St Martin’s poet’s English/Spanish book represents Caribbean Literature in Venezuela

A university student smiles while Rodríguez signs her copy of Pelican Heart/Corazón de pelícano, an English-Spanish anthology of poems by Lasana Sekou, in Mérida, Venezuela. (Cristina Gutiérrez photo)

Representing what is new or canonical in Caribbean Literature is probably getting more difficult as the region’s national literature continues to produce more writers within the various countries and territories.

But independent Cuban scholar Emilio Jorge Rodríguez recently went to one of Venezuela’s prestigious universities to do just that.

I was invited to give lectures during two weeks in October to the Master of Arts program on Ibero-American Literature, headed by Professor Arnaldo Valero at the Instituto de Investigaciones Literarias Gonzalo Picón Febres, of the Universidad de los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela,” said Rodríguez on Sunday.

As my last lecture in Mérida was about Lasana M. Sekou, they decided to launch Corazón de pelícano” on October 14, said Rodriguez.

And that is how the St. Martin book Pelican Heart – An Anthology of Poems by Lasana M. Sekou/ Corazón de pelícano – Antología poética de Lasana M. Sekou was launched as a contemporary example of Caribbean Literature at the University of the Andes (ULA).

In addition to the copies bought by students and other guests, review copies of the book was “presented to professors and researchers at ULA who would make use of it in the classroom and in their studies of Caribbean and Latin American literatures,” said Rodríguez.

A book signing for Pelican Heart was held in St. Martin last February at the Jubilee Library as part of the Tribute to the Great Salt Pond concert by Sekou (poetry) and Nicole de Weever (dance).

ULA is the second-oldest university in Venezuela, dating back to 1810; and ranks among “the top 30 research institutions in Latin America.” (

The ULA request for the Pelican Heart launch allowed Rodríguez to continue his introduction of the St. Martin author to Hispanic audiences.

Rodríguez is the editor of Pelican Heart/Corazón de pelícano (HNP, 2010), in which all of the poems are translated to Spanish by Maria Teresa Ortega from the original English. The editor wrote the critical introduction to the 432-page book. There’s an extensive bibliography by the editor and the poet explaining a number of words, terms, symbols, names, dates, and language fragments in the poems.

At the ULA lectures Rodríguez focused critically on performance poetry and what he terms the “oraliture” {EDITOR’S NOTE: Akin to Griot} of a region that has produced a stellar number of world-class authors, across its different language zones, in a short historical period, and in a relatively very small geographic space.

Rodríguez included video clips of writers, poets, and storytellers he discussed as central to the graduate class theme: Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados), Linton Kwesi Johnson (UK), Mutabaruka (Jamaica), Paul Keens-Douglas (Trinidad & Tobago), Louise Bennett (Jamaica), Elis Juliana (Curacao), Mikey Smith (Jamaica), and Sekou (St. Martin).

The Pelican Heart collection, which Italian literary critic Dr. Sara Florian calls “an election” of Sekou’s poems from 1978 to 2010, has been previously launched with critical introductions in Barbados, Cuba, and Mexico.

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