Thursday, October 29, 2015

Angel Cuadra: imprisoned for 14 years for writing poetry

In Brief
Angel Cuadra
The common man I might have been
reproaches me now,
blaming me for his ostracism
his solitary shadow
his silent exile,
I put my common man and the other man together.
I took the latter's hand and moved away,
as if to honour my brilliant friend,
my wished-for double,
my important, chosen self.
And the common man I told
to shut the door behind him,
to be quiet behind the panes,
or rather, to give up his place in the window
and, if, possible, to wipe away his image with a cloth.
Time passed in its hurried way,
planetary time that is,
or simply,
the time spent on the road.
I have retraced my footsteps now-
with my own other self-
not sure if I am proud or sad.
It has rained on my face,
many nights have fallen.
Above the dust only one cold star
that seems like dust itself, like the mute dust
I brought back with me.
And I find my common man still there, where I left him,
the one I denied, the unimportant man I might have been;
and in his eyes of exile I can see
a stupor of sand and time and emptiness.
I look then at the other, the important man,
the one I chose to be.
I put my common man and the other man together...
and find they are one and the same.

17 March 1978
translation by Katherine Rodriguez Nieto

Angel Cuadra was born in Havana in 1931 and started composing poetry aged eight. 
After graduating in Law from the University of Havana in 1956, he joined various anti-Batista organizations. He was a supporter and associate of  Fidel Castro and after the 1959 Cuban revolution was a spokesman for the Cuban government. His poems were published in national newspapers and a collection of poems was printed.
However, Cuadra  became disillusioned with Castro’s Cuba and in April 1967 he was arrested and charged with being an ‘enemy of and spreading propaganda about the People’s Government'.
Cuadra was sentenced to death but was spared the death penalty due to the ‘lack of proof’ of his guilt. The sentence was commuted  to fifteen years hard labour. Released in 1976, he was forbidden to write poems. Cuadra was re-arrested in 1977 after smuggling poetry out of Cuba and sent back to prison to serve out his original sentence as punishment. 
Cuadra was released in 1982 and went into exile in Miami where he continues to write poetry and is an international jurist concerned with political prisoners.
In 1988 he received an award from the government of Spain for his poetry and in 1990 received special recognition for his poetry from President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia. 

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