Gustavo Pereira: “Bureaucracy is the Enemy of Poetry”

Venezuelan poet and writer of the preamble to the 1999 Consitution, Gustavo Pereira, discusses bureaucracy, the role of the people, and the nature of poetry in Venezuela.


“The more checkpoints in the road, the more corruption there will be,” said the author of The ‘Four Horizons of the Sky and Other Poems’. Also the writer of the preamble to the Bolivarian constitution, he insisted that charges be brought against public sector workers who hinder the civil service.

“Inspiration is the lazy person’s pretext,” stated the writer Gustavo Pereira, winner of the Victor Valera Mora International Poetry Prize, with regards to the stereotype which characterises writers. The author believes that artistic motivation “is created through work, discipline and reading”. In addition, he pointed out that these archetypes are power devices, as poetry is “a rash” which has had the audacity to “ridicule those in power”.

The anthology ‘The Four Horizons of the Sky and Other Poems’ by Pereira was premiered yesterday evening in a ceremony held at the Romulo Gallegos Foundation Centre for Latin American Studies (CELARG). “Each poet takes up a position in life, that doesn’t mean that poetry will takes a position, since it’s not at the service of a small sector,” he said.

His anthology was judged in this literary tournament among more than a hundred works from all different origins, which were evaluated by a team of judges made up of; Venezuelan writer, Judith Gerendas, the German intellectual Tobias Burghardt, and the Grenadian writer of the previous edition, Jotamario Arbeláez. 

“It is a work of great maturity, of linguistic richness, a unified spirit, which demonstrates a poet capable of tremendous epiphanies, such as the poetic invention of the Solaris – an inspirational and illuminating genre within the field of universal poetry – that transcends the merely aesthetic with a humanist attitude, deep wisdom and hints of eroticism and irony,” was part of the verdict delivered by the jury that examined the work of the writer from Nueva Esparta.

Incalculable Value

The poet emphasised that,  “It hasn’t been possible to convert poetry into merchandise; it is obvious that it is not part of a market exchange of goods and services”. “You can’t put a price” on these creations, “they wouldn’t be of much use,” he said satirically. He stressed that it wasn’t “necessarily like that”, since they have “a permanent place in the sensitive consciousness of human beings”.

An example which Pereira used to illustrate the constant presence of poetry within the “sensitive consciousness” of human beings was the discovery of a megalithic tomb in which the corpse of a young girl holding a bouquet of flowers over her remains, which remained throughout time. “That is a poetic act”, he said. He commented that these actions belong to “all that the human being does which goes beyond the animal brain”.

The author of “The Four Horizons of the Sky and Other Poems” imagines that original man started to develop a “poetic feeling” upon becoming aware of his own mortality and of being “something transitory”. “From that an emotion is born, which generates poetry from its meeting with the philosophical.”

He emphasised that for a poet, “it’s not easy to separate yourself from the reality that you live.” Here is the space which these creations share with the “primal feelings that come out of intimacy”.

The author considered poetry which is dedicated to a loved one, but also other poetry that prompts “protest and indignation”. In the first case, an idealised or impossible love is adopted, adorned with pretty words, but which “ends up being a kind of marshmallow thing that no intelligent women of our time would accept” (laughs).

On the other hand, he highlighted that poetry which “separates itself from its lived reality”, such as the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, a work characterised by a “vengeance which transcends the personal and becomes a collective document”.

What is the future of the new generation that believes in poetry?

Those who are poets will continue, those who are not should desert, because it’s a discipline which requires training. It is a long road and one is always learning. One discovers that we commit more acts of stupidity, and we discover our own acts of stupidity or that acts of stupidity are committed upon acts of stupidity. Those who accept that poetry is a destiny are those who are going to be the poets. There are those who are born with an exceptional talent and in the first few years they write great poems, whilst there are others who die and leave behind an extraordinary piece of work.

Concluding his reflections on creativity, Pereira contrasted the differences between European poetry and Latin American – “It’s obvious that the realities are not the same”.

The writer explained that in our context poets “have a life of deprivation”, that for him is nothing more than a “chosen poverty”. “Nobody who makes poetry their reason for living is going to claim to be able to maintain themselves, you must have another trade as well”.

He emphasised the multi-ethnic and multicultural value of the Latin American people, “We inherited from our ancestors a connection with nature that unites us with her”.

On the other hand, the author criticises those who deny the relationship between poetry and political reality: “that is in order to discredit commitment”.

As argumentation, he highlighted political works such as that of Dante Alighieri, creations such as España, not counting “Spain, Take this Chalice from me” by Peruvian Cesar Vallejo, or “General Franco in Hell” by Chilean Pablo Neruda, in the “Third Estate”. “All the great poets have been affected, all become affected.”

Against Poetry

“Bureaucracy is the enemy of poetry,” Gustavo Pereira stated upon considering the natural opposites of this literary creation. “All of us have always had the hope that it will keep progressively disappearing as popular power becomes more palpable and more systemic”.

“Each day, a new roadblock is created by a new bureaucrat, with the pretext of preventing corruption…the more checkpoints there are in the road, the more corruption there will be” he continued.

“The truth is always revolutionary, said Ernesto “Che” Guevara,” recalls Pereira, on relating that every sensitive being has the right to express themselves. “I have seen something that filled me with astonishment. Since the nationalisation of the cement factory in Pertigalete, all the chimneys contaminate the Guanta and Chorerón valley (Anzoategui state). It is a population with the highest rate of respiratory diseases and now we are going to allow that they keep poisoning the people and the leaves on the trees. That is revolutionary?” questioned the poet. “I can’t keep that truth to myself, I see it every day and I defend my right to say it.”

Pereira indicated that the bureaucratic inefficiency which thrived in the socialist countries of the past runs contrary to the idea of making the lives of human beings easier. Like what happens with medical certificates. “I decided not to get one. It isn’t right that you have to queue up all night in order to get one of the 50 numbered tickets that are distributed in one of the two outpatient departments. Isn’t that advocating corruption amongst the transit agents?” he said.

The author of the preamble of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s constitution called for everyone to show good sense. “When president Hugo Chavez talks of inefficiency in the interviews with José Vicente Rangel, it is only one man, only one heart and he can’t be in all places like the Holy Spirit…Consequently, if we don’t make this a collective matter and empower our people, we are going to end up surrounded by bureaucrats who are going to slow down fundamental matters.”

What are the weapons that the Venezuelan people have to confront bureaucratic inefficiency?

“[There’s] the social accountancy office, to say things and denounce the civil servants who hinder public administration, who far from solving a problem, put obstacles in the way. President Chavez was talking about sectarianism and all those faults which harm revolutions, which render them unnatural. Let’s go back to culture, as they are cultural problems. Culture is the foundation of revolutions.”

“Being a Judge is Not a Pleasant Job”

The writer from Nueva Esparta, Gustavo Pereira, recalled that he participated as a judge in the first edition of the Victor Valera Mora International Poetry Prize and concluded that this was “not a pleasant job”.

“You have to read a tonne of books” he remembered. In addition he pointed out that when 10-15 good books are chosen “you have to decide in favour of one”.

He remembered times of camaraderie with the colleague whom the award is named after, affectionately called “the Chinese man”, with whom he shared “ideals and parties”. “We were united by many things”.

When Pereira directed the Simbolo magazine, one of Valera’s first poems was published. His poems were then published “in his first book, the Righteous Soldier’s Song”.

Speaking on the content of ‘The Four Horizons of the Sky and Other Poems’, which won Pereira the prize, he said that he had dedicated a poem to many of his friends who had died.

Amongst those he cited were, Alfredo Maneiro, José “Pepe” Barroeta and Argenis Daza Guevara. Amongst those who are still alive, he mentioned Luis Alberto Crespo and William Osuna, “there are several fraternal comrades and kindred spirits”.

Neither Piracy, nor Inefficiency Are Revolutionary

“Poetry is a public service,” Gustavo Pereira explained, winner of the third edition of the Victor Valera Mora International Poetry Prize.

“There has to an issue of hurting, and one has to be where you believe you can help out,” he commented, in reference to his participation in the Federal Governmental Council, which he had previously declined to attend. “Improvisation and disorder make me really indignant. Neither piracy, nor inefficiency have anything to do with the Revolution, those are not revolutionary qualities,” he emphasised, whilst pointing out that improvisation was only justifiable during times of war.

“If we have time to plan, if we tarmac a road, why are there holes in it afterwards?” he asked.

Pereira also criticised the bureaucrats who fight for positions in order to “serve themselves” as opposed to serve.

A Protagonist People

“This revolution did something extraordinary, it made those who were invisible, visible,” emphasised the poet, Gustavo Pereira, about the palpable achievements in social consciousness.

“They want to be protagonists of their own destiny,” he said, in relation to the people’s need to express and make known their view of the country’s reality.

The writer considered it “necessary to get organised” and to tell the truth. “Each one of us has to contribute so that that truth becomes a palpable and coherent substance…the true revolutionaries are those who do not look for anything, they are those who give,” he added.

What can the average citizen give to the process?

They are the revolution. It’s having the consciousness that they are the revolution, and acting as such. 

Translation by Venezuelanalysis.com