A self-taught musician, sculptor and poet, William Agudelo has lived in Nicaragua since 1966, where he helped the poet Ernesto Cardenal in the founding of the community of Solentiname. In the 1980s he worked as a director of graphic arts in the Ministry of Culture of Nicaragua, and in the 1990s he was director of a cultural centre there. He has published a diary, translated into German and English, two books about the Nicaraguan Revolution, and many poems in reviews and magazines. He now devotes his life to writing poetry and to wood-carving and pyrography on leather.
As a young man, William Agudelo went to a seminary where he began to write a diary, in which he included the beautiful poems he was writing. There he met Ernesto Cardenal, to whom he showed his writings. Enthralled by Agudelo’s work, the Nicaraguan poet became his life-long friend and teacher. Agudelo soon discovered that he had no religious vocation – he was in love with his childhood sweetheart – and left the seminary after a year. Later, he travelled to Nicaragua with Cardenal, who planned to found a contemplative community for artists, inspired by the American Trappist monk and great poet, Thomas Merton. And so it was that both poets founded the community, which they named Solentiname, after the archipelago in the Lake of Nicaragua, settling on one of its islands. For eleven years, until the beginning of the Sandinista uprising in 1977 when the community was forced to dissolve, Agudelo worked with Cardenal and continued to receive his literary formation from him. During the struggle that ensued, Agudelo had to go into exile to return with the triumph of the Revolution, about which he wrote two books.
Agudelo has said that he began to write poetry “to win the heart of a girl with perfect sonnets”, and that poetry for him is “an awakening of sentiments, a call to express the ineffable, to uncover injustice, to prop up beauty, to see the world with wonder”. He does not believe in inspiration, unless it is understood as “the initial spark followed by a daily, hard and constant work to achieve a strong structure covered with filigree”. As a boy, he explains, he was a tireless reader of all kinds of texts and felt that he would be able to write, so that when he was given the tools in the literature classes at school he began to do so, discovering even then that childhood was “the source from which springs everything that I write . . . It is a form of perceiving the world with innocence and wonder, as children do, giving colour and clarity to one’s perception as an adult. Nothing equals, in art, that first vision of things happily expressed.”
Nuestro lecho es de flores, Joaquín Mortiz, Mexico, 1970
El asalto a San Carlos, Editorial La Ocarina, Ministerio de Cultura, Managua, Nicaragua, 1983
El ángel de San Judas, Fondo Editorial Asociación Noruega de Escritores (ANE) and Centro Nicaragüense de Escritores (CNE), Managua, Nicaragua, 1997
Poems and biography in Spanish on the Medellín poetry festival website
YouTube video from the Medellín festival, in Spanish
Lina Zeron’s blog: poems and biography in Spanish