Nicolás Guillén

A planned, but not executed paper I have is on Nicolás Guillén. I wanted to write a paper on him that would not be about the themes of race and Blackness and mixture and Cuba and identity and society but that would, rather, focus on images and sound.

People forget how complicated the rhythms and phonemes are in his poetry. I am less impressed with its “content” than I am with this aspect of the work and I discovered this in class one day when the students did not understand the writing.

I tried to demonstrate by flying around the room reciting and clapping, one rhythm with my hands, another with my teeth and a third with my feet. It worked quite well and it is an impressive text that can choreograph the unskilled me as easily as that. It was not about dance moves, though — it was the phonemes. I was trying to catch the phonemes, in the rhythms in which they fell.

I will excavate the bones of this barely conceived of paper and write it.


3 thoughts on “Nicolás Guillén

  1. A lot of people writing about Guillén probably couldn’t even count out a 3/2 rumba clave or play a tumbao on a conga drum.

  2. I didn’t mean to imply you needed to be really expert in Afro-Cuban music to write about him, but that some people don’t even realize that there is some technical knowledge that is relevant.

  3. I think Martha Cobb’s “Harlem, Haiti, and Havana” was the first place I read about “son.”

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