On Cuban Poet Reina Maria Rodríguez

Irina Pino

Reina Maria Rodríguez

HAVANA TIMES — I’ve been meaning to write an article about Reina for some time now. Yes, I like to write about her in this relaxed, informal way, without the bombastic surnames and honorary titles, without enumerating the many awards she’s received, so many you’d need more than one sack to carry them. I want to evoke her simply as a woman, as the human being she is.

More than two years ago, Reina was an honorary guest at a book fair in Mexico. My husband, who was also in Mexico for work-related reasons, ran into her. They talked, he mentioned I wrote poetry and she kindly signed one of her books for me, writing the word “colleague” in the dedication.

This simple and unassuming gesture placed Reina beyond her condition as poet – it was a show of solidarity, a sisterly wink at a woman who, like her, suffers, dies and is reborn through poetry, that incurable ill that all of us who write endure, that genre that, regrettably, does not sell much around the world (while novels take the limelight).

Despite this, Reina has defended poetry and made it her ally. Wherever she goes, she shows the public the same old and torn pages, poems that, in her hand, turn into gleaming parchments whose ink is still fresh.

She is not a conceited person. She dresses in the most humble way. I’ve never seen her wear high heels or a suggestive dress – jeans, a loose blouse and low, comfortable sneakers are her seal. She buys bargain clothes (she admits this openly). She is not interested in drawing attention that way, she prefers to shine through words, screams and silences, to dress and undress herself the best way she knows: through her writing.

When I finally got the chance to meet her in person and dared show her some of my notebooks, exposing myself to her approval or death sentence, Reina only highlighted some parts of my verses, drew paths (as she calls them) for me to follow, to traverse with the freedom that poetry affords us.

I’ve gone down those paths, at times stumbling on obstacles, at times sliding down slopes, at times skirting hills, but never going off that map of words one traverses endlessly, not to get anywhere, but to find the primordial road home.