con la discusión filosófica, de convertir la discusión filosófica en lo que nunca debe dejar de ser, finalmente, es decir, en una discusión sobre nuestras propias pequeñas vidas).
It was ideological and aesthetically complex: his books brought together dissimilar elements: an unorthodox Marxism; a sort of Garcilasista utopia that while sometimes veers towards the aristocratic, happily introduces the popular; a constant desire for cultural crossbreeding; a concerned and biting historicism; a powerful religious unction that is only at times controlled by irony, and a unique form of revision of diverse models of classicism and the baroque that never, despite a tone of parody, allows for the simplification of rejecting or squandering those models.
His poetry does not only cross the ideologies that seem contradictory to us. common people. It is also a conscious reflection about these ideologies and the issue of ideology itself. One of his most beautiful poems deals with the issue in a moving way (because one of the great things about Toño was his capacity to profoundly move others with his philosophical discussion, to convert philosophical discussion into what it should never cease to be, in other words, into a discussion about our own little lives.
The writer Patricia de Souza also remembered Cisneros [es] with nostalgia on her blog Palincestos:
Siempre he seguido los libros de Toño, son esas personas que acompañan y que llevamos siempre presentes, sin pensar que un día morirán- Por eso, cuando me dijeron que estaba muy enfermo, y que se había traslado a casa de su madre, pensé que resistiría, que volvería ver a Toño y su sonrisa pícara, que volvería a oír sus comentarios demoledores, y a reírme o a conversar con él. Pero no, eso es solo en la imaginación y ahora es el tiempo de duelo
I always have followed Toño's books, it's those people who come and we carry with us always, without thinking that one day they will die- For this reason, when they told me he was very sick, and that he had been taken to his mother's house, I thought he would resist, that I would see Toño again with his naughty smile, that I would hear his devastating commentaries again, and laugh and talk with him. But no, that is only imagination and now it is time to mourn.
In the next video from YouTube user ChilePoesiaTv recorded in 2001, Cisneros reads a poem and later talks about poetry:
The blogger Manolo Ignacio Malpartida from Bitácora Hedonista shares [es] his feelings about the poet:
Viajero, sibarita, e hincha del Sporting Cristal, hablaba con pasión y escribía como hablaba. Alguna vez pude presenciar su ronca voz que se hacía notar en alguna feria del libro peruana, aquellas adonde yo solía ir, varias veces sin comprar nada, sólo para corroborar que habían otros locos como yo que malgastaban el poco dinero en libros; me hacía sentir mejor.
La muerte de un artista sea pintor, cantante o escritor es ya de por sí triste, pero cuando un poeta se va la tristeza es mayor todavía.
Descanse en paz maestro.
Traveler, sybarite, and supporter of Sporting Cristal, he spoke with passion and wrote like he spoke. A few times I heard his notable hoarse voice at a Peruvian book fair, the kinds I used to go to, many times without buying anything, only to confirm that there were other crazy people like me that wasted the little money they have on books; it made me feel better.
The death of an artist, whether a painter, a singer or a writer is already sad on its own, but when a poet passes the sadness is even greater.
Rest in peace master.
Ecuadorian writer Eduardo Varas remembers Cisneros in his blog Libros, Autores y Riesgos [es] (Books, Authors and Risks):
La sonrisa del fantasma es la del capitán del barco. Bebe. Nos dice que bebamos. El dolor del estómago desaparece por arte de magia y sentimos que si él bebe un pisco, nosotros también podemos hacerlo. Habla. El ánimo crece. Todo se hace más grande a su lado. Todos somos más grandes a su lado. Pregunta de dónde somos. Respondemos. Pregunta sobre poetas de aquí. Nos habla del ridículo de la monarquía que nos define. Nos escucha atentamente. Su voz es fuego artificial. Habla por quienes no hablamos. Por la noche, con el alcohol ya convertido en bandera para muchos, el fantasma dice que el pueblo lo aclama en las calles. Hace reír a otros, nosotros escuchamos los rezagos. El fantasma es vida, vida pura. La vida más viva de todos.
The smile of a ghost [es] is the captain of a ship. He drinks. He tells us to drink. The stomach pain magically disappears and we feel that if he drinks a pisco, so can we. He talks. The mood grows. Everything gets bigger beside him. We are all bigger at his side. He asks where we are from. We respond. He asks about poets form here. He talks to us about the ridiculousness of the monarchy that defines us. He listens to us carefully. His voice is like fireworks. He speaks for those of us who do not speak. At night, with alcohol as a flag for many, the ghost says that people acclaim him in the streets. He makes everyone laugh, we listen to the remnants. The ghost is life, pure life. The most vivid life of all.
Antonio Cisneros [es] leaves a great legacy in Peruvian literature. Responsible in part for the entry of the contemporary Anglo-Saxon poetic influence into the national poetry, his poems transcend the apparent simplicity with which many of them are written, to make us reflect on the “great heavenly questions” (“grandes preguntas celestes,” just like the title of one of his books.
As one more example of his art, we leave with you a video from 2001 that allows us to better appreciate his personality, as well as his humor and poetry.