(Ficha de Motivos de son (1930). Edición digital a partir ...)
Ficha de Motivos de son (1930). Edición digital a partir de Obra poética : 1920-1972. Tomo I, La Habana, Editorial Arte y Literatura, 1974, pp. 101-110.
Guillen attended the local schools in Camagiiey and started to write poetry as an adolescent. On graduation from high school in 1920, he went to the University of Havana, where he intended to receive a law degree. However, with the death of his father in 1917 (as part of a politically motivated assassination) the family fell on hard times and Guillen lacked the resources to pay for his expenses as a student. He left the university to work and to pursue his interests as a poet and journalist.
When he returned to Camagüey, he took a job as a printer; one of his first literary endeavors was the publication of Lis (Lily), a literary magazine. He also worked as a newspaper editor for El Camagiieyano (The Camagüeyan), and edited the literary magazine Las Dos Repúblicas (The Two Republics). His first printed poetry appeared in the magazine Camagüey Gráfico (Camagüey Graphic) in 1919. From 1920 to 1921, his poetry also appeared in literary and general-interest Cuban publications such as Catalia, Diario de la Marina, Orbe, Revista de la Habana, Grafos, and Bohemia (Peraza Sarausa 1964).
Guillen's poetry has generally been divided in two parts. The first part is formed by his Afro-Cuban of Afro-Antillean poetry; the second group comprises socially and politically conscious poetry.At the time of Guillén's emergence as a poet, Cuban society was strictly stratified according to race and class. Wealthy people from Spanish origins dominated the upper classes of society and there was a large underclass of poor peasants who worked in agriculture and hard labor who lived at the social and economic margins of society. They were poor and came from African ancestry. More importantly, their culture and cultural products had been ignored by generations who judged them as not having any redeeming aesthetic qualities and being "low class.
Guillén first published a collection of eight poems titled Motivos del Son in 1930. Using the metaphor of the son, Guillén was able to capture in Inis poetry the linguistic peculiarities of black Cubans. His poetry was significant because it not only brought forward elements of their cultures, but also reaffirmed the importance of these members of Cuban society whose cultural products and idiosyncrasies had been ignored for so long.
These poems were followed in 1931 by another book of poetry, Songoro Cosongo. This groundbreaking book represents the first appearance of Afro-Cuban poetry in the Caribbean. Similar to Puerto Rican Luis Palés Matos' Tuntún de Pasa y Grifería, Songoro Cosongo represents a masterful attempt to capture the contribution of the African heritage to Cuban and Caribbean cultures. In his poetry, he used an onomatopoetic technique that reproduced sounds, cadences, rhythms, idioms, and expressions of lower-class Cuban blacks. Once again, Guillén emulated the rhythmic patterns of the son and brought to the forefront of his readers' minds the lifestyles and unique cultural contributions and products of people of African ancestry living in Cuba.
The second body of Guillen's poetry addressed the political and social concerns of the author in light of the contemporary circumstances then prevalent in Cuba and the Caribbean. His book West Indies, LTD (1934) centered on the social, economic, and political conditions of Caribbean societies that at the time were the victims of slavery in the hands of Western imperialist nations. Guillén used the metaphor of a factory to illustrate ways in which the people of Cuba and the Caribbean had suffered exploitation at the hands of wealthy people who only cared for becoming rich from the labor of the people. This same trend was expanded in the book Cuba Libre (1947), published in English and co-edited by Langston Hughes. As a poet, Guillén was one of the first writers in the Caribbean to deal with social and economic concerns by writing about the oppression of Caribbean peoples by Western industrial nations.
In 1937 Guillén traveled to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War for the Cuban publication Mediodía; while there he fought against Franco's Republican troops. When he returned to Cuba he became a vocal communist and started to publish articles and poetry challenging the dominant political ideology and oppressive regime of Carlos Prío Socarras.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Guillén traveled extensively throughout Cuba and Latin America. In 1942, for instance, he visited Haiti as the guest of Jacques Roumain, whose literary work expressed similar concerns and themes. This experience inspired him to write the book Elegía a Jacques Roumain en el cielo de Haití (Eulogy to Jacques Roumain and the Haitian Sky) in 1948.
(Ficha de Motivos de son (1930). Edición digital a partir ...)
As a result of his radical political views Guillén was forced to leave Cuba in 1953 after Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista came to power. He spent six years in political exile, during which he lived and traveled throughout Europe and Latin America and continued to publish poetry that vividly depicted the pain of his experiences in exile. Among his works of this period were La paloma de vuelo popular (The Dove of Popular Fly) and Elegias (Eulogy), both published in 1958.
Guillén returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro seized power in a popular revolution. He was considered a hero and became Cuba's poet laureate. He published many poetry books that pay homage to Fidel Castro and the social accom-plishments of his regime, among which are Buenos días, Fidel (Good Day, Fidel; 1959), Tengo (1964), and Ché Comandante (Commander Ché; 1967).
Member: Society de Estudios Afrocubanos (founding member).
As a mulatto, Guillén had blended racial features that were the result of his Spanish and African heritages. After the death of his father, he found he had more in common with poor blacks than with the upper classes, so it is not surprising that he sought his early poetic inspiration in the son, a traditional musical form that originally came from the lower classes and is now part of mainstream Latin sound.
Quotes from others about the person
“Like Palés Matos, Guillen had some critics who accused him of stereotyping the lifestyles and expressions of this segment of society. As poets and cultural commentators, both men have been criticized for focusing on lower-class cultural expressions that may lead to generalizations and misconstructions. Nevertheless, when critics evaluate his works from a historical perspective they recognize Guillen as a groundbreaking poet who recognized the positive cultural manifestations of these groups.”