August 27, 2014

Carlos Oquendo de Amat

Carlos Oquendo de Amat [Peru]



The vanguard poet Carlos Oquendo de Amat was born in Puno, a highland provincial capital near Lake Titicaca, in Peru on April 17, 1905.

     The son of a Sorbonne-educated father who was a progressive newspaper publisher, the young poet grew up among of the elite of his community. Upon the death of his father in 1918, the teenager moved with his moved with his mother from that privileged world to a position of poverty in Lima. The family often suffered daily without food as he was growing up. Acquaintances record that Carlos often would skip one meal a day just have enough to attend the cinema.

     During this period Lima was in the process of an often turbulent growth and shift of its working and professional families. Many of the major poets of the period had shifted their allegiances to various European vanguard writers in an attempt to express what they saw as the new modernism, a fact not lost on the precocious Oquendo de Amat.

     Written between the period of 1923 to 1925, when the poet was at the age of 18-20, his only book, 5 Metros de Poemas (Five Meters of Poems), bears the stamp of European modernism such as Apollinaire’s work, Futurism, the Creationist writings of Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro, and preceded later work of the Concrete poets.

     The accordion-folded book was published in a small edition in December 1927.

     Personally, the poet suffered many of the social and political problems of the day. After being arrested during several periods of dissent, he embraced Marxism, renouncing poetry.

     During a period of imprisonment, he contracted tuberculosis. When released from prison, he was deported to Panama, managing to reach Republican Spain just before his death in Guadarrama at 32 in 1936

     His groundbreaking book has been published in two Spanish-language editions, and was first published in English by Turkey Press, translated by David Guss, appeared in 1986. More recently, Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn, published a bilingual edition, translated into English by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta, in 2010.




5 Metros de Poemas (Lima, Peru: Editorial Minerva, 1927 / Madrid: Ediiciones El Taller del Libro, 2004)




Five Meters of Poems (trans. by David M. Guss) (Isla Vista, California: Turkey Press, 1986); 5 Meters of Poems (trans. by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta) (Brooklyn, New York: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010)   


For a Spanish language PDF edition of 5 Metros de Poemas, click here:

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