Leading Latin American poet Ernesto Cardenal is also an ordained Roman Catholic priest and an avowed Christian-Marxist. After his ordination in 1965, he moved to the island of Mancarrón on Lake Nicaragua, where he founded a Christian-Marxist commune called Our Lady of Solentiname. There he began preaching his revolutionary form of Pauline Christianity, which aims to cultivate a distinctly Christian sociopolitical awareness. In this way, Our Lady of Solentiname is linked to the larger Latin American Christian movement, concietización, to which Cardenal contributes his advocacy of Christian liberation theology and social justice. Both ideas pervade Apocalypse, and Other Poems, a selection of English translations from Cardenal’s major short poems from the late 1940’s to 1973.
The poetry in Apocalypse, and Other Poems enacts many of Cardenal’s major Christian themes, including resurrection, renunciation, love, and justice. Certainly his interpretations of such themes are informed by his Marxist politics, but one must remember that the practice of Marxism and the practice of Christianity are equivalent for Cardenal. Thus, his remonstrations against political corruption and murder, for example, are exegetic articulations of the sins of humankind, and the poems ultimately transmit to the reader a sense of Cardenal’s belief in God’s love as transformational and transcendent. In other words, just as Jesus is able to heal because he loves, so might these poems aspire to similar achievement.
Likewise, if one accepts the notion from Augustinian Christianity of sin as a form of absence, then Apocalypse, and Other Poems is a profoundly Roman Catholic book. More specifically, Cardenal repeatedly explores the catastrophic consequences of God’s absence from the lives of people, and nowhere is this more clear than in the book’s title poem, “Apocalypse,” a free-verse, bleak, and violent depiction of nuclear winter as the consequence of humankind’s failure to live through God’s love and teachings. However, with typical resilience of spirit, Cardenal concludes the poem on a magisterial note by prophesying humanity’s replacement: a gloriously new, spiritually unified being made of humans but definitively improved.
Like “Apocalypse,” Cardenal’s epigrams...
(The entire section is 956 words.)