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Romero Recognized for Lifelong Passion for Poetry

Prestigious journal devotes entire issue to renowned Latin American poet.

Date: 3/2/2012
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577

Armando Romero will tell you that writing is his life, and that’s no exaggeration. Last year marked the 50th anniversary since the then 17-year-old Colombian first had his poems published.

Romero, a Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures, left his native country in 1967 and has been living in the United States since 1979. The award-winning author has gone on to have dozens of literary and critical works published that have been translated into multiple languages.

Yet there are still new literary experiences, even for someone known as “the total writer” by Colombian intellectuals. Despite international acclaim, Romero has never had an entire literary journal dedicated to his writing – until now.
Armando Romero recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first published poems.

An illustrated portrait of Romero anchors the cover of the latest issue of Aleph, a prestigious Colombian journal. In fact, all 96 pages are devoted to him.

What’s it like to be recognized in this way by such an esteemed publication?
It’s an honor. The fact that they have me there is very important for me, very beautiful. I was surprised when they came with this idea. Not many times have they published an issue dedicated to a Colombian author who is alive. They have published issues in homage to Colombian or Latin American authors, but they were dead. And I am alive, so I was a little superstitious. They wanted a manuscript of one of my poems. Since I have been writing for so many years, I could have chosen from poems written in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. Instead I gave them one poem that I wrote last year because I want to feel alive. So I sent a poem that I never published.

How does this acknowledgment reflect on the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences?
One of my biggest objectives has been to put the college of arts and sciences and our department on the literary map in Latin America. I think I succeeded. Now many people talk about our program in Latin America. It’s very well known. Many important writers and scholars have been here in our program. I am very happy about that.

What makes creating Latin American poetry such an enriching experience?
In Latin America, in some ways the poet is a national figure. Nobel Prize poets like Gabriela Mistral or Pablo Neruda, they are really national heroes. It’s a little different here in the United States where people respect writers, but it’s not the same. In Latin America, they are in the heart of the people. You can’t go into a literary café and start talking bad about some writers because you will have a big problem. They really take it that seriously. Latin American poets belong to the people. When you are a good poet and you really touch the soul of the people, you are well-respected and loved.

How does it make you feel to be embraced by your readers?
I have been invited several times to the International Poetry Festival of Medellin (Colombia). It is amazing when you read your poetry and the stadium is completely full of people listening. You cannot believe it. You say, “Oh my God, there are 10,000 people there.” If you read a poem they love, the noise is incredible. It’s Latin America – we’re very passionate. And poetry is passion.
Aleph, a prestigious journal, has devoted an entire issue to Armando Romero.

What’s next for you?
I am working on a book that is very difficult to write. It’s a book of poems about the Aegean Sea. I had the opportunity to be close to the Greek world, and I spent a lot of time in the islands in the Aegean Sea. I am writing poems about the color of the Aegean Sea. It’s very complicated. It really needs a lot of concentration. To write 30 to 35 poems, it might take me four to five years. I really want to reach some lyric poetry that I consider worth something as absolutely beautiful and marvelous as the Aegean Sea.

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