The roulettes in Las Vegas showed him new ways of seeing the tops and kites of his childhood in Guantánamo. That is what Manuel Augusto Martínez Lemus says, who since 1995 lives in that city of the American West … but is not strange to meet him now in Miami or New York, now in Madrid or Mexico City.
He has stated he was born on December 29th “of an indeterminate and oblique year.” No one can take him out of there. Right now he threatens to “perpetrate against the community and the environment, publishing verses” in Yo, Augusto under the editorial care of the exquisite Mireya Piñeiro.
Although he has to his credit the publication on American soil of Tropismos (2005) and Letters of Hate, love and other trifles (2011), although it has been included in Epigrams (Santiago de Cuba, 1994) Anthology of Cuban Poetry in exile (Valencia, Spain, 2011), his researches and moods are scattered in publications in Spain, the US and Latin America.
Founder of Entre Rios Editions, editor of the online La Peregrina Magazine and assistant editor of Linden Lane Magazine, a long standing publication of Hispanic culture in the United States, Lemus is mostly a lush, tirelessly, unclassifiable, spirit.
Once I found him at the door of his house, just steps from the heart of Guantánamo, the Martí Park, of the Fame sculpture. Actually, he has never gone away.
An intellectual with deep Cuban roots, where do you find in another land the spiritual handholds and the public interested in what you write?
In flight, on the receipt of a verbal talisman that seeks to name the essence, through the pupil made waking desperately shunning the most external and superficial. Living in Cuba from the lights of the big cities, merely allow us to better gauge the legacy of José María Heredia, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, José Martí, Guillermo Cabrera Infante or Severo Sarduy. They were Cuban identity paradigms and created much of their work from the latitudes of exile.
Not by chance were born together with me in December Alicia Alonso, Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima and Dulce Maria Loynaz, illustrious exponents that bequeathed important segments of their art from foreign lands or from internal exile. That, regardless of the Cuban Diaspora around the world, or those who watch it from within the horizon. The “Cuban-ness” when it is genuine, doesn’t stop being part of universality.
If you allow us to enter one of these meetings that you organize for friends, artists, Cubans everywhere, especially those from Guantanamo … what will we find?
Let´s not let my bad judgment take me to want to name the fellow members of our meetings: the involuntary forgetting of some would be a sin against friendship. My house is regular visit of Cubans living in the city, or stopover for Cubans who come to visit Las Vegas from Spain, Mexico or anywhere in the United States.
Here the tenement buildings governed by passion and rituals which outline the habits of rice and beans, yucca with mojo, the roast pork and the guava sweets with cheese. There are anthological anecdotes of the heat of Ena Columbié, an Eva with the tough Adam temperament or –caustic Vicky González Longoria and many others I won’t mention.
I often travel to cities where previously I coordinate meetings with writers and artists who usually shatter my intentions of gathering information for the “Guantanamo Files”. Everything becomes anarchic gatherings where Cuban music is heard, discussed art or torments us with poetry.
Here’s a story about this: Ena Columbié insisted on organizing me a tribute in a side event at the Miami Book Fair. I told my friend Zenaida Manfugás -Resident in New Jersey and she said she would attend. Hanging up the phone, I thought about how I could allow while I read my bad verses a glory of Cuban music like her would be applauding from the audience. We turned things upside down, and paid the last respects Manfugás received in life.
¿Poet, researcher, anthologist, essayist, and lecturer … which one do you prefer?
One is the sum of what he believes to be, what others think you are and the unknown that only God knows. Your knowledge, your experiences, your ignorance, dreams that are made and dreaming of realities. Like Russian nesting dolls, genres are changeable skins of the essence of the writer, facets of a kaleidoscope.
What is that moment of your life to which you would take a photo and would hang in your living room, so that everyone can see it?
The pilgrim visitor press my door knocker can see that “moment” of my life: give and take of my existence, my music and liturgy of the butt of my soul. This is in the gray-headed and wise men of my mother, a halo of tenderness.
What stage are those mentioned Guantanamo files you have been working for so long?
With a utilitarian character, but without doctrinal purpose or attached letterhead, I have been working for ten years in the “Guantanamo Files”. It is a kind of General Dictionary and consists of 6 volumes: Letters, Arts, Society, Government, Geography and Sports. The first is ready to go to press. For the amount of information that classifies and sorts, so unheard of much of the same and deployment of graphical information, I hope it enjoys some attention.
To this point in life, when you look in the mirror, what do you find … you dare to share?
I find Casal masks, nihilism dying out of laughter, the transvestism of Lezama, lubricity reclining on oratory, costume by Sarduy, the opulence of rigor. I dialogue with Eliot, Whitman and Remarque. I gingerly inch by inch, try mending my sides, and I say, as I wrote in the poem Letter of guilt: “What a strange irony memory / recalling that I have not forgotten anything / nothing but my name.”