Monday, April 27, 2020

Ernesto Cardenal*

Ernesto Cardenal (1925―2020) is a Nicaraguan poet, priest, and political revolutionary. In 1966 Cardenal founded a religious community on Mancarrón Island in Lake Nicaragua. He led literacy and poetry workshops among the peasant farmers and fishermen, who became well known for their paintings and tapestries.

He supported the Sandinista rebels in the 1970s in their opposition to Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, and was forced to flee to Costa Rica in 1977. He later served as Minister of Culture from 1979 to 1987 as part of the new Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

In 1984 he was suspended from the priesthood by the Catholic church, after he had been rebuked in person by Pope John Paul II the previous year. In February of 2019 Pope Francis lifted the ban on Cardenal practising as a priest, saying he was “absolved of all canonical censure”. Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1st of this year.

The following poem is from Apocalypse: And Other Poems (New Directions, 1977), and is translated by Robert Pring-Mill.

Behind the Monastery

Behind the monastery, down the road,
there is a cemetery of worn-out things
where lie smashed china, rusty metal,
cracked pipes and twisted bits of wire,
empty cigarette packs, sawdust,
corrugated iron, old plastic, tires beyond repair:
all waiting for the Resurrection, like ourselves.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ernesto Cardenal: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.