Literature

Chile, the land of poets

Two nobel prize winners, along with many other decorated poets, have helped Chile earn a reputation in literature. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013  
Street art in Santiago of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. Photo: Rafa Alves / Flickr Street art in Santiago of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. Photo: Rafa Alves / Flickr


Chile is known for many things; its vast coastline, its long stretch of the Andean Mountains, exquisite wines, and with the undoubted help of two nobel prize winners, its poetry.


The most popular among the land of poets is Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), who won the nobel prize in 1971 and was referred to as "the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language" by fellow Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez.


Neruda had already received international recognition for his poetry by the age of 20 and has written on such a wide range of topics that one of the best ways to understand Chile is to read his works.


You can find many of Neruda's poems translated to English and fans are welcome to visit any three of his homes in Chile which are now museums: Las Chascona Museum in Santiago, Isla Negra Museum in El Quisco, and La Sebastiana Museum in Valparaíso.


Pablo Neruda's father was not supportive of his son's profession, but Neruda found support in others, including Chilean Nobel Prize winning poet Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957).


Mistral is the only Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and her portrait can be found on the 5,000 Chilean peso.


Another influential Chilean artist is Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948), a Chilean poet  who was a part of the Creacionismo (Creationism) movement, which encouraged poets to bring life to the things they wrote about, rather than just describe them.


Nicanor Parra (1914-present) is known for his self-described work as an "anti-poet" due to his dislike of the poetic standard.  Parra adopted a more colloquial tone and for this his work has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.


In 2011, Parra was awarded the Cervantes Prize, which is considered to be the world's leading award for Spanish language literature. He is the third Chilean to win the award, following 1999 recipient Jorge Edwards (1931-present) and 2003 winner Gonzalo Rojas (1917-2011).


Then there are Chilean poets of the second half of the twentieth century such a Enrique Lihn (1929-1988) and Jorge Teillier (1935-1996) who sought to use poetry as a tool for liberating speech and thought.


Lihn’s works interpreted the past and future as forms of death. Teillier was known for being a creator and exponent of la poesía lirica (lyric poetry) a form of poetry that expresses intense feeling or deep thought, both as manifestations of the experience of self.


In addition to its plethora of poets, Chile is the birthplace of an event known as “poetry bombing”.  In 2001, following the arrest of Augusto Pinochet in London, thousands of leaflets were dropped over Palacio La Moneda containing poetry on them.


Poetry bombing has been spread by Chile to other cities around the world that have also experienced military bombardment such as: London, Berlin, and Warsaw.


The poetry bombings are not exclusive to Chilean works, however, they do help spread the word that Chile is the land of poets.


Written by Michael Dash 

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