November 18, 2022

José Lezama Lima (Cuba) 1910-1976

José Lezama Lima (Cuba) 

Lezama Lima studied law, as well as theology and history, at the University of Havana, and was active in the early protests against the dictatorship. He began publishing poetry in the 1930s, and in 1937 he founded the journal Verbum, which became the major organ for the Transcendentalist group of poets. 
     The Transcendentalist's wanted to take poetry to to a higher spiritual level in reaction to the costumbrista tradition, which stressed regional literary sources. 
     Lezama Lima later was one of the founders of Orígenes, which was one of the most highly influential journals of the mid 1940s and early 1950s. 

     His own work became better known when he published his prose poems of the early 1940s, published in Nadie Parecía, which were later collected as La fifeza, published in 1949. Dador followed in 1960, and his Anthology of Cuban Poetry, one of the most influential of anthologies followed in 1965.

     His major work, the novel Paradiso, appeared in 1966. This work, highly experimental and complex in its structure, was one of the most important publications not only in Cuban literary history, but in that of Latin American literature. This unclassifiable book is often compared the Joyce's Ulysses and Proust's Á la Recherche du temps perdu
      His poetry, like that of the younger poet, Severo Sarduy, was highly influenced by the great Spanish poet Luis de Góngora of the sixteenth century. And like Sarduy, Lezama Lima used the metaphysical conceits of Góngora's writing to focus on the androgynous origins of man, which, in turn, permitted him to explore his homosexuality. 


Muerte de Narciso (Havana: Editorial Ucar. García & Cía, 1937; México: Editorial Era, 1988); Enemigo rumar (Havana: Editorial Uca. García & Cía, 1941); Aventuras sigilosas (Havana: Ediciones Orígenes, 1945); La fijeza (Havana: Edictiones Orígenes, 1949); Dador (Havana: Instituto del Libro, 1960); Poesía completa (Havana: Instituto del Libro, 1970; Barcelona: Barral Editores, 1975); Obras completas de José Lezama Lima (México: Aguilar, 1975, 1977); Fragmentos a su imán (Havana: Editorial Arte y Literatura, 1977; México: Ediciones Era, 1978; Barcelona: Lumen, 1978) Poesía completa (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1985); Poesía (Madrid: Aguilar. T.I. y II, 1988).


Jose Lezama Lima: Selections, ed. by Ernesto Livon-Grosman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

An Obscure Meadow Lures Me


An obscure meadow lures me,

her fast, close-fitting lawns

revolve in me, sleep on my balcony.

They rule her beaches, her indefinite

alabaster dome re-creates itself.

On the waters of a mirror,

the voice cut short crossing a hundred paths,

my memory prepares surprise:

fallow dew in the sky, dew, sudden flash.

Without hearing I’m called:

I slowly enter the meadow,

proudly consumed in a new labyrinth.

Illustrious remains:

a hundred heads, bugles, a thousand shows

baring their sky, their silent sunflower.

Strange the surprise in that sky

where unwilling footfalls turn

and voices swell in its pregnant center.

An obscure meadow goes by.

Between the two, wind or thin paper,

the wind, the wounded wind of this death,

this magic death, one and dismissed.

A bird, another bird, no longer trembles.


Copyright © 2005 by José Lezama Lima and Nathaniel Tarn. From José Lezama Lima: Selections. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

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