Literatures in Translation: A Reading & Conversation with Pedro Blas Julio Romero


Location: Live on Zoom


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, and Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is a research collective and lecture series co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and housed at the newly launched Initiative on Race and Resilience, directed by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Africana Studies. The series focuses on contemporary literature, film, and visual art that has been shaped by revolutionary and resistance movements, decolonization, migration, class and economic warfare, communal and state-sanctioned violence, and human rights violations. We aim to theorize new modes of contemporary literary and artistic resistance across national borders and to amplify the voices of scholars, artists, and writers of color whose lived experience is instrumental in forging new alliances across formal, linguistic and national boundaries.