Nicolas Guillen (July 10, 1902 - July 16, 1989)
Born: 10th July, 1902
Died: 16th July, 1989
Nationality: Cuban poet
Region: Camaguey, Cuba, Havana
Notable works: Cuban Communist Party

Nicolas Guillen Facts

Biography

Nicolas Guillen, in full Nicolas Guillen Batista, (born July 10, 1902, Camaguey, Cuba--died July 16, 1989, Havana), Cuban poet of social protest and a leader of the Afro-Cuban movement in the late 1920s and '30s. His commitment to social justice and membership in the Communist Party made him the national poet of revolutionary Cuba.

Guillen read widely during his youth and abandoned law studies at the University of Havana in 1921 to concentrate on writing poetry. Of mixed African and Spanish descent, he combined a knowledge of traditional literary form 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 (1930; "Motifs of Son"), which was soon hailed as a masterpiece and widely imitated.

During the following years Guillen became more outspoken politically. No longer satisfied with mere picturesque portrayal of the daily life of the poor, he began to decry their oppression in the volumes Songoro cosongo (1931) and West Indies Ltd. (1934). The poems of Cantos para soldados y sones para turistas (1937; "Songs for Soldiers and Sones for Tourists") reflect his growing commitment; that year Guillen went to Spain to fight with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. From this experience came the poems collected in Espana (1937; "Spain").

Guillen returned to Cuba after the defeat of the Spanish Republic, joined the Communist Party, and continued to speak out for social and political reform. He became recognized by many critics as the most influential of those Latin American poets who dealt with African themes and re-created African song and dance rhythms in literary form. He was arrested several times and was exiled from Cuba during the regime of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, and he was an ardent supporter of Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959. Guillen subsequently served as the longtime director of Cuba's Union of Writers and Artists and was a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. He continued to treat themes of revolution and social protest in such later volumes of poetry as La paloma de vuelo popular: Elegias (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 Guillen, was published in 1975. In 1994 another bilingual edition appeared: Nueva poesia de amor: En algun sitio de la primavera, or New Love Poetry: In Some Springtime Place.

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