This beautiful Latin American nation not only has a rich historical heritage but is known for birthing brilliant Peruvian poets.
The luxuriant lands of Peru have given birth to many renowned poets who are master-craftsmen of the language. Like the great poets of other nations, Peruvian poets are honest and passionate in their portrayal of the collective national imagination, the specificities of the rich Peruvian history and culture.
This list includes just 6 of the many great Peruvian poets whose works are absolute must-reads.
1. César Vallejo (1892-1938)
The Peruvian poet, in spite of having published only three books in his lifetime, is considered by many to be one of the greatest twentieth-century poets in any language. Vallejo’s poetry was hugely inspired by Spanish modernism and anticipated the avant-garde artistic currents that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s.
His poems reflect judicious use of surrealist techniques and are deeply concerned with themes of spirituality, apocalyptic ends, life, and death. His language is extremely passionate, sensual and sometimes wild. Learn more about him here.
2. José Santos Chocano (1875-1934)
Another great doyen of Latin American modernist poetry, José Santos Chocano was a prolific poet whose works are highly appreciated in Europe and North America. Also a political activist, Chocano was known for his bad temper and feuds with the fellow intellectuals.
Chocano’s poetic style is considered to be quite diverse and influenced by varied sources and traditions. According to one literary critic, he was concerned with writing poetry about the ‘New World’ that was America.
3. Blanca Varela (1926-2009)
One of the most influential female poets of all time, Blanca Leonor Varela Gonzáles was a close friend of famous writers and artists like Octavio Paz, André Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Michaux and others. It was Paz who persuaded Varela to publish her first collection of poems, Ese Puerto Existe, in 1959 and wrote an affectionate preface to it. Often praised for the profound surrealist vision of her poems, Varela is also one of the favorite poets of the Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.
4. Martín Adán (1908-1985)
The American ‘beat’ poet Allen Ginsberg was highly impressed by the poetical works of Adán. A poet of mainly metaphysical themes, Adán’s original name was Rafael de la Fuente Benavides. Heavily influenced by hermeticism, his poems offer profound reflections on existentialist questions and issues like eternity or ephemerality. Adán’s poetry is therefore full of symbolic metaphors.
5. Manuel Scorza (1928-1983)
Although more widely known for his novels, Manuel Scorza was also a poet whose work is a must-read if one seeks to get a true flavor of Peruvian poetry. As a political activist, Scorza was exiled under the regime of Manuel Odría. The poems of Scorza, like his prose works, reflect indigenous themes and a poetic style which brilliantly interweaves mythic or fantastic elements with that of social realism.
6. José Watanabe (1946-2007)
Son of an immigrant Japanese father and a mestiza Peruvian mother, Watanabe’s works are naturally fused with influences from the two cultural universes that he inherited from his parents. The master of lean verse, Watanabe in his poems presents before us a universe where the lives of the humans, other animate beings, and inanimate objects are inextricably linked with each other. His poems are also celebrations of the simplicities of mundane everyday life.
Cover photo: ElComercio.pe
This article has been updated from its original publication on January 11, 2018.
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