Press enter after choosing selection

Artist Profile Series: Edgar Galeano Dominguez

Artist Profile Series: Edgar Galeano Dominguez image Artist Profile Series: Edgar Galeano Dominguez image
Parent Issue
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By
Agenda Publications
OCR Text

It is a rare treasure to find an art which takes sides: life against death; poetry against violence; outrage against silence. It is rarer still, to find words of protest fitted together with eloquence. Ann Arbor writer Edgar Galeano Domínguez has produced both treasures in his newest book, "Elegy," a collection of 54 poems in Spanish and English, translated by Adrián Dokmecian and printed by Palladium Communications, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lou Hillman: You've been here in Ann Arbor for three years now. Are you still in exile from Paraguay? Edgar Galeano: No. I lived as a political refugeein the United States from 1988 to 1993. Then I received amnesty in 1993 and I went back to my country. I spent about nine months with my family, then I moved to Argentina to work. In 1994, I decided to come back to Ann Arbor because I had some opportuniües here. I met my publisher and we were planning to publish another book, a Guarani-English dictionary. Guarani is my native language. It's an Indian language and we don 't have a dictionary yet. Then things started to go wrong at the publisher and we couldn't finish that work, but we did publish "Elegy." L.H.: And thisis book number seven? E.G.: This is number seven, but I started writing it 13 years ago. I never thought I would publish it at this time, because an elegy is a very sad subject - it is about death. But I showed a few manuscripts of the book to people here in Ann Arbor and all of them agreed it should be published. L.H.: Why did you focus on the images and feelings of death? E.G.: Well, that is a very easy question to answer. I grew up under a system of dictatorship and I saw so many people die. I saw people dying in front of me, I saw people shooting each other, I saw the army killing the Indians, which is still going on in South America. That is why I write these things. Because the Indians prefer to die than to gi ve their land to the white people, to the government that is destroying their habitat. Do you know the opera "El Guarani"? It is a famous opera performed by Placido Domingo, written by Carlos Gomes. It can give you some ideas about the Guarani tribe in Brazil. It is a story written in Italian and it might help you to understand the Guarani culture. For the last ten years in Brazil, the Guarani Indians have been committing suicide en masse because the Brazilian people have been cutting down the forests and taking their habitat. There has been some news about that on the Internet, but there is very little information getting out These are the people I grew up with. During the last dictatorship, you were not allowed to speak Guarani in public, it was considerad a subversive language. All of the chapters of my book are titled in Guarani. L.H.: The last sentence of your book is "Adios." Do you feel that with this book you're stepping away from that death? E.G.: No. That was because when I wrote this book I thought I would publish it at the end of my life. My translator insisted on translating the book into English - before any of his other books - because he liked it. L.H.: At times in the book, the narrator is the demon of death saying, "Look at all this blood, this war, this terrible, awful thing you will experience because of me." Do you find your writing is a way to relate to the mythologies or religions or spiritualities you grew up with? E.G.: Nothing like that. It is a social protest against what is going on in the Third World countries, against the Indians, against the native people. If I write in Spanish and use metaphors like that, it will be clear to some people and not to others. But the reason I wrote it is because I am tired of the injustice that I see all around me every where I go, including the United States at this moment, and I decided to put my voice against that. Maybe I can not stop it, but I write as a contribution to humankind. That's all I can say. L.H.: In the second to last poem, I get the sense that writing is a comforting activity to you. E.G.: Well, I feel that writing is feeling my soul. It's the most important thing for me. It's not because I just need to write, it's like food for my soul. You know, I could' ve chosen another profession, but I' ve ne ver found any other way to feed my soul. (SEE NEXT PAGE) My grandfather used to read (Hans Christian) Anderson to me by candlelight (we didn't have electricity in that part of the country) and I said to him, "I can write a better story than that." And he said, "Why don't you start now?" And I told him, "I'm already doing that." I was seven years old. He was a writer and he died four or fi ve years ago, leaving one book publishedand lOunpublished. L.H.: So, how does writing about death help your soul? E.G.: Well, it's death related to other things. It's death related to war, to black marketing, to weapons-dealing and to narco-trafficking. It's not just talking about death, it's also the people who represent justice in South America and the U.S. They really don't represent anything. It's criticizing the way of living, maybe, in order to make living better. When I wrote, "That I was a madman, because I thought I found the mane of fire in poetry J And what I sought was neither poetry nor fire, but some invincible hands that long to discover hope" - my hope is the hope to be alive and poetry is the only weapon I can find. L.H.: . . . and is that also your madness? E.G.: That is a metaphor. To find hope is to find the reason to be alive. Why do I want to be a part of this humankind if I hate them so much? That is why I startcd writing, poejry specifically. I had to find out why I want to be a part of these people I hate because they are unfair with me, with everybody and with each other. So I was thinking about these invincible hands that will help me find hope. ■


Old News