The son of a military man, Cernuda received a strict education as a child, and then studied law at the University of Seville, where he met the poet and literature professor Pedro Salinas. In 1928, after his mother died, Cernuda left his hometown, with which he had all his life an intense love-hate relationship. He briefly moved to Madrid, where he quickly became part of the literary scene. However, his detached, timid and morose character, his search of perfection frequently made him lose friendships and popularity.
His mentor and former professor Salinas arranged for him to take a lectureship for a year at the University of Toulouse. From June 1929 until 1937 Cernuda lived in Madrid and participated actively in the literary and cultural scene of the Spanish capital. Cernuda collaborated with many organisations working to support a more liberal and tolerant Spain. He participated in the Second Congress of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals in Valencia.
During the Spanish Civil War a friend secured him a position as teacher in Cranleigh School, where he taught Spanish Language and literature. After World War II another friend got him a lectureship in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, where he would spend some years. Later on, moved by his sentimental relationships, he would move to Mexico, where he died.
The central concerns of this poet are evident in the title of his life's major opus: La realidad y el deseo ("Reality and Desire"). He published his first collection of verse, Perfil del aire ("Air's profile"), in 1927. Several books followed, and he collected new and already published poetry under this title in 1936. Subsequent editions would include new poetry as new books inside La realidad y el deseo. Expanded on almost until his death in 1963, in this work the poet explores desire, love, subject, object, history and sexuality in poems which draw influences from romanticism, classicism, and the surrealist avant-garde. Besides verse, he also published a collection of reminiscent prose poems, 'Ocnos', about his childhood in Seville.
Cernuda is known as a member of the Generation of '27, a group of Spanish poets and artists including Federico García Lorca. He broke new ground with Los Placeres Prohibidos ("Forbidden Pleasures"), an avant-garde work in which the poet used surrealism to explore his sexuality. During his British period he became deeply familiar with English poetry, which he would admire for its containment and lack of superfluous artifice and paraphernalia. He would also translate several poems and plays into Spanish. He would comment that translating Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida made him intensely happy.
Deeply influenced by André Gide, Cernuda embraced his homosexuality at an early age and made homosexual desire and love the core of his poetry. Or, at least, unlike other gay poets at the time, in his poetry he was never ambiguous about the fact that the objects of his desire and love were men. One of the most influential poets in contemporary Spanish poetry, he is definitely a crucial ground-breaking figure for homosexual writing in Spanish.
During the Spanish Civil War, deeply moved by the assassination of Federico Garcia Lorca, Cernuda fled to England, where he began an exile that later took him to France, Scotland, Massachusetts (Mount Holyoke College), California and finally settling in Mexico; he never returned to Spain. He never married and had no children.
His major English language critics include Derek Harris and Phillip Silver.
Burial: Panteón Jardín, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico, Plot: Sección C, Fila 4, Tumba 48
Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda
Paperback: 227 pages
Publisher: Sheep Meadow; Bilingual Spanish-English ed. edition (December 1, 1999)
Amazon: Selected Poems
Born in Seville in 1902, LUIS CERNUDA was part of what came to be known in Spain as the Generation of 1927, which included Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti, and Vicente Aleixandre. Of these poets, Cernuda was the most cosmopolitan, totally familiar with European and American literary traditions. It was he who introduced the work of more recent English and American poets into Spanish poetry.
Entiendes?: Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings by Emilie L. Bergmann & Paul Julian Smith
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (June 1, 1995)
Amazon: Entiendes?: Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings
"¿Entiendes?" is literally translated as "Do you understand? Do you get it?" But those who do "get it" will also hear within this question a subtler meaning: "Are you queer? Are you one of us?" The issues of gay and lesbian identity represented by this question are explored for the first time in the context of Spanish and Hispanic literature in this groundbreaking anthology.
Combining intimate knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures with contemporary queer theory, these essays address texts that share both a common language and a concern with lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities. Using a variety of approaches, the contributors tease the homoerotic messages out of a wide range of works, from chronicles of colonization in the Caribbean to recent Puerto Rican writing, from the work of Cervantes to that of the most outrageous contemporary Latina performance artists. This volume offers a methodology for examining work by authors and artists whose sexuality is not so much open as "an open secret," respecting, for example, the biographical privacy of writers like Gabriela Mistral while responding to the voices that speak in their writing. Contributing to an archeology of queer discourses, ¿Entiendes? also includes important studies of terminology and encoded homosexuality in Argentine literature and Caribbean journalism of the late nineteenth century.
Whether considering homosexual panic in the stories of Borges, performances by Latino AIDS activists in Los Angeles, queer lives in turn-of-the-century Havana and Buenos Aires, or the mapping of homosexual geographies of 1930s New York in Lorca’s "Ode to Walt Whitman," ¿Entiendes? is certain to stir interest at the crossroads of sexual and national identities while proving to be an invaluable resource.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/2987889.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.