Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems
by Ernesto Cardenal
Translated by Jonathan Cohen
Edited by Donald D. Walsh
Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems brings together in English translation eight of the longer poems by Nicaragua’s impassioned Marxist priest, Ernesto Cardenal, described in the Times Literary Supplement as “the outstanding socially committed poet of his generation in Spanish America.” His work, like Pablo Neruda’s, is unabashedly political; like Ezra Pound’s, his poems demonstrate history on an epic scale––but the voice is all his own and speaks from the heart of a land sunk for generations in poverty, oppression, and turmoil. As both activist and contemplative, Cardenal maintained strong ties with the Sandinist guerillas while at the same time living a form of primitive Christianity at his religious settlement of Our Lady of Solentiname on an island in Lake Nicaragua. In late 1977, amid increasing civil violence, the Nicaraguan National Guard utterly destroyed the Solentiname community, and Cardenal fled to neighboring Costa Rica, where he continued his efforts on behalf of the revolutionary movement. With the final collapse of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, he returned to Nicaragua as his country’s new Minister of Culture. Spanning a quarter century, the poems in Zero Hour constitute a vivid record of continuous struggle against flagrant exploitation and brutal indifference to common humanity.