Huidobro Fernández, Vicente (1893–1948)

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Huidobro Fernández, Vicente (1893–1948)

Vicente Huidobro Fernández (b. 10 January 1893; d. 2 January 1948), Chilean poet. The principal figure of the avant-garde movement in Latin American literature, Huidobro was born in Santiago to an aristocratic family; his privileged upbringing included education in Chilean private schools. In 1916 Huidobro moved to Paris, where he started publishing the most innovative poetry in the Spanish language. He was a cofounder, with the French poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Pierre Reverdy, of the literary review Nord-Sud (1917–1918), and along with Max Jacob, Paul Dermée, and the cubist painters Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso, helped design a new spatial poetry that used calligrammatic and ideogrammatic forms. His personal poetic style, which he called creationism, was a modality that emphasized the autonomy of poetic expression, a result of the transformation of external referents and of laws of grammar and "sense," and created its own images, descriptions, and concepts. In 1918 he brought fresh air to Spanish poetry with four volumes published in Madrid, Poemas árticos, Ecuatorial, Tour Eiffel, and Hallali.

The Spanish poets Gerardo Diego and Juan Larrea were his most faithful and direct disciples, but many other young poets imitated his creationist poetry. As a consequence of his influence, the literary movement Ultra was developed by Rafael Cansinos-Asséns and Guillermo de Torre. Ultraism was developed also in Buenos Aires by Jorge Luis Borges, and Imagism arose in Chile, Simplicism in Peru, and Estridentism in Mexico. During the 1920s, Huidobro published three books in French: Saisons choisies (1921), Tout à coup (1925), and Automne régulier (1924). The most genial poetic expression of Huidobro is Altazor; o, El viaje en paracaídas (1931), a poem in seven cantos, which narrates a simultaneous flight and fall through seven regions, equating death with mystical experience. The work constitutes a poetic Babel, employing a variety of poetic languages that intimates both a plenitude of meaning and the gradual destruction of language. Altazor stands as an extraordinary example of the poetic avant garde. Temblor de cielo (1931), a prose poem written simultaneously with Altazor, deals with the meaning of life under the Nietzschean concept of the death of God. Huidobro's later poetic works include Ver y palpar (1941) and El ciudadano del olvido (1941). In these books his creative ingenuity manifests itself in whimsical as well as tragic visions of life and world. His last poems were collected in Últimos poemas (1948), published posthumously.

Huidobro's life in Paris, Madrid, and Santiago touched in various ways the literary cultures of these cities. Contacts with cubist poets and painters and with dadaists in Paris, with ultraists in Madrid, with the younger groups of Runrunists and Mandrágora in Santiago, all speak of his wide-ranging ability to disseminate the forms and concepts of the new poetry. The general content of Nord-Sud, Índice de poesía americana nueva (1926), and Antología de poesía chilena nueva (1935) marks the breadth and significance of his influence. In 1925 he published Manifestes, a collection of essays on creationism and poetic theory. Huidobro also contributed significantly to the renewal of narrative forms with his hazaña (heroic feat) Mío Cid Campeador (1929), his film-novel Cagliostro (1934), Papá; o, El diario de Alicia Mir (1934), La próxima: Historia que pasó en un tiempo más (1934), Sátiro; o, El poder de las palabras (1938) (Satyr; or, the Power of Words, [1939]), and Tres inmensas novelas (1935) in collaboration with the German poet Hans Arp. His collections of essays include Pasando y pasando (1914), Finis Britannia! (1923), and Vientos contrarios (1926). Huidobro also wrote two plays, Gilles de Raíz (1932), in French, and En la luna (1934).

See alsoArt: The Twentieth Century; Literature: Spanish America.


René De Costa, Vicente Huidobro: The Careers of a Poet (1984).

Merlin H. Forster, "Vicente Huidobro," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu, vol. 2 (1989), pp. 755-764.

Cedomil Goic, La poesía de Vicente Huidobro, 2d ed. (1974).

George Yúdice, Vicente Huidobro y la motivación del lenguaje (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Ellis, Keith. Nueve escritores hispanoamericanos ante la opción de construir. Havana: Ediciones Unión, 2004.

Fernández, Jesse. El poema en prosa en Hispanoamérica: Del modernismo a la vanguardia: estudio crítico y antología. Madrid: Hiperión, 1994.

Fernández Pedemonte, Damián. La Producción del sentido en el discurso poético: Análisis de "Altazor" de Vicente Huidobro. Buenos Aires: Edicial, 1996.

                                        Cedomil Goic