Guillén, Jorge

Guillén, Jorge
b. 1893, Valladolid; d. 1984, Málaga
   Castilian by birth, European in taste and education, this true cosmopolitan spent nearly forty years in voluntary exile in America before definitively returning to Spain to become, with the award of the Cervantes Prize in 1977, the acknowledged doyen of Spanish poetry in the post-Franco era. A founder member of the "Generation of 1927" with friends and fellow-poets Pedro Salinas and Federico García Lorca, Guillén clearly exemplifies the gradual move in twentieth century Spanish poetics away from high modernism to poetry whose themes and expression are grounded in the shifting realities of daily life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the distance between the ordered vision of the natural world in Cántico (Canticle) (first published 1928) and the vignettes of human existence, bound by the specifics of time and space and recorded in the more discursive, often ironic, style of Clamor (Clamour) (1957). Not a prolific poet, Guillén devoted himself with rare dedication to his art. Ever conscious of his own debts to a rich and varied literary tradition, he tried, with signal success in Homenaje (Homage) (1967) and his literary criticism in Language and Poetry, to connect modern readers with significant prior works. Ultimately, his search for life's essences in language led Guillén to view the poetic process as a continual act of discovery and both Y otros poemas (And Other Poems) (1973) and Final (The End) (1987) are implicit invitations to his readers to continue that process, thereby eloquently foregrounding the exceptionally organic nature of all his work. Guillén began writing Cántico in 1919. The volume grew steadily from the original seventyfive poems of 1928 through second, third and fourth editions published in 1936, 1945 and 1950, respectively, to a final, densely worked structure of 334 poems notable for their profound beauty of language and ethical idealism. In the first two editions, particularly, Guillén attempted to embody an essential vision of reality in which the poem would become an icon of perfection, reflecting the timeless order, geometrical archetypes and symme-trical harmonies of the natural world in an expression of wonder and joyous affirmation. For some this flawless precision seemed cold, cerebral and too close for comfort to the ideal of pure poetry constructed by the French poets so admired by Guillén, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry. To be fair, however, if Guillén had deliberately excised the minutiae of anecdote and sentimental-ity from his poetry, his epiphanies of love and being-in-theworld must rank among the most sensuous amatory verse ever written.
   In the difficult circumstances of the aftermath of war in Europe and exile after 1938, Guillén continued to pursue his dual vocation as "poetprofessor", notably at Wellesley College between 1940 and 1957. Nevertheless, rather than forging verbal incarnations, Guillén now dealt more and more with specific events and situations in the variety of verse forms and stylistic techniques that would become the hallmark of his later work. Despite such obvious differences, Guillén never missed an opportunity to insist that his trilogy Clamor was a true complement to the testimony to life portrayed in Cántico. Thus, under the new rubric of his subtitle "Historical Time", Guillén focused his attention in the trilogy upon the incidence of evil, disorder, fate and death in contemporary life as opposed to the orderly pattern of the well-made natural world. Collective social and political turmoil provided the point of reference in 1957 for poems in Maremágnum (Confusion) dealing with dictatorship, the Holo-caust, the atomic bomb and the Cold War. Three years later, Guillén's meditations on the destructive passage of time centred on a personal elegy for his first wife, Germaine Cahen, in…Que van a dar en el mar (…That Lead into the Sea). By 1963, in A la altura de las circunstancias (In Keeping with One's Circumstances), he was stressing the ethical imperative of resisting defeatism in order to make a collective effort towards human plenitude. Despite Francoist censorship this principled response won Guillén acclaim within Spain from younger poets like Gil de Biedma and Jaime Siles, who acknowledged his moral ascendancy and consummate craftsmanship. Poetry's fundamental role in this discovery of the wider patterns of harmony and affirmation in modern life was the dominant theme in Homenaje. Here the representative function of traditional liberal humanism allowed Guillén to focus upon the contemporary relevance of past literary works. He continued this rich play of perspective until his death, poignantly identifying his own poetic evolution in complex re-readings of his earlier texts in Y otros poemas in 1973 and in both the 1983 and the posthumous versions of Final. First used in 1968, Aire nuestro (Our Air) is now the title for all Guillén's poetry, spanning nearly seventy years of rigorous creative endeavour. If it is convenient to divide his poetry into stages, it is no less true to acknowledge the marvellous coherence of the world view of this poet deeply committed to the celebration of life made meaningful by love and art, in harmony with nature, yet fully cognizant of the vicissitudes of human existence.
   See also: exile; poetry
   Major works
   Guillén, J. (1961) Language and Poetry: Some Poets of Spain, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (literary criticism).
   —— (1987) Aire nuestro, eds Claudio Guillén and Antonio Piedra, 5 vols, Valladolid: Centro de Creación y Estudios Jorge Guillén.
   Further reading
   - Debicki, A.P. (1994) Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century: Modernity and Beyond, Lexington, KY: Kentucky University Press (a very readable analysis of modern Spanish poetry which situates Guillén well).
   - Díez de Revenga, F.J. (1993) Jorge Guillén: el poeta y nuestro mundo, Barcelona: Anthropos (studies all Guillén's poetry and contains a basic bibliography).
   - Havard, R. (1986) Jorge Guillén: Cántico, London: Grant & Cutler (an excellent introductory study of the four editions).
   - MacCurdy, G.G. (1982) Jorge Guillén, Boston, MA: Twayne (a useful overview with bibliography and English translations).
   - Mathews, E. (1985) The Structured World of Jorge Guillén, Liverpool: Francis Cairns (a competent comparison of Cántico and Clamor).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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  • Guillén, Jorge — ▪ Spanish poet born January 18, 1893, Valladolid, Spain died February 6, 1984, Málaga       Spanish lyric poet who experimented with different metres and used verbs rarely but whose work proved more accessible than that of other experimental… …   Universalium

  • Guillén, Jorge — ► (1893 1984) Poeta español. Perteneciente a la generación del 27. En París conoció a Paul Valéry, cuya concepción de una poesía pura y estructurada con rigor arquitectónico no dejó de influir en su obra. Desde un principio se advirtió en él una… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Jorge Guillén — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Guillén. Jorge Guillén Nom de naissance Jorge Guillén Álvarez Activités Poète Naissance 18 janvier 1893 Valladolid …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jorge — ► sustantivo masculino ZOOLOGÍA Abejorro, insecto himenóptero. * * * jorge m. *Abejorro (insecto coleóptero). * * * jorge. m. escarabajo sanjuanero. * * * Nombre propio masculino. Existe equivalente femenino en otras lenguas: Georgina, Georgette …   Enciclopedia Universal

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