Ernesto Cardenal in Denver (via Bardstown, Kentucky)

I will be celebrating Earth Day in Denver this year with Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal, “Latin America’s greatest living poet”.

And he has Kentucky connections, which are always good to celebrate. Cardenal was a close friend of Thomas Merton monk -poet and lived in Kentucky for several years as a Trappist monk at Gethsemani.

He will be reading from his book The Origin of Species and Other Poems. The title and focus on Darwin’s theory intrigues me. Evolutionary theories, as a way of thinking about the world, have infiltrated so many disciplines. Since I’ve been listening to lectures on ecocriticism, I’m primed for a poetic meditation on this theory of our time.

I’ve been reading from another of Cardenal’s books, Apocalypse and other poems. Ernesto Cardenal poetry moves me and stops me in place, opens me up to the moment of being alive, of what it is to be living now. His PRAYER FOR MARYLIN MONROE is scathing and tender. EPIGRAMS begins with an epigraph from Catullus and recalls that poets mix of love poems and hilarious invectives. In COPLAS ON THE DEATH OF MERTON, the poet laments the passing of his friend and perhaps of a certain era:

But in this life we love only briefly
and feebly
   We love or exist only when we stop being
when we die
   nakedness of the whole being in order to make love
        make love not war
     that go to empty into the love
     that is life

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