Omar Pérez’s books include Lingua Franca (2010); Oíste hablar del gato de pelea? (1999, translated as Did You Hear about the Fighting Cat? by Kristin Dykstra, 2010); and Algo de lo Sagrado (1996, translated as Something of the Sacred by Kristin Dykstra and Robert Tejada, 2007). His translations include Italian-Cuban novelist Alba de Céspedes’s Nadie vuelve atrás (2003); and Shakespeare’s As You Like It (as Como Les Guste, 2000). Intensely interested in the ways in which poetry overlays experience, Perez noted in an interview with Jacket magazine that “the verse, the poem, even the rhyme, the melody of poetry are the tip of the iceberg, they are just one familiar aspect of a huge reality which we call consciousness […] Poetry is a natural function, like god, or DNA, or rain. The fact that we can give notice of it does not mean that we make it.” He received Cuba’s Nicolás Guillén Prize for Poetry for Crítica de la Razón Puta (2009) as well as its National Critics’ Prize for his essay collection La perseverancia de un hombre oscuro (2000). His work has also been featured in the anthology The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry, A Bilingual Anthology (2009). He earned a degree in English at the University of Havana and studied Italian at the Universitá per Straniere di Siena. He has worked as a journalist for El Caimán Barbudo, and as an editor for the magazine La naranja dulce. A former member of the Cuban intellectual group Paideia, he edited the poetry magazine Mantis from 1994 to 1996. Ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk, Pérez composes poems that engage languages, Zen, and political and cultural transcendence. He lives in Havana.
In 2002, while temporarily living in Europe (mostly Amsterdam), the poet Omar Pérez began writing in a notebook. His journey began as a short professional visit that shifted into something less defined after he fell in love....
In 2002, while temporarily living in Europe (mostly Amsterdam), the poet Omar Pérez began writing in a notebook. His journey began as a short professional visit that shifted into something less defined after he fell in love. Eventually the notebook became Cubanology, a book of days reflecting on three years of life at a remove from the island: “A memory of a flight, a journey, jour.” Along with registering common and uncommon vicissitudes of everyday life, the result presents a fusion of languages. Simultaneously national and polycultural, Cubanology streams poetic thought and experience, excerpts from other writings in progress, and the coalescence of a new islandic consciousness – scenes reminiscent of many-minded Odysseus, if home were heart. Visual material appearing throughout Cubanology blends Pérez’s sketches with photographs from that period, as well as art he made after returning to his family home on Havana’s iconic Malécon.
"Welcoming as the guenmai soup whose making recurs throughout this journal, Cubanology carries the flavors of zen intensives, languages, and housecleaning; Greek retsina and Dutch beer; murmured conversations with books, friends, strangers, cultures, countries, and conditions. Omar Pérez is equally home-leaver and home-maker wherever he travels. Language is his pillow; zazen his backpack; music and imagination's freedoms his left and right shoes."
"I'm quite taken by Cubanology, a book of the quotidian that rises to the universal. In morning we have zazen, in the afternoon we have language(s) and poetry, then later there is guenmai for 70 people (recipe included: carrots, onions, turnips, celery) but usually just for three or four or one. Are we in Amsterdam, or Athens, Munich? Yes. It is Cubanology, after all, and “He proposied realviciousization,/seated at the deskritorio” is the way poems are written when you are Omar Pérez. Part Pound, part Bolaño, add a Brechtian play, mix in some Hart Crane, spiced with Marianne Moore, Larry Eigner and Paul Hoover (Paul Hoover!), this is a global 24 hours that stretches time to eternity, consolidates place, and with a polyglot sensibility that seems bent on unifying all languages. Reading Cubanology is more like meditating than reading. Which is to say the ritual of the day. Which stays with you, and is tomorrow, the eternal day."
"Omar Pérez's Cubanology is a Book of Days for the new century, a clear-eyed account of his travels in Europe, in the form of journal entries, essays, poems, translations, and meditations dating from 2002-2005. “To one seeking the truth,” he writes, “I offer only this: don't waste any time.” Hence he schools his readers in the art of making and measuring time according to the precepts of his Buddhist faith, the practice of which provides the scaffolding for this fascinating journey, which suggests that even if, as he writes, “travel intoxicates,” it also reveals the heart and soul of one of the most important artists of our time."
—Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood