Rafael Ayala Páez is a Venezuelan poet and author whose works have appeared in publications around the world. He is a founding member of the Municipal Writers Network of Zaraza. His poem, Vaisvanara/Agni, was included in the inaugural issue of Agave Magazine.
Your poetry has been translated from Spanish into English, French, German and Hebrew. What do you believe is the most important thing for someone to keep in mind when translating your poetry?
Rafael Ayala Páez: I believe the translator should be as faithful as possible to the original text. Fortunately, I have had good translators, who are also poets. And because of their own poetic talents, they have been able to capture the feeling of my poems extraordinarily well.
What motivates you to write poetry?
A constant curiosity about the world.
What is the starting point for your poetry? Do you search for ideas, or do they find you?
My poetry is a response to my need to save my core childhood perceptions, fantasies, and experiences from oblivion, without idealizing them. As the Spanish poet Marta López-Luaces says, "we write to recover, to find, to convene what we yearn." But my poetry is not strictly autobiographical – one good example being Vaisvanara/Agni.
As to whether I search for ideas or they find me, I would say both. There are ideas that always escort someone. And others are found by chance.
The title of Vaisvanara/Agni is a reference to a Hindu deity. Tell us about the connection.
In Vedic mythology, Vaishvanara/Agni is the god of fire. He represents fire's duality, which is both helpful and destructive. In my poem, Vaishvanara/Agni is the representation of man's beneficial and destructive qualities. Ultimately, the poem arose out of my own spiritual connection with the culture of India.
Vaisvanara/Agni is succinct and sparse, but strikingly rich. How do you know when a poem is finished?
Thank you very much for your beautiful description of my poem. I know a poem has reached its culmination when I have the distinct sensation that it has finally succeeded in capturing an atmosphere, an idea, an image. Until then, it's not as simple as it seems. It requires a lot of corrections to finish a poem. And intuition.
The next issue of Agave Magazine will be published in February 2014. To receive a copy delivered directly to your inbox, subscribe here.