LITERATURE: THE POETRY OF THE SPANISH AMERICAN COUNTRIES: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

There also developed a tendency to replace this elegance by forceful direct expression; and a new realism came into being in Spanish American poetry. The Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral ( 1889- 1957 ), a Nobel prize winner in 1945, wrote vigorously but with compassion about love, about children, about nature and about suffering mankind in her books, Desolacion (1922), Tala (1938), and Lugar (1954). The Uruguayan, Delmira Agustini (1886-1914), was also forceful in her expression, turning themes of sexual desire and experience into poetry. Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938), an Argentinian, wrote poetry in which she explored the problem of the woman who refuses to submit to the traditional role of woman in society and is tortured by the absence of physical love. The Uruguayan, Juana de Ibarbourou, wrote about the joy of existence and the fear of old age and death. In these poets there is no obscurity in the use of metaphors. They express their message directly.

Contemporary Spanish American poetry may well be discussed in terms of the degree of complexity of metaphors and the degree of concern for communicating a message, social or metaphysical. The most daring of the twentieth-century theorists of poetic expression is the Chilean, Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948). He developed a system of poetics which he called creacionismo. According to this system the poet should not imitate nature’s creations but should instead, create completely original works: “make a poem like nature makes a tree” (hacer un poema como la naturaleza hace unarbol).

To this end Huidobro attempts to change the value of traditional meanings and connotations. His metaphors are more surprising than those used by the late modernists. Ordinary things are charged with meaning that before did not seem inherent in them. Conceptism, paradox, inversion, neologism, free verse, and absence of punctuation marks are employed. A series of unusual metaphors from a wide range of human experience are used to evoke specific emotions.

With the self-confidence that the Spanish Americans could have after Dario, he proclaimed his theories in America and in Europe. In Madrid he found a following, and in Paris where he wrote in French he was recognized as one of the leading avant garde writers. His claim that he anticipated Dada and the surrealists is not in vain; and his experiments guided other poets to techniques they might not easily have found without him. The Cuban, Mariano Brull (1891-1956), and the Argentinian Oliverio Girondo (1891 -), are other notable members of the school that saw poetry primarily as experiment in metaphor.

Another Argentinian, more famous for his prose writings than for his poetry, is Jorge Luis Borges (1899 -). His early poetic theory seems to show his kinship to the other poets discussed in this paragraph. He wished to reduce “lyrical poetry to its primordial element: the metaphor” (La Lirica a su elemento primordial: la metafora) and declared that each metaphor should be “a new view of some fragment of life” (una visiĆ³n inedita de algun fragmento de la vida ).