Pedro Blas Julio Romero is one of the best-known and beloved poets writing in Colombia today. Truly “un poeta popular,” his poems are on plaques along the streets of Cartagena, and people shout his name when his walks by. A poet of history, myth, and memory, he weds surrealism and Negritude to create a confounding poetics commensurate with the complexities, contradictions, and aspirations of the poor black neighborhood of his youth, Getsemaní. Blas is the author of four volumes of poetry: Cartas del soldado desconocido (Letters from an Unknown Soldier), 1971, Poemas de calle Lomba (Poems from Lomba Street), 1988, and Rumbos (Routes), 1993, that won the National Prize for Poetry, “Jorge Artel,” and helped to cement Blas’ place in Colombian literature. Also, Obra Poética (Poetic Works), 2009, a compendium of the previous three volumes, is included in La Biblioteca de Literatura Afrocolombiana (the Afro-Colombian Library): a nineteen-volume collection of literary works by Colombia’s most noted black writers. Steeped in the rhythms and gestures of Afro-Colombian and Amerindian expressive culture, Blas often reads his poetry accompanied by a jazz band. Dense in imagery, often disorienting, yet rhythmic and melodic, his is a tactile poetry of accumulation, overflow, and excess, resulting in dynamic portraits of Afro-Colombian and African diasporic life more broadly.
This conversation will feature the discussant, Nohora A. Arrieta Fernández, a PhD candidate at Georgetown University, a ACLS/Mellon Dissertation fellow, and a Research Associate at the Afro-Latin American Institute (Harvard University), and be moderated by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Director of the Center of Race at the University of Notre Dame and Alison Rice, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and the Chair of the Romance Languages Department at the University of Notre Dame.
Nohora A. Arrieta Fernández is a PhD candidate at Georgetown University, a ACLS/Mellon Dissertation fellow, and a Research Associate at the Afro-Latin American Institute (Harvard University). Her primary research interests are Latin American literature and cultural studies, post-colonial theory, visual culture, and the studies of the African Diaspora. Nohora is a former Fulbright Fellow (2014-2016). Before entering the doctoral program at Georgetown, she had a long tenure as an editorial assistant at Literatura, Teoría, Crítica (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), and Biblioteca de Autores Afrocolombianos. Currently, she is editing and co-translating with professor Mark Sanders the poetry of Afro-Colombian poets Romulo Bustos and Pedro Blas Julio, and co-editing a coming issue of Transition Magazine (Hutchins Center at Harvard) about black arts in Brazil.
Alison Rice is Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Notre Dame. She specializes in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature and film. Her first book, Time Signatures: Contextualizing Contemporary Francophone Autobiographical Writing from the Maghreb (Lexington Books 2006), closely examines the work of Hélène Cixous, Assia Djebar, and Abdelkébir Khatibi. Her second book, Polygraphies: Francophone Women Writing Algeria (University of Virginia Press, 2012), focuses on autobiographical writings by seven prominent Francophone women writers from Algeria. She is the editor of a forthcoming volume titled Transpositions: Migration, Translation, Music (Liverpool University Press, 2021) that explores a wide range of innovations in Francophone film, literature, theater, and art. Her current book project, inspired by a series of filmed interviews she conducted in Paris, constitutes an in-depth examination of the present proliferation of women writers of French from around the world.
Mark A. Sanders is Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he specializes in twentieth-century and contemporary American, African American, and Afro-Latin American literature and culture. Currently, he is editing and co-translating, with Nohora A. Arrieta Fernández, the poetry of Afro-Colombian poets Romulo Bustos and Pedro Blas Julio Romero.
Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Global Middle East and North Africa is a bi-annual symposium and lecture series that focuses on the study of literatures that have been shaped by histories of territorial and linguistic politics, colonialism, military domination and gross human rights violations. The initiative grapples with the constructed nature of history; reimagines American and global history from the position of suppressed voices; and examines how minoritized writers and scholars have historically innovated literary production and theory in the process of responding to systemic violence.
We dedicate this series to all of the people around the world whose lives have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and who have long battled the social, spiritual, physical, and material injustices that the pandemic has further exacerbated. It is our hope that these conversations will be a small source of light and solidarity through the double pandemic of racism and COVID.
Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is co-sponsored by the College of Arts & Letters, the Keough School of Global Affairs and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
Kroc Institute faculty members Asher Kaufman, Ebrahim Moosa, Atalia Omer, and Ernesto Verdeja also serve on the advisory board for the series. In addition, the advisory board includes College of Arts and Letters faculty members Alison Rice, Perin Gürel, La Donna Forsgren, Olivier Morel, Ernest Morrell, and Mark Sanders. This initiative would not have been possible without the contributions of advisory board member Chana Morgenstern, Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle Eastern Literatures, Faculty of English, Cambridge University.