José María Monge was a journalist, essayist and poet who lived during the 19th century Romantic era. His poetic works showed neo-classical influences and his prose reflected local traditions and customs. His work in journalism was mostly related to the island’s cultural, social and political situation.
José María Monge was born on August 23, 1840, in Mayagüez, where he attended elementary school. Although he did not attend college, he was self-educated, in part through his many travels to the United States and Europe.
He was known in the field of journalism for his literary writing and for his criticism of the Spanish colonial government. Because of the censorship in that era, he used satire as a technique and signed most of his articles with the pseudonym Justo Derecho. His articles appeared in periodicals such as El Buscapié in San Juan, El Derecho in Ponce and La Razón in Mayagüez. Among his journalistic articles about politics were “El primer chupón,” “Astronomía municipal,” “Las apariencias” and “Circulares del excelentísimo señor Gobernador General.”
Monge’s poetry followed the neo-classical line of island Romanticism, which in turn followed the Spanish neo-classical style of the 18th century. He was also notably influenced by Spanish Golden Age writers such as Luis de Góngora, Francisco de Quevedo, Garcilaso de la Vega and Brother Luis de León. These influences were seen not only in his preferred topics, but also in his somber style and tone, as well as his selection of forms such as elegies and odes. Some of his festive and satirical verses, such as “Contra los poetas llorones” and other, less original works, present bucolic themes and classical forms. Examples are “Los campos de mi patria,” “La vida retirada,” “Al viento,” “Al Yagüez,” “A Elena,” “A Fabio” and “La vida del bañista.”
The first poems published by José María Monge appeared in the anthology El cancionero de Borinquen in 1846. He later served as one of the editors of Poetas puertorriqueños: producciones en verso escogidas y coleccionadas por D. José M. Monge, D. Manuel M. Sama y D. Antonio Ruiz Quiñones. He compiled much of poetry in Poesías y prosa (1883), Poesías (1885) and Los apuros del bachillerato (1886), a dialogue written in verse.
His essays consist of his journalistic writing, the work included in the book Poesías y prosa, and pieces included in the illustrated book Viajes por Italia (1887), in which he describes his impressions of the Italian cities of Rome, Milan, Venice, Padua, Bologna, Florence and Naples, among others, in neat and elegant prose. In 1887, he also published the essay “La influencia del Realismo” in which he waded into the literary debate about the superiority of Realism over Romanticism.
José María Monge died in the city of his birth in 1891.
Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Diccionario de literatura puertorriqueña. 2a ed. Vol 2. San Juan, P. R.: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1974. Impreso.
Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña: su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Partenón, . Impreso.
García, Agustina. “La poesía de José María Monge”. Asomante 3.4 (1957): 57-65. Microfilm.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.
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