arte-ing with vicente huidobro

This week I’m happy to share a translation of a poem by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro. What moves me about this week’s poem is how closely the logic of the lines play out some of Huidobro’s ideas on poetry. For Huidobro, the poet was a “maker” and creator of “new worlds that never existed before, that only the poet can discover.”*

An example of what this thinking looks like in a poem can be seen in the first two lines: Let the verse be like a key / that opens a thousand doors. Here, the logic and imagery come together with a stunning immediacy. My first reaction in reading these lines was a professional envy; I mean, were they my lines, I might have just stopped at these two lines and called it a poem!

But Huidobro (with better sense than me, obvs) forged ahead, delivering an ars poetica that enacts in poetry what it would have poetry do. Often an ars poetica will be lost in abstraction and an attempt at a grand statement. Here, Huidobro doubles down in grand statements, the effect being a poem that keeps creating its ideas before the reader.


Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

Que el verso sea como una llave
Que abra mil puertas.
Una hoja cae; algo pasa volando;
Cuanto miren los ojos creado sea,
Y el alma del oyente quede temblando.

Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
El adjetivo, cuando no da vida, mata.

Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
El músculo cuelga,
Como recuerdo, en los museos;
Mas no por eso tenemos menos fuerza:
El vigor verdadero
Reside en la cabeza.

Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh Poetas!
Hacedla florecer en el poema ;

Sólo para nosotros
Viven todas las cosas bajo el Sol.

El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.


Arte Poetica – Vicente Huidobro

translated by José Angel Araguz

Let the verse be like a key
that opens a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something passes in flight;
whatever the eyes see, let it be created,
and the soul of the listener be shaken.

Invent new worlds and take care of your word;
the adjective, failing to give life, kills.

We are in the age of nerves.
The muscle hangs,
like a memory, in the museums;
but that is not why we have less strength:
true vigor
resides in the mind.

Why do you sing the rose, oh Poets!
make it flower in a poem;

just for us
all things live under the sun.

The poet is a little God.


Happy arte-ing!


*These quotes are from the introduction to The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro (New Directions).

2 responses to “arte-ing with vicente huidobro”

  1. i love it when the poetic mind is extolled like this. it is the only pure mind for me along with the naturalists in a world of bureaucracy.

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