Enrique González Martínez 1871-1952
Mexican poet, autobiographer, journalist, editor, and short story writer.
While maintaining a career as a physician, then as a high-level public servant, González Martínez also became a significant force in Mexican literature. Challenging the conventions of literary Modernism, he played a key role in defining how that movement would affect modern Hispanic writing.
González Martínez wrote his first poems as a teenager growing up in Guadalajara, winning an award in 1885 for his translation of a sonnet by John Milton. He regarded writing as a hobby, however, and while he continued to contribute poems to various Mexican journals, he attended medical school, eventually setting up a practice in Sinaloa. When in 1900 a false obituary of González Martínez appeared in a newspaper, the resulting outpourings of praise for the supposedly dead young poet caused him to revise his opinion of his writings and publish his first poetry collection, Preludios (1903). Thereafter he maintained an active career as a poet. He also served in various capacities in the national government following the 1911 revolution, including diplomatic posts in Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Portugal.
Critics have noted the influence of the French Symbolist and Parnassian movements on González Martinez's poetry, with its emphasis on simplicity and formal beauty. His characteristic themes, expressed in the verse collections Lirismos (1907), Silénter (1909), and Los senderos ocultos (1915), include nature, solitude, and the contemplation of life and death. Although he is identified as a Modernist, his relationship to certain aspects of Modernism was antagonistic. In one of his most famous poems, the sonnet "La muerte de cisne" ("Death of the Swan,") he derided the art-for-art's-sake attitude espoused by Nicaraguan Modernist poet Rubén Darío and his followers, declaring that the poet's task is to express his or her true perceptions of life.
Critics note that González Martinez's simple, intuitive approach to verse did not have any direct stylistic influence on other writers, and his works are not well known to contemporary readers. However, his reputation endures as one of Mexico's most distinguished poets.