July 31, 2014



Los Cuadernícolas was a group of primarily Colombian poets beginning in 1949. Origianally the poets followed the works of Spanish poet Jorge Guillen, arguing for an aesthetics of perfection and stylistic order. Most of the so called “Sky and Stone” poets published in Revista Semana and later in Jorge Gaitán Durán’s Mito. Their goal was also centered upon presenting the “sweaty, smelly peasant in the immediate social reality.”

Among the members of this loosely-formed group were Andrés Holguín, Fernando Charry Lara, Álvaro Mutis, Rogelio Eschavarria, Payan William Archer, Jaime Ibáñez, Maruja Vieira, Julio Fajardo, and Jorge Gaitán Durán.
      Because of their interconnections between Revista Semana and the later journal Mito, these poets have also been described as La generacioncita.

For an academic essay in Spanish on Mito and its relationships with Los Cuadernícolas,


Hayim [Chaim] Nahman Bialik (Russia / Ukraine) 1873-1934

Hayim [Chaim] Nahman Bialik (Russia [Ukraine])

Born in Radi, Volhynia (then Russia, now Ukraine) to a traditional Jewish family, Yosef and Dinah, Hayim Bialik studied at a yeshiva in Zhitomir. His father died when he was seven years old, and throughout his life Bialik romanticized the difficulties of his childhood, noting the “seven orphans left behind”; contemporary biographers doubt the quantity of his siblings.
     In Zhitomir, the young poet was raised by Orthodox grandfather, Yaakov Moshe Bialok. At 17 he was sent to the renowned Talmudic academy in Volozhin, Lithuania, where he focused on the Jewish Enlightenment Movement (Haskala). Joining the Hovevei Zion group, the young man gradually shifted away from yeshiva life, reflecting his ambivalent feelings about his “narrow” way of life in his early poem from 1898, “HaMatmid” (“The Talmud Student”).
    At 18 he left for Odessa, the center of modern Jewish culture in Ukraine, becoming active in literary circles there. In Odessa he also met Abad Ha’am, who influenced Bialok’s Zionish outlook for the rest of his life, as well as Mendele Mocher Sforim. The young poem studied Russian and German languages, dreaming of enrolling in the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. During this period he also published his first poem, “El HaTzipor” (“To the Bird”), reflecting his growing Zionist feelings.

In 1892, hearing that the Volozhin yeshiva had closed, he quickly returned to Zhitomir in order to prevent his grandfather from discovering that he had discontinued his religious studies there. Upon his arrival he discovered both his grandfather and his older brother dying.
     After their deaths, Bialik married Mania Averbuch in 1893. For some time he worked as a bookkeeper in his father-in-law’s lumber business near Kiev. In 1897 he moved to Sosnowiec in southern Poland, working as a Hebrew teacher while earning extra income as a coal merchant. But the provincial life deeply depressed him, and he returned to Odessa, having secured a teaching job there.
     For the next two decades Bialik taught and continued his activities in Zionist and literary groups. In 1901 he published his first collection of poems in Warsaw, which received some acclaim, including being hailed as “the poet of national renaissance.”
     He moved to Warsaw for a brief period of time in 1904, where he became the literary editor of the weekly journal, HaShiloah, founded by his friend Abad Ha’am.
     In 1903 he was sent by the Jewish Historical Commission back to Odessa to interview survivors of the Kishinev pogroms. As a result of his findings, Bialik wrote an epic poem In the City of Slaughter, an expression of the anguish felt by the Jews. So powerful was his attack against anti-Semitic violence that it is thought to have influenced Jewish self-defense groups in Russia and the Haganah in Palestine. In 1909 Bialik visited Palestine.           
     During this early period he founded, with others, a Hebrew publishing house, Moriah, which focused on Hebrew classics and texts for school students. He also translated numerous European works, including Shakespeare, Schiller, Cervantes, Heine, and Ansky. Bialik also published 20 of his own Yiddish poems and collaboratively published Sefer HaAggadah (The Book of Legends), a three-volume publication the folk tales and proverbs embedded in the Talmud.
     In 1921 Bialik moved to Berlin, founding the Dvir publishing house, which he moved to Tel Aviv in 1924, devoting himself to cultural activities and public affairs. While still in Germany he joined a community of Jewish authors that included Samuel Joseph Agnon, Simon Dubnow, Israel Isidor Elyashev, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Jakob Klatzkin, Moshe Kulbak, Jakob-Wolf Latzki-Bertoldi, Shaul Tchernichovsky, Martin Buber and numerous others. They met at the Hebrew Club (Beith haWa’ad ha’Ivri) or in Café Monopol, which had a Hebrew speaking corner.     
    In 1927 he became head of the Hebrew Writers Union which had been established six years previously. He retained this position until his death in Vienna in 1934 of prostate cancer.

 BOOKS OF POETRY (in Hebrew)

Poems, Warsaw: Tushia, 1901); Shirim (Cracow: Hovevei Hashira Haivrit: 1907); The Writings of H. N. Bialik (Berlin: Hovevei Hashira Haivrit, 1924); Poems and Songs (children’s book) (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1933); The Writings of H.N. Bialik (four volumes) (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1938); Collected Poems ­ Critical Edition (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1983 / 1990)

Poems from Hebrew (London: Hasefer, 1924) / as Selected Poems (New York: New Palestine, 1926) / Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1939) / as Complete Poetic Works (New York: Histadrut Ivrit of America, 1948) /  (New York: Block, 1965) / as Selected Poems (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1972) / as Selected Poems (Tel Aviv: Dvir and the Jerusalem Post, 1981) / (Columbus, Ohio: Alpha, 1987); The Short Friday (Tel Aviv: Hashaot, 1944); Knight of Onions and Knight of Garlic, Herbert Danby, trans. (New York: Jordan, 1939); Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of Hayim Nahman Bialik (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000); Selected Poems (New York: Overlook/Duckworth, 2004)

"Avrom Sutzkever: 'Green Acquarium,' a poem newly translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger" | [link]

To read “Avrom Sutzkever: ‘Green Acquarium,’ a poem newly translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger” click below:

Jorge Gaitán Durán (Columbia) 1924-1962

Jorge Gaitán Durán (Columbia)

Born on February 12, 1925, in Pamplona, Norte de Santander, Columbia, Durán was the son of a civil engineer and a mother—daughter of General Justo L. Durán—who graduated from the Provincial College of St. Joseph.
      As a young adult, Durán traveled to Bogota to be studies at the Faculty of Engineering at National University of Columbia, but studied there only two semesters. 1942 he determined to change his career to law, moving to the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. During this period he began to work as a film and literature critic. He also became friends with several poets such as Fernando Charry Lar, Fernando Arbelaez, and Alvaro Mutis, writers connected with the “Cuadernícolas,” a group of writers of the late 1940s that published in Revista Semana (Weekly Magazine). During this period Durán himself published two collections, Insistencia en la tristeza (1946, Insistence of Sadness) and Presencia del hombre (1947, Presence of Man).  

On April 9, 1948, after the murder of the liberal political leader, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, whom Durán had supported, he and a colleague, Jorge Zalamea, took over the Columbia National Radio Station in order calm the masses and to organize a new intellectual revolution. The young poet was charged with sedition, and he was forced to take refuge in Cucuta.
     After surviving a murder attempt and finally absolved of blame, Durán left for Europe in 1950. He traveled extensively throughout Europe, becoming deeply involved with the cultural movements of the time, particularly in existentialism and Marxism. For much of this time he lived in Paris, attending cinema courses at the Institut de Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques, as well as attending lectures by Maurice Merleau Ponty at the Collège de Drance. During these years he also met Dina Moscovici, who became his wife. Durán also traveled to Asia, encounter figures such as Nazim Hikmet and Mao Tse Tung. In Spain he met poets José Manuel Caballero Bonald and Vicente Aleixandre, whom he would later invite to contribute to his magazine Myth.
     After a brief stay in Brazil in 1954, the poet returned to Columbia to found, with the Colombia critic, Hernando Valencia Goelkel, the review Mito (Myth), which published numerous Colombian and Latin American writers from 1955 to 1962. Through this journal Colombian intellectuals protested against restrictions to freedom in Columbia and others parts of the world. Among his most controversial essays was “Contemporary Sade,” published in 1958.
     Both as a now important editor and as a university professor, Durán became a major force in Colombian literature, replacing Gabriel García Marrquez on the newspaper El Espectador, publishing book and film reviews and a regular coloumn, “In and Out,” on various topical subjects relating to national politics and foreign affairs.
     In 1956 Durán published his renowed Diario de Viage. And in 1959 another book of poetry appeared, Amantes. In 1961, Durán wrote the libretto of an opera, Les hampones, with music by Luis Antonio Escobar; the opera was performed in Bogotá that year. By February 1962, Durán had become such a famed writer that Eduardo Carranze led a national homage to homage to the poet, timed with publication of his collection, Si mañana despierto.
     Later that year Durán traveled to Paris. On his return journey, on June 22, 1962, the plane on which he was traveling crashed, killing him.
      Critics often characterize Durán’s work as being highly linked to the erotic, particularly given his interest in Sade, George Bataille, and others. Durán wrote of himself: “Sometimes I feel that only the tremulous sun of desire and of pleasure can rise and shine for an instant in the ethical night of modern life.”
     The poet also wrote works of fiction and collections of essays on art and film.

Insistencia en la tristeza; poemas (Bogotá: Editorial Kelly, 1946); Presencia del hombre (Bogotá: Ediciones Espiral Colombia, 1947); Ausencia (1949); Amantes (Bogotá: Fundación Simón y Lola Gubarek, 1964); Si mañana despierto (1962); Poemas de la muerte (Bogotá: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1965); Obra literaria; poesia y prosa (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1975)


July 30, 2014

Nicolás Guillén (Cuba) 1902-1989

Nicolás Guillén [Nicolás Guillén Batista] (Cuba)

Nicolás Guillén was born on July 10, 1902 in Camagüey, Cuba. As a young man, Guillén read widely, abandoning his law studies at the University of Havana in 1921 to concentrate on writing poetry. Born of mixed African and Spanish descent, the poet combined a knowledge of traditional literary from with firsthand experience of the speech, legends, songs, and sones (popular dances) of the Afro-Cubans in his first volume of poetry, Motivos de son (Motifs of Son) of 1930, which was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. The work also aligned him with the international Negritude movement.

In this same period, Guillén met U.S. poet Langston Hughes, and a warm relationship developed between the two, leading the Cuba poet to write and publish “A Conversation with Langston Hughes” and eight poems triggered by their friendship.
     In the following years, Guillén became more outspoken politically, no longer interested with picturesque portrayals of daily life. In works such as Sóngoro consongo (1931) and West Indies Ltd. (1934), and Cantos para soldados y sones para turistas (1937), he began to decry the poor people’s oppression. In 1937 Guillén left for Spain to fight with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, which also resulted his collection España, also of 1937.
     At the defeat of the Spanish Republic, Guillén returned to Cuba, joining the Communist Party, and speaking out for social and political reform. During this period he became recognized by many critics as one of the most influential of Latin American poets who dealt with African themes. He was arrested several times and was exiled from his homeland during the regime of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, becoming a ardent supporter of Fidel Castro’s 1959-based revolution.
     Guillén served Castro as director of Cuba’s Union of Writers and Artists. Throughout these years and later, he continued to treat themes of revolution and social protest in volumes of poetry such as La Paloma de vuelo Popular: Elegías (1958, The Dove of Popular Flight: Elegies) and Tengo (1964, I Have). A bilingual edition of his selected poems, Man-making Words: Selected Poems of Nicolas Guillén appeared in 1975.
     He received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1954, the International Botey Prize in 1975, and Cuba’s National Prize for Literature in 1983.
     Guillén died in Havana on July 16, 1989 of Parkinson’s Disease and complications.


Cerebro y Corazon (1926); Motivos de son (1930); Sóngoro cosongo: poemas mulatos (Havana: García y cía, 1931/Havana: La Verónica, 1942); West Indies Ltd. (Havana: Ucar, García y cía, 1934); España: poema en cuatro anguistias y una esperanza (Mexico City: Editorial Masas, 1937); Cantos para soldados y sones para turistas (México: Editorial lMéxico Nuevo, 1937); El son entero (Buenos Aires: Editorial Pleamer,1947); Elegías (1948-1958); Antologia poética (Rio de Janeiro: Leitura,  1961);  Tengo (1964); Poemas de amor (1964); El gran zoo (Buenos Aires: Editorial Quetzal,1967/Madrid: Editorial Ciencia Nueva, 1969); Antologia mayor (Havana: Instituto del Libro, 1969); La rueda dentada (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Aristas de Cuba, 1972); El diario que a diario (1972); El corazón con que vivo (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1975); Por el mar de las Antillas anda un barco de papel; Poemas para niños y mayors de edad (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1977); Elegías (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1977); El diario que a diaro (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1979); El libro de los sonetos (Havana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1984); En Algún Sitio de la Privavera: Elegía (1986)


Selections in H. R. Hays, ed. 12 Spanish American Poets (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1943); Cuba libre: Poems (Los Angeles: Anderson and Ritchie, 1948); Patria o muerte!: The Great Zoo and Other Poems (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972); Tengo (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1974); Man-making Words: Selected Poems of Nicolas Guillén (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972 / Havana: Editorial Arte y Literature, 1975); he Poetry of Nicolás Guillén (London: New Beacon Books, 1976); The Daily Daily (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); New Love Poetry: In Some Springtime Place: Elegy (Toronto: University of Tornoto Pess, 1994); Yoruba from Cuba: Selected Poems of Nicolas Guillen (trans. Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres) (Leeds, United Kingdom: Peepal Tree Press, 2005)

July 29, 2014

Gastón Baquero (Cuba) 1916-1997

Gastón Baquero (Cuba)

Born in Banes, Cuba in 1916 (his birth date varies in different sources from 1914 to 1918), poet Gastón Baquero grew up in the countryside that would be a major element in his urbane poetry.
     Baquero worked as a journalist for several newspapers connected to the Batista regime, leaving Cuba at the time of the 1959 revolution. He exiled himself to Madrid, living there until is death in 1997. Many commentators fell that his poetry written in Spain was far more powerful than his earlier, Cuba-based writing.

Before he left Cuba, Baquero was involved with the Cuba Orígenes group, which included a wide range of poetic masters, including José Lezama Lima, Eliseo Diego, Cintio Vitier, and Fina Garcia Marruz, who together collaborated of the journal of that name between 1946 and 1956. That group worked toward a major renovation of Cuban poetry, moving away from 19th Century models to a new range of aesthetics, particularly the neo-baroque movement posited by Lezama Lima.
     While still in Cuba, Baquero co-founded the magazine Clavileño (1942-1943).
     Baquero also wrote volumes of essays and commentary on poets such as Darío and Cernuda.    

The information above is based on a biography written by Peter Boyle. ©2013 by Peter Boyle.


Poemas (Havana, 1942); Saúl sobre su espada (Havana: Clavileño, 1942); Poemas escritos en España (Madrid, 1961); Memorial de us testigo (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 1960); Magias e inveciones (Madrid, 1991); Acercamiento a Dulce María Loynaz (Madrid, 1993); La Fuente inagotable (Valencia: Pre-Textos, 1995)/Poesía (Salamanca, 1995); Poesía completa (Madrid: Editora Verbum, 1998, ed. by Pio Serrano); La patria sponora de los fritos: antología poética (Havana, Cuba: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2001); Antología poética, ed. by Francisco Brines (Madrid: Pre-Textos, 2002) 


The Angel of Rain: Poems by Gastón Baquero (trans. by Greg Simon and Steven F. White) (Spokane, Washington: Eastern Washington University Press, 2006); selections in Mark Weiss, ed. The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2009).

For a selection of Baquero’s poems, click below:

July 28, 2014

Tom Weatherly (USA) 1942-2014

Tom Weatherly (USA)

Born in Scottsboro, Alabama on November 3, 1942, Tom Weatherly is American poet who is primarily known for his connections with the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City. Weatherly’s parents, Thomas Elias Weatherly and Lucy B. Golson Weatherly, were recognized as prominent figures in the African American community, well known as educators and civic leaders.
     Weatherly attended Moorehouse College at in Atlanta at the age of 15, and the Alabama A and M University in Huntsville. He later studied at Hofstra University, CUNY Manhattan, and Columbia University.

The poet served in the U.S. Marines before moving to New York in the winter of 1966-1967 when he attending the inaugural poetry workshops at the Poetry Project, taught by poet Joel Oppenheimer.
     Publishing in small journals such as Gandhabba, Minetta Reivew, Whetstone, The World, and Exquisite Corpse, Weatherly began describing himself as a poet, publishing his first book, Maumau American Cantos in 1970.
      He worked at the Strand Bookstore (rare and first edition bookstore) in New York City for many years and The Lion’s Head, a famed local pub in Sheridan Square.
     His work career also includes serving as a teacher of creative writing at St. Mark's Church in New York City, beginning in 1972. He served as poet-in-residence at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas during 1970 and 1971. He was a writer-in-residence at State College of New York-Buffalo in the 70’s. He taught Afro-Hispanic art at Rutgers University-Newark and conducted poetry workshops at grade schools, universities, prisons and poetry projects. He was an avid bicyclist, computer maven and music lover. In later years, he split his time between New York City and Huntsville, Alabama.
     In 1971 he published Thumbprint, and in 2006, Groundwater Press published his noted short history of the saxophone. Weatherly also edited and co-edited several anthologies, including Natural Process (1970), New Black Voices (1972), The Poetry of Black America (1973), Uplate (1989), Everybody Goodbye Ain’t Gone (2006), and The Second Set (2008).
     Although Weatherly was photographed by the great photography Andrei Kertesz on the streets of Greenwich Village, according to friend M.G. Stephens, “He preferred to stay out of the limelight.” “I want my work famous not my face,” Weatherly quipped.
      Later in his life, Weatherly converted to Judaism, and was buried in a traditional Jewish ceremony upon his death in July of 2014.

Short history of the saxophone (Groundwater Press, 2006); Thumbprint (Telegraph Books, 1971); Maumau American Cantos (New York: Corinth Books, 1970)
To hear Weatherly’s poem “Trivet,” click below:

For a rare reading by Tom Weatherly from July 1971, now in the PENNSound library,
go here: http://jacket2.org/commentary/tom-weatherly-nov-3-1942-july-15-2014

July 25, 2014

Ivan Slamnig (Croatia) 1930-2001

Ivan Slamnig (Croatia)

Poet, story teller, dramatist, literary theorist and translator, Ivan Slamnig was born in 1930 in Metković. He died in 2001 in Zagreb. Slamnig has been described as one of the most innovative and unpredictable poets of the 1980s.

Slamnig studied at the Arts’ Faculty in Zagreb from 1949 to 1955. He was a university lecturer at the Arts’ Faculty in Zagreb and he translated literature from English, Russian, Italian and Swedish, and translated many world classics and a number of books by contemporary authors. He completed several valuable anthologies such as Antologija hrvatske poezije, od najstarijih zapisa di kraja XIX stoljeca (An anthology of Croatian poetry, from the earliest period to the end of the 19th century) and Antologija hrvatske poezije XVII stoljeca (An anthology of Croatian poetry beginning with A. Kacica Miosica to A. G. Matosa. He also wrote plays, essays and scientific books.
       Slamnig was certainly one of the most innovative and unpredictable poets of the eighties, a writer who enjoyed toying with slightly whimsical poetic conventions. He also explored the bizarre and, in several of his poems from the fifties, the spiritual. His early poems are gems of imagism. An autobiographical element appears more evident in his later fiction and poetry. In his best work the robust comic energy is combined with elements of pathos. His work also includes fiction, plays and essays.
     The poet became a seminal writer of the 1980s who started his literary career in the 1950s, publishing poems, essays and translations in an influential literary magazine entitled Circles (Krugovi). Slamnig’s authentic poetic vision survived into the nineties..
      His death was a heavy blow for Croatian writers, who enormously admired him. His work is full of literary allusions and brilliant elements of pastiche, was greatly admired even by ordinary people for his humor and love of the everyday.
      Slamnig also was a remarkable novelist, with his novel The Better Half of Courage winning a place in the Croatian graduate school literature program. The development of the Croatian post-modern novel owes much to the pioneering work of Slamnig, even though he did not continue with fiction.

—Based on comments by Sibila Petlevski


Aleja poslije svecanosti (Zagreb, 1956); Odron. Land-slide (Zagreb, 1956); Naronska siesta. (Zagreb, 1963); Limb. Limbo (Zagreb, 1973); Analecta (Zagreb, 1971); Pjesme (Zagreb, 1973); Dronta (Zagreb, 1981); Izabrana djela (Zagreb, 1983); Relativno naopako. (Zagreb, 1987); Sed schole (Zagreb, 1987); Sabrane pjesme (Zagreb, 1990); Ranjeni tenk (Zagreb 2000)