At critical moments in history, humanity has leaned on art as a way to deal with situations, and also as a way to bring about change. These circumstances create a rebellious spirit in art that breaks with aesthetic and social conventions and seeks to innovate and propose and provoke new paths and artistic means. This is called avant-garde. Therefore, avant-garde is progress and innovation, and it can also refer to a type of expression that presumes an attitude toward the time and the society in which it exists. For avant-garde artists, art (and that which is artistic or creative) is the real means for solving social problems. For that reason, avant-garde can refer to a specific historical time (1910- 1920) or a product or movement that occurs in critical times and that allows some contemporary works to be considered avant-garde. In Puerto Rico, avant-garde writers (as they identified themselves) arose in the early 20th century. About 15 avant-garde movements developed between 1920- 1930. One of the distinctive characteristics of avant-garde artists is an awareness of having a well defined purpose that can be seen in their poetic and meta-literary manifestos. These manifestos emphasize their styles and techniques, but beyond that they establish an opposition to ruling ideologies (for example, the Manifiesto euforista, Del noísmo-gesto and Incitación del grupo ¡No!) and against the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico.

Diepalismo was a movement led by Luis Palés Matos and José De Diego Padró, in which they wrote poems that privileged onomatopoeic sounds and sought to imitate sounds of nature. The idea was to try to build meaning starting with the sounds. In a way, it imitated music, but through the study of everyday sounds.

Noísmo was developed by poets such as Vicente Géigel Polanco, Vicente Palés Matos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, and others. This was a form of expression in which the function of the words, verbs, nouns, etc., would be elaborated in a way to accentuate humor and symbolism. Corretjer followed the Spanish and Puerto Rican tradition of innovating speeches with great symbolism and a political-social approach. Similarly, Julia de Burgos broke from the masculine approach to poetry in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and the Spanish Americas.

Atalayismo is the avant-garde literature of the nationalist movement, joining aesthetic values with ethical values. Its means of expression was the magazine Alma Latina and its major proponents were Clemente Soto Vélez and Graciany Miranda Archilla.

A predecessor of noísmoeuforismo sought to accentuate the substantive and diminish the ancillary, resulting in strong, objective texts. Vicente Palés Matos and Tomás L. Batista embodied this aesthetic.As suggested by the word “euphoria,” these writers believed in spontaneous verse that did not follow conventional meter. They disdained the pretty and romantic themes associated with the figure of the woman and platonic love. To a certain extent, they followed the futurists in rejecting the great figures ofpoetry from earlier decades and created machinist verses such as “Canto al tornillo” (“Ode to the screw”) by Vicente Palés Matos.

Later, writers such as Césareo Rosa Nieves and Félix Franco Oppenheimer placed priority on Puerto Rican experience to achieve universality in ensueñismo, which was the precursor to integralismo. This movement, led by Luis Hernández Aquino, María Mercedes Carriga and Carmelina Vizcarrondo, sang of the beauties of the island.

Integralismo was linked to Spanish avant-garde. It showed neo-populism and Spanish solidarity and believed in poetic ties between the Antilles and the Spanish Americas. The integralistas wanted to configure a symbolic system that represented Puerto Ricanness in all its facets. From this grew meñiquismo, which returned to the nationalism of the Generation of 1930.

Other poetics continued to develop: girandulismo of Evaristo Ribera Chevremont, afroantillanismo of Luis Palés Matos, the proletarismo of Luis Muñoz Marín, the superrealismo of Joaquín Monteagudo Rodríguez and Matos Paoli, and finally, the cumarisotismo of Julio Soto Ramos, which sought to reinvent caligrams.

In 1950, transcendentalism rose and sought the universal through existentialism, post-war Europe, and created a mystical and existential poetics. One of the most recognized transcendentalist poets is Francisco Matos Paoli and one of his most studied books in this field is Canto de la locura.

In the late 1970s, neo-vanguardism sought to address social and political issues with a commitment to the working class and the island’s political status. It began with the magazines Guajana and Mesterand continued years later in the magazines Ventana and Zona de Carga y Descarga.

The Guajana group and its magazine established the basis for a committed literature in Puerto Rico. Its revolution in poetic meter was also a revolution that they wanted the country to achieve: return to the desires of previous centuries to unite the Antilles and Spanish Americas, through their poetry. Political commitment was tied to a commitment to art itself, which in some ways had universal aspirations.

Some neo-avant-garde authors are: Luis Rafael Sánchez, Marina Arzola, Iván Silén, ángela María Dávila, Manuel Ramos Otero, Rosario Ferré, áurea María Sotomayor, Yvonne Ochart, Etnairis Rivera and Alfredo Villanueva. An important theme of neo-avant-garde writing is sexuality, becoming ever more alternative and in the margins. The height arrived after 2010 with groups such as Homoeróticaor the work of Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Luis Negrón and David Caleb Acevedo.

Among the great Puerto Rican avant-garde works, the following magazines can be mentioned: Revista de las Antillas by Luis Llorens Torres; índice by Antonio S. Pedreira; Los Seis (where the neo-populist verses and speeches of Luis Muñoz Marín – considered avant-garde by today’s critics – appeared), hostos; Vórtice; Faro; and these books: Responsos a mis poemas náufragos by Graciany Miranda Archilla; Escalio by Clemente Soto Vélez; Tuntún de pasa y grifería (Drumbeats of Kink and Blackness) by Luis Palés Matos; Grito by Fernando González Alberty; Niebla lírica by Luis Hernández Aquino; Fábulas de la garza desangrada by Rosario Ferré; and Dafne en el mes de marzo by Olga Nolla, among others.


Author: Alexandra Pagán Vélez
Published: August 26, 2015.

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