Champourcin, Ernestina de 1905-

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CHAMPOURCIN, Ernestina de 1905-

PERSONAL: Born July 10, 1905, in Vitoria, Spain; married Juan José Domenchina (a poet and secretary), November 7, 1936 (deceased, 1959). Education: Attended Catholic schools in Spain.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ediciones Torremozas, Apartado de correos: 19032, 28080 Madrid, Spain.

CAREER: Poet and novelist; translator in Mexico, c. 1936-73.


En Silencio: Poesias (poetry; title means "In Silence"), Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1926.

Ahora (poetry; title means "Now"), [Madrid, Spain], 1928.

La Voz en el viento: 1928-1931 (poetry; title means "The Voice in the Wind"), Compañia General de Artes Graficas (Madrid, Spain), 1931.

La Casa de enfrente (novel; title means "The House across the Street"), Signo (Madrid, Spain), 1936.

Cántico inútil (poetry; title means "Useless Canticle"), M. Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1936.

Presencia a oscuras (poetry; title means "Presence in Shadows"), Rialp (Madrid, Spain), 1952.

El Nombre que me diste (poetry; title means "The Name You Gave to Me"), 1960.

Cárcel de los sentidos, 1953-1963 (poetry; title means "Prison of the Senses"), Ecuador (Mexico), 1964.

Hai-Kais espirituales (poetry; title means "Spiritual Haikus"), A. Finistre (Mexico), 1967.

Cartas cerradas (poetry; title means "Closed Letters"), Ecuador (Mexico), 1968.

(Editor) Dios en la poesía actual, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (Madrid, Spain), 1970.

Poemas del ser y del estar (title means "Poems of Being and Becoming"), Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1972.

Primer exilio (poetry; title means "First Exile"), Rialp (Madrid, Spain), 1978.

La Ardilla y la rosa: Juan Ramón en mi memoria (correspondence; title means "The Squirrel and the Rose: Juan Ramón in My Memory"), Libros de Fausto (Madrid, Spain), 1981.

La Pared transparente (Madrid, 1979-1980) (poetry; title means "The Transparent Wall"), Libros de Fausto (Madrid, Spain), 1984.

Huyeron todas las islas, Caballo Griego para la Poesia (Madrid, Spain), 1988.

Antologia poética (title means "Poetic Anthology"), Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1988.

Poesía a través del tiempo (title means "Poetry across Time"), Anthropos (Barcelona, Spain), 1991.

Del Vacío y sus dones (poetry; title means "Emptiness and Its Gifts"), Torremozas (Madrid, Spain), 1993.

Also author of the novel María de Magdala, 1943.

Contributor to Gerardo Diego's 1934 anthology Poesía española contemporáneos; also translated works by many different authors into Spanish.

SIDELIGHTS: Ernestina de Champourcin is considered to be the most important female poet of Spain's famed literary "Generation of 1927." Born in Vitoria, Spain, in 1905, she followed the guidance of her fellow countryman and poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and "quickly achieved notoriety," in the words of Joy B. Landeira in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century. Champourcin's first collection of poetry, En Silencio, appeared in 1926. Two years later, she produced Ahora, which Landeira felt "plunges into the modernist and surrealist traditions with vibrant language, complex metaphors, and lush exoticism." The critic went on to explain that Ahora, along with Champourcin's 1931 collection La Voz en el viento, "insured her inclusion in the lively Madrid literary scene where she was granted exclusive book contracts and named among the Generation of 1927." Champourcin's poetry also appeared in the definitive anthology of that literary group, Gerardo Diego's Poesía española contemporáneos.

In 1936, Champourcin married another poet associated with that group, Juan José Domenchina. The wedding took place the day before fascist General Francisco Franco moved his troops into Madrid during the Spanish Civil War; because Domenchina served as secretary to Republican leader Manuel Azaña, the newlyweds fled the country immediately. They stopped in Toulouse, France, for a brief period before going on to Mexico, where Domenchina died in 1959. Champourcin stayed in Mexico until 1973.

Before leaving Spain, however, Champourcin managed to publish her first novel, La Casa de enfrente. The story centers on the life of a young girl from her childhood through her first love. Champourcin also managed to get out her fourth volume of poetry, Cántico inútil. Landeira praised this work as "arguably the finest in all her production and certainly the best of her early writing."

After Champourcin and her husband arrived in Mexico, she used her early training in French and English to work as a translator. During this time, she translated the works of many different authors, ranging from sociology texts to mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Occasionally, she and Domenchina translated a book together. Until 1952, her translation work apparently kept Champourcin so busy that she did not write or try to publish poetry. When she did return to the poetic scene, her poetic style and motivation had changed, revealing the influence of Domenchina's attitude toward his own art. As Landiera put it: "No longer did she experiment with exuberant metaphors or focus on carefully crafted structure. All of her poetry from 1952 through 1974 adhered to the thematic credo that 'God is in all poetry,' a theme shared by her husband who believed that the poet's only life was to dialogue with God." Landiera noted further that Champourcin's work during these years was "deeply felt and reliant on biblical themes." Collections in this vein include 1960's El Nombre que me diste and 1964's Cárcel de los sentidos, 1953-1963.

Champourcin's next major poetical shift seems to coincide with her return from Mexican exile to Spain in 1973. Since this personal event, her poetry has lost its emphasis on religious matters and deals more with the struggle to remain a poet in the face of the difficulties of old age. According to Landeira, the poet presents herself as "desperate for communication and increasingly frustrated by a lack of human contact and the loss of sight and hearing." As a poet, Champourcin thus "seeks transcendence through nature, awareness of the world around her and the consolation of poetic memory."

In 1981 Champourcin published La Ardilla y la rosa: Juan Ramón en mi memoria, a collection of her correspondence and memories of her poetic mentor, Jiménez. Interestingly, the primary title means "The Squirrel and the Rose." One of Champourcin's more recent poetry volumes is 1993's Del Vacío y sus dones. The title means "Emptiness and Its Gifts," a further reference to the decline of the poet's physical senses and the means by which she is able to compensate for it. Del Vacío y sus dones received a great deal of praise from Birute Ciplijauskaite in World Literature Today. He noted that the collection consists primarily of free verse, "except for a few poems in rich alexandrines." Ciplijauskaite mentioned Champourcin's poetic evolution towards a more "retrospective focus . . . and a more philosophical stance," but then went on to conclude that "this spiritual self-portrait whose originality and authenticity of voice rest on unshaken faith offers hope and transpires deep, bliss-bringing religiosity elevated to its purest essence."



Encyclopedia of World Literature in the TwentiethCentury, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Letras Femeninas, spring-fall, 1991, Catherine G. Bellver, "Tres poetas desterradas y la morfologia del exilio," pp. 51-63.

Ojancano, October, 1988, Andrew P. Debicki, "Una Dimensión olvidada de la poesía española de los '20 y '30: La Lírica visionaria de Ernestina de Champourcin," pp. 48-60.

Review Interamericana, spring, 1982, Rafael Espejo-Saavedra, "Sentimiento amoroso y creación poética en Ernestina de Champourcin," pp. 133-139.

World Literature Today, summer, 1994, Birute Ciplijauskaite, review of Del Vacío y sus dones, p. 539.


Entrevista, (March 21, 2002), "Ernestina de Champourcin."*