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Authors of the Month: Tina Datsko de Sánchez and José Sánchez-H.

Published: May 1, 2014

The Delirium of Simón Bolívar

Tina Datsko de Sánchez with Spanish translation by José Sánchez-H., Film and Electronic Arts

Appearing in 2014 in a bilingual edition, The Delirium of Simón Bolívar is a joint publication of Floricanto Press and Berkeley Press. When Datsko de Sánchez wrote her poetry collection, she never imagined it would take 22 years to find a publisher. “I received a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts in 1984,” said Datsko de Sánchez. “It was to research and write a poetry collection exploring the life of the 19th Century revolutionary Simón Bolívar. I traveled to Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru with my creative partner who is now also my husband, José Sánchez-H., to visit historical sites related to Bolívar’s life.” While living in Venezuela as a teenager, Datsko de Sánchez had visited Bolívar’s birthplace and was appalled by the omission of this visionary leader from the history taught in U.S. schools. The experience inspired her to write this collection of poems, which won the Phi Kappa Phi Award at the University of Southern California. Sánchez-H. said, “What made it challenging to find a publisher is that most people don’t know who Simón Bolívar is. To understand Latin America requires understanding its history. This is a big part of that history.” Datsko de Sánchez, who in 2012 was named Poet in Residence at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, credited her supporters for the book’s eventual publication. “It was the encouragement of our collaborators and other artists, such as Bolivian pioneer filmmaker Jorge Ruiz and reknowned Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés, that kept the project going,” Datsko de Sánchez said. “One thing I learned is never give up.” In the interim, the pair began making spoken-word films of the poetry. The films represent a broad collaboration of artists within CSULB’s College of the Arts, including the films’ direction by Sánchez-H. Art’s Domenic Cretara created original drawings and paintings while Jorge Hurtado, Lead Art Director, New Media at CSULB, created designs. James Steven Manseau Sauceda, Director of the Multi-Cultural Center at CSULB, performs. Two of the films aired on the Sundance Channel and one of them won the Audience Award for “Best Short Film” at the Ibero-American Film Festival of Montreal. With the success of the films, the team expanded its collaboration to the book, with Cretara creating original art including a painting for the cover and Hurtado designing illustrations and the book’s cover. “Translating poetry is always a challenge. But one of the benefits in this case was the help of the poet,” said Sánchez-H. “We went through every poem line by line. I would ask, ‘Is this what you mean?’ Then I would find the right words. It was extremely helpful to have the poet’s help.” Sánchez-H. believes the book and films complement each other. “Each form offers a different way to experience the life of Bolívar,” he explained. “Because the film experience is so rich, the viewer might want to read the poem again. By watching the images, you gain new insight into the words.” Academy Award nominee for Best Actor (“Stand and Deliver”), Edward James Olmos, in his foreword to The Delirium of Simón Bolívar, wrote, “Melding metaphor, philosophy and the music of language, the book weaves

Tina Datsko de Sánchez and José Sánchez-H.

together highlights of Bolívar’s life story and gives readers a unique way to imagine and experience history.” José Rivera, Academy Award nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), wrote, “Beautifully exploring the theme that ‘only those who see the invisible can do the impossible,’ this exciting, lucid, and often heartbreaking collection of poems tracks the life and consciousness of the great liberator Simón Bolívar. There are poems that tell us how how he was loved, what freedom means in today´s Latin America, how he felt as he contemplated death and exile, and much, much more. Looking at this towering figure from countless separate angles and through countless lenses, we begin to understand the man who sought ‘to challenge / like Don Quixote / what all believe they see.’ A must read.” One reason for this broad appeal is Bolívar’s character. Both author and translator see their subject as a tremendous visionary. “He could see a world that didn’t exist at all,” said Datsko de Sánchez. “He saw the possibility for a new society and government. His progressive contributions include abolishing slavery in Venezuela in 1816, ending the feudal servitude of the indigenous population, and establishing public education. When people heard him speak, his vision became contagious.” Sánchez-H. is the author of The Art and Politics of Bolivian Cinema? His co-authored screenplay La Paz won “Best Feature Screenplay” at the Moondance International Film Festival. He holds a Ph.D. in speech, communication and theatre (radio, TV and film) from the University of Michigan.