Death of a poet
Chilean literati memorialize work of deceased poet Gonzalo Rojas
Writers from Chile and around the world celebrate the poet’s legacy, while the country observes a period of national mourning.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Gonzalo Rojas, known at home and around the world not only for his verses, but also for his generous support for younger writers.
The death of Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas made ripples throughout Chile and the world. After decreeing a period of national mourning, President Sebastián Piñera said that Rojas was “an exceptional man, and that together with the great poets like Neruda, Mistral, Huidobro and Parra, made Chile known as the country of poets.”
And in this country of poets, it is the poets themselves who are most profoundly feeling the loss of Gonzalo Rojas, known at home and around the world not only for his verses, but also for his generous support for younger writers.
Chile’s next generation remembers
Poet Jaime Quezada, said, “I have known him very well for the last 40 years. I was his student at the Universidad de Concepción. I studied Law, but also Literature. Later, I joined the literary group called Arúspice, where Gonzalo was a very important element.”
“Unlike other poets who are often selfish, or even other writers in general, he was very generous with the younger poets,” remembered Óscar Hahn, another young poet mentored by the great man of letters.
Hernán Rivera Letelier, who received the Alfaguara prize in 2010, said that Rojas’ language was “paramount” in his work. “His use of language and words fascinated me. I try to do the same thing in my verses. Gonzalo Rojas established an essential balance with his words. It is always on the edge of an abyss.”
For Eduardo Castillo, president of the Chilean Book Congress, Rojas’ death “is very sad news.”
“We have been very worried about his health for some time,” Castillo continued, “and he passed just today, which is symbolic since we are inaugurating the celebrations for the Day of the Book. We cannot forget that he has accompanied us in this same ceremony in previous years. We have lost one of our great poets.”
One of those closest to Rojas was poet Fabienne Bradu, who wrote Rojas’ biography. On learning of his death, Bradu said, “his existence is a huge contribution to Latin American poetry. Without him, there would be a huge hole in the contemporary horizon.”
Words of praise and sorrow from abroad
Some of the first condolences from abroad came from Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco, who said, “I believe he was one of the most important literati, someone very original, who was unlike anyone else, and who had an amazing ear for Spanish poetry. My relationship with Gonzalo Rojas is of total gratitude, for what he gave me with his poems and also for his friendship and support. Most poets don’t waste their time with the younger generation, as he did for me.”
Spaniard Fernando Valverde said the loss of Rojas has “orphaned Spanish language poetry.” Valverde, the director of the International Poetry Festival in Granada, added, “his first poems were some of the best texts that have been written in the history of literature.”
Director of the Instituto Cervantes, Carmen Caffarel, underscored his “nonconformism, his courage, and his search for new languages.” She said that Rojas “is one of the most recognized Chilean poets of the last century, following giants like Neruda, Huidobro or Mistral. He was a vanguard poet who flirted with surrealism, a master of the written word and a prolific creator of works that won great literary distinction. Gonzalo Rojas left us with a hole that will be very difficult to fill.”