July 3, 2011



A literary movement argued from by the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro, most particularly in his essay of the same name.

For Huidobro, poetry is a truly new thing, created not to reflect life, but for the sake of itself, a thing made not to represent or point to another, not to please the reader, or even be understood by its own author.

Creationism, accordingly, was a general aesthetic theory rather than a school of art, or a group poets might join. As early as 1912, in the journal The Young Muse, Huidobro had argued:

The reign of literature is over. The twentieth century will witness the birth of the reign of poetry in the true sense of the word; this will be creation, as the Greeks called it, although they never came to realize their definition.

In 1913 or 1914, he repeated a similar idea in an interview in the magazine Ideals. Writing in his essay "Creationism" he summarizes his ideas:

I will tell you what I mean by the created poem. It's a poem in which each constituent pat and everything together presents a new fact, independent of the external world and detached from all reality other than itself, because it takes its place in the world as a particular phenomenon
separate and apart from other phenomena.

This poem is a thing which cannot exist elsewhere than in the head of the poet. It isn't beautiful out of nostalgia, it isn't beautiful because we recall some things seen which were beautiful beings
that we have lost the possibility of seeing. It is beautiful in itself and it doesn't admit of terms of comparison. It cannot be conceived anywhere but in a book.

There is nothing resembling it in the external world. It renders real that which doesn't exist; that is to say, it makes its own reality.*

His inspirations were, in part, the poems of Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Georges Ribémont Dessaignes, and Paul Éluard. Among the Spanish poets Huidobro sites were Juan Larrea and Gerardo Diego. Yet, obviously, there are similarities in Huidobro's ideas with those of Oscar Wilde, who believed art must stand apart from life.

Huidobro's poem, "Arte Poetica" perhaps best summarizes his argument:

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.**

—Douglas Messerli

For a musical performance of the Huidobro poem by the Ensable Transient, click below:

*from "Creationism" in Vicente Huidobro Manifestos Manifest, trans. by Gilbert Albert-Gilbert (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 1999). English language translation copyright ©1999 by Gilbert Albert-Gilbert. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

**from Vicente Huidobro The Poet Is a Little God, trans. by Jorge García-Gómez (Riverside, California: Xenos Books, 1990). English language translation copyright ©1990. Reprinted by permission.

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