Delfín Prats, an innocent word assembler?

At last the best of the forecasts that were launched on social networks every December since 2014 was fulfilled: Delfín Prats (1945) is the new National Literature Award.

The predictors before each edition of the contest were divided into three groups, namely: those who thought that this year would correspond to the poet from Holguin; those who believed that others should receive it before him; and those who, as Dauphin himself expressed more than once, were convinced that they would never grant it.

However, all shared a unanimous criterion: the author of To celebrate the rise of Icarus (1987) had gathered enough merits to be the recipient of an award that constitutes a “recognition (…) to the work of those writers who have enriched the legacy of Cuban culture in general and of its literature in particular with the contribution of a transcendent literary work”. Requirements that the poet meets, more than enough, word for word.

Delfín became known as a poet in 1968, when he won the David Award with the mythical collection of poems language of dumb. Beyond the intrinsic quality of the thirteen poems that make up the volume, its notoriety came from the fact that, once printed, it never reached readers.

A powerful and ignorant hand decided to remove it from the shelves of the bookstores, and until today it is not known for sure what was the fate of the print run. We will remember that this is the same year that they won the Uneac Heberto Padilla Award (Out of the game) and Anton Arrufat (The seven against Thebes), with two books that, although the institution itself considered that they departed from what should be the “revolutionary literature of the moment”, circulation was not prevented.

Delfín Prats, according to the critic and narrator Arturo Arango, was the first victim, among poets, of the fateful Quinquenio Gris. language of dumb It has, to date, four editions: the prince, from 1969, a true jewel for collectors, and those of Ediciones El Puente (1970), Ediciones Cuadernos Papiro (2011) and that of the Betania publishing house (2013).

Dolphin Prats. Photo: courtesy of Omar Sanz.

With his characteristic modesty, Delfín rejects the qualifications of writer and intellectual. However, is considered “a person who achieved twenty or thirty poems”, despite the fact that his unique work is a reference for the new generations of writers and is included in important anthologies carried out inside and outside the country.

According to him, the poet is nothing more than “an innocent assembler of words.” The tributes disturb him because they give him a visibility to which he has never gotten used to. His is a catastrophe-proof case of poetic vocation. In the most adverse conditions, both material and spiritual, he has never stopped creating. Poetry is one of his bodily fluids, a sine qua non of his own being, a vision of the world: a fatality, something that is going to emerge inexorably.

In addition to the cited volumes, so far his bibliography in the poetry genre is made up of: Five shipments to grove (Holguin Editions, 1991), open the constellations (Union Editions, 1994), amatory lyric (Holguin Editions, 1994), splendor and chaos (Editions Holguin 2002), Striptease and eclipse of souls. (Ed. The Light, 2006), temporary exile (Ed. Mantis Editores, 2009) and poetic work (Hypermedia, 2013).

Alejandro Querejeta, his compatriot, colleague and friend, has sent us this fragment of his unpublished memories:

“At the end of 1982 I started working at the Holguín Provincial Center of Medical Sciences (…). There I met Delfín Prats Pupo, whose friendship, sense of humor, enormous poetic talent and refined culture had a decisive influence on me. The landscape as something poetic, the subtle and sometimes stark eroticism, the juxtaposition of images, the transfer of meanings, the silences between verses and stanzas, and the understanding of the freedom that poetry could (and should) be exercised, were the lessons that I got from reading his poetry and many poems by other authors that thanks to Delfín Prats I read and enjoyed. Until then I had not met a poet with the firm conviction that poetry, even in the worst personal, social, cultural and political circumstances, was the only thing worth preserving”.

Delfín Prats, an innocent word assembler?
Dolphin Prats. Photo: courtesy of Omar Sanz.

The awarding of the National Prize for Literature to Delfín Prats has been received with jubilation among Cuban readers and writers. Someone on Facebook said, words more or less: “The National Prize for Literature has been awarded a Delfín Prats.” Fair evaluation, since it is the winners who give prestige and give hierarchy to the contests, and not the other way around.

It will follow a minimal poetic sample1 of this living classic of Cuban literature.

Georgian song

blonde vodka reminds me

Kolya’s hair his hands

long as ears of wheat

its oak or birch bark

Georgian white wine

your name my dance

in the mountains the body

of tamara spinning in the shadows

of the Kurá and the sexual waters of Borjomi

the dark wine of Georgia all

the magic of your skin your eyes

open like wells your hands

like black sheets of fear

and the mountain of your sex

(this abyss knows you knows you

for him you have slipped and you resist

stand up like a demon)

(this tavern reminds you

that bar touched you

in the ferment of sour bottles)

let the drunkenness be so brief

that we feel thirsty when we wake up

and waking up let’s hear

the bartender’s brutal sentence:

“There is no liquor that drowns desires”


there is a place called humanity

a humid forest after the storm

where the sun leaves the noisy colors of combat

a fountain a stream one open morning from the town

that goes to the field mounted on a donkey

There is a different love, a face that looks at us closely

ask about the new season of planting

and invents a different season for singing

a need to do all things again

even the simplest

wash in the morning rock the child when he cries

or nail down grandpa’s box

smile when someone asks us

the reason for summer poverty and without speaking

march into the woods for firewood to stoke the fire

there is a place serene and recovered and sweet place

language of mutes

always us in a hurry dressing gropingly

caressing our skin entering our fearsome truth

shaving eating calculating dates

the approach of the new year

a possible trip to Varadero with friends

frightened in front of the empty mirror

before the possibility that someone surprises us

(painfully wishing someone would surprise us)

in this relentless battle against adolescence that abandons us

(also accomplices of adolescents

foolproof fixers of their most subversive intentions

in the evident secrecy of their manes

—letting our hair grow as well—

friends ad nauseam of their signs of their speeches between fingers

looking at us in the unconditional blue of their shirts

in the presence of their santajuana necklaces

and their amulets of polished wood and coconut shell

identifying with them) we let out our speeches

our endless sentences that will not repeat

sheltered behind the only possible language for now:

the learned eloquence of gestures

the plain-sight frustration of their imported ways and stances

language of the dumb that does not belong to them

always us taking the bus across the city and fear

Through the city and fear our lungs full of nicotine

rubbing wax on our face

as if it weren’t possible to linger a little longer in the bathroom

continue reading the book we interrupted last night

write to mother

  1. The poems were taken from Delfín Prats, Poetic Work 1968-2013Ed. Hypermedia.

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