January 12, 2014

Herberto Padilla

Herberto Padilla [Cuba]

     Herberto Padilla was born in Puerta de Golpe in the province of Pinar del Río, Cuba, on January 20, 1932.
     He attended elementary and secondary education in his native province, but then moved to Havana to study law. He did not finish his law degree. From 1949 to 1952 and from 1956 t0o 1959, Padilla lived in the United States, returning to Cuba after the 1959 revolution, where he published his first collection of poetry, El justo tiemp humano (The Fair Human Time).
      For the next several years he traveled throughout Europe, representing Cuba’s Ministry of Commerce and working as a correspondent for Cuban publications.
      The Cuban Writers’ Union awarded his 1968 collection of poems, Fuera del juego (Sent Off the Field, 1972) for that year’s poetry prize. In that book Padilla had already become disenchanted with the Castro regime, writing the lines: "The poet! Kick him out!/ He has no business here./ He doesn't play the game./ He never gets excited/ Or speaks out clearly./ He never even sees the miracles ..." Understandably the collection and award resulted in a great deal of controversy throughout Cuba. The book was republished with an appendix criticizing it as “counter-revolutionary,” and soon after Padilla was placed under house arrest. In 1971 he was interrogated by the security police, and forced to make a public confession before the Writers’ Union. His wife, Belkis Cuza Malé was similarly charged, and the case quickly moved to the international level, with major writers throughout the world coming to his support, among them French novelist and dramatist Jean-Paul Sartre and Peruvian Nobel Prize winner, Mario Vargas Llosa.
     Padilla was not allowed to leave Cuba until 1980, when Senator Edward Kennedy secured Padilla’s release to to the US. He traveled to New York, Washington, D.C., and Madrid, before settling in Princeton, New Jersey. He died at age 68 while teaching at Auburn University in Alabama.
     Padilla wrote several books of poetry as well as fiction (such as El buscavidas, 1963 and En mi jardín pastan los heroes) as well as autobiographical and essayistic writings.


Las rosas audaces (1949); El justo tiemp humano (1962); La hora (Havana, La Tertulia, 1964);
Fuera del juego (1968); Provocaciones (1973); Poesí y política (Poetry and Politics) bilingual (Madrid: Playor and Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 1974); El hombre junto al mar (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1981); Un puente, una casa de piedra (1998); Puerta de Golpe, ed by Belkis Cuza Malé (Linden Lane Press, 2013); Una época para hablar (Luminarias/Letras Cubanas, 2013)

The Promise

A while ago
I promised you many love poems
and--now you see--I couldn't write them.
You were sitting next to me
and it is impossible to write about what is just there.
What one has is always poetry.
But a few clear things
have begun to bring us together--
we have shared the same solitude
in separate rooms,
without knowing anything of each other,
trying, each in place,
to remember the looks on our faces,
which all of a sudden join those

A while ago
I promised you many love poems
and--now you see--I couldn't write them.
You were sitting next to me
we thought we had lost, erased
from our early years.
I remember the knocks on the door
and your frightened voice,
and you, my eyes still filled with sleep.
For a long time
you used to ask me just what History was.
I couldn't answer, I gave vague definitions.
I never dared give you a real answer.


No comments: