Latin/South American Poets Bios

notes by Alicia Puglionesi (2006)

Marti- (1853-1895, Cuba)
Hero of Cuban independence movement, imprisoned at 16 for treason against Spanish gov’t, expatriated to Spain, then went to France & NY. Proclaimed Cuban independence in 1885 and led rebel forces from U.S. to attack Cuba, killed in battle. Wrote some poetry and plays, mostly political. Extensive writing on the need for American identity and independence from Europe/United States.

Dario- ( Nicaragua)
Spanish-American Modernisimo, Europe from 1898 to 1914. Politically charged poetry, sense of Latin-American pan-nationalism vs. United States hegemony, but with echoes of Whitman and Transcendentalists. Rooted in landscape, rhythms of nature transmitted by poetic imagination.

Huidobro- (Chile, 1893-1948)
Creationism, mingled with European avant garde in Paris during early 20 th c. “The poet is a little god,” poet creates reality (subjective), some Emerson/Transcendental influence. “Altazor” epic destruction of language, emphasis on speed, space, “poet becomes pure energy/ poem becomes pure sound.” (ie: by the end there are no more words, just sound) Religious references?

Vallejo- (1892-1948, Peru)
Extremely Catholic upbringing; grandfathers were priests, grandmothers were Indians. Interest in spiritual/visceral conflict. Exiled to France for shooting he didn’t commit, lived on brink of starvation for pretty much the rest of his life. Very into Spanish Republic, formed Peruvian Socialist Party / visited Russia. Uses wordplay to suggest a mystical symbolism; deals with death/mortality/unknown: “You’re all dead.”

Guillén- (1904-1989, Cuba)
Afro-Cuban “indigenous” elements incorporated into language experiments and collages. Use of traditional forms (chants, Catholic religious references) and European verse. Embraced by Castro’s regime?

Neruda- (1904-1973, Chile)
Long diplomatic career, socialist, became a senator and then fled the country after denouncing the government for a labor crackdown. Brief infatuation with Stalin (and Castro), later recanted. Epic poetry, lyric poetry, political poetry, erotic poetry, poetry about artichokes. Ceded candidacy in Chile’s presidential election to Salvador Allende; wise move if you don’t want to get killed in a US-sponsored coup.

Sabina- (1888-1985, Mexico)
Shaman of Mazatec tribe, “received” poems via altered state induced by hallucinogenic mushrooms. Allowed Westerners to participate in veladas (question of genuine cultural interest vs. wanting to get high on mushrooms?); tourists flooded in, Sabina ambivalent about “outsiders,” appropriation of religion for commercial purposes.