The Latin American avant-garde was later than that of Europe, which had had already started post World War I. In fact Latin America’s contribution came closer to World War II, although both encompass similar elements.
The avant-gardes, also known as isms because all of the themes of this movement had names ending in this, for example surrealism, creationism, Dadaism etc, were a group of artists, specifically writers in this case, who formed a group with others of a similar aesthetic mindset. This group in turn would produce a manifesto, magazine or anthology in which they would make clear their aesthetic ideas. Principle characteristics of this movement can be defined as:
- The denial of the traditional, realist appearances
- The denial of old themes
- Confirmation of modern day motives by theme, for example planes, trains, the city, the worker.
- Denial of the logical development of a topic
- Rejection of conventional poetic form
- Rejection of semantic aspects of language
- The idea of being an elite art, for only a few
- Development through metaphors and innovative and audacious images
- Association with political and nationalist extremes
- Expression of the metaphysical tension and anxiety of man.
Vicente Huidrobo is considered as one of the most important Chilean poets, together with Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo de Rokha. He is the greatest defender of creationism poetry.
Huidobro was born in Santiago de Chile on January 10th 1893 into a wealthy family which gave him the opportunity to pass his youth studying in Europe, whilst also being influenced by European literature. Later on, he would study at the University of Chile, during which time he wrote his first poems influenced by the modernist movement, entitled Ecos del Alma (1911). He also managed the literary magazine Musa Joven y Azul, in which he published several of his own poems.
In 1914, he travelled with his wife and children to Europe, and passing through Madrid he met Rafael Cansinos Assens, which whom he went on to correspond with in the form of letters. Next they went on to France, and set themselves up in Paris, the birthplace of almost all of the avant-gardists. In this city he worked at the magazine Nord-Sud, with Apollinaire, Tzara and Breton amongst others.
In 1921 the first edition of the magazine Creación was released, founded and directed by Huidobro. It was during these years of magazine publishing that he came into contact with many famous artists, from Miguel de Unamuno to Charlie Chaplin.
In 1930, he published the first verses of his masterpiece Altazor in the French magazine Transition. In 1931, he travelled to Madrid to prepare for the publication of Altazor together with Temblor del Cielo, his other collection of poems from the same period.
Altazor or el Viaje en Paracaídas are considered the best works of Huidobro, in which he tells the story of a parachute journey in which he descends to his death, through the deconstruction of language. The title of the work comes from “alto” and “azor”, azor being a bird of prey from the falcon family.
During the Spanish Civil war, he joined the Frente Popular and actively participated in the fight, and thus gained many war wounds, which would later contribute to the brain haemorrhage that caused his death in 1947 in Cartagena (Chile).
His final works Últimos Poemas, were published in Chile in 1948.