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Colombia: Armando Orozco Tovar, life and poetry

The special columnist for The Prisma was a Bogotan originally from the Chocoano region, a direct descendent of Jorge Isaacs, and was married to María Isabel García-Mayorca, born in Guamal (Magdalena), from Samaria lineage, the great-granddaughter of General Joaquin Riascos, and also a poet.


armando orozco 1José Luis Díaz-Granados


He passed away on the 25th January in Bogota, at the age of 73. He was a poet, painter, journalist, and professor. Orozco Tovar fulfilled his poetic destiny, possessed by a furious desire to turn the luminous angel that writhed inside his soul into words.

His poetry, like his life, was accidental and beautiful; a few months ago marked 50 years both of daily literary activity and of loving union with Isabel, where the battle with verse was a permanent challenge, as was the battle with a society debased by greed and desperation.

Like the vast majority of poets, Armando Orozco Tovar survived each day working jobs similar to his creative pursuit: journalist, university professor, and political activist. From a worker in a glass factory in Marianao, Cuba, where he lived with his family for five years and obtained his degree in Journalism from the University of Havana, to editor in chief of the magazine Margen Izquierda.

He was also a long-term collaborator of the weekly paper, Voz (Voice), in Bogota, and ended up briefly running as candidate for the House of Representatives for Boyacá in 1966.

He never freed his body or soul, and even less so his pen from what Neruda called “The Poet’s Obligation”, that is, the relentless struggle to achieve a more rational and just society than the comedy of errors in which we currently live.

By the time he published his first book of poetry, “Asumir el tiempo” (1980), he had already been receiving important literary awards for ten years, such as the David Prize in Havana, and the prize for New Poetry in the Second Havana Biennal, also in the Cuban capital.

Armando orozco-Jose Luis Diaz granados
Jose Luis Diaz Granados and Armando Orozco Tovar

Written with drops of rum and tears, through the turmoil of a Comrade dying or of a love reunited, and formed by the supreme ideals of his existence, this wonderful book contains 20 years of poetic work, from 1960 – 1980.

Orozco manages to present a collection of new expressions “with the charm of a poetry that is unpretentious”, to quote Luis Vidales, writer of the book’s prologue, “conversational, with familiar tones, a far cry from the grandiloquent resonance of the old schools of versification so loved by past generations…”

Later on, Orozco published “Las cosas en su sitio” (1983), “Eso es todo” (1985), “Para llamar a las sombras” (1994), “Visiones” (1999), “Del sonámbulo imaginado” (2004), and “Radar del azar” (2010).

Over more than a decade, he wrote various entertaining memoirs in the style of weekly stories, under the name “Notas amargas” (“Bitter notes”, a parady of “Bitter Drops” by José Asunción Silva). He also began writing an ambitious and brilliant autobiographical novel that went unfinished – but not untitled so as not to worry Isabel-, anytime he found moments of respite from putting food on the table, the ghosts of a departing country, and bohemian life.

jose-martinelli-fuego-miedo-oscuridad-noche-pixabayHis most recent books reveal a more refined side of his poetry, where he owns his vitality through a serene and reflexive poesy.

“It’s good revolutionary poetry”, stated Ernesto Cardenal, the Nicaraguan priest and poet, where Orozco Tovar recreates the issues of our time through his verses, and transforms this dreadful present reality into precious stones of hope.

His poetry lives on in his love for Isabel, and their three children: Alejandra, María Fernanda and Camilo Ernesto, and their grandchildren Pavel and Manuel.

Armando was a man of the left and a first rate poet of my generation with no name. I am sure that a sponsor or cultural institution will edit the entirety of his books (or a vast poetic anthology), which is a legacy of national, Latin-American, and Caribbean literature.
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn)

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