Nicolás Guillén Criticism - Essay

Nicolás Guillén with Ciro Bianchi Ross (interview date 1972)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Nicolás Guillén's 70th Birthday Conversation with Ciro Bianchi Ross," in The Poetry of Nicolás Guillén, New Beacon Books, 1976, pp. 58-80.

[In the following excerpt from a 1972 interview, originally published in Cuba Internacional, Guillén discusses his Cuban childhood, his thoughts on negritude, Cuban politics, and major themes in his work.]

[Ciro Bianchi Ross]:
How do you judge the literary formation that you received in your childhood? Which things in that childhood are you interested in highlighting now?
[Nicolás Guillén]:
No, I couldn't...

(The entire section is 6835 words.)

Helene J. Farber de Aguilar (review date 1973)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Poetry from Latin America: 'The Most Important Harvest of the Times,'" in Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring/Summer, 1973, pp. 175-86.

[In the following excerpt, Farber de Aguilar favorably reviews Guillén: Man-making Words, praising the artistry and intelligence of Guillén's political poems.]

It is unfortunate that [in Guillén: Man-making Words, Guillén's translators, Robert Márquez and David Arthur McMurray], have chosen to label him so quickly as "implacably anti-bourgeois." He is implacably anti-bourgeois; but the epithet is misleading, since about ninety percent of his colleagues, most of them lesser artists,...

(The entire section is 1040 words.)

Richard L. Jackson (essay date 1979)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Turning Point: The Blackening of Nicolás Guillén and the Impact of his Motivos de son," in Black Writers in Latin America, University of New Mexico Press, 1979, pp. 80-92.

[In the following essay, Jackson discusses Guillén's rejection of the white literary aesthetic and his development of a black sensibility in his works of the late 1920s and early 1930s, focusing on the volumes Motivos de son, Sóngoro cosongo, and West Indies, Ltd. Jackson maintains that Guillén "represents the major turning point for literary blackness in Latin America. "]

Nicolás Guillén, … had his "white" stage, but … has lived long enough to pass...

(The entire section is 4957 words.)

Stephanie Davis-Lett (essay date 1980)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Literary Games in the Works of Nicolás Guillén," in Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, Vol. 6, 1980, pp. 135-42.

[In the essay below, Davis-Lett examines Guillén 's use of literary games, specifically, mockery of traditional poetry in his works.]

Nicolás Guillén is most recognized for his Afro-Cuban poetry written during the 1930's and for his social poetry written since then. But while he has achieved fame as a black social poet, he unfortunately has not been recognized as one of the greatest humorists in Latin American literature. Since much of his humor results from a sense of play or poetic games, no true appreciation of Guillén the humorist...

(The entire section is 2854 words.)

Dellita L. Martin (essay date 1980)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "West African and Hispanic Elements in Nicolás Guillén's 'La canción del bongó'," in SAB: South Atlantic Bulletin, Vol. XLV, No. 1, January, 1980, pp. 47-53.

[In the following essay, Martin examines elements of West African and Hispanic folk music forms in the poem "La canción del bongó. "]

"La canción del bongó," originally published in Guillén's Sóngoro Cosongo (1931), is a poem that succinctly illustrates the fusion of the West African and Hispanic oral traditions. This is so because it is a romance which functions like a son. Moreover, the image of the son, which infuses this poema mulato, is projected as a...

(The entire section is 2569 words.)

Lorna V. Williams (essay date 1982)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Revolutionary Alternative," in Self and Society in the Poetry of Nicolás Guillén, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, pp. 115-38.

[In the following essay, Williams discusses Guillén's treatment of the Cuban Revolution in his poetry. Williams notes that although Guillén's poems reveal his commitment to the socialist cause, they also raise doubts about the revolution's extremism and Cuba's political isolation.]

That the Cuban Revolution did not seek merely to transform the material conditions of man is well known. Ernesto (Che) Guevara's pronouncements on the need to create a "new man," as well as the debate regarding moral and material incentives...

(The entire section is 7083 words.)

Keith Ellis (essay date 1983)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Poetry," in Cuba's Nicolás Guillén: Poetry and Ideology, University of Toronto Press, 1983, pp. 147-61.

[In the following excerpt, Ellis examines poems in Tengo, Guillén's first book after the Cuban Revolution.]

La paloma de vuelo popular was published on 28 December 1958. The flight of [Cuban President Zaldivar Y] Batista from Cuba in the early hours of 1 January 1959 marked the triumph of Fidel Castro's rebel army. Guillén returned to Cuba on 23 January 1959 and was given a welcome the size and warmth of which suggested that he was popularly regarded as one of the heroes of the revolutionary struggle. He immediately undertook a variety...

(The entire section is 5716 words.)

Jean A. Purchas-Tulloch (essay date 1985-86)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Yoruban-Cuban Aesthetic, Nicolas Guillen's Poetic Expressions: A Paradigm," in Current Bibliography on African Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1985-86, pp. 301-7.

[In the essay below, Purchas-Tulloch examines African folkloric, musical, and religious elements in Guillén's poetry.]

The transplantation of the African slave to the Americas, and more specifically, Cuba, was to result in the offshoot of a folklore tradition prolific in African elements, forming an amalgam with the Cuban. Nicolás Guillén's Afro-Cuban grounding stems from this transplantation, and his work has been singled out here as a tribute to his fifty plus years of dedication to this field. His...

(The entire section is 2410 words.)

Gustavo Pérez-Firmat (essay date 1987)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Nicolás Guillén between the son and the Sonnet," in Callaloo, Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring, 1987, pp. 318-28.

[In the essay below, Pérez-Firmat discusses Guillén's use of the son and sonnet forms, stating that Guillén imposed "poetic form on native rhythms" with the son and infused "traditional form with indigenous vitality" with the sonnet]

Nicolás Guillén, best-known as a composer of sones, has also favored the sonnet. Although the fame of the author of Sóngoro cosongo (1931) rests primarily on his innovative nativist verse, from his earliest poems Guillén has shown a special predilection for traditional poetic forms, and particularly...

(The entire section is 5185 words.)

Ian Isidore Smart (essay date 1990)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Central Creative Conflict, Mulatez" in Nicolás Guillén: Popular Poet of the Caribbean, University of Missouri Press, 1990, pp. 159-73.

[In the following excerpt, Smart examines the synthesis of European and African cultural influences, or mulatez, in Guillén's poetry.]

Mulatez is a cultural concept of direct artistic relevance, which involves an awakening to the full importance of the African cultural heritage. This new awareness engenders conflict in every cultural sphere, be it social, political, economic, or psychological—the inevitable conflict between Eurocentered and Afrocentered realities. In Guillén's view, the conflict...

(The entire section is 3017 words.)

Edward J. Mullen (essay date 1992)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Some Early Readings of Motivos de son," in Romance Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2, May, 1992, pp. 221-30.

[In the essay below, Mullen examines various critical interpretations of Motivos de son in order to show "the multiplicity of ways in which the same poem becomes a radically different object in the context of different critical approaches."]

When Nicolas Guillén died on July 16, 1989, he left behind an enormous obra, much of which has gone unstudied. His work, which had celebrated Cuba's multiracial and ethnic mix, had garnered for him in recent years wide recognition in the Latin American community. There is little doubt, however, that of...

(The entire section is 4147 words.)