UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Un acercamiento a la poesía de Nicolas Guillén Hillson, Richard Wayne


The poetry of Nicolás Guillén, Cuba's "poet of the Revolution", has been and continues to be a subject of much controversy. For a start, there are those who question his very status as a poet, claiming that the subject matter of his poetry is too "engagé" to qualify for the title of poetry, and consequently himself for the title of poet. Then, because he first made his mark on the world of poetry with a collection of poems with predominantly Mack motifs, he was automatically lumped into the Afro-Cubanist movement, very much in vogue at the time, as a result of which it has been generally felt that his poetry progressed from this "stage" of Afro-Cubanism to a "stage" of poetry of social awareness wherein his themes were either more meaningful, or less interesting, depending on the angle from which one cared to examine the poetry. Finally, Guillén has been accused of being a racist poet because of his evident bias and sympathy towards the African element in his Cuban society. The purpose of this thesis, without ever pretending to offer a definitive solution to the controversies, is to consider how far these opinions of his poetry are justifiable. Through a somewhat detailed examination of his poetry, especially his pre-1959 poetry (which is the poetry that did engender the controversies) I expect to show as far as it is possible that Guillén is a poet in his own right by demonstrating that his work contains all the elements that are generally considered to be the stuff of which poetry is made. I expect to show that there are no two "stages" in his poetry, and that his poetry is not racist, in spite of the extremely assertive manner the poet uses at times to present the African half of mulatto Cuba. In short, the thesis is an approach to the poetry of Nicolás Guillén, an attempt to shed some light on the problems surrounding it, a presentation of certain aspects that should, in my opinion, be considered in any evaluation of the poet's work.

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