Tag Archives: poetry

Ruben Dario

“Ruben Dario: (pen name of Felix Ruben Garcia Sarmiento, 1867-1916) Nicaraguan poet and essayist, famed as the high priest of modernismo. One of his favorite sayings was ‘Art is not a set of rules but a harmony of whims.’ Because he wrote verse as a child, he became known in Central America as ‘the boy poet.’ In 1886 he went to Chile, where he published his first major work, Azul (1888), a collection of verse and prose sketches that bore the imprint of the French Parnassians and revealed the fondness for lush, exotic imagery that was to characterize his work. In 1890 he returned to Central America and the first of his two unhappy marriages. After a short visit to Spain in 1892, he moved to Buenos Aires. The appearance of Prosas Profanas (1896; tr 1922), in which the influence of the French symbolists is fused with that of the Parnassians, marked the highpoint of the modernist movement. In 1898 Dario went again to Spain, now as a correspondent for La nacion, a Buenos Aires newspaper. He was acclaimed by intellectuals of Spain’s Generacion del 98, who, like Dario, were profoundly affected by the outcome of the Spanish-American War. Cantos de vida y esperanza, generally regarded as his best work, appeared in 1905. It shows the technical excellence and lyric beauty of his earlier poetry, but there is a greater freedom and a new feeling for the native themes, which he had previously rejected. Dario’s concern for ‘our America’ is also evident in ‘A Roosevelt,’ a poetic diatribe against the U.S., motivated by the seizure of Panama in 1903, and in Canto a la Argentina (1910). Dario’s later work reveals a growing disillusionment and despair, Although he was named Nicaraguan minister to Spain in 1908, his last years were marred by financial difficulties and poor health, due in part to his heavy drinking. In 1915, after an unsuccessful lecture tour of the U.S., he was stricken with pneumonia in New York and died soon after his return to Nicaragua. Dario’s influence on Spanish poetry can be measured by the statement of Pedro Henriquez Urena that ‘of any poem written in Spanish, it can be told with certainty whether it was written before him or after him.’ The Selected Poems of Ruben Dario appeared in English translation in 1965.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Dulce Maria Loynaz

“Dulce Maria Loynaz: (1903-1997) Cuban poet and prose writer. Born in Havana to a father who was a general in the struggle for Cuban independence, she showed her poetic gifts early, publishing her first poems in La Nacion at age seventeen. She studied civil law, and practice until 1961. In her major books, Versos, 1920-1938 (1938), Juegos de agua: Versos del agua y del amor (1947), Poemas sin nombre (1953), Carta de amor a Tut-ank-Amen (1953), and Ultimos dias de una casa (1958), the poet is intensely concerned with the beauty and evocative capacity of language which she uses to express nostalgia for places, scenery, and people, and to sing of the beauty of Cuba. Her devotion to language manifested itself in a process of distillation, though which she moved away from the formal elements of poetry, such as rhyme and verse forms, toward a poetic prose. In fact, her novel Jardin (1951) is characterized by the kind of lyrical expression on which her poetry is built. These qualities also pervade her travel book, Un Verano en Tenerife (1958). She received the Cervantes Prize in 1993.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Gaston Baquero y Diaz

“Gaston Baquero y Diaz: (1916-1997) Cuban poet, literary critic, and journalist. Although from a scientific background, he quickly gravitated toward the “Origines” group and became chief editor of the El Diario de la Marina newspaper for fifteen years. He left Cuba for political reasons in 1959, settling in Spain. Baquero’s poetry, collected in Poemas (1942) and Memorial de un testigo (1966), has a magical, visionary quality, laced with humor and sensuality. It is rich in sonorities and is strongly metaphysical, but also explores the intimate details of daily life, qualities more clearly seen in later works such as Magias e invenciones (1984) and Poemas invisibles (1991).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.


“Oxymoron: (Greek ‘pointedly foolish’) A figure of speech which combines incongruous and apparently contradictory words and meanings for special effect. As in Lamb’s celebrated remark: ‘I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief.’

It is a common device, closely related to antithesis and paradox (qq.v), especially in poetry, and is of considerable antiquity. There are many splendid instances in English poetry. It was particularly popular in the late 16th century and during the 17th. A famous example occurs in Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo jests about love:

“Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.

Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!

O anything! of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! serious vanity!

Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!’

Other well-known examples are Milton’s description of hell in Paradise Lost:

‘No light, but rather darkness visible.’

And Pope’s reference to man in Essay on Man:

‘Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,

A being darkly wise, and rudely great.’

Goldsmith has some striking ones in The Deserted Village:

 ‘Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired

The toiling pleasure sickens into pain.’

A particularly well-known example comes in Tennyson’s Lancelot and Elaine:

‘The shackles of an old love straiten’d him

His honour rooted in dishonor stood,

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.’

Almost as well known are these lines in Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven:

‘I tempted all His servitors, but to find

My own betrayal in their constance,

In faith to him their fickleness to me,

Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.’

And a very arresting one in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s The Wreck of the Deutschland:

‘[She] Was calling ‘O Christ, Christ, come quickly’:

The cross to her she call Christ to her, christens her

wild-worse Best.’

Probably the most famous instance of a sustained oxymoron is Sir Thomas Wyatt’s version of Petrarch’s 134th sonnet, which begins:

“I find no peace, and all my war is done;

I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice;

I flee above the wind, yet can I not arise;

And nought I have and all the world I season.’

Other English poets who have used the figure extensively are Keats and Crashaw. The Italian Marino and the Spaniard Gongora also had a predilection for it.”

3 Goddesses of the Judgement of Paris

Hera * Athena * Aphrodite

As the story goes, the trio were distracted upon being offered an apple labelled to be the ‘fairest of all.’ They each sought to influence the judge—the prince-shepherd Paris of Troy—with the gifts of power, intelligence, of the love of the world’s most beautiful (mortal) woman. Paris chose the latter and set out to seduce Helen. She was, of course, married to Menelaus—and unfortunate detail that sparked the Trojan War.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.


“Mammon: An Aramaic word used in the New Testament of personify riches and worldliness; also, the god of avarice or cupidity. The word occurs in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 to represent the opposite of a God-fearing life: ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate one and love the other; or he will hold to one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ Both Spenser, with his cave of Mammon in The Faerie Queene, and Milton, by identifying him with Vulcan in Paradise Lost, make Mammon the epitome of the evils of wealth.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.


“Aphorism (noun): A statement that succinctly frames a principle; a short, compelling observation of general truth. Adj. aphoristic; adv. aphoristically; n. aphorist; v. aphorize

‘In a section titled “The Art of Love,” she remarks, with aphoristic felicity, “In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.”’”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Figurative Language

“Figurative Language: Language which uses figures of speech; for example, metaphor, simile, alliteration (qq.v). Figurative language must be distinguished from literal (q.v.) language. ‘He hared down the street’ or ‘He ran like a hare down the street’ are figurative (metaphor and simile respectively). ‘He ran very quickly down the street’ is literal. See HYPERBOLE; METONYMY; SYNECHDOCHE.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Of Mice and Men

“Of Mice and Men: A novella (1937) by John Steinbeck (1902-68). It centers on two casual labourers, Lennie, a simple, sentimental giant who loves small animals but does not know his own strength, and his friend George. In a tragic ending, George’s efforts are not enough to keep Lennie out of the trouble that he has unwittingly brought upon himself. The title is from ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns (1759-96):

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,

And lea’e us nought but grief and pain,

For promised joy.

A film version (1939) was directed by Lewis Milestone.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.


“Allusion A seemingly incidental but often significant reference, as to a writer, event, or figure from literature or mythology; passing or implicit mention. Adj. allusive; adv. Allusively; n. allusiveness; v. allude.

‘I said that to tease Widmerpool, feeling pretty certain he had never read a line of Gogol, though he would rarely if ever admit to failure in recognizing an allusion, literary or otherwise.’ –Anthony Powell, The Soldier’s Art”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.