November 29, 2017
Nicaragua remembers its poet, Rubén Darío, in the places he lived
by Alex Primiani
Imagine that, after you died, every place you had ever inhabited took on a part of your identity (maybe also imagine, for this particular exercise, that you’re from the earlier part of the last century). That seems to be the case with Nicaraguan poet and father of Spanish Modernism Rubén Darío, whose name adorns many parks, buildings, bridges throughout his country — even his own hometown. As Tim Neville recognizes in his latest piece for the New York Times: In Nicaragua, Darío is “inescapable.”
Neville travels Nicaragua to better understand—and perhaps vicariously relive—the poet’s life in a country that only represented a select part of who he was. Though best known for pushing the boundaries of Spanish poetry into the modern era (his first collection of poems, Azul, was published in 1888 and immediately brought him acclaim throughout the Spanish-speaking world), he was also a journalist who spent much of his adult life in Chile, El Salvador, Argentina, France, and Spain. For Nicaraguans, however, Darío was a larger-than-life personality that exemplified Nicaraguan culture and identity.
Through experimentation in form and structure, Darío—born in 1867 in San Pedro de Metapa, now named, ahem, Ciudad Darío—looked critically at the colonization and occupation of the South American continent, and particularly at its relationships with Spain and the United States in the early 1900s.
Neville interviews many people who’ve been influenced by Darío, like Francisco Arellano Oviedo, the director of the Nicaraguan Language Academy, who feels much of South American and Nicaraguan pride stems from Darío’s work: “After so many centuries, Darío sent Columbus’s caravan back and freed Spanish literature from Spain.”
If you’re a fan of the iconic Roberto Bolaño (who listed Darío among his influences), or of any of the major Spanish-language writers to come after him (may I recommend Julián López’s debut A Beautiful Young Woman, or Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai) there is no doubt the great poet Rubén Darío—a profound influence on those who came later—is very worthy of your time.
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.