June 29, 2011

Vicente Huidobro

Vicente Huidobro (Vicente García Fernández) [Chile]

Born in Santiago, Chile in 1893, Huidobro was educated at a Jesuit school, which later led to a profound spiritual crisis in the young man, as he revolted against his aristocratic Roman Catholic upbringing. He left for Paris in 1916, having published six books of poetry. Although the first four books had little new to offer, he had moved in the last years of his youth to develop the ideas, most clearly in Adán, which in Paris Pierre Reverdy, Huidobro and others would describe as "creationism."

Once in Paris, Huidobro (the pseudonym he had created for himself) began to contribute to the avant-garde literary magazines, particularly Sic and Nord-Sud, which he co-edited with Reverdy and Guillaume Apollinaire. During these early years he published six further books of poetry, including Horizon Carré, Tour Eiffel, and Hallali. Travel to Madrid in 1918 brough the attention the Spanish avant-gardists such as Gerardo Diego, Juan Larrea, and Jorge Luis Borges, who encouraged him. The result of this interchange was Ultraism, which would, in turn, influence the young Argentine poet, Oliverio Girondo.

Huidobro returned to Chile for one year in 1925, and became the editor of a newspaper and ran as candidate for the Chilean Federation of Students in the national elections. Upon his defeat, Huidobro returned to France, where he continued his writing, including several novels and other works in other genres.

In 1936 he participated in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republic. As the fall of the Republic became imminent, he returned to Chile, where he wrote his important satrical novel, Sátiro; o, El poder de las palabras (1939).

Huidobro's major poetic work was his long poem, Altazor, subtitled "Journey in a Parachute," published in Madrid in 1931. Like Joyce and other major avant-gardists, Huidobro's work is made up of a complex layering of word-play and puns. Even the title relates to the root words: alto (high), Asor (goshawk), while at the same, through its subtitle, suggesting the Icarus-like possibilities of the fall.

The poet's last two works, Ver y palpar (1941) and El ciudadano del olvido (1941) contain autobiographical and personal elements. He died in Cartagena in 1948.


Ecos del alma (Santiago: Imprenta Chide, 1911); Canciones en la noche (Santiago: Imprenta Chile, 1913); La gruta de silencio (Santiago: Imprenta Chile, 1913); Las pagodas ocultas (Santiago: Imprenta Universitaría, 1914); Adán (Santiago: Imprenta Universitaría, 1916); El espejo de agua (Buenos Aires: Editorial Orión, 1916); Horizon Carré (Paris: Editions Paul Birault, 1917); Tour Eiffel (Madrid: Imprenta Pueyo, 1918); Hallali (Madrid: Ediciones Jesús López, 1918); Ecuatorial (Madrid: Imprenta Pueyo, 1918); Poemas articos (Madrid: Imprenta Pueyo, 1918); Saisons choisies (Paris: Editions Le Cible, 1921); Automne régulier (Paris: Editions Librairie de France, 1925); Tout a Coup (Paris: Editions Au Sans Pareil, 1925); Altazor: el viaje en paracaídas (Madrid: Campañía Iberoamericana de Publications, 1931); Temblor de Cielo (Madrid: Ediorial Plutarco, 1931); Ver y palpar (Santiago: Ediciones Ercilla, 1941); El ciudadano del Olvido (Santiago: Ediciones Ercilla, 1941); Antología de Vicente Huidobro (Santiago: Editorial Zig-Zag, 1945); Ultimos Poemas (Santiago: Talleres Gráficos Ahués Hnos, 1948); Poesías, edited with a prologue by Enrique Lihn (Havana: Casa de las Américas, 1968); Obras Completas de Vicente Huidobro (Santiago: Editorial Zig-Zag, 1964); Obras Completas de Vicente Huidobro (Santiago: Editorial Andres Bello, 1976)


The Relativity of Spring: 13 poems translated from the French, translated by Michael Palmer and Geoffrey Young (Berkeley, California: Sand Dollar, 1976); The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro, edited by David Guss (New York: New Directions, 1981); Althazor, translated by Eliot Weinberger (Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 1988); The Poet Is a Little God: Creationist Verse, translated by Jorge García-Gómez (Riverside, California: Xenos Books, 1990)

Ars Poetica

Let the verse be as a key
Opening a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something is flying by;
Let whatever your eyes gaze upon be created,
And the soul of the hearer remain shivering.

Invent new worlds and watch over your word;
The adjective, when not a life-giver, kills.

We are in the cycle of nerves.
Like a memory
The muscle hangs in the museums;
Nevertheless, we have no less strength:
True vigor
Dwells in the head.

Why do you sing the rose, oh Poets!
Make it blossom in the poem;

Only for us
Live all things under the Sun.

The Poet is a little God.

--Translated from the Spanish by Jorge García-Gómez

(from Espejo de Agua, 1916)


Canto III

Break the loops of veins
The links of breath and the chains

Of eyes paths of horizons
Flower screened on uniform skies

Soul paved with recollections
Like stars carved by the wind

The sea is a roof of bottles
That dreams in the sailor's memory

The sky is that pure flowing hair
Braided by the hands of the aeronaut

And the airplane carries a new language
To the mouth of the eternal skies

Chains of glances tie us to the earth
Break them break so many chains

The first man flies to light the sky
Space bursts open in a wound

And the bullet returns to the assassin
Forever tied to the infinite

Cut all the links
Of river sea and mountain

Of spirit and memory
Of dying law and fever dreams

It is the world that turns and goes on and whirls
In the last eyeball

Tomorrow the countryside
Will follow the galloping horses

The flower will suck the bee
For the hangar will be a hive

The rainbow will become a bird
And fly singing to its nest

Crows will become planets
And sprout feathers of grass

Leaves will to loose feathers
Falling from their throats

Glances will be rivers
And the rivers wounds in the legs of space

The flock will guide its shepherd
So the day can doze drowsy as an airplane

And the tree will perch on the turtledove
While clouds turn to stone

For everything is as it is in every eye
An ephemeral astrological dynasty

Falling from universe to universe

The poet is a manicurist of language
Not the magician who lights and douses
Stellar words and the cherries of vagabond good-byes
Far from the hands of the earth
And everything he says is his invention
things that move outside the ordinary world
Let us kill the poet who gluts us

Poetry still and poetry poetry
Poetical poetry poetry
Poetical poetry by poetical poets
Too much poetry
From the rainbow to the piano-bench ass of the lady next door
Enough poetry bambina enough lady
It still has bars across its eyes
The game is a game and not an endless prayer
Smiles or laughter not the eyeball's little lamps
That wheel from affliction toward the sea
Smiles and gossip of the weaver star
Smiles of a brain evoking dead stars
On the séance table of its radiance

Enough lady harp of the beautiful images
Of furtive illuminated "likes"
It's something else we're looking for something else
We already know how to dart a kiss like a glance
Plant glances like trees
Cage trees like birds
Water birds like heliotropes
Play a heliotrope like music
Empty music like a sack
Decapitate a sack like a penguin
Cultivate penguins like vineyards
Milk a vineyard like a cow
Unmast cows like schooners
Comb a schooner like a comet
Disembark comets like tourists
Charm tourists like snakes
Harvest snakes like almonds
Undress an almond like an athlete
Fell athletes like cypresses
Light cypresses like lanterns
Nestle lanterns like skylarks
Heave skylarks like sighs
Embroider sighs like silks
Drain silks like rivers
Raise a river like a flag
Row through fires like a rooster
Douse a rooster like a fire
Row through fires like seas
Reap seas like wheat
Ring wheat like bells
Bleed bells like lambs
Draw lambs like smiles
Bottle smiles like wine
Set wine like jewels
Electrify jewels like sunsets
Man sunsets like battleships
Uncrown a battleship like a king
Hoist kings like dawns
Crucify dawns like prophets
Etc. etc. etc.
Enough sir violin sunk in a wave wave
Everyday wave of misery religion
Of dream after dream possession of jewels
After the heart-eating roses
And the nights of the perfect ruby
The new athlete leaps on the magnetic track
Frolicking with magnetic words
Hot as the earth when a volcano rises
Hurling the sorceries of his bird phrases

The last poet withers away
The bells of the continents chime
The moon dies with the night on its back
The sun pulls the day out of its pocket
The solemn new land opens its eyes
And moves from earth to the stars
The burial of poetry

All the languages are dead
Dead in the hands of the tragic neighbor
We must revive the languages
With raucous laughter
With wagonloads of giggles
With circuit breakers in the sentences
And cataclysm in the grammar
Get up and walk
Stretch your legs limber the stiff joints
Fires of laughter for the shivering language
Astral gymnastics for the numb tongues
Get up and walk
Live like a football
Burst in the mouth of motorcycle diamonds
In the drunkenness of its fireflies
The very vertigo of its liberation
A beautiful madness in the life of the word
A beautiful madness in the zone of language
Adventure lined with tangible disdain
The adventure of language between two wrecked ships
A delightful catastrophe on the rails of verse

And since we must live and not kill ourselves
As long as we live let us play
The simple sport of words
Of the pure word and nothing more
Without images awash with jewels
(Words carry too much weight)
A ritual of shadowless words
An angel game there in the infinite
Word by word
By the light of a star that a crash brings to life
Sparks leap from the crash and then more violent
More enormous is the explosion
Passion of the game in space
With no moon-wings no pretense
Single combat between chest and sky
Total severance at last of voice and flesh
Echo of light bleeding air into the air

Then nothing nothing
Spirit whisper of the wordless phrase

--Translated from the Spanish by Eliot Weinberger

(from Altazor, 1931)


"Ars Poetica"
Reprinted from The Poet Is a Little God, trans. by Jorge García-Gómez (Riverside, California: Xenox Books, 1990). Copyright ©1990 by Xenos Books. Reprinted by permission of Xenos Books.

from Altazor
Reprinted from Altazor, trans. by Eliot Weinberger (Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 1988). Copyright ©1975, 1980, 1981 and 1988 by Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

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