Huidobro, Vicente

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Biography

Image by Dcoetzee/Public Domain

Image by Dcoetzee/Public Domain

Vicente García Huidobro Fernández was born to a distinguished aristocrat family in Santiago, Chile in 1893. In his teenage and early adult years, the works of modernist Chilean writer and poet Rubén Darío inspired him. He praised Darío as “a renovator of poetry” (Camurati 29) and as an homage to him, he began to publish his own work through the pages of Azula magazine, which he founded in 1913. Three years later, Huidobro parted for Europe; in Paris, he met other minds of the vanguard such as Pablo Picasso, Guillame Apollinaire, and Pierre Reverdy. Huidobro’s poems, written in both French and Spanish, built upon the Cubist poetry of Apollonaire and Reverdy.

He ushered in a new style or school of writing which he termed as creacionismo (‘creationism’) which fused many of the contemporary movements of the early 20th century with other ideas of neo-platonism and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1925, he returned to Chile to become a newspaper editor, during which time he also ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Chile. Throughout this time, he continued to write works of prose and poetry, building upon his ideas of creacionsimo. In 1931, he published Altazor, which most consider to be his definitive poetic work. In 1948, he died in Cartagena, Chile at the age of 56.

Vanguard Movement

Following the modernist movement, the world of art and literature entered a phase termed as the ‘Vanguard’, or ‘avant-garde’ movement (Good). This complex movement attempted to step away from the literary and aesthetic norms of the past and to chart new horizons of expression for the artist. It is believed that Italian writer Fillippo Tomaso Marinetti initiated the movement through the manifesto of ‘Futurism’.  In this essay he declares:

To admire an old picture is to pour our sensitivity
into a funeral urn, instead of casting it forward in
violent gushes of creation and action – Marinetti, “Foundation Manifesto of Futurism”, 1909  (qtd. inRye 9).

The twilight of this global artistic movement is considered to have arrived with the advent of the Surrealist movement of the  1930′s. Within the span of those decades, many sub-movements were spawned, including expressionism, Dadaism, cubism, and ultraism. All of these vanguard sub-movements had similar motivation to create new artistic bounds, through either exploiting the institutions of the past or creating whole new ones.

Creacionismo

Creacionismo was  the apotheosis for Huidobro, a space where the poet could assume a role as the divine. In his poem “Arte poética” (Poetic Art), the final verse reads:  “El poeta es un pequeño Dios,” or, ‘The poet is a small God’ (Huidobro 69). This verse was the epitaph for his movement. Creacionismo licensed the poet to become the Creator within their poetic space, where the world of subjectivity was merged into the reality that the poet created. Huidobro maintained that the rise of Creacionismo was solely attributed to him, free of any direct influence. He describes his poetry as not singularly influenced, “but only by the universe of poetry that has been studied and felt” (Perdigó 42). It is argued that aside from his contemporaries, Huidobro’s greatest influences are the neo-platonists of the 16th century and the ideas of American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

According to the neo-platonists, the conception of God is as follows:

God was Beauty and the source of Beauty.
God’s image is Man.
Therefore, the ideally beautiful Man is the
closest approximation of God on this Earth
(Summary of Renaissance).

This conception was a precedent that man’s ability could be equal to God’s, as the created had been endowed with the powers of the Creator. Huidobro aimed for the idea of understanding the world at its most essential parts, in order to invigorate his own world of poetic subjectivity. In his manifesto “Creacionismo”, Huidobro describes this idea by saying:  “A living thought, like the spirit of an animal or a plant, has its own architecture, and embellishes nature with something new” (41).  Emerson also echoed the idea of a mortal Creator, stating, “man has access to the entire mind of the creator, is himself the creator in the finite” (Perdigó89). Huidobro perpetuated this idea that “where the artist from being a craftsman become a creator; and the poet, of all men, compared to God” (Peridgó 189).  One of his poetic innovations was the calligram, or “painted poems” (Kahnweiler 75). Apollinaire initially popularized this style of verse somewhat similar to Japanese haiku. However, Huidobro added an element of “geometrization and stylization of form” (Ogden 46). In particular, his poem’s, “Paisaje” [Landscape], the first and last verses create a separation of consciousnesses where in-between a realm of subjectivity words convert into visual images. The poem actually seems to take the shape of a mosaic in its own “new and autonomous world” (Bary54).

Though the evidence is debated, the certainty remains that “Creacionsimo is exclusively applied to Huidobro’s work” (Perdigó 21) (see Magical Realism).

Works

Translations:

Poetic Art

Verse is like a key
That opens a thousand doors
A page turns, something takes flight
How many believing eyes look
And the hearing soul remains trembling

Invent new worlds and care for their word
The adjective, when it does not give life, kills
We are in a cycle of nerves
The muscle cluster,
Like I remember, in the museums;
No more do but we have less force;
The true vigor
Resides in the mind

Why do you the rose, oh poets!
It will flourish in the poem

Only for us
Live all things under the sun

The poet is a small god.

Landscape

In darkness we pass through parallel routes
The moon is where you see it
The tree is taller than the mountain
But the mountain is so wide that it exceeds the extremes of the land
The river runs but carries no fish
Careful at play in the grass recently painted
A song that drives sheep to the sheepfold

Works Cited

  • Apollinaire, Guillame. Selected Writings. Trans. Roger Shattuck. Paris:  New Directions, 1971.
  • Bary, David.  Huidobro o la vocación poética. Granada:  Universidad de Granada, 1963.
  • Camurati, Mireya.  Poesía y poética de Vicente Huidobro. Buneos Aires:  García Cambeiro, 1980.
  • Dawes, Greg. Poetas ante la modernidad: las ideas esteticas y politicas de Vallero, Huidobro, Neruda y Paz. Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos, 2009.
  • Good, Carl.  “Huidobro, Altazor y las vanguaradias”. Atlanta: Emory University, March 19, 2001.
  • Huidobro, Vicente. Manifestos Manifest.  Trans. Gilbert Alter-Gilbert. Los Angeles:  Green Integer, 1999.
  • Huidobro, Vicente. Obra selecta. Ed. Luis Navarrete Orta. Caracas: Biblioteca ayacucho, 1991.
  • Kahnweiler, Daniel-Henry. The Rise of Cubism.  Trans. Aronson, New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, Inc., 1949.
  • Ogden, Estrella Busto. El creacionismo de Vicente Huidobroen sus relaciones con la estética cubista. Madrid: Editorial playor, 1983.
  • Perdigó, Luisa Marina. The Origins of Vicente Huidobro’s”Creacionismo” and its Evolution. New York: Mellen University Press, 1994.
  • Reyes, Alfonso and Carlos Garcia. Correspondencia: Alfonso Reyes, Vicente Huidobro, 1914-1928. Mexico D.F.: El Colegio National, 2005.
  • Rye, Jane. “Summary of the Renaissance: “Neo Platonism.”” Futurism. London:  Studio Vista,1972. <http://courses.washington.edu/ah361/resources/summary.html>
  • Schopf, Federico. El desorden de las imagenes: Vicente Huidobro, Pablo Neruda, Nicanor Parra. Santiago: JH Fondo Juvenal Hernandez Jaque: Editorial Unversitaria, 2010.
  • Sema, Mercedes. Del modernismo y la vanguardia: Jose Marti, Julio Herrera y Riessig, Vicente Huidobro, Nicanor Parra. Lima: Ediciones El Santo Oficio, 2002.
  • Willis, Bruce Dean. Aesthetics of equilibrium: the vanguard poetics of Vicente Huidobro and Mario de Andrade. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2006.

Selected Bibliography

  • Huidobro, Vicente.  Altazor or A Voyage in A Parachute. Trans.  Eliot Weinberger.  St. Paul:  Graywolf Press, 1988.
  • Reverdy, Pierre.  Selected Poems.  Trans. John Ashberry. Winston-Salem:  Wake Forest University Press, 1991.

Author: Adam Dunshee, Fall 2001
Last edited: May 2017

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